Maggie Gallagher
If you want to know why, despite our deep splendors of democracy, free markets, limited government and the rule of law, American culture seems threatening to many Asian and African societies, look no further than the latest Supreme Court ruling on child pornography.

In an extraordinary 6-3 ruling (Scalia and Rehnquist dissenting, with O'Connor dissenting in part), the Supreme Court upheld that American adults have a right to publish and consume child pornography, so long as actual children are not used in the production process.

For prosecutors, this means the additional, difficult burden in child pornography cases of proving beyond a reasonable doubt that what looks like a child having sex was actually a child having sex and not a virtual image, or an actual child digitally manipulated into having sex.

Attorney General John Ashcroft noted the decision would make prosecuting child pornography "immeasurably more difficult." But hey, our founding fathers died to make the world safe for child pornographers, right?

This latest court decision is part of the increasingly hard-to-digest fiction that pornographic images are speech. It is also a direct affirmation of the increasingly naked proposition driving our society: that the sexual interests of adults are more important than children and their needs. Such an utter reversal of moral priorities ought to (and in most places does) provoke disgust on the part of decent adults.

But it is also the logical result of a set of particularly destructive abstractions adopted by the court (and elite opinion) over the last generation. Pornography is not intended to express any idea. It is intended to short-circuit thought by provoking sexual desire. How do people move from lust to action? In the case of pedophiles, it helps to have a community of affirmation available, which pornographers are happy to supply in exchange for money. According to the FBI, a third of consumers of child pornography recently arrested in its Candyman sweep admitted to molesting children.

Maggie Gallagher

Maggie Gallagher is a nationally syndicated columnist, a leading voice in the new marriage movement and co-author of The Case for Marriage: Why Married People Are Happier, Healthier, and Better Off Financially.