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The War on Porn is a We The People Fight, Not a Big Brother Battle

The problem must be solved by "we the people," not the government. And we must pick our battles, our enemies, and our battlefields.

You’ll get no argument from me that pornography–specifically easy access on the Internet–is a pernicious, soul-destroying problem that afflicts our families and our children. It should be eliminated with the same determined effort our society took to eradicate smallpox and polio. Therefore, I agree with the spirit of the letter sent to Attorney General William Barr by Reps. Jim Banks, Vicky Hartzler, Brian Babin and Mark Meadows.

In the letter, they urged Barr to “declare the prosecution of obscene pornography a criminal justice priority.” Were Barr to take this recommendation to heart, it would mean assigning assets from the FBI, the various U.S. Attorneys offices around the country, and local law enforcement for a “War on Porn.”

While my friend and one-time boss JD Rucker wrote a great analysis of the problem and if it passes the Needs/Means test, I have to disagree with his conclusion. I do so on the basis of human nature and the fragile balance of American government power. While American society should, and rightly ought to, eliminate pornography and children’s access to it, government prosecution of a War on Porn is a poor way to implement that ought into reality.

Let’s first look at the human nature side of pornography: It’s been around since people were able to put drawings in caves. With absolutely ubiquitous access to video, there’s no way to stop pornographic images, films, and even virtual cartoons from being made. There’s literally no fixing that problem, other than removing smartphones from the human population of earth. Since smartphones are ubiquitously connected to the Internet, along with billions of computers capable of acting as servers to stream video, any technical solution based on discouraging, criminalizing, or pursuing those who enable pornography is bound to fail. It’s a simple matter of supply and demand.

The supply of porn is basically unlimited. The demand for porn is hard wired into every teenage boy, and extends to many adults of both sexes. The porn video industry is worth billions of dollars–anywhere between $10 to $100 billion, depending on who you ask. On the low end, the porn empire could be worth somewhere less than the NBA ($7.4 billion). On the high end, it could be worth more than the NFL, Viacom and Netflix combined.

Conversely, the supply of federal prosecutors, law enforcement agents, and local police is limited. You can’t just throw money at the problem to make more supply, either. These assets are engaged in serious efforts to combat sex trafficking, child pornography (a whole different animal, but in the same zoo), illegal drugs and all other manner of corruption. Making obscenity a priority won’t do a thing other than take away valuable assets from much more damaging and pressing problems.

That being said, there are ways to fight easy access to pornography that don’t involve courtrooms or incarceration. Short of the U.S. government completely taking over the Internet, these ways are not solutions the federal government can implement. Maybe they’d work in Iran, or China (but they don’t, not completely), but not in the U.S. As long as there’s a supply of porn and a demand for it, buyers and sellers will find ways to connect and do business–legally or illegally.

The problem must be solved by “we the people,” not the government. And we must pick our battles, our enemies, and our battlefields.

The battlefield is anywhere our kids have unfettered access to the Internet. The battle is keeping our kids from accidentally, or even intentionally, stumbling upon pornographic material. The enemies are not necessarily the workers who make the stuff–again, it’s ubiquitous and unlimited in scope. The enemies are those who seek to exploit and widen the effects of porn. Some of them can be fought in the courtroom–read the story of Backpage.com. The rest must be fought in the moral arena of the conscience.

On the tech front, take control of your kids’ and your home’s network. Don’t borrow the neighbor’s WiFi. Avoid getting your kids smartphones with data access, and if you do, make sure you use the parental controls. My kids have iPads with WiFi only, and I provide the WiFi.

Protect your kids by getting a filter for your home network and your smart devices. There are plenty of these available. Yes, they cost money. No, they’re not 100% fail proof. But they go a long way. And I’d rather pay for the filter myself than have it provided free by the government, with them in control of it. Again, we don’t want inaugurate Big Brother to fight this problem. I personally use the Circle by Disney device. At times, it’s a pain in the rear, but it’s so far been effective at keeping out the bad stuff.

I’m all in favor of requiring schools to have filtered Internet and to severely limit student use of smartphones during school time. This is the one area government should use its big stick. Make some stiff penalties for school districts anytime a kid can defeat the filters and access porn. Schools are one battlefield where we must win, and we have the resources to do it. Instead, we see schools teaching kids how to have anal sex. Let’s start by removing obscene subjects disguised as “education” from our schools.

Prosecuting a multi-billion dollar business with millions of consumers, some of whom share a church pew with you, is a recipe for failure. Let’s face it, some parents are not so good at protecting their kids. Some dads are deadbeats. Some moms abandon their kids to teachers and friends. Unless we want the Nanny State to raise these kids–and yours–we need to pick our battles and our battlefields.

I say let’s eliminate porn from our homes, our schools, our networks, and anywhere our kids go. I’d rather not have my kids do homework at their friends’ houses if I know those friends have indulgent or indifferent parents. But I don’t need the government controlling my networks. I know Facebook, Google, and other companies can make enormous amounts of money on porn, but I also know that as corporate citizens, they genuinely care about keeping the most heinous material from reaching young eyes.

It doesn’t matter if the government is prosecuting a War on Porn or not, the best line of defense for my kids is going to be my vigilance. As attractive as it is to hand that vigilance to the government, let’s understand that government can’t fix this problem.

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