Vol 1 No. 8 December 23, 2004
i. The Ghost of Censors Past
I know a little something about censorship. When I began my writing career in the 1970s, I wrote for what were then termed “men’s magazines.” At the time, the men’s magazines were a source of real, dependable income, and, unlike the “prestige” magazines, they paid on time, which was a comfort to landlords, utility companies, and other bill collectors who were less impressed by “prestige” than timeliness.
Knight Publications, who put out ADAM, PLAYERS, FILM WORLD, PRIME, CHOICE, KNIGHT and a host of other titles, had been the first company to publish Stephen King, among the first American companies to publish environmental “wacko” Jacques Costeau, and regularly published writers (often under pen names) of the order of John D. MacDonald, Norman Spinrad, Harlan Ellison, Richard Armour, Theodore Sturgeon, Robert Silverberg, and many, many more. I did a lot of writing for them.
There was, inevitably, the question: how can you write for those HORRIBLE publications? This question, also inevitably, came from someone who never had actually READ one of those publications, and who were, literally, judging the books by their covers. So, one kept one’s paycheck writing to oneself, and, if asked, pointed to the “prestige” publications one was writing for, such as the LOS ANGELES TIMES, The HERALD-EXAMINER, NEW WEST MAGAZINE, LOS ANGELES MAGAZINE, et al.
But, by the mid-80s, the old fig leaf of “redeeming social value” was no longer necessary : The censors were focusing on moving pictures, not words or even still photos, and, thus the need for writers to write that “redeeming” stuff was no longer necessary, although each magazine maintained an in-house “censor” who kept abreast of postal regulations and the stricter Canadian standards, to make sure the photographic content stayed well within guidelines.
Writers were no longer necessary and were accorded less and less space. The only writing was, increasingly, “real” letters that were out and out pornography. But words were not dangerous, at least, according to the censors. Ultimately, words seemed to leech out of the magazines altogether.
Beginning in 1984, I began writing x-rated movie scripts on the side. Thirteen pages for $500 at first, and you could knock one out in an afternoon. Contrary to popular belief, the sex scenes are unscripted, and my sole contribution to rampant carnality, unbridled lust and the objectification of women consisted of the words “SEX SCENE: A and B” where “A” was a female character and “B” was a male or a female character (traditionally there was one girl-girl scene per film).
The money was decent, so I supplemented my rent by writing for several companies. Often a producer would assign me a “great idea” of his.
One, in particular, would haunt me. “Lenny” wanted to do a film with “older” actresses, Pat Manning, Cyndee Summers and Honey Wilder. He wanted to capitalize on the fact that “older” women (e.g 30s and 40s) could still be “hot.”
Fine. His idea. I wrote a script entitled “Silver Foxes,” collected my by-then reduced fee of $300 and went my merry way. I never saw the finished film. But Lenny, “brilliantly” decided to up the marketability of the film and retitled it “Older Women With Young Boys.”
Enter the Meese Commission.
According to author David M. Edwards: “In connection with the signing of the Child Protection Act of 1984, President Reagan announced his intention to set up a commission to study pornography ... The result was the appointment by Attorney General Edwin Meese in the spring of 1985 of a panel comprised of 11 members, the majority of whom had established records as anti-pornography crusaders.” Included, for instance, on the panel was Dr. James Dobson, of “Focus on the Family.” In other words, a kangaroo court.
The Meese hearings were a brutal joke. The circus traveled across the country, willing to hear anything that portrayed pornography as “bad” and to discount any defenses.
Journalist Pat Califa concluded: “The final report of this new Commission, published in July, 1986, holds out the hope that by using draconian measures against pornography we can turn America into a rerun of ‘Leave It to Beaver.’ The Commission's findings should placate the lowest common denominator of the citizenry who made a drugstore cowboy our Chief Executive--those folks who believe the Bible should be taken literally, but the First Amendment should not.” Sort of like ... today, n’est ce pas?
And, in that long-winded, inflammatory final report, in the appendices under Child Pornography, the film that I had written, “Older Women With Young Boys,” was included in the listings, to “prove” the prevalence of kiddy porn.
I had been accused by the Meese Commission, based entirely on the face value of a title (not even MY title) of being a child pornographer. There was some trepidation, and a visit from the FBI didn’t seem at all out of the question. The visit never occurred.
I wish I could tell you how vile, how depraved and vicious such an accusation is. To be accused of such a monstrous thing (no actor in the film was less than 22 years old!!) is a scar on the soul.
This grotesque accusation is still out there today, at the “Pro-Life Activist's Encyclopedia,” in CHAPTER 137, “PORNOGRAPHY AND ITS CONNECTIONS TO CHILD MOLESTERS” under “TITLES OF MOTION PICTURES FOCUSING ON CHILD SEXUAL MOLESTATION.” And it is utterly false. Thanks, “American Life League,” you psychotic wackos. (The film is also listed in Chapter 121 -- HOMOSEXUALS: A CLEAR AND PRESENT DANGER TO OUR CHILDREN.”)
Ghoul of Censors Present
Fast forward to 2004. A zealot named Mark Robinowitz has decided, a la Meese, that AVA OREGON! Must be destroyed. Having obtained my email address, he wrote me about,
Robinowitz obviously doesn’t care about libel suits, because the
vast majority of his claims are, prima fascia, libelous. Of course, if
Anderson IS as rich as our Zealot claims, then WHY would this paper
have any need to be put on a profitable basis?
I wrote Mr. Robinowitz asking, “What factual errors did you find in *my* reporting, your opinion of the publisher aside?”
Which is, of course, nuts. Our last mayors are NOT pawns of the timber barons. Eugene doesn’t actually have any timber to cut! And we never “smeared” Kitty Piercy.
The only smearing I’ve seen comes from Robinowitz. But our self-appointed censor has successfully gotten AVA OREGON! removed from Sundance Natural foods and Mother Kali Books, the latter based, evidently, on a purportedly “sexist” cartoon published in California SEVERAL YEARS AGO, and which the good PC censors of Mother Kali may well have not even seen. NONE of his allegations apply to this publication.
I don’t cotton to censors, as you may have guessed, and Mark Robinowitz, who insultingly doesn’t bother to read what I’ve written, has censored ME. As has Gavin McComas, at Sundance, and somebody at Mother Kali Books. Why? For something they may well never have seen in a publication from another state. They’ve adjudged, like the Meesies, a book by its seeming cover. And that is every bit as corrupt as what Meese tried to pull during the Reagan era.
iii. The Specter of a Censored Future
On November 19, 2004, WIRED.com reported: “Clinicians and researchers representing the ‘pornography as an addiction’ school testified recently before the Senate Commerce Committee's Science, Technology and Space Subcommittee ... Pseudo-scientist Judith Reisman [suggested] that more study of ‘erototoxins’ could show how pornography is not speech-protected under the First Amendment.”
If Robinowitz has his way, I won’t be here to tell you how it turns out. Perhaps when McComas, Robinowitz and “Mother Kali” get to hell, they can ask to bunk with Ed Meese.
A member of the National Writers Union, AFLCIO, Hart Williams has been in print since 1973, and has written for THE WASHINGTON POST, THE KANSAS CITY STAR, THE SANTA FE SUN, THE LOS ANGELES TIMES, THE OREGONIAN and many others.