From KPBS Radio
Harold Jaffe interviewed by Janice Wynborne, November 23, 1992
Janice Wynborne: While it's clear that humans mimic the animal kingdom in our mating habits, one thing that is uniquely human is the need to portray our activities in art, but when sex is portrayed, many people would say it's not art but pornography. My guest is Harold Jaffe. He is an English professor and an author at San Diego State University. He's also the editor of Fiction International. The latest edition of Fiction International is about pornography. Doctor Jaffe, why porn now?
Harold Jaffe: Well many people feel that we're in the throes of the most virulent sexual repression probably since the Victorian era -- a repression which has impacted all of us, perhaps most notably women, most of whom have clearly expressed the desire to control their own bodies. It's impacted us from our most intimate spheres to the public spheres, from the repression of the body to censorship of art funding to right-wing groups becoming involved in pulling books from schools and libraries. It's a very widescale problem now.
JW: Looking through some of the other issues of Fiction International, I see that they have only fiction in them, but in this issue there's a wide range of things: drawings and poetry and political essays. Why did you include all that stuff instead of sticking with fiction.
HJ: Actually, we do try to represent other kinds of writings although fiction is what we concentrate on primarily. Our notion is that writing, even writing that pretends not to be fiction, has a degree of fiction in it. For example, history is written with the generous support of lots of federal grants. It can be argued that that's a kind of fiction. So too fiction, at least the fiction that we favor, which is both fiction and non-fiction. It's fiction but it's also discursive. Here, many of the important writings were polemical, theoretical. I should say at the outset that a large proportion -- more than half of the writings in this issue -- are written by women: fiction writers, feminist thinkers, theoreticians, because it's a problem which, as I mention earlier, has impacted women most as regards to the graphic description of naked passionate bodies which is the way pornography is commonly defined.
JW: Would you argue that pornography is art?
HJ: Well, it really depends on various things. It depends first on defining pornography. That's the real problem. We have a forum in this issue in which a number of writers and thinkers define pornography and really quite differently. One writer says that where "sexuality or its graphic representation is motivated by ill-will and hatred and is predicated on the abuse of power and subjugation," arguably, it's pornographic, but that kind of pornography can exist in other realms, even intrasubjectively, in the way a person treats himself or herself, for example, a bulemic or a person who is involved in substance abuse. It can exist and indeed does exist nationally in regard, for example, to the biased reporting on the so-called LA riots, or the verdict in the Rodney King trial, or ex-president [George H. W.] Bush's response to the poor. It could be argued that all these are based on the abuse of power and ill-will.
JW: ...the abuse of power and ill-will, and what's the connection with porn?
HJ: Well, pornography, technically, as a number of people have pointed out, means writing of or about prostitutes. I mean how does one define prostitution? Is prostitution purely a physical phenomenon? In other words, are we limited to the graphic display of naked bodies in passion? Is that what pornography means, or are we talking about bodies which are revolting or do revolting things? Or are we talking about the body politic -- the larger body, the extended body? If we're talking about bodies that do revolting things, one of the other forum participants argued that pornography really has very little to do with sexuality. Her example of a pornographic instance was when ex-president Bush vomited into the lap of a Japanese dignitary. She said that it represented a kind of a reverse fellatio, as she saw it, and yet the sound bites and its representation by news media made it into a serious, decidedly non-pornographic event. The point here is that pornography has a great deal to do with the people that are defining it. And often -- almost always -- these definitions are in the hands of people and institutions that have the power.
JW: We have a caller on the phone. Bill from El Cajon, good morning.
Bill: You had mentioned earlier that there is a new-found, recent surge in repression as regards to literature and so forth. I was wondering if, in your research, you've been able to find out who is responsible for this surge -- is it a particular group that's responsible for it, or is it across a lot of different groups in society?
HJ: It's rather broad. I think it's generated by certain dominant groups. You remember the Meese Commission on Pornography that gathered data, so-called, for a number of years and presented its findings in, I think, 1987 during the second Reagan presidency. Locally, there are a number of groups involved -- far-right groups, the religious fundamentalists, Pat Robertson's people... the Reverend Wildman has been very involved in this. You know, I should say here, I think it's pertinent, that a number of people without thinking it out, have argued that pornography, by definition, deprivileges women because, as in the failed statutes that they tried to pass in Indianapolis and Minneapolis which defined pornography as the explicit subordination of women, a number of feminists, including several -- more than several -- in our issue have argued that it could be seen that pornography, as pornography is commonly defined, empowers women because it flouts conventional mores; it advocates sexuality for pleasure rather than sexuality for purely for breeding. It advocates, by example, sexuality that isn't exclusively heterosexual. Women also object -- a number of them -- of being put in a position where they're passive recipients of pornographic propaganda instead of active, erotic agents who could make up their own minds.
JW: I think that you have to, when you include the sources of this new sexual repression, have to include a lot of feminists who feel that pornography is oppressive to women. It is not a small number of women who feel that way.
HJ: You're right. There are a number who feel that way. Andrea Dworkin and Katherine McKinnon were instrumental in trying to institute these two ordinances, and I think in the 70's particularly, much of the feminist influence was anti-pornographic. Since then, there's been a more wider and catholic response. I think the point is that sexuality itself is socially-constructed phenomenon. It isn't the same in 1992 as it was in 1972. A number of things have happened since then. And sexuality is seen differently by a wide number of people including a number of thinking women.
JW: Another caller, Janice from La Jolla, good morning.
Janice: Good morning. Professor Jaffe, you just mentioned Katherine McKinnon's name. What do we do about solutions about women's subjugation as Katherine McKinnon would point out: getting rid of pornography and favor women but take away our free speech rights, or do we start looking for other ways to help free women. What really is the answer? As author and now a publisher, you probably would say, let's keep our free speech, there's other ways we can solve the problem of women's subjugation. I'm just curious about what your feelings are on that.
HJ: I think that there are aspects of pornography as commonly defined -- namely the graphic depiction of naked bodies in passion which might be pornographic. Indeed, the Meese commission routinely employed very flagrant images of bestiality, child porn and violence alongside domesticated images from Playboy. The inference we are supposed to draw is that the flagrant depictions are really commonly associated with pornography when in fact many of the writers in this issue argue that they're not. Where they are associate, I think one might argue for their repression. But violence itself is a more problematic notion than it was. Where the violence is imposed, and it's not agreed upon, arguably it's pornographic and should be repressed, but violence in sexuality is something in 1992 that's happening among people. The idea is that the body itself is the only real canvas -- the only real space -- where people can contest the dominant ideology. It's the only space which is not entirely numbed. And the idea of breaking through this numbness might mean employing certain kinds of transgressive tendencies. Where it's reciprocal among two women or among two men or among a woman and man, violence does exist sexually, but to get back to your question, I'd say in certain instances, arguably, pornography where it's involved with imposed violence or bestiality should be censored. But this is not what pornography is primarily involved with.
Janice: Right, so you're saying that we need to redraw the lines. Where our rhetoric or our language [about pornography] is revealed in law is it should [reflect this focus] on bestiality and violence.
HJ: Bestiality, violence, pornography which exploits children. I think there are a number of possibilities. It has to be looked at very carefully.
JW: You talk about violence in the current issue of Fiction International. There's at least one sadomasochistic story. Why did you include that?
HJ: In fact there are several stories which touch on sadomasochism. We included them because many of the fictions that we got included violence. You probably noticed that a lot of these stories were written by women and had to do with sexuality for pleasure, desire. It's important to mention, as people have in the issue, that we shouldn't be frightened to say or to assert that there's nothing wrong with indulging in sexuality for pleasure. Not only is there nothing wrong with it, but it's a brave and even ethical response at this rather curious juncture historically. A lot of the submissions had some degree of violence or mutual subjugation involved in the physical by-play.
JW: I think this is a good time to bring in our librarian; Bill Sanwald is on the phone. He's from the main library in San Diego. Mr. Sanwald, good morning. What's going on with your decision to include Madonna's new book Sex in the library? I hear there's a lot of people standing in line to see it.
BS: Well there are lots of people standing in line to see it. The San Diego Public Library buys about 20,000 unique titles a year. That, of course, runs to about 200,000 volumes. And we subscribe to around 2800-3000 periodicals, so we have a lot of different things in the library. We decided to buy Madonna's book because of Madonna's stature in pop culture. She is probably one of the most dominant people in pop culture, and also because the book is a best-seller. It's got sold a million copies which is almost unheard of; the book is out of print and we decided to add it to our collection because our central library does collect what is going on in the United States today and Madonna is definitely going on.
JW: So, Mr. Sanwald, have you taken some criticism from anywhere about having Sex in the library?
BS: Well, we've received a number of phone calls from a number of people who are unhappy about our acquiring the book, and I've talked to those people. Most of those people are fairly reasonable after I explain why we have purchased the book. There have been one or two who haven't understood our reasons and have disagreed with me, but we have lots of books in our collection which I'm sure would offend just about anybody.
JW: I have a question for both of you. There are many people, particularly women who believe that pornography actually causes violence against women and it should be considered discrimination against women instead of protected speech. I wonder what each of you have to say about it.
HJ: This is often addressed. When we see a war film and we leave the theater, it's not automatically assumed that we're going to commit war on somebody. In other words, we don't take the representation of war as being actual and being meant to prostheletize, and the same applies to pornography as popularly defined. If we see a video having to do with healthy, naked young bodies in passionate embrace, it's conceivable that it may excite us, and now the question should be asked, what's wrong with being excited into physical passion? Does that automatically mean prurience? But there's no reason, short of being possibly and briefly excited, that we're going to be in a position to emulate what we've just seen. There's no one-to-one relationship between what's represented and what we're liable to do immediately upon leaving the movie theater or turn off the video.
BS: Well a number of callers that I've had complaining about the book have said just that: that people are going to come into the library, get excited by reading the book, and go out and do something. In fact one person said I was just like a bartender who served too many drinks -- that somebody would come in, read the book and commit a sex crime in the library. I just have never seen any sex crimes in the library, and I don't think it's going to happen by reading the Madonna book.
JW: Well, there are some arguments that media influences people's behavior whether its media violence or sexual depictions. I know that there have been studies that say when men watch violent pornography that it excites them in certain ways, and that there have been some suggestions that debriefing after seeing pornography would be a good idea. Mr. Sanwald, what do you think about those ideas?
BS: I'm not sure librarians are competent to debrief anybody after they've seen a Madonna book. We don't editorialize, we don't advocate one book. Personally, I don't think the Madonna book is very good. If it were a good book, we'd buy fifty copies of it. We only purchased one copy of it because we think it's a terrible book, but we think it's a book that we should have.
JW: Why do you say that? Why is it a terrible book?
BS: Well, because it just, in my opinion, and I've just glanced at it, doesn't fit together very well. I think the premise of the book is that this is a kind of a fantasy of her sexual desires and the text that accompanies the pictures is not really very good, what I've read of it. Some of the pictures are very nice. I think they're well-photographed. She has an excellent photographer. But most of the book is just not really good. Another reason we'd have trouble buying [more copies] is that it's constructed in a way that it's going to fall apart very easily, and we just don't think it's a good book, editorially.
HJ: Pardon me, you know, consider cities like Paris, Amsterdam, and Copenhagen where so-called "pornography" is readily available and compare statistics on sexual violence with any large American city where pornography is repressed or strictly limited. What will you find? The European cities have a much lower incidence of sexually-related violence than Los Angeles, Detroit, Cincinnati and Pittsburgh. There should be a distinction made between leisure sex and sex for pleasure. A book like Madonna's can make the kind of impact it's making only because we're living in a repressive era. If sexuality was not so virulently repressed, and there was better information about AIDS transmission, and young people were not frightened to touch each other, it's not conceivable that this airbrushed, simulated book by Madonna would make nearly the impact it's made.
JW: We have a caller, Patty from Oceanside, good morning.
Patty: Hi, good morning. I had some problems with some of the things that were being said. I consider myself a pretty liberal person and certainly not right-wing by any means or repressive sexually, but, for example, I was very offended by the movie Basic Instinct. I felt that it was a sorry representation of... I mean, it was titillating and it was very exciting but it saddened me that we needed that much violence to get off on, and I felt that the media has some responsibility when it promotes sexuality as exciting when its violence and I... we generally think that art reflects society, and that seems to be what you were saying -- that society is changed and the women's movement has changed and we're not speaking out against violence because its part of our society, but I would wonder about what kinds of responsibility the media has in promoting what our next thing we get off on is. Do you understand what I'm saying?
HJ: Yes, I do, and I appreciate the sincerity of your question. There's a distinction -- a very important distinction -- between consumer sexuality and sex for pleasure. The sexuality I've been talking about in rather positive, hypothetical terms has to do with sex for pleasure. It has nothing to do with consumer sex. STUDS, Geraldo, the tabloid news programs, so-called, tv phone sex, films like Basic Instinct are ripping off sexuality because its a very repressed time and they know they can get away with titillation. The message is: it's there if you want it, but if you look at it very closely, you recognize that its not really there. It's there only if you go to the movies and plunck down your eight dollars or whatever it costs. If, in fact, sexuality and passion between people was readily available or at least less unavailable and less connected to the disinformation than it is, these films wouldn't make nearly the impact that they have.
JW: Bill Sanwald, do you agree with that?
BS: I really don't have any comment on that. The role of the public library is to collect the materials that represent our culture, and that's what we do with the Madonna book.
JW: How often is pornography the subject of the kind of thing you might collect?
BS: I don't think that we have lots of materials in the library that people might consider pornography. Usually we purchase our books based on reviews that come from accredited media; we take a look at how the book would fit in with the collection in the library, what it would do to enhance our collection, and we add books there.
JW: Is there a lot of pressure on the library, in general, to limit the kinds of sexual materials you have available?
BS: One of the criticisms that I've taken from my staff is that I've limited access to the book to people 18 or older, and also we keep the book in a reserved area. We did that primarily because we were afraid that the book would disappear. We keep a lot of materials locked up or in restricted staff areas, not because of their sexual content but because they're the kind of books that would disappear and the Madonna book definitely fits in that category.
JW: I'm going to let you go. Thank you for joining us.
BS: Thank you.
JW: Dr. Jaffe, is Fiction International paid for with public funds?
HJ: We're mostly supporting ourselves. There's funding from the university but we're very close, at least in regards to Fiction International as a part of San Diego State University Press, to being in the black with this issue which has received very good response nationally. In fact we're talking now about going into a second printing.
JW: So, has anyone questioned you or criticized you for putting public funding into it?
HJ: Well, not so far. We're hoping that the First Amendment obtains here. There are a number of serious journals which, in the last several years, have devoted entire issues to the questions of pornography, obscenity, repression, and so on. More than important, they're among the most viable questions that are operative now, and they impact on all of us, whether we're artists or educators, or just ordinary people.
JW: You have an interesting theory about the fads of piercing and tattooing and even scarring and their relationship to the present sexual climate. Can you talk about that a little bit?
HJ: Well, the body, it's been argued, indeed, theorized by a number of people, is the only, in effect, canvas, wherein it's permissible to inscribe what you want without oppression. Other canvases, so to speak, like manuscripts, canvases on which one paints, compositions of music, are obviously subjected to all sorts of blandishments. If you want to get grants, if you want to get federal grants, you have to sanitize the kind of writing you do or sanitize the painting and not deal with political subjects or sexual subjects but the body is there for people to use and employ and, as a consequence, in the last five, six, seven years, young people, increasingly, have been doing things to their bodies which have been previously unheard of -- at least unheard of in most middle class circles -- on the extreme margins of scarification, tattooing, piercing, have been done -- but this is being done increasingly. There is a kind of sexualization of mutilation that's been going on in the culture where young people of both sexes are tattooing themselves or piercing themselves, scarifying their bodies and using the scars to evoke sexual responses. I think the reasons for these curious and outlandish-seeming sexual responses to the body are over-determined -- there are a number of determinants. I do think that one viable reason, at least in many instances, has to do with repression. The fact that is that this is the only area that is available; it's also a kind of flagrant, angry response to being imprisoned in one's body. I think sexual-outlaws, gender-benders, young anarchists are saying "this is my body, it's the only thing that belongs to me, it's the only thing not under the control of the dominant culture and I'll do with it as I wish."
JW: Well, when you talk about sexual repression, it immediately goes to federal grants and art grants. So, if you don't want to get your income from the public trough, isn't there sexual freedom, all the sexual freedom, you can take?
HJ: Well, a number of people, particularly some of the groups which are hostile to federal funding of art, want to exercise a line by line veto. In other words, they're saying, if you want to create sanitized art, we'll possibly fund you, but if you create art which is oppositional, which confronts established values, we won't fund you. We have the right not to. But, as taxpayers, are we in power to exercise these line by line vetoes in other regards? For example, we're largely responsible for paying the police and the sanitation department, but let's say there's a Ku Klux Klan or Nazi rally and the police are there protecting the participants and the sanitation department cleans up afterwards, and we're against these kinds of rallies; we're not in a position to withdraw support. What about the S & L bailout? Wasn't that done at the expense of taxpayer funds? What about the not-very-popular war, or the increasingly-unpopular war in the Gulf?
JW: What about the private sector though? I mean, why should artists, whether they are pornographers or otherwise, be dependent on the public sector? Why not, if the stuff is legitimate, won't the public sector pay for it anyway?
HJ: No. No, the private sector won't because the private sector and the public sector are really co-terminus in this way. You know, there was a book, Simon & Schuster brought out in '85 which compared, among other things, federal aid to the arts in a number of first-world countries: Holland, Canada, Germany, the UK, Sweden, France, and the United States. The United States was the last by very, very wide margin. Right now, the estimate I saw was that taxpayers are paying sixty-five cents or sixty-seven cents a year to support the NEA, the National Endowment for the Arts. That doesn't amount to very much money. Private sector is not interested, basically, in art that confronts the very values that they've themselves perpetrated.
JW: We have a caller on the line, Brett from Clairemont, good morning.
Brett: I find the idea that pornography causes violence against women to be a bit ridiculous. There's an act of personal responsibility in this. You can go see a porno movie or pick up a Playboy or Hustler and see all this stuff and I see that it gives you no right or reason to do anything against women without some kind of volition on the person of the woman. To go further with this, Ice T and the Body Count CD says that "I'd like to go out and kill a cop," but if anybody goes out and kills a cop, they're going to go to jail. Another thing, there's an article in last month's Atlantic Monthly called "Feminists Against the First Amendment" by Wendy Commoner.... [S]he talked about the McKinnon/Dworkin legislation, and says that within a year the law was declared unconstitutional by the Federal Appeals Court in a decision upheld by the US Supreme Court. She makes the point that pornography doesn't have a direct causal link to violence against women.
JW: Okay, so, your question?
Brett: I just think that the idea of personal responsibility should be injected into the debate.
JW: Do you have a comment?
HJ: Well, I think that there has been, particularly in the instance of Hustler, pornography which is prejudicial to women. It's been done deliberately due to a kind of inflated machismo. I think most people would argue that that's disagreeable or perhaps even worse. To what degree it should be repressed or if it should be repressed is another question. Increasingly, as you've noticed in the issue of Fiction International, women are writing erotically about desire and pleasure. I think that's one of the keys -- that women continue to empower themselves to write and that they're discourse be added to the discourse that previously, for socially-constructed reasons, largely controlled by males.
JW: It's interesting when you hear arguments against pornography that the answer is that we have First Amendment rights to freedom of the press and expression, and I wonder if you would argue the same thing about anti-Semitic literature or a treatise by the Ku Klux Klan or something that some other groups of people would feel is discriminatory and even hate-literature against them.
HJ: It's a tough question, and I my own feeling is that where data, information, disinformation, is disseminated with ill-will, with hatred, and with explicit motivation to subjugate, it arguably should be repressed, and the same might be applied to sexuality which inflicts this kind of one-sided violence on someone. But I'm not one of the progressive people that feel that we live in a perfectible world and that anything that's out there should be permitted. I feel that fascistic violence and racism and violent sexism, arguably, should be monitored very closely.
JW: Who would monitor it?
HJ: Well, you caught me on that one problematic word, "monitor" because ideally it would be the federal side that would monitor it. One thing we've seen during Bush and Reagan is that these kinds of humane monitorings have all but stopped. Racism and fascistic violence by Nazi skinheads or various right-wing groups have increased and one wonders to what extent the federal government was involved in monitoring them. With Clinton, who's been described, I think accurately, as a pragmatic moderate, if the disposition of the people is in the direction of liberalization and anti-racism, as I suspect it is, one would anticipate a more of a federal role in this.
JW: So your position is that pornography should be monitored by the federal government but that the Meese Commission, which came from the federal government, was illegitimate, but that racism should be monitored but that it's not being monitored well-enough.
HJ: I'm not speaking about pornography per se. I'm talking about racist violence and fascistic violence. I don't think that the government is in the position to monitor pornography as commonly defined. I have to keep saying that because it's a very elastic term that's been used in many different ways, even as "obscenity" has. If you're talking about pornography as being the graphic representation of naked bodies in passionate embrace, no, I think that the government should keep out of it. If we're talking about pornography as being racist, fascistic violence, I think the federal government has a responsibility, yes.
JW: We have a caller, Irwin from Mira Mesa, good morning.
Irwin: I'd like to say something to Professor Jaffe. He points out that we have no right to stop the S & Ls; he protests that we can stop pornography -- that our congressmen can. What he does is kind of change the argument. No individual can stop the S & L or the things in the defense department or in any system, why shouldn't we have the right to stop -- why shouldn't we stop pornographic things from happening? Our Congress passes the laws and they can stop any appropriation they want. In defense, agriculture, education, and they certainly have the same right, it seems to me, to stop something in pornography that bothers them. It just isn't true that we can't stop other areas from foisting foolish agricultural grants. The congress can make these decisions.
JW: Would you trust your particular congress member to decide for you what kind of sexual literature you could see? Is that your position, that we should trust them?
Irwin: I don't know if... I would think they're a fairly representative body. I think I'd rather err in the sense of them making the decision because I think there is always something new in back of pornography. There's always some new thing waiting, and if the Supreme Court says that it's local judgment and suddenly we shift from local judgement to saying all these people are prejudice... yes, I would trust. I think they're fairly sensible and I think there's a much more subtle interplay in pornography and what happens in our cities than we're aware of. I think we're getting into something we're not sure of. And they've made decisions on only rather extreme things. Thing is to point out that the battle for art is over. People have all kinds of nude photo paintings in their office and so on. I think we're talking about extreme.... I'm talking that they do have the right to do it. Not whether I trust them. They do have the right to cut things out of the defense budget and the right to cut things out of the pornography thing and we may not like that right but I wouldn't take it away from them.
JW: Okay, thank you for your call.
HJ: Well you know, if we're talking about art like Mapplethorpe and Seurano, the argument that I've been using is why should the government have the right to exercise a line by line veto, that is Mapplethorpe is no good but some other artist who is creating sanitized art is good. The notion that many of us adhere to, perhaps even yourself, is that art is both good and bad. It's based on conflict, it's based on struggle. It has to do, by definition, with confrontation with established values. If artists start looking over their shoulder and self-censoring, it's going to amount to what happened in the Soviet Union for a long time where public art, mainstream art, all had to do with affirming their kind of state communism and the only real opposition art was called Samisdat. It was self-published. Well, some of that is even going on in the art states even now. One question to ask yourself is this: what physical and mental harm will the allegedly-offending material do as against what will be the negative effects of this repression? I think this is one way of wondering reasonably about repression in case of artistic material which is deemed pornographic.
JW: We have another caller. Mark from Normal Heights.
Mark: The last caller who made that comment, I think it's good to emphasize that we are living in a different era with the multimedia as broad as it is and effecting as many youngsters who aren't able to make decisions about different types of art which are let alone difficult enough for adults. I think that certain restrictions should be applied. I'm taking for example some of the new generation of rap music -- pornographic rap music that's in the media these days. I think that there should be restrictions put on them from the standpoint that it does influence the behavior of young people and young people in experiencing their own sexuality and how they perceive women in many cases. Many rappers put women in a category that's demeaning and it's something that needs to be addressed, and a youngster that listens to that, 13, 14, even 18 years old, they may not understand that this is one rapper's perspective, and if this is the majority of the music that he listens to, it could have a long term effect, I believe on the way they perceive their society and genders in general.
HJ: I think the culture is permeated with consumer violence from the programs on tv -- the various docutaintment, infotaintments, COPS, lots of programs like that -- to music which has reprehensible lyrics. It seems to me a tall order. Once you impose censorship on art or at least aspires to art, it's going to be very difficult to know where to stop or to understand who the people are who the groups are that are going to make these decisions. Again, it seems to me that it's better to err on the side of generosity here and to allow the problematic or potentially problematic lyrics to go through rather than impose censorship, which obviously won't stop there, and censorship itself has some very serious implications in the long term.
JW: Helen in Hillcrest, good morning.
Helen: Good morning, I'm one of the people who gets puzzled at the distinctions between educational tv and all tv. To my mind, everything that appears is educational and probably the best proof of that is the existence of commercial television. Advertisers certainly assume that anything you hear and see is going to affect you and I think that's true. It certainly gives young people, in particular, an idea of how the world works and what they get from television for one is a pretty sad picture of how the world works and I would include violence minus sexual behavior in pornography for this purpose.
HJ: I think that's well put. I agree with you.
JW: Steve from Point Loma.
Steve: My comment is concerns the idea that the government has a positive role to play in making decisions for people. Just because an individual might not like a particular piece of art or whether it has to do with hate material, that does not mean that as a matter of public policy that we should okay certain ideas. I think for respect for the caller with regards to the media, I think it's the responsibility for parents or guardians to teach so that young individuals can deal with whether its violence or sexually-related materials. Those things exist and to try to protect people from ideas or thoughts is a futile gesture. It's the parents that hand down values and morals and so if you want to have a positive impact, we need to teach not protect them from things we consider to be bad ideas to the exclusion of even mentioning or seeing them.
HJ: That's interesting and useful and very ethical idealism. The fact is that education itself is subject to the particular ideas and tropes and soundbites that are in the culture. Education is not above that. The UC system just decided to renew its contract with the defense industry even as they're charging students increasingly every year for tuition. I think that educators have to be educated as well, and the distinction I was making with pornography as commonly defined, having to do with the body in passion, I think the government should keep out of that and fascistic violence, that there's no ambiguity about that -- it must be stopped and it must be stopped without any kind of dilatoriness. And that's up to the people and institutions with power which are primarily federal because the states have their own agenda generally.