Benn Ray had the unenviable task of editing three lengthy e-mails into a songle possibly coherent section for his newsletter. Though the final result is a point counterpoint in his favor (him always getting counterpoint), I did leave it up to his to edit it and that’s exactly what I expected. He had the chance to revise any statements in response to mine, though I haven’t made a comparison of all the relavent exchanges to see what, if anything, diverges: From the MobtownShank e-mail list: XXVII.
2 SMUT PEDDLERS TALK PORN & POLITICS
by Kevin I. Slaughter & Benn Ray
The following is a conversation in response to the Random Factoid in week’s Shank, “Hypocrites Love Porn” in which we reported on a study by the Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washingon (CREW), http://www.citizensforethics.org/activities/campaign.php?view=31, showing the link between anti-porn Senators and Congressmen and porn money. Kevin I. Slaughter is the proprietor of Sin Set Books (www.sinsetbooks.com). Benn Ray is the proprietor of Atomic Books (www.atomicbooks.com).
KEVIN: So I wasn’t shocked by the figures given in the “Hypocrites Love Porn” section of the latest Shank. In fact, it was no surprise at all. Okay, sure, I think most moralists are hypocrites, but that wasn’t the cause of my less than excitable state. I thought it was kinda bullshit. Not that those people didn’t get those sums of money from companies, but how it was presented. I know you just copied and pasted some numbers into the Shank, but of course both their (Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington) presentation and your truncated presentation of the figures are misleading. But, since you do research for your other articles, I digged a bit here and there. The Shank got me goin’, and I tried to present my objections here in a civil and thoughtful way (though maybe a bit rambling) while still calling bullshit. If you go to the report you see that both General Motors and AT&T are included in the list. These are not pornographers. Not one corporation on the list specializes in pornography. No Vivid CEO or even the guy who makes Real Dolls. Not Playboy or Larry Flynt. Comcast is likened to being a ‘porn peddler’. Are they talking about the Olson Twins? At no time in the report does it state that any of the corporations are in the business of actually manufacturing pornography. At worst, they provide a medium to deliver goods. By saying AT&T are porn peddlers, you can say that about the post office. When you think of a national Hotel Chain, do you consider them to be pimps and panderers? I don’t. I think they provide a service of selling some porno, just like they might have a few bottles of booze in the mini-fridge.
BENN: And do you have any idea how much money adult movies garner for the Hotel Industry? They generate higher revenues than the mini-bars! “An estimated 40 percent of the nationâ€™s hotels offer adult movie options, which account for about 90 percent of pay-per-view revenue. Based on estimates provided by the hotel industry, at least half of all guests at hotels such as Marriott and Holiday Inn pay to view adult movies. These orders result in approximately $190 million a year in sales.” I’d say that puts Marriott and Holiday Inn in the porn business.” (That’s from Citizens For Ethics, and here’s the .pdf of the report: www.citizensforethics.org/filelibrary/2005310_addicted_to_porn.pdf.) Some analysts say these in-room sex movies generate more money for the hotel chains like Marriott and Hilton than revenue from the hotels’ mini-bars. “The 5 percent or 10 percent of revenue that the hotel chain gets, that’s pure profit to them because they have no cost,” says Dennis McAlpine, an entertainment industry analyst. “They didn’t put in the wiring system, they didn’t supply the programming.”
KEVIN: The report talkes about AT&T making $20 million per month on broadband pornography. I don’t have the source that it’s referencing. I’d be inclined to believe that it makes that sum a month on providing broadband services that can, by choice of the subscriber then be used to view porn (they reference the ‘Hot Network’ merely one of I’m sure a multitude of services they provide) or baseball scores or anything else. The wording there isn’t straight forward. Did they make $20 million on this ‘Hot Network’? You’d be inclined to assume that, because the sentences are together, but they don’t say that.
BENN: To put it more into perspective: “Americans spend upward of $450 million per year on adult entertainment via pay-per-view TV, which provides huge profits for content providers such as AOL Time Warner and Comcast.” (again, www.citizensforethics.org).
KEVIN: They are two separate statements. To say that “only too happy to accept political contributions from those who derive income from the sale of pornography” is a pretty specious claim at best.
BENN: Then at this point, the argument becomes one of percentages. The initial source website states: “Yet while denouncing the decline in public morality, many of those same Members accept money from corporations that derive substantial profits from pornography. Although they do not advertise it, companies as diverse as Comcast and Marriott International make enormous amounts of money by selling pornography. Ironically, some of this money winds up in the political war chests of pornographyâ€™s most outspoken Congressional critics.” You call into question percentages, which I understand and think is fair, but you are putting on a sliding scale moral absolutionists who do not, at least when speaking to their public, deal with shades of grey. It’s giving them both sides of the coin, and they don’t deserve it. If you take money from Hotel chains or Comcast, you are taking money that has been “tainted” by the sex business. If you are morally outraged by the sex industry, you should not allow the possibility for your representation of a constituency you have supporting your anti-sex ways to come into question.
KEVIN: But they do deserve it, because it’s reality. Just because you disagree with them doesn’t mean you yourself should use such absolutionist tactics against them. Do you become bigoted against the bigot? If you like ice cream, but someone else doesn’t, do you then hate them? You take them to task on the issue.
BENN: Here you are mixing an aesthetic, a personal taste, with a system of core moral beliefs, so your comparison does not hold. The question, more appropriately should be, “If you have a friend who hates people because of the color of their skin, do you then hate that friend?” To which, I would say, yes. But again, even this is tricky because we aren’t talking friendship, we are talking politics and money.
KEVIN: One of my favorite events of last year was the Drive-In presentation of the Don Knotts vehicle “The Love God?” It was a fundraiser for moveon.org. I don’t like moveon.org, but this was my one chance to see one of my favorite movies of all time on one of the biggest screens in the East. I went. I’m attending a concert at the end of the month. Part of the proceeds from the event are going to a religious Jewish group. I hate Judaism as much as I hate Christianity (I’m talking about the religious beliefs and not the ethnicity, it’s not an anti-semitic statement, it’s an anti-religious one). In the last 10 years this musical group has performed 5 times, and I’m not going to miss the event. In both situations my personal goals superceded my care for where some of my money went. As an egoist, holding myself as the most important concern in my life, does this make me a hypocrite?
BENN: Yes. For example, to go back to your ice cream comparison, Star Spangled Ice Cream (being Wing-Nuts, they are humor impaired) makes a Neo-Con response to Ben & Jerry’s ice cream with flavors like: Cherry Falwell (okay, I admit this name is pretty funny), Gun Nut, Iraq The Vote, I Hate The French Vanilla, Smaller GovernMINT, etc. This could be the best ice cream in the world, but I won’t buy any. And you know what? I take it once step further. The company who manufactures the ice cream that Star Spangled Ice Cream uses (yeah, they don’t actually MAKE their ice cream), is Moxley’s, and I will now not buy Moxley’s ice cream. And dude, I LOVE ice cream.
KEVIN: We can get into a semantic debate but I’d say neither my actions nor the actions of the government officials are hypocritical in the strict sense. I denounce desert superstitions that have little to no relevance in our contemporary life, I have a strong distaste for fervent political activism. In the first case I was not politically motivated, I was an excited consumer. It also helped that I ended up winning a gift certificate good for a dinner for two at Bertha’s Mussels (I had a bit of a smarmy smirk on my face when, at the end of my $50 dinner I handed over the certificate that had a hand written “Go Dems!” on the back of it, a few weeks after the election was over). In the second instance it’s the choice of the private business owner to give their money to whomever they wish, though I sent a letter telling them that I regretted part of my money was going to a religious group while attending an event that couldn’t be called anything but secular. Hypocrisy is denouncing something but still doing it yourself.
BENN: Not exactly. According to MerriamWebster, hypocrisy is “a feigning to be what one is not or to believe what one does not; especially the false assumption of an appearance of virtue or religion.” And that is at the core of what we are talking about. Political leaders who give the appearance of virtue to their anti-porn constituents while still taking money made off the porn industry to use to get elected.
KEVIN: These officials, though they may take money from sources that profit marginally from porn, are not themselves enabling the distribution of porn. Just as George Lincoln Rockwell can get a standing ovation from the Nation of Islam, these guys can take money from someone that might be doing something they disapprove of. They aren’t doing it themselves and the money is only going to further their cause. In the Rockwell/NoI case the social and political differences couldn’t be both more pronounced and more the same. Where there is a common interest (the separation of the races) there is a tight accord, where there are departures, the ravine couldn’t be wider (exactly who is the better race). My main point is that I think this report serves only as a paper tiger. It’s not solid, doesn’t indict.
BENN: Well, if you hate porn, and you voted for someone who you thought hates porn but takes money from industries that make a portion of their profits from porn, they you have to wonder, when it comes down to head to head legislation where your interests come up against those of pornography, who will be better served? And the millions of dollars I quoted above are hardly marginal. If Comcast gives you $10,000 and there is an anti-porn vote coming up in Congress, do you think they are gonna let you slide? Do you think there won’t be lobbyist at your office saying, “Well, Senator, we’ve enjoyed contributing to your campaigns in the past and we’d hate to have to end our relationship.” This is America, Kevin, money is as much a show of support as standing in front of a loaded gun. If you claim to be virtuous and you take tainted money, you become tainted as well.
KEVIN: William Bennet had a gambling problem to the tune of $8 million bucks.
BENN: And is considered by many to be a hypocrite. KEVIN: Strom Thurmond had a mixed baby.
BENN: I think his picture is next to the definition of the word “hypocrite” as well as next to the phrase “racist piece of shit.”
KEVIN: Kim Jong Il lives pretty well.
BENN: Nice glasses too.
KEVIN: In Baltimore, an estimated 6.2 percent of priests ordained in the past half-century have been implicated in the abuse of minors.
BENN: Go Baltimore!
KEVIN: Hypocrisy is a Swedish death metal band on Nuclear Blast Records. BENN: I bet they rock too, in that special way that Swedish genre-rock acts do. KEVIN: I think the CREW’s argument is a paper tiger, in the figurative and a more literal sense. In the figurative, I feel that the connections made between these anti-porn crusaders and monies derived from the sale of pornography are tenuous. It’s not hypocrisy, because the congressmen aren’t doing the things they are condemning (according to this report). BENN: They are taking money made off of people doing the things they are condemning. KEVIN: In the literal, I think that the CREW has probably spent an awful lot of time and other people’s money on establishing this tenuous relationship, and therefore wasted it. This is a sideways and some king of backwards ad hominem attack. It’s the political motivations of CREW that brings these charges, and not the reality of the situation. BENN: Well, they are saying these people are hypocrites, and showing a link that defines the level of hypocrisy. KEVIN: I disagree with the Joe Barton’s (head of the committee to “clean up the airwaves”) statement: “A parent should not have to think twice about the content on the public airwaves.” BENN: So do I. Do either of us have kids?
KEVIN: Joe Barton, according to CREW, took in $31,000 for the 2004 election cycle from these “porn peddlers”. According to OpenSecrets.org (the same website that CREW used) his total receipts for that same period was $2,500,000 (37% coming from private donations). Let’s say that AOL Time Warner, Hilton, Comcast, et al take in, oh, a generous 10% from porn sales (highly unlikely, but an easy number to work with). That makes about $3,100 fuck bucks. Way less than 1% of the donations (about .00124) are “tainted” by the porno industry. Fred Upton got a little bit of cash too, about $32,000 total from that long list of huge cornerations. He’s the Chairman of the Subcommittee on Telecommunications are the Internet. You think Comcast and AOL Time Warner AREN’T going to try to pad this guys pockets? Hell, I’m surprised it’s such a small amount. In fact, maybe if he was a little less anti-porn, he’d get a bigger kickback. There’s an interesting idea, let’s see who got the biggest donations from AOL Time Warner (not taking into consideration private donations from employees, though CREW does this). John Kerry tops out at $411,534 George W. Bush got a mere $171,100 (but comes in second). Looking at this list of the top 20 recipients, only two of them are Republicans, the second ranking spot and the 20th ranking spot (getting $58 grand). AOL Time Warner significantly backs democrats who are probably more pro-porn than Mr. Upton and Mr. Barton. But shit, they’ve got to give SOMETHING to the chairman of the subcommittee that regulates their primary business, right?! Tenuous, tenuous, tenuous. Paper tiger that wasted time and money. CREW characterizes it as “rank hypocrisy” – at less than one percent, give me a fucking break. It’s a scare tactic from the left and it’s just as hollow as the Catholic priest’s pledge to remain chaste.
BENN: Okay, I was a little unclear about that list of top 20 recipients (what list is this? Where?), but at this point, you are agreeing with me but arguing over percentages. It’s that old W.C. Fields/Winston Churchill joke in which he insulted a woman that indicated she would marry a man for his money. After he overheard this he propositioned her and she replied “What type of woman do you think I am?” W.C./Winston responded, “We already know what type of woman you are, I’m just negotiating a price.” If Comcast makes (as cited above, 5-10% of their profits (at a much higher profit/cost ratio, I add) from Pay Per View Porn, and they donate $10,000 to your campaign, then you are 5-10% compromised. I think you’re getting hung up because you’re looking for Larry Flynt to give them money directly, and then you can say, “ah-ha! Gotcha!” But c’mon, these are politicians, they know that would be suicidal. They know where their money comes from, whose interests they must look after and how much so. KEVIN: If you owned a gas station and had a couple copies of Playboy behind the counter, you’re making a profit from pornography. You’re still in the business of selling gas and junk food, that’s your overwhelming source of income. If you are a franchise of Shell Oil or any number of petroleum companies, by the guidelines of this report, that makes them porno-profiteers. If Shell Oil then gives a campaign contribution to a political candidate, that makes it porno money? What if that gas station doesn’t sell any porn at all, but happens to be located near a strip club. At 2-3 am strippers stop to fill up their gas-tanks and buy twinkies and red-bulls… aren’t they profiting off of the sex industry?
BENN: To use your gas station analogy, I look at it more like this: Let’s say I am someone who despises pornography. I go to a gas station and notice that the top 3 rows of racks are porn magazine, I will not continue to patronize them even if none of my dollars are going to their porn, because if I do I am still supporting their business. I’m still giving money to people who do something I am morally opposed to. This provides a level of self-contradiction at best, hypocrisy at most. And it is the very same hypocrisy that politicians who take money from Comcast or Hilton are guilty of. The point is, your financial supporters are making money off of an industry you decry as vulgar to your constituency. Something here doesn’t add up.
KEVIN: This is a good point, but it also is steeped in a Manicheistic dualism that pervades this country. The silly idea in an ultimate good and evil. These moralists are fervent in claiming so many ills of society are brought forth by the viewing of humans comitting one of the most human acts possible (the act that produces generation of life – or well, in most cases, an act that we hope doesn’t produce human life) and are setting up scapegoats to focus their anger on. This is the same thing that this report does. It tries desperatly to say, look, there’s a casual link between A and B, so B equals A even though it states it is antithetical. What I was trying to say with my gas station analogy is that there are probably very few dollars in the world that aren’t “tainted” with porno money and these links aren’t.
BENN: Right, but I’m talking a one – two degree of taint, you’re talking way down the line.There is a difference, I would imagine, that these moralists would see if someone said, did a study showing a one – two degree link between their elected officials claiming to hate porn and the money they’re taking and where it’s coming to.
KEVIN: You want to call them a hypocrite, find some porn on their home computers or Tivo. Get a snapshot of one of them in leatherboy gear at the Ramrod Bar. THEN let me know about it.
BENN: I totally understand what you are saying. Yes, it makes a better story if they have their fingers in Larry Flynt’s Hustler Jar. But money is much smarter than it used to be. It filters through many channels now. If one is so morally outraged by pornography, you would think that one would be loathe to do business with anyone who derives profits from the sex industry.
KEVIN: I derive profits from pornography, so does Atomic Books. Is any service you or I support then tainted?
BENN: Yes. That most cautious politicians would think twice about accepting money from either of us. Hell, I know of local community web pages that, while they will mention Atomic Books on their site, will not link to our site like they do with other merchants because of political concerns.
KEVIN: Hey, I like porn. I own a bunch of porn (though most of it pre-1970 stuff). I’m all for anyone doing anything they want to with someone else as long as it’s consensual, even if it includes a monetary transaction.
BENN: Well so am I. I just don’t care to hear politicians using it as a tool to manipulate their constituency when the dollars they take can be traced back to the very people the demonize.
KEVIN: BTW, a bunch of Catholic priests molest children – now that’s a fact. There’s a direct link of hypocrisy there.
BENN: Say the people elect you thinking your as anti-sex as they are. Up comes a vote to block hotel chains from carrying pay-per-view adult movies. Hilton or Holiday Inn gave $25K to your last election. What side are you gonna come up on? My post was an attempt to show the hypocrisy of these people, and I think it does that.