August 13, 2001 12:00pm
The Latour Letter - Free Speech and Controlling What We Think
by: Miss Charlie Latour
The greatest challenge our free society needs to address is not the outright abridgement of our constitutionally guaranteed rights, but the intention of some to have the constitution interpreted in a manner that will grant to others the right to know what we think and to punish us if we think differently.
For the past 30 years radical liberals and conservatives have equally laid the groundwork for the invasion by the State of our most private and personal freedom, our thoughts. Radical liberals, anarchists, socialists, communists and every cockeyed coalition with a grudge, gripe or issues have formed the web, which captures every politically incorrect thought, word and deed. Ultimately they would grant to the State powers over the people in exchange for their agenda, whether it is eliminating personal wealth, free food, housing and health care, or the utopian view of equality for all. "Everyone is a victim and everyone is entitled", has been the mantra of the radical left and the correction to this perceived injustice is granting the State extraordinary powers.
Radical conservatives, fascists, and theopolists created the potential for the invasion of thought by attempts to impose strict moral codes ascribed by a particular group, sect, or power base. They would grant the State powers over the people by restricting rights, beliefs and thoughts. Like the left, they would impose their agenda. The radical left and right have fought each other at the ballot box and in the courts. The net results may be a system of justice, which believes the government has the right and duty to know what you are thinking and to punish you if you deviate from what is established as the norm.
While free speech advocates and some in the media react to overt acts of censorship that are in the politically correct arena, they can be deafeningly quiet when the issue is sex. A few like Camille Paglia write issue oriented articles about the problems associated with free speech when the topic is controversial, but recent rulings by the court about the invasion of personal thought has caused others to duck for cover. What has caused the lack of coverage on this monumental decision is that this invasion of thought occurred against a background of child pornography. The distasteful nature of the situation has most writers, editors and public pontificators steering clear of the topic, hoping that it will go away or that someone else will stick their necks out to address the issue.
The name to remember is Brian Dalton, a 22 year old from Columbus, Ohio. Mr. Dalton had been convicted in 1998 of possessing pornographic pictures of children. He served time, was released and placed on probation. His probation office conducted a search of his apartment and found his personal journal wherein was a written description of three fictional children being kept in cages. He was arrested for a variety of offenses. Obviously this young man lacks some intelligence and common sense. He needs psychiatric care and may be a predator. These facts are not available or discussed. For some untold reason he took a guilty plea agreement that includes two years in prison for the new offenses and an additional 18 months for violation of probation. Mr. Dalton is the very first person convicted in any US jurisdiction for child porn that does not involve photography, film or images or the intent to distribute the offensive material. He was convicted for his thoughts, which he wrote down for his own edification.
Child pornography is a socially unacceptable act and, in my opinion, should be punished to the max, even though the social worker in me wants to know more about Mr. Dalton and why he made such horrible personal choices. Not that he is a victim of something, but because his crime involved looking and possessing pictures and having thoughts about children and not actual having physical contact with children (that I am aware of). Prison will not find the root cause of his obsession, but a 22-year-old convicted of child porn will be bait for the hardened criminals in prison. When he is released again he will, more than likely, be a greater danger to society.
In 1969 the United States Supreme Court heard a case from Georgia and ruled that, "The mere possession of obscene matter can not constitutionally be made a crime". Regardless of how obscene society may find a picture, the mere possession is not a crime. My gosh, look at the sting operations on the Internet where law enforcement attempts to lure people by curiosity into committing a crime. Just today I got spam that stated, "Young Teen Sex…See It Here For Just $.99 a Day". This entered my e-mail without my permission. Does this make me a child pornographer? Obviously not!
This is either a fake or a trap, because no one is stupid enough as to advertise child porn in such a brazen manner. The mere fact that someone sent this to me should not convict me of a crime I did not commit. The Supreme Court, in its wisdom, ruled properly. In rendering this decision the court reasoned that, ``Given the present state of knowledge, the state may no more prohibit mere possession of obscene matter on the ground that it may lead to antisocial conduct than it may prohibit possession of chemistry books on the ground that they may lead to the manufacture of homemade spirits.'' The ruling clearly and without ambiguity stated that a citizen has a constitutional right ``to read or observe what he pleases -- the right to satisfy his intellectual and emotional needs in the privacy of his own home,'' and ``the right to be free from state inquiry into the contents of his library'' because, ``if the First Amendment means anything, it means that a state has no business telling man, sitting alone in the his own house, what books he may read or films he may watch.''
Based upon this 1969 ruling there is no way that Mr. Dalton should be convicted. However, a New York law which criminalized the depiction of sexual performance by children was tested before the Supreme Court in 1982 and that court upheld the constitutionality of a New York law. The legal thought was that the court wanted to allow more flexibility when dealing with child porn or the depiction of children doing sexual acts. The slippery slope has begun to erode our freedoms.
In 1990, the Supreme Court took the populist path and criminalized the mere possession of child pornography. I refer to it as a populist path because it runs counter to the constitutional path, which was taken in 1969. The Supreme Court ruled on a subject that has no public support and few willing to defend the practice. In short it was a cowardly decision. It's all part of this, "for the children" phony campaign that we saw during the 1990's where you talk about children, you do a few things that have style over substance, but you run from the hard choices. The Supreme Court ruled with the polls. What's the difference between being forced to accept one persons' view of morality and convicting a person for mere possession? Has the 1990 decision eradicated child porn? Hardly, children are promoted sexually even more today. Just look at some of the ads on billboards, or some television shows. Meantime, has the State now ascended into the position that the extremists of both wings have dreamed about? Now the extreme left and right will fight to see who controls the State so they can direct the various states attorneys to capture thoughts and imprison those who disagree with them.
Look, Mr. Dalton needs help and he needs to understand consequences. I am not defending child porn. Maybe, just maybe, the state prevented a catastrophic assault on children, but there is no maybe in the impact this ruling will have on your rights. The case being heard this fall about computer driven images will be effected by this decision and the slippery slope will continue. Once the state has "conquered" child porn, (said with faux belief) they will move on to other so-called obscene material. Or at least material deemed obscene by those in power.
I do believe that society needs to set some rules and the rule against child abuse and exploitation is a good rule. Those arrested and convicted of producing child pornography, distributing child pornography, or in any way luring children into sexual activity should be dealt with swiftly and harshly. I do not believe that the mere possession of obscene material, regardless of how vile, is a crime and I certainly have great problems with the idea that the State can grab written material and convict a person of writing or thinking something awful. What's next song lyrics (they can be very graphic, offensive and pornographic) or how about classic literature? Let's see, didn't Plato write about young boys and Sappho about young girls? Watch out, the movies The Graduate and The Summer of '42 may also be prosecuted. Having a video copy of the Summer of '42 could get you in the jail cell next to Brian Dalton in Ohio, if things progress the way they are.
Overreacting, you say! Who, Me! I find the arguments in favor of State control of thought, silly and dangerous. To support these rulings endangers far more people than it protects. Each extreme group, liberal and conservative, will attempt to use the ruling to push their agenda. If your interest group is against one thing or another then use this ruling to get at the people who disagree with you. Just make sure it is obscene in the eyes of some, embarrassing to many and too controversial to defend. Mark my word the conviction of Brian Dalton will have long lasting negative consequences. The winners could be the extremists; the socialists and fascists that seek to control our thoughts, words and deeds.
I urge all that care about our freedoms to stay up to date on issues of this nature. There is no better way than to read ainews.com. You can write to me via this site at Latour@ainews.com and I encourage you to visit my website at www.charlielatour.net and check out my really hot, politically incorrect videos. (Did I hear the word "obscene"?)