Sunday, October 29, 2006

COPA--Who picks up the tab?

I suspect or daresay that most of my content is likely to be a lot less “explicit” that that of most of the other plaintiffs (even if I am the only plaintiff who “self-censored”), but nevertheless the feedback that comes back from some people points out the underlying psychological issue. (And, sorry, this blog won't itself have any obvious gratuitous COPA violations!)

People will say something like (and I do use some hyperbole here), “How dare you expose your fantasies and your own personal self-deprecating dirty laundry (one high school principal called it “all that personal stuff”) in a public space, for kids (often immature) to find, when you aren’t man enough to court a woman, make babies and have a family of your own to be responsible for? How dare you make a public spectacle when you don’t appear to be accountable to anyone?” (It would be a lot easier if I just signed on to the “conventient” collective notion that homosexuality is biological – whether true or not – and went away.)

I don’t know if this question has legal significance, except that the perceived public circumstances of the speaker arguably would affect whether impressionable or immature minors find the speech titillating, “prurient,” and affect their ability to gain “serious value” from the material which is, after all, controversial and emotionally provocative. In a practical sense, a prosecutor with an agenda to manipulate these perceptions about a speaker with a jury, even with a frivolous prosecution that would ultimately fail on appeal. In the mean time, the speaker picks up the tab.

Of course, this leads to discussion of a lot of other issues about shared citizenship responsibilities: gays in the military, gay marriage, gay adoption, and so on. That is one reason why the public display of the writings, even for free, is necessary.

The other point in responding to this sort of “argument” is to turn it upside down, like a pineapple cake. Someone who makes this “complaint” is admitting his or her own weaknesses, vulnerability, or victimization in an increasingly competitive world. He or she admits that it is impossible to have a stable family marriage and family life and raise kids without restricting the expressive freedom of others, at least without being protected from the ability of others to distract them "without accountability." (That's the heart of "don't ask don't tell" thinking.) Of course, part of the whole idea of political solidarity is to accept that one needs the support of others, that one cannot do everything alone (even with a website like mine). This is true no matter what the organization or issues.

Modern individualism has indeed put more responsibility back on parents. Most of the arguments we make about what parents can or should do, have a bit of objectivistic flavor. Many parents cope with all of this just fine. Indeed, I suspect that many or most of the plaintiffs have families of their own, as do many or most people in the movie business who make and distribute R (or even more adult) films. But some parents, because of economic or cultural disadvantage, can’t. So part of the underlying problem with COPA and related laws, is who picks up the tab for all of the practical difficulties in raising kids (or caring for other generations in general)?

One argument that will he hard to overcome, however, is the “pay your dues” one. Parents can reasonably expect that everyone (at least every free person in reasonable economic circumstabces) owes something back to their civilization to other generations for having been raised in a free society themselves. Without the expectation that this “debt” will be paid through shared family responsibility, raising families is simply impossible. This is a tough one to deal with.

I still maintain that there is a lot more we can do with just the technology – and without burdening speakers and readers – to protect parents. That “we” includes all the big software companies, that ought to be at this trial. That would make some of the philosophical questions moot, at least for this case.

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