Unpleasant Business and the First Amendment

Glen Greenwald has a thoughtful and interesting reaction to the conviction of a man who might generously be called a “smut purveyor.”  After being found guilty of distributing pornography, the defendent, Paul Little, was sentenced to 3 years and 10 months in federal prison.  It probably doesn’t hurt to point out that the line between obscenity and art isn’t always easy to find (paging Robert Mapplethorpe!) but Greenwald takes a very different tact.  Why is it illegal to depict fake torture on film but legal to perpetrate real torture in Abu Ghraib?

So, to recap, in the Land of the Free: if you're an adult who produces a film using other consenting adults, for the entertainment of still other consenting adults, which merely depicts fictional acts of humiliation and degradation, the DOJ will prosecute you and send you to prison for years. The claim that no real pain was inflicted will be rejected; mere humiliation is enough to make you a criminal. But if government officials actually subject helpless detainees in their custody to extreme mental abuse, degradation, humiliation and even mock executions long considered "torture" in the entire civilized world, the DOJ will argue that they have acted with perfect legality and, just to be sure, Congress will hand them retroactive immunity for their conduct. That's how we prioritize criminality and arrange our value system.

Of course, consistency has never been one of the Bush administration’s strong suits.  And neither has adherence to the Constitution.

PFAW