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December 02, 2011

How Newt Gingrich Saved the Internet

Mother Jones attempts to sour social cons on Gingrich with a headline titled "How Newt Gingrich Saved Porn."

The article is about him blocking a massive censorship regime in the earliest days of the internet (back in 1995, 1996) that could have penalized someone who simply wrote one of the "seven dirty words" with two years in jail and a $100,000 fine.

Obviously, Mother Jones should be thanking Gingrich, as the leftist Mother Jones is obviously hostile towards that idea.

But of course Gingrich is the Designated Villain, as Gabe says, so the article gets an over-the-top hit-piece headline.

"Barbarian pornographers are at the gate and they are using the internet to gain access to the youth of America," warned Sen. Jim Exon (D-Neb.).

To fend off the barbarians, Exon introduced an amendment to the Communications Decency Act criminalizing the transmission of "indecent" materials over the internet. In case any stone remained unturned, it went after internet service providers as well: Email or distribute nude photos—or even just type one of the "seven words you can't say on television"—and you could face a $100,000 fine or up to two years in prison.

To illustrate the danger of internet porn, Exon compiled an album of graphic images he'd found on the web—including one of a man engaging in intercourse with a German shepherd—in a blue binder with a red "caution" sticker, and invited his colleagues to take a look.

Exon's measure passed the Senate with 86 votes. The appeal was clear: No elected official wanted to be seen as voting for smut. The Contract With America—Republicans' promise to voters in advance of their landslide win in the 1994 elections—had even contained a provision vowing to crack down on child pornography.

That's where Gingrich came in.

To the House speaker, the debate presented a clash between his desire to prepare America for the 21st century and his conservative values. Gingrich, by his own description, was a "conservative futurist." He envisioned honeymoons in space and laptops in every classroom; the Exon amendment, by casting such a wide net, threatened that future.

Gingrich was right that Exon's bill was extremely broad. As Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) pointed out in a particularly inspired floor speech, the law could even have criminalized the online distribution of Gingrich's first novel, 1945, in which a "pouting sex kitten"—who is also a Nazi—seduces a White House aide in order to extract classified information. It would also have prohibited most non-Will Smith forms of hip-hop.

"[The amendment] is clearly a violation of free speech and it's a violation of the right of adults to communicate with each other," Gingrich said at the time. "I don't agree with it…" In an interview with British journalist David Frost, he elaborated on his position. "I think there you have a perfect right on a noncensorship basis to intervene decisively against somebody who would prey upon children. And that I would support very intensely. It's very different than trying to censor willing adults."

That was previously a controversial position. That, too, has changed.


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posted by Ace at 03:36 PM

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