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Should People Be Allowed To Watch Porn In The Library?

January 3, 2012
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Should People Be Allowed To Watch Porn In The Library?
The LA Times can’t be bothered to cover the Adderall shortage (if you ignore the news, maybe it will go away!) but the editorial board is all over the issue of porn in the library. Karin Klein writes:

Editorial writers and editors were as bothered as anyone else by the thought that an institution we revere as much as the public library — remember that most journalists grew up with their noses in books — was being used to view lurid photos. It was pointed out that, although librarians hotly defend against censorship of any kind, nonetheless they make value judgments all the time about what sort of materials should be available in libraries, by purchasing news and home magazines rather than nudie publications. On the Internet, though, porn is, like most things, free. Keeping it away from patrons involves an active step, just as it takes an active — and costly — step of purchasing pornography in print to make it available.

“Lady Chatterley’s Lover” was once considered pornography, not just unsuitable for a library but illegal to sell in some countries a little more than half a century ago. Banning materials from the library because the majority of people find them distasteful is a dicey step. What might the majority find unsuitable next? Something that you want to read, perhaps? Yet all patrons to the library should be able to search for books and videos without patently offensive material shining across the room at them.

Whose rights matter more?

Thoughts from two LAT commenters:

Dan Kleinman, Library Watchdog at SafeLibraries

Bingo. And, as if to back up common sense, the US Supreme Court said public libraries are *not* open public fora where anything goes, and even noted privacy screens do not work. Read US v. ALA. http://laws.findlaw.com/us/539/194.html

James Bradford, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

The problem here, which most people just can’t seem to comprehend, is that if you ban one thing that’s offensive you have to ban everything everyone thinks is offensive. Yes, we can all agree with common sense that it’s gross and inappropriate to watch pornography in a public place, especially when there are children around. I would posture that it is also gross and inappropriate to watch graphically violent film clips in such a location, whether simulated or real like those “Faces of Death” movies. I would personally be far more horrified to walk by a computer and see an image of that than that of pornography. I would wager that a great number of people agree with me. So…should we ban that too?

How about pages about the history of Satanism? Websites about homosexuality? A site that tells you in great detail how to make a home-made bomb? And so on, and so on…

It is simply not as easy as “Yes this is obvious and a no-brainer, ban it!” Once you put the foot down on one thing, it opens doors to other things, and THAT is why censorship is inherently bad.

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Right. Man up. Buy the book now on Amazon.com. Or listen to Ronnie tell a story at escaping-from-reality.com.