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Opening Arguments

Community standards

Most of the controversy about public libraries and obscenity these days has been about whether or not Internet "porn filters" should be installed. But now comes a protest so low-tech it seems quaint:

Fort Wayne man is on a mission to ban what he calls pornography at the Allen County Public Library.

Mike Hinkle says he was surprised and mortified at what he saw on a movie that he checked out of the library, along with a handful of others. "I can't tell you what's on it because... it's just sick!" he tells Newschannel 15.

The movie he's talking about it called "Short Bus". It's an unrated film that includes explicit sexual content, as advertised on the front of the DVD.

The legal term, by the way, is "obscenity," not "pornography." No court has ever ruled that it's constitutionally protected, but justices have always had trouble defining what it is exactly. In 1973, the Supreme Court more or less gave up, saying that it depended on what the average person would think based on community (rather than national) standards. Apparently, Variety magazine has called the movie in question "the most sexually graphic American narrative feature ever made outside the porn industry." I have no idea who the average person in Fort Wayne is, let alone what he or she would think of the movie. That would be up to Prosecutor Karen Richards to figure out, and I doubt she'd be interested.

It's an interesting question whether "community standards" even mean anything anymore. The vilest stuff isn't just available in dirty bookstores or adult-movie houses. It's all there on the Internet. For what it's worth, I think the universal availability of "adult material" is reason enough not to have it at the library. If those who are interested can easily find what they want, it isn't exactly "censorship" to decide not to make it freely available through tax dollars. I don't see any particular need to have Playboy or Hustler there, either. Libraries have limited space and budgets -- for every one thing they do decide to stock, they have to leave out thousands.  Let's set a "community standards" here.


Fri, 01/18/2008 - 1:10pm

My son found something about their upcoming issue with graphic crime scene photos from the Hillside strangler case. Larry flynt even puts it up on his own website www.larryflynt.com, send e-mails let him know this is sick.

Fri, 01/18/2008 - 1:20pm

Isn't it funny how "community standards" only focus on sex, but the most perversely violent films are never mentioned? That's the American way isn't it?

Sex - bad

Violent death - quite acceptable

I guess Jesus loved a good gunfight.

Leo Morris
Fri, 01/18/2008 - 1:31pm

I just don't understand why people get so upset about Saxon violins. Oh, wait. That's very different. Never mind.

Bob G.
Fri, 01/18/2008 - 1:32pm

Yep...it's the "United States of Entertainment" (to quote Bernie Goldberg from FOX last evening).

When you have people in libraries talley-whacking away on internet sites within sight of school children, there has to be something inherently wrong with that picture.
ANY "unrated" films should not be considered for public libraries.

You want porn? There's plenty of OTHER venues to find it, and it's sure not the library.

This ain't your father's National Geographic any longer.


Fri, 01/18/2008 - 3:35pm

I fail to see what the fuss is all about. If we were to cleanse the library of any and all materials that might potentially offend someone we might as well just shut the whole damn place down.

And Craig, I couldn't agree more. Actually I find hatemongering and demagoguery even more patently offensive than violence or sex. If it were up to me, Howard Stern would never have been fined a dime and Rush Limbaugh would be doing hard time.

Leo Morris
Fri, 01/18/2008 - 4:25pm

Demagogue: Someone who expresses opinions I don't agree with. Hatemongering demagogue: A conservative who doesn't keep his mouth shut.