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.