Looking at the Handley case

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Whatever you do today, read these essays by Charles Brownstein, Jason Thompson, and Carl Horn on the Christopher Handley case. Searching high and low, it is impossible to find an actual crime that has been committed…and yet a man is in jail for six months. “Thought crime” indeed.

Comments

  1. Christian says:

    I’ve been saying that we should lock up the creepy weaboos for liking their shitty anime and manga for awhile now.

    Never thought they’d do it though.

    Hurm.

  2. rinmackie says:

    As a manga/anime fan, I am deeply offended by that comment. Handley’s tastes and mine are not the same, but as long as no actual children were involved, he has every right to look at it. Besides, what gives you the right to decide other peoples’ entertainment choices? What if someone decides what you like is obscene? And don’t think it couldn’t happen.

  3. Scratchie says:

    I think the “actual crime” that was committed was a violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1466A, i.e. “the receipt and possession of obscene visual representations depicting the sexual abuse of children.” What seems to be the confusion?

    You may argue about whether the law is just or not, but it is the law, so violation of it is an “actual crime”.

  4. Synsidar says:

    There are at least a couple of problems with the reasoning in the editorials.

    One is that Handley actually violated the law against child pornography. The federal code states “any visual depiction”. The amount that Handley possessed didn’t matter, as long as he had any. Similarly reasoning that some undefined amount would be acceptable, since he wasn’t hurting anyone else, could be used to invalidate all of the drug laws.

    The second problem is the use of images. There are no laws that I’m aware of against text-based treatment of minors. Child pornography is only imagery. There already is, practically, an “anything goes” environment for artists who draw adults. A comics fan can find artwork depicting DC heroines having sex with Krypto if they use the right terms. Focusing only on the legality of images depicting minors having sex with animals, while avoiding any discussion of the motives for creating the images, attempts to turn the concept of public morality into an irrelevancy, when public morality is essential to keep societies from fracturing.

    Urinating in public doesn’t hurt anyone; gutters and alleys are usually filthy anyway. The act is prohibited, though, because it violates standards for conduct. The prohibition against possessing child pornography establishes a standard of conduct that is eminently reasonable. If the motives for producing child pornography could be explained clearly and convincingly, the laws banning it wouldn’t exist.

    SRS

  5. The Beat says:

    Syn, I’m sure I would find much of what Handley owned revolting — in fact, as a review editor I get sent manga all the time that contains stuff that I find revolting — should I get thrown into jail for possessing it? Your peeing in the alley analogy makes no sense — one act is a public act of vandalism (urine is unsanitary); Handley quietly consumed material that he enjoyed in private. After extensive psychological testing, there is no evidence that he was a threat to anyone anywhere — even himself.

    Actual child pornography is a sick, sick business and people who consume material that involved actual people should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. However drawn depictions of illegal acts are not the same as photographcs of things that really happened. I reserve the right to find such materials morally and artistically offensive, but the idea that possessing them is a crime equal to possessing photographic pornography is a very very recent idea that is not supported by the body of law.

    It’s very easy to decide that Handley was a sick pervert who deserves to be in jail. Based on what I know of the case, I don’t think any justice has been served whatsoever.

  6. Synsidar says:

    Your peeing in the alley analogy makes no sense — one act is a public act of vandalism (urine is unsanitary);

    I’m referring to self-restraint, avoiding conduct that others object to.

    SRS

  7. Christian says:

    Yeah, putting on my serious face now, I kinda agree with Heidi.

    This kind of verdict carries the double whammy of not only verging on “thought crime” but also makes a mockery of the actual disgusting nature of true child pornography.

    Anime, though obnoxious, is a far cry from keeping a nine year old in your basement and raping her while you share pictures of it with your friends on the internet.

  8. Steely Dan says:

    The U.S. Supreme Court decided in 2002 in “Ascroft v. Free Speech Coalition” that this is not a crime. It is protected under the First Amendment.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ashcroft_v._Free_Speech_Coalition

  9. Simon Jones says:

    Synsidar, Scratchie–>

    The problem with 1466A is one shared with all obscenity-related laws… it does not apply to “art.” We can all argue about the artistic merit of fictitious porn until the cows come home, but we should at least all agree that there is something very wrong with any law that has no clear definitions of what it seeks to criminalize, can change on the whims of public mood, criminalize things retroactively, and serves no scientifically agreed-upon purpose.

    Here’s one of many incredible ironies about this case… since Handley pleaded guilty, we never even got to hear expert testimony on the artistic merit of the works for which he was arrested… technically, we still don’t really know whether those books were obscene!

  10. Synsidar says:

    The U.S. Supreme Court decided in 2002 in “Ascroft v. Free Speech Coalition” that this is not a crime. It is protected under the First Amendment.

    The current law re child pornography is apparently more recent than that decision:

    Title 18 > Part I > Chapter 110 > Section 2256

    § 2256. Definitions for chapter

    Title 18 of the US Code as currently published by the US Government reflects the laws passed by Congress as of Jan. 5, 2009, and it is this version that is published here.

    I can appreciate not wanting to argue points without accomplishing anything. However, the time to argue against criminalizing images was before legislation was enacted. Once it’s in effect, opponents have to demonstrate how society benefits from having the materials decriminalized. The “slippery slope” argument is rarely useful when it’s applied to legislation that criminalizes specific acts, because logical connections and differences can always be drawn between those acts and legal ones. If legislation unintentionally causes other legal acts to become illegal, the legislation will be found to be unconstitutionally vague.

    If the urge to consume child pornography could be traced to chemical imbalances in the brain, genetic factors, or any combination of factors that caused the urge to be involuntary, then arguments for decriminalization would be enhanced considerably. There is at least one study on child pornography that sides with opponents of criminalization:

    For people without a prior conviction for a hands-on sex offense, the consumption of child pornography alone does not, in itself, seem to represent a risk factor for committing such an offense. Researchers writing in the open access journal BMC Psychiatry studied 231 men convicted of consuming child pornography in 2002 and found that only 1% had gone on to commit a hands-on sex offense in the following six years.

    SRS

  11. Army of Dorkness says:

    “Searching high and low, it is impossible to find an actual crime that has been committed…and yet a man is in jail for six months. “Thought crime” indeed.”

    Didn’t I just spend way too much time and effort in another thread saying exactly that?

  12. Army of Dorkness says:
  13. Xenos says:

    Synsidar: “I’m referring to self-restraint, avoiding conduct that others object to. ”
    Wow. Do you realize what can of worms you open? Might as well ban gay couples from having consensual sex or even kissing because by that reasoning we need to be “avoiding conduct that others object to.” Making sure no one is offended by someone else’s action is no way to run the law, especially if such things are done in private.

    Though that doesn’t even enter into it. The key to this matter is that these books are FICTION. No children, no real people, were harmed in this case. (Well, save for Handely being victimized by the system.) You can’t go arrest people for the fiction they read in books. You might as well start arresting kids and adults who play violent video games because of all the obscene violence to which they have partaken. How is some guy getting his jollies playing an interactive virtual snuff film like Manhunt any different than some guy looking at this lolita porn? Can you arrest someone for committing murder in a game, on a comic book page?

    Hell, how many of us have been an accomplice to the murder of The Comedian? I was there when Griffith forced himself on the young Princess Catharine in Berserk. I was there when Megatron killed Optimus Prime. I must be a serial killer because I’ve killed thousands of people in Team Fortress 2?

    Holy crap in a hat. How is it that in this day and age we have to explain to people that comics aren’t real and you can’t ban a book for fictional crimes in it? We’re back at Fredric Wertham again.

  14. Christopher Handley wasn’t convicted on child pornography charges. He was convicted of one count of possessing obscene visual representations of the sexual abuse of children and one count of mailing obscene material. The keyword in both these criminal convictions is the word obscene.

    It’s not about pornography.

    Most pornography does not rise to the level of obscenity. For something to be legally considered obscene, it must satisfy the so-called Miller test:

    1. Whether the average person, applying contemporary community standards, would find that the work, taken as a whole, appeals to the prurient interest,

    2. Whether the work depicts/describes, in a patently offensive way, sexual conduct or excretory functions specifically defined by applicable state law,

    3. Whether the work, taken as a whole, lacks serious literary, artistic, political or scientific value. (This is also known as the (S)LAPS test- [Serious] Literary, Artistic, Political, Scientific.)

    For something to be ruled legally obscene, all three of the above parts must be met. Not one, not two, but all three.

  15. rinmackie says:

    And most, if not all, of those points are subjective, open to interpretation. So I call BS!

  16. Army of Dorkness says:

    “The keyword in both these criminal convictions is the word obscene.”

    Again, there is no such thing as obscenity: http://www.spectacle.org/296/obscene.html

  17. Synsidar says:

    Again, there is no such thing as obscenity:

    Army, the viewpoint of the article in the link was so solipsistic as to render it useless as an argument. The federal statute banning possession of child pornography is specific as to the content.

    If someone is facing prosecution for possession of obscene material, denying that obscene material exists would be rejected immediately. Pursuing the argument would result in contempt of court charges. All the philosophical objections that people can think of have been raised since prosecution of obscene materials began, and they’ve failed. Trying to turn a trial into a Philosophy 101 class only angers people.

    SRS

  18. Army of Dorkness says:

    It’s still an excellent argument that people should listen to. The legal term “obscenity” is vague to the point of being irrelevant. It infuriates me that people just accept it as if it were logical and just. It’s not. The law doesn’t change on its own. It needs to be forced to change by the people who make it–categorically, the citizens of this country. Just sitting around and saying “well the law is the law” any time people talk about the horrible shortcomings of the law also makes a person contemptible though not in a court of law.

    Obscenity can’t be defined on a case by case basis. Marriage can’t be defined on a state by state basis.

    Obscenity can’t be legally defined at all, and marriage is a contract which should be upheld regardless of the crossing of borders. “I know it when I see it” is the absolute WORST classification of a legal term possible, and it’s about damn time people started making an issue out of it. The abortion debate proves that just because it’s legal doesn’t mean you have to accept it, but there’s a reason it’s legal and you can’t judge abortion on a “know it when I see it” basis. Just because YOU don’t like it doesn’t make it illegal, but the legal catch-all that is “obscenity” provides exactly that ability to a very small group of people.

    I don’t trust the general public to judge me when the very basis of the charges are so subjective. Murder is murder. Theft is theft. Rape is rape. It’s about whether these things did actually happen or not and that’s what evidence is for. “Obscenity” is “whatever we want it to mean today, in this spot of the country, on this day in recorded history, in this court of law, according to these 12 people, and in the eyes of this ONE judge out of the MILLIONS in this country.” It’s not about did this happen. It’s about “can we all agree that we just don’t like this stuff,” and that’s just not fair. The main problem with “obscenity” is you can’t know you’re in violation until it’s too late. You know if you kill someone you’re a murderer, or if you steal something you’re a thief, or if you rape someone you’re a rapist… but if you read something or watch something you can’t know you’re a criminal until a bunch of people get together and BRAND YOU as one or in Handley’s case bully you into admitting you’re one. That’s a perversion of the legal system and the whole idea of justice.

    In the case of child pornography (which is now apparently not part of this case but was defined in the other thread), its overreaching definition needs the same spotlight shown on it as “obscenity” because “child pornography” deserves its quotes now due to its legal definition not requiring any child to actually be present in order to be considered such. It’s not child pornography anymore, it’s “child pornography.” By including fake represenations of child pornography in the definition of “child pornography,” you demean the children actually harmed by real child pornography and put them on the level of suggestive drawings where no one is hurt. That’s insulting to victims of child abuse and molestation, and the legal system should be called out for and ashamed by its presumptions. “Child pornography” is just a step away from the ludicrousness of “obscenity” thanks to the legal system, and like many legal or political bodies, it has lost sight of its raison d’etre which is the protection of its citizens. Citizens don’t need to be protected from books they can just simply close or movies they can easily turn off, but if this perversion of the legal system continues, we will need protection FROM the legal system and the monster that it has become.

    Again, there is no such thing as “obscenity.” Obscenity on a personal level is a given, but as a legal construct its reach exceeds its grasp and should be elminated from the law. The Miller test is an arbitrary idea which the law has latched onto because it doesn’t have any clue as to how it can accurately judge the nature of creative works. In my opinion, the law shouldn’t be judging creative works to begin with, but it has used “obscenity” to extent its claws into that world for way too long. The law needs to stick to what it knows and what it was created to do, and leave the jurisdiction of our minds and thoughts to be governed by our own psychological justice system. Actions are governed by law, and leave thoughts to be governed by conscience. That’s what it’s there for.

  19. rinmackie says:

    Amen! That was a great post, AoD! Mind if I quote or copy/ paste your comments on another forum?

  20. Synsidar says:

    Army, the basis for the article is philosophical gamesmanship, with the writer apparently assuming he’s more intelligent than the people who enforce obscenity laws, and that he can dazzle people with his reasoning, or at least confuse them. When someone is confronted with an item that is considered “obscene,” defining its qualities and considering how people with varying degrees of intelligence, exposure to the arts, etc., will react to it really isn’t difficult. If the item in question was mass-produced, it was produced with the expectation that it would have the same effects on a range of people. If the desired effects fail the SLAP test, then the item is obscene. Viewing common morality as important isn’t evidence of low intelligence; it’s a desire for a society in which people can live their lives without routinely being confronted with things that shock and offend them.

    And, as a practical matter, a person can express nearly any thought he wants to in the form of text:

    Although a narrowly divided Supreme Court said in 1973 that images were not necessary to label a work obscene, there has not been a successful obscenity prosecution in the country that did not involve drawings or photographs since then.

    Courts have overturned or blocked convictions connected to other nonillustrated books, including the well-known “Fanny Hill: Memoirs of a Woman of Pleasure,” on the basis that sexual images have a fundamentally different impact than words alone.

    Prof. Laurence H. Tribe of Harvard Law School, a leading constitutional scholar, said that although the court had not ruled out the possibility that text alone might be obscene, “the idea that the written word alone can be prosecuted pushes to the limit the underlying rationale of the obscenity law.” But Professor Tribe noted that even though the Fletcher case did not involve images, courts might view “patently offensive descriptions of sexual acts with children” as prosecutable under obscenity laws.

    Fletcher decided to plead guilty, but wasn’t incarcerated. Given the extreme use of text necessary to risk prosecution, it’s reasonable to ask just what ideas are being expressed when people generate offensive images. Being extremely offensive for the sake of being extremely offensive isn’t worthy of protection.

    SRS

  21. Julian says:

    “Viewing common morality as important isn’t evidence of low intelligence; it’s a desire for a society in which people can live their lives without routinely being confronted with things that shock and offend them.”

    Nobody would have been confronted with anything if somebody hadn’t been going through his mail, something a great many people would find shocking and offensive if it happened to them and not the bogeyman of the moment.

  22. Army of Dorkness says:

    “Amen! That was a great post, AoD! Mind if I quote or copy/ paste your comments on another forum?”

    Thanks. Go for it.

    “Army, the basis for the article is philosophical gamesmanship, with the writer apparently assuming he’s more intelligent than the people who enforce obscenity laws, and that he can dazzle people with his reasoning, or at least confuse them. ”

    You’re free to have any view you like of that article. I don’t care what that person was thinking when they wrote it. It’s still an excellent attack on the legal term “obscenity” and its failings.

    “When someone is confronted with an item that is considered “obscene,” defining its qualities and considering how people with varying degrees of intelligence, exposure to the arts, etc., will react to it really isn’t difficult.”

    Sure it is. I like how you find people to be so simplistic that you can already consider how they’ll react.

    “If the item in question was mass-produced, it was produced with the expectation that it would have the same effects on a range of people.”

    now you’re assuming that your notions of how an individual or group of individuals react to something can then be applied to everyone and is the whole purpose of its production. Lies, damn lies, and statistics, my friend.

    It’s too convenient that “obscenity” and its definition rely on “community standards” because anyone who would be brave enough to break from the collective opinion of the community would then have to face also being in violation of their standards. This is the basis of mob mentality. You’re either with us or against us, and if you’re against us, then you can have the cell next to the guy we’re taking down. That doesn’t really allow for a dissenting opinion which therefor negates the whole justification of “community standards” as a basis for DEFINING ANYTHING especially a LAW. Sometimes “majority rules” isn’t fair or reasonable or just.

    “If the desired effects fail the SLAP test, then the item is obscene.”

    Arbitrary nonsense. There is no such thing as “obscenity.”

    “Viewing common morality as important isn’t evidence of low intelligence”

    Important isn’t the same as LAW. Common morality as the basis of law is a fallacy. Most laws protect people, except for “obscenity” laws and now “child pornography” laws. I shouldn’t have to live my life according to a common morality because it’s harder to change the collective mind of a mob than it is to change a law according to reason and justice. Logic and reason should be the basis for law, not common morality. It’s logical that a murderer is counter-productive to society. Morality has no part in it. If your personal behavior infringes on another person’s rights, then it’s up to the law to govern that situation. If your personal behavior does not infringe on another person’s rights, then it’s under the rule of personal morality and conscience not common morality or law. We should all have the right to look or to look away, and those that look shouldn’t be legally subjected to the opinions of those that look away.

    “it’s a desire for a society in which people can live their lives without routinely being confronted with things that shock and offend them.”

    That society will never exist, and I’d appreciate it if the law would stop trying to convince itself and us otherwise. Your comment has nothing to do with this case or “obscenity” law. If you don’t buy it or go looking for it, you won’t be “routinely confronted with” it. Most companies don’t advertise NC-17 films, so it’s not like the manga in question is suddenly going to have billboards and bus ads and be the official sponsor of SDCC ’11. When it comes to matters of personal taste, we can damn well govern ourselves, and that’s what “obscenity” laws can’t allow.

    Rather than have to prove that “obscenity” laws should NOT exist, I have yet to see one good, rational reason that they SHOULD. Unfortunately, that argument doesn’t happen because some presumptuous people somewhere already made it so it does exist. Our lovely supreme court makes it so we can give more freedom to corporations but when it comes to allowing same-sex marriage and putting an end to legislating opinion legislation like “obscenity” laws they’re hands-off. Yes, I know how the supreme court works, so don’t bother to mention their limitations and the specific procedures to have a case heard by them. I was merely pointing out how they suck at their jobs too and they’re the highest court in the land.

    ” the underlying rationale of the obscenity law”

    that’s laughable. the underlying flawed justification for the “obscenity law”, maybe… but rationale? Hardly.

    “courts might view “patently offensive descriptions of sexual acts with children” as prosecutable under obscenity laws.”

    Exactly. All the more reason to GET RID OF THEM!!!!!!!

    “Being extremely offensive for the sake of being extremely offensive isn’t worthy of protection.”

    Yes it is. Prove that it isn’t. Something doesn’t have to benefit society to exist and deserve protection. It has to demonstrate something more negative than that. Even killing someone is protected under certain circumstances. Even criminals have rights. A person doesn’t have the right to not be offended, but I do have a right to be extremely offended if I want to be and sometimes without wanting to be. I shouldn’t then have the right to remove what offends me from all of society merely because it offends me. Even if it offends EVERYONE, it should not be removed from society because it would still have a purpose for existence. It would be the thing that everyone is offended by. A simple understanding of human nature would result in curiosity about the thing that offends everyone thereby providing reason enough for it to exist. Also, we shouldn’t empower ourselve with the misleading right to remove from the world things which offend us when we already have a far superior way of dealing with that problem. It’s called looking away. See we have these cool things called eyelids…

    Mike Diana, Christopher Handley…When are people going to learn that this is NOT justice. It may be according to law, but the laws themselves are not just. “Obscenity law” and now “Child Pornography law” do not follow the spirit of the law, and the letter of these laws only serves to perpetuate the perversion of justice and the erosion of personal freedom.

  23. Synsidar says:

    Army, you’re arguing for narcissism. An argument that considers the needs of society insignificant isn’t going to convince the people that need to be convinced.

    SRS

  24. @Army of Dorkness
    “Rather than have to prove that “obscenity” laws should NOT exist, I have yet to see one good, rational reason that they SHOULD.”

    But you’ve stated over and over (and over again) that there is no such thing as obscenity. How can anyone prove the value of a law that protects society against something you insist does not exist? Once you’ve decided that something is an absolute, non-waiverable fact (that there is no such thing as obscenity) you’ve removed the possibility of any discussion.

    You’re asking people to do the impossible.

  25. rinmackie says:

    I think that what AoD is getting at is that obscenity does exist but because it is so subjective,( i.e., what one person thinks is obscene is considered okay by someone else) it shouldn’t be the basis of a law. Laws should deal with actions, not thoughts. If something is actually harmful, then there should be a law against it. But if something merely makes you feel bad just by looking at it, then that alone is not justification for a law. If you don’t like it, then don’t buy it or seek it out. Also, in this case, there are no real people involved so no one has actually been hurt. Which leads me to my next example of something that isn’t banned (at least last time I checked) but I personally think should be.

    There is a video series called “Faces of Death”. Some of you may have heard of it. It’s basically footage of actual people dying. This is legal for purchase and viewing though it may have been banned in some places, I’m not sure. I personally think this should be banned, not simply because I find it offensive, but because actual people were involved. Because of this, it is more offensive than some fantasy rape video game or pen-and-ink drawings of children having sex. But will I campaign to have it banned? Probably not. As AoD would say, I can easily avoid it by not buying it and not looking for it. It is one of those things that are at the outer edge of the moral grey area. And proof that just because something is offensive doesn’t mean it will automatically be banned or that some people won’t stand up for it. Matter of fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if the same people that think Faces of Death is okay, would find lolicon disgusting and that it should be banned. Proof that people are inconsistent and contradictory, which is why obscenity laws are ridiculous.

  26. Synsidar says:

    Wikipedia on FACES OF DEATH:

    Although several of the “human death” scenes are obvious fakes (with Allan A. Apone, make-up and special effects artists for the film saying that about 40% of it is fake[3]), some of the footage is genuine. Famous scenes of death from the media are included, such as stock footage of a napalm bombing in Vietnam, various newsreel footage, and wartime footage of Hitler. Also featured are the actual on-camera deaths of a variety of animals, including seals being clubbed to death and animals being killed on the slaughterhouse line. [. . .] Faces of Death 5 and 6 were made up entirely of highlights from the first four films, with no new footage at all, and released in some countries where the original films were banned.

    If you’re going to make a case for repealing obscenity laws, you have to consider the fact that obscenity prosecutions are rare, and that practically all of them concern images. People react viscerally to images, unlike the ways they react to fiction. One cannot assume that each person will react differently to an image, and if the image in question is of a minor engaging in bestiality, any reaction other than revulsion could be considered irrational. An argument based on the assumption that any number of people will all react differently to visual stimuli, and therefore no law regulating visual stimuli should exist, ignores societal and psychological norms.

    SRS

  27. “more intelligent than the people who enforce obscenity laws”

    This is perhaps the most inane comment I’ve seen yet on this subject. I do not, nor would I ever, presume that anyone who seeks to enact or to enforce obscenity laws, or any laws, are of any particularly high intelligence. Populist moralism is an undeniably effective way to be elected to a legislative or enforcement position, particularly in smaller communities, but it surely and duly does not confer any manner of actual reason, wisdom, or ability to formulate cogent thought.

    The rule of law is established only by the careful review of statutes in application to the conduct of society. To say that the time to oppose such laws is before the law comes into effect is monumentally disassociated from the actual function and basis of the system upon which law is derived.

    All to often in this country laws have existed for a time in which they were “thought” to be prudent and in service to society. Through the lens of time these laws appear instead to not be the work of any form of intelligence, but rather the machinations of bigotry, misogyny, prejudice, fear, and ignorance.

    By your justifcation of “a society in which people can live their lives without routinely being confronted with things that shock and offend them”, I should be able to get Pat Robertson, Newt Gingrich, George Bush, Sarah Palin, Rush Limbaugh, and Glenn Beck thrown in jail, along with every member of the KKK, Nambla, Eddie van Halen and Ted Nugent, because they routinely confront me with things that shock and offend me, and I am not alone in that. Your argument is still rooted in the subjective, in the personal appreciation, no matter how wide-spread that appreciation may be, of material that does not, and has not directly contributed to the endangerment of anyone.

    To wit, earthquakes, tsunamis, floods, fires, and death itself would also have to be added to the things we must lock up, because many of those same things shock and offend people as well, on different levels, but which are clearly not excluded by such a broad argument.

  28. Army of Dorkness says:

    “Army, you’re arguing for narcissism. An argument that considers the needs of society insignificant isn’t going to convince the people that need to be convinced.”

    No. Society doesn’t have needs. Society exists because people created it and continue to be influenced by and in return further influence that society. I’m arguing to influence society in what I view is the right direction as do most people. Society itself has no specific needs, but arguing for the protection of society above the protection of its members would make your argument the direct opposite of what you call narcissism which is equally bad. I don’t value Handley’s personal rights above the rights of others. I value them equally. Just as he has the right to look at something, others have the same right to look away. I don’t value the “needs of society” above the rights of its members either. Are you saying that’s how we should be? You would sacrifice the rights of a person if it benefits everyone else? They make movies about that sort of stuff… Logan’s Run comes to mind. Putting aside society itself not having needs because it is a product of its members and therefor merely a reflection of them, you’re ignoring one very important possibility–what would you do when society is WRONG? It has been wrong in the past, and it will be wrong again. In Handley’s case, society is not better served by him being imprisoned and society is not better served by outlawing the items which interested him because they really have no significant impact on society as a whole. Didn’t anyone learn anything from the Wertham years? Outlawing fiction is the last resort of a society without a clue or the first step of a totalitarian regime. Maybe not the first but definitely one of the first.

    I’m so exhausted by this argument that I may not even be making much sense anymore.

    “But you’ve stated over and over (and over again) that there is no such thing as obscenity. How can anyone prove the value of a law that protects society against something you insist does not exist?”

    It’s not about convincing me. Obviously obscenity exists but an “obscenity” law should not exist because there is no such thing as “obscenity” legally… despite it actually being entrenched in current law. A person can find something to be obscene, but law isn’t a person (although if corporations are, why not the law, eh?) and can’t make those judgements and should absolutely NOT make those judgements because it infringes on the rights of those in the minority that disagree. You can’t just disagree with a law the same way that you can disagree with a person as to whether something is obscene. Law removes the right of an individual to actively disagree, and when something is so vague as “obscenity” law the one thing that vagary guarantees is the very real possibility of a dissenting opinion. “I know it when I see it” is a bullshit argument FOR “obscenity”, and I have made many reasonable arguments against it but I’m the one who gets the heat when it’s the law that’s at fault. If I made such a ridiculous argument in a review about a frickin’ comic book on this website, I’d be roasted alive for not backing up my opinion but when this same stupidity is written into LAW I’m somehow the problem.

    All I’m saying is that someone should “prove the value” of a law that already exists because I seem to be one of the few that is even calling its validity into question. How can a person defend themselves from a law that isn’t even CLEAR? Laws aren’t supposed to be subject to the opinions and prejudice of judges and juries. Juries are there to decide whether something happened (whether a law was broken) not whether what happened is even against the law (whether the interpretive law actually applies). That’s woefully unfair. It’s like pulling someone over for speeding when the speed limit sign said “we’ll tell you after we pull you over for speeding.”

    “You’re asking people to do the impossible.”

    Once again, no I’m not because I’m not asking that people convince ME but just simply make a convincing argument at all. Yes, I’d read the arguments, and yes I’d probably argue against them… but the point was that before something is made into law it should be proven to require being made into law…not the other way around–where I’m already doing the impossible of arguing to remove an already existing law… as someone who isn’t a lawyer…on a comicbook website. I don’t know how to make this unjust law not exist, so I do the only thing I can do which is try to make the best argument possible in the hopes that maybe someone reading it can actually do something about it.

    Appreciation to rinmackie for some support. And I would not support the outlawing of Faces of Death by “obscenity” law based on what I know of the series. I have never seen any of the films, but to my knowledge, it is a compilation of actual documentary footage of real deaths (with some fake mixed in, but I’m going to ignore that). The reason I’m not against it is because crimes are not being committed for the sake of the Faces of Death alone. They’re either intentional or happenstance recordings, and banning this type of thing could lead to the eventual censorship of other atrocities that we should be faced with on occasion BECAUSE they provide such visceral reactions. For example, how does one truly understand the inhumanity of napalm if you don’t see what it does for yourself? I’m not saying you HAVE to see it to understand it, but those who have seen it TRULY understand it whereas I only understand it from a descriptive third-party perspective…which is quite enough for me. Also, news footage of disasters like the Haitian and Chilean earthquakes could be censored/banned and fewer people would feel motivated to donate their money to some supposed disaster somewhere which they can convince themselves never existed…like Holocost denial. It’s harder for those who’ve seen footage of the camps to deny the Holocost but not impossible. Without that footage, it’s possible that many more would find denial that much easier. Faces of Death has a right to exist and be experienced…but as I mentioned previously, an actual “snuff film” does not as it showcases a crime created specifically for an audience. Like REAL child pornography as well. There’s a line, and I believe the current line of “obscenity” is a line that shouldn’t exist.

    “practically all of them concern images. People react viscerally to images, unlike the ways they react to fiction.”

    I think you’re mixing your terms. Images can be fiction. Even better is if you’re not mixing your terms, then you’d just be wrong.

    ” if the image in question is of a minor engaging in bestiality, any reaction other than revulsion could be considered irrational”

    That’s your opinion, and it’s an exteme overstatement. You’re not allowing for a dissenting opinion, so it’s obvious as to why you seem to be pro-“obscenity” law. Your comments often imply that you have some masterful psychological understanding of the human mind that I don’t think you really have. Your comments are often well-written which should be confused with absolute and true. Neither are mine. They’re just my opinion. I’m judging the law. You seem to delight in judging people and their behavior. People like you are what Handley was afraid of.

    “An argument based on the assumption that any number of people will all react differently to visual stimuli, and therefore no law regulating visual stimuli should exist, ignores societal and psychological norms.”

    They will. It shouldn’t…or more accurately, no law should exist that exclusively regulates purely visual or auditory stimuli. That’s borderline “thought-crime” legislation, my good man, because in reality you’re not regulating the visual or auditory stimuli you’re regulating whether or not people can choose to experience it and formulate opinions about it. That’s oppression or what we commonly call censorship.

    The thing about social and psychological norms is that they deal with “shoulds” and “should nots” and while they may be the basis of law they are not laws in themselves. You’re ignoring that sometimes societal norms are wrong, and that’s a greater infraction than simply ignoring them to allow for greater personal freedom. If it was a simple fact of societal norms, then it should be advertised as such and then pornomanga fans can then be allowed to form their own society within the borders of this country where the “community standards” allow the things which interest them, but that’s not the case because there is an unjust law which supersedes that possibility. There are many things in current society that would have been considered abnormal in the eyes of society and psychologically only a few hundred years ago. You have to allow for a dissenting opinion, and “obscenity” law does not. This country was built on the dissenting opinion, and if we decide that allowing it into something as unimportant as fiction and drawings, then we’re no longer in the “land of the free” but inhabit the “home of the scared of thoughts and ideas we don’t like so we make them illegal.” I stretched that out too far, but I don’t care.

    Bill makes some excellent points and pretty much says it all in one great post where it has taken me many posts to still fall short.

  29. Army of Dorkness says:

    I’d really love to edit that post… “should *not* be confused with absolute and true”

    “fiction and drawings is somehow illegal”

  30. rinmackie says:

    Another excellent post, AoD! When I mentioned my aversion to Faces of Death, I wasn’t thinking about news footage convincing people to care or believe that certain events happened. That should definitely be legal even it is disturbing. Though from what I understand, FoD was created for entertainment purposes, which I definitely dislike. But it wouldn’t necessarily make sense from a logical standpoint to ban one and not the other. You say you’re not a lawyer but I think you’d make a good one!

  31. Synsidar says:

    As I commented earlier, AoD’s argument wouldn’t even get a brief consideration from a judge. It rests entirely on the proposition that “obscenity” doesn’t have the legal meaning it actually does. Reject that reasoning, the argument disintegrates, and the trial goes on to consider the artistic merits of the items that the case is about. If there were a philosophical magic bullet to use against the prosecutors in obscenity cases, it would have been found decades ago.

    SRS

  32. Army of Dorkness says:

    The argument lives. They just won’t listen.

    How can you argue against a law that has no real substance, anyway?

  33. Army of Dorkness says:

    and truth be told, the law as written could never reasonably find anything to be “obscene” because of its vagary. “community standards”, “average person”, “normal”, “value”, and so on… all reflected in the Miller test, and all impossible to judge in a court of law.

    but who’s gonna volunteer to be a test case to challenge “obscenity” law? And the “abnormal” deserve protection under the law as well. Even if those items belonging to Handley were deemed “obscene”, I don’t think he should have to go to jail for it.

    That law is flawed. My argument isn’t.

  34. Army of Dorkness says:

    This says it better than I ever could: http://www.nikebound.com/article.php?story=20090318232541204

    The opinions of 12 people do not form a community’s standards.

  35. Alexandra says:

    “Anime, though obnoxious, is a far cry from keeping a nine year old in your basement and raping her while you share pictures of it with your friends on the internet.”

    …and the scary thing is, even “keeping a nine year old in your basement and raping her” before you share the bloody bedsheets from it with her parents instead of “while you share pictures of it with your friends on the internet.” is be defended by the it’s-part-of-a-different-culture crowd. :(

    “Nobody would have been confronted with anything if somebody hadn’t been going through his mail, something a great many people would find shocking and offensive if it happened to them and not the bogeyman of the moment.”

    There’s more to the world than speech and media.

    Some more prosaic and less entertaining things that are still important, like crops. Iowa’s economy and America’s food suppy depend in large part on agriculture. Going through mail from abroad is one of the ways Iowa protects its farmers and their crops from invasive species (and if you think Iowa’s strict, check out Hawaii!). I bet they weren’t looking for isn’t-rape-sexy? manga, they were looking for smuggled invasive-species seeds and accidentally found iosn’t-rape-sexy? manga.

  36. Army of Dorkness says:

    “There’s more to the world than speech and media.”

    That may be true, but this case is about speech and media and not crops.

    “I bet they weren’t looking for isn’t-rape-sexy? manga, they were looking for smuggled invasive-species seeds and accidentally found iosn’t-rape-sexy? manga.”

    Then they should have left the manga alone and sent it on its way.

    and this “…and the scary thing is, even “keeping a nine year old in your basement and raping her” before you share the bloody bedsheets from it with her parents instead of “while you share pictures of it with your friends on the internet.” is be defended by the it’s-part-of-a-different-culture crowd.”–is a stupid comment. If you think anyone is okay with the raping of a nine year old, then you obviously haven’t been paying attention. Anime/manga isn’t “bloody bedsheets”. You’re either missing the point or trying to frame the argument to your liking so you can disagree.

  37. Alexandra says:

    “That may be true, but this case is about speech and media and not crops.”

    This case is in part about inspecting mail from abroad in a state that depends a lot on crops.

    “I bet they weren’t looking for isn’t-rape-sexy? manga, they were looking for smuggled invasive-species seeds and accidentally found iosn’t-rape-sexy? manga.”

    “Then they should have left the manga alone and sent it on its way.”

    How could they know that the container contained only manga and that no invasive-species seeds were put in it on purpose or were accidentally dropped in it if they left it alone? Small seeds, bits of leaves, even squashed bugs sometimes end up between the pages of library books too so no wonder they opened the books in the box too.

    “If you think anyone is okay with the raping of a nine year old, then you obviously haven’t been paying attention.”

    If noone was okay with the raping of a nine year old, then noone would rape nine year olds and the world would be a better place. Unfortunately and outrageously, some people in real life are so okay with it that they actually go rape nine year olds!

    Also, in real life some more people obviously are okay with the raping of a nine year olds because they force their nine year old or younger daughters or granddaughters to marry (some even force these girls to marry willing and eager men instead of forced-by-*their*-families boys who don’t want sex yet either), and some other people obviously are okay with this because it’s “part of their culture.” I know this because I regularly read international news about more than comics:

    http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-srv/inatl/longterm/africanlives/ivory/ivory.htm

    http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/despatches/85708.stm

    http://www.awid.org/Issues-and-Analysis/Library/Girls-saved-from-forced-marriage

    http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/babylonbeyond/2010/03/yemen-2-years-after-divorce-life-is-looking-up-for-nujood-ali.html

    http://www.steinershow.org/special-features/podcasts/child-brides-stolen-lives-the-problem-child-marriage

    “Anime/manga isn’t “bloody bedsheets”.”

    Who said it was? I sure didn’t. Christian didn’t either.

    Christian *did* say this:

    “Anime, though obnoxious, is a far cry from keeping a nine year old in your basement and raping her while you share pictures of it with your friends on the internet.”

    and I quoted it right before I did say:

    “…and the scary thing is, even “keeping a nine year old in your basement and raping her” before you share the bloody bedsheets from it with her parents instead of “while you share pictures of it with your friends on the internet.” is be defended by the it’s-part-of-a-different-culture crowd. :(”

    “You’re either missing the point or trying to frame the argument to your liking so you can disagree.”

    Neither, just adding a couple more observations. IRL, in general, not every single possible response besides “yes!!!” and “I agree!!!” and “me too!!!” and “ditto!!!” must be a disagreeing attack. ;)

  38. Alexandra says:

    “That may be true, but this case is about speech and media and not crops.”

    This case is in part about inspecting mail from abroad in a state that depends a lot on crops.

    “I bet they weren’t looking for isn’t-rape-sexy? manga, they were looking for smuggled invasive-species seeds and accidentally found iosn’t-rape-sexy? manga.”

    “Then they should have left the manga alone and sent it on its way.”

    How could they know that the container contained only manga and that no invasive-species seeds were put in it on purpose or were accidentally dropped in it if they left it alone? Small seeds, bits of leaves, even squashed bugs sometimes end up between the pages of library books too so no wonder they opened the books in the box too.

    “If you think anyone is okay with the raping of a nine year old, then you obviously haven’t been paying attention.”

    If noone was okay with the raping of a nine year old, then noone would rape nine year olds and the world would be a better place. Unfortunately and outrageously, some people in real life are so okay with it that they actually go rape nine year olds!

    Also, in real life some more people obviously are okay with the raping of a nine year olds because they force their nine year old or younger daughters or granddaughters to marry (some even force these girls to marry willing and eager men instead of forced-by-*their*-families boys who don’t want sex yet either), and some other people obviously are okay with this because it’s “part of their culture.” I know this because I regularly read international news about more than comics:

    [links removed to let it through the spam filter]

    “Anime/manga isn’t “bloody bedsheets”.”

    Who said it was? I sure didn’t. Christian didn’t either.

    Christian *did* say this:

    “Anime, though obnoxious, is a far cry from keeping a nine year old in your basement and raping her while you share pictures of it with your friends on the internet.”

    and I quoted it right before I did say:

    “…and the scary thing is, even “keeping a nine year old in your basement and raping her” before you share the bloody bedsheets from it with her parents instead of “while you share pictures of it with your friends on the internet.” is be defended by the it’s-part-of-a-different-culture crowd. :(”

    “You’re either missing the point or trying to frame the argument to your liking so you can disagree.”

    Neither, just adding a couple more observations. IRL, in general, not every single possible response besides “yes!!!” and “I agree!!!” and “me too!!!” and “ditto!!!” must be a disagreeing attack. ;)

  39. Army of Dorkness says:

    “How could they know that the container contained only manga and that no invasive-species seeds were put in it on purpose or were accidentally dropped in it if they left it alone?”

    Enought with the seeds already. It’s a deliberate scapegoat you’re trying to wedge into the conversation. And I didn’t say they shouldn’t have opened the package and risk a Triffid infestation (while yes, I do think it shouldn’t have been opened, but that’s not the point and a completely different discussion) I said they should have let the package be on its way, in the event it did not pose a risk of creating a Little Shop of Horrors, and not arrest the poor guy for his choice in literature. As in, “hey Fred, look at this fucked up shit.” “Yeah, Mike, people will read anything. “Good thing it’s not pictures of ACTUAL PEOPLE or something.. then we’d have to report the guy.” “Yeah.” “On its way then.” Do try to come out of your grain silo and have a non-seed-centric observation sometime.

    “If noone was okay with the raping of a nine year old…”

    I was talking about the people commenting here about this case. Yes, I should have paid more attention to my sentence structure, but I figured you’d catch on…so much for that.

    “Who said it was? I sure didn’t.”

    Are you aware of how comparisons work? If you quote someone else’s text above your response, people expect that what you’re saying is a response and comment on what that person said. If you’re going to talk about someone defending your “bloody bedsheet” scenario, then you need to BLOODY quote IT instead of the unrelated scenario you DID quote. If you DO NOT quote said scenario and instead quote a different scenario and make up your own scenario and try to wedge it into the conversation, then you’re allowing the reader to assume that those things are comparable in some way to you… just like leaving off “in these comments” after saying “no one” to avoid a reader thinking you mean “no one in the entire world.” No one said anything about bloody bedsheets (for the cheap seats…”in these comments or in the linked essays of the original Beat post”) except you which makes your comment nonsensical or a comparison to manga/anime. So, do you prefer to be thought of as talking nonsense or making stupid comparisons?

    “Neither”

    That’s what I thought. Missing the point it is.

    “in general, not every single possible response besides “yes!!!” and “I agree!!!” and “me too!!!” and “ditto!!!” must be a disagreeing attack.”

    or apparently make any sense.

    Your international news obsession is irrelevant to this discussion. If you want to talk about the Handley case and obscenity law and the specific manga/anime relevant to both the Handley case and obscenity law in this country, then do so. Throwing out non sequiturs does nothing to further the discussion and only results in pointless arguments and wasted time.

    As simply as I can say it, crops and bloody bedsheets are not relevant to this discussion.

  40. Alexandra says:

    “Are you aware of how comparisons work? If you quote someone else’s text above your response, people expect that what you’re saying is a response and comment on what that person said.”

    Exactly! I was responding to and expanding on the point that Christian made.

    ““in general, not every single possible response besides “yes!!!” and “I agree!!!” and “me too!!!” and “ditto!!!” must be a disagreeing attack.”

    “or apparently make any sense.”

    OK, I get it now. You’re one of those one-track-minded dittoheads to whom everything is “either/or” and nothing is “yes, and.” I’m already not impressed with that IRL, so why should I be impressed by it coming from you?

    “Your international news obsession is irrelevant to this discussion.”

    Wow, someone actually expects people to buy the idea that my *not* focusing solely on one subject and being ignorant about the rest is an “obsession.”

    “As simply as I can say it, crops and bloody bedsheets are not relevant to this discussion.”

    Like you already gave the impression that the existing obscenity laws being applied to the case by the courts aren’t relevant either? Synsidar and Rick Rottman already said it better than I about how narrow-minded that is. Good thing you’re not anyone’s defense lawyer, you probably would say the jury and judge aren’t relevant to your defendants either. ;)

  41. Army of Dorkness says:

    “Exactly! I was responding to and expanding on the point that Christian made.”

    No, you made a completely different and irrelevant point that has no connection to the Handley case.

    “You’re one of those one-track-minded dittoheads ”

    Coming from Seed Girl, this is quite funny.

    ” why should I be impressed by it ”

    I must have missed it. Somebody trying to impress you? Apparently you are impressed by non sequiturs. Especially if they’re yours and they help convince you that what you said was pertinent.

    “Wow, someone actually expects people to buy the idea that my *not* focusing solely on one subject and being ignorant about the rest is an “obsession.””

    As is popular around these parts, I call strawman. I said your patting yourself on the back for watching international news and trying to apply it to a decidedly American situation is irrelevant. If you want to start an international news nerd topic, run it by Heidi. Trying to shoehorn it into a discussion where it doesn’t apply is a bit one track and does focus on one subject–your affinity (is that better?) for international news. You’re not the only one with a TV box and an interweb, but the rest of us try to stick to the subject at hand and let our non sequiturs sit it out.

    Look, I get why you *think* it applies. You want to talk about what’s okay in other cultures and how that justifies it. What WE’RE talking about is Christopher Handley, obscenity law, and the items that sent him to court. Bloody bedsheets and real live 9 year olds have no place here other than as crazy cultural anecdotes, and I’m saying you didn’t do that. You framed your anecdote as a response to a quote which caused it to appear as if it were a comparison and so on… you know, if you had paid more attention to the points I was making about HOW you replied and not so much WHAT you said you’d know this. If this thread had been about Christopher Handley having sex with a 9 year old on bloody bedsheets and he used culturally approved manga/anime as his defense, then you might have a point. It isn’t. I’m sorry you don’t get that. This isn’t a message board. The comments that follow these news stories are supposed to reference and comment on that news story along with any comments that have been posted. From your point of view, that’s what you did. I’m saying that what you said along with how you decided to frame it are at fault for this entire back and forth we’re wasting our time on. If you need someone to say it, fine. Yes, what you said about that cultural justification stuff, that’s fucked up…too bad actions with a human being and actions of procuring drawn fiction where no human beings are present are not comparable, especially not when it comes to the particulars of this case. You seem to have difficulty even noticing the difference. So here we are, yet again….

    “Like you already gave the impression that the existing obscenity laws being applied to the case by the courts aren’t relevant either?”

    I said obscenity laws are vague to the point of being irrelevant. A view MANY people, including lots of people that actually study Law, agree with and propagate. Clearly to lots of other people and to the law (because they’re laws on the books, obvously), they are relevant. Your bloody bedsheets and crops are WAY beyond relevant if you want to compare them to the ACTUAL LAWS Handley would have had to face in court. You really have a problem with comparisons, don’t you.

    “Synsidar and Rick Rottman already said it better than I about how narrow-minded that is.”

    Steven, Rick, and I disagree. Big surprise. I think their views of “law is law” are narrow-minded. If no one challenged the law, then no law would ever be changed. Do you not admit that there are stupid laws on the books in this country? There are. Obscenity law is the king of stupid laws. Because no one is brave enough or confident enough to challenge obscenity law in open court it remains on the books as if it is some kind of sacred cow. It’s a minefield of a law, and that minefield is why Handley threw in the towel instead of going to court to challenge it. It’s relevant to the discussion to talk about the shortcomings of this law, and I’m on the side that says it really comes up way the fuck short. I’d say that’s the open-minded view, thank you.

    “Good thing you’re not anyone’s defense lawyer, you probably would say the jury and judge aren’t relevant to your defendants either.”

    …and you’d want to open them up to search for border-crossing seeds.

    If you had paid attention, the jury and judge are the MOST relevant parts of this case and thereby this discussion because THEY’RE the ones that interpret the meaning of “obscenity”. “Obscenity” is ALL OPINION which is exactly why it’s irrelevant to the law. But you know what, fuck it.. (cue the sarcasm) when the legal definition of “child pornography” can be altered to cover pornography that actually has NO CHILDREN PRESENT, we should just roll over and accept that… because it makes so much sense and well it’s the law after all so we’d look stupid for challenging it. It’d be narrow-minded to say something crazy like “only porn with children present is child pornography” right? How dare I try to insert fact into the OPINION of the law! That’s so “narrow-minded.” While we’re at it, black people should only be considered 3/5 of a person. It’s just opinion, but we can sign it into law and NOBODY will ever argue with that, eh? (end sarcasm)

    I never claimed I’d make a good defense attorney. I can’t operate within a system I do not respect. I do not respect the law because we’ve sacrificed its respectability in the face of political pressure. “Obscenity law” and “child pornography law” fly in the face of reason for an illusion of safety. THAT’S narrow-minded.

    And I think it’s hilarious that you’re talking about narrow-mindedness when “obscenity law” is nothing but legislated thought-crime.

    Your irrelevant, nonsensical point about cultural justification was totally wasted because of the way you wrote that original comment. Sucks that you can’t understand or admit that. Write it differently, and you’re merely ignored. Write it differently, and you’re acknowledged and quickly told how irrelevant it is to the Handley case. Write it differently, and it might actually be seen as an interesting anecdote. Or not, and voila.

  42. Alexandra says:

    “You want to talk about what’s okay in other cultures and how that justifies it. What WE’RE talking about is Christopher Handley, obscenity law, and the items that sent him to court.”

    You say this as if the but-it’s-part-of-Japanese-culture argument hasn’t already become part of the web-wide discussions over the Handley case. Seems like your narrow-minded focus is so narrow that it doesn’t even take into account even any other threads on this very topic.

    “Sucks that you can’t understand or admit that.”

    Sucks that you can’t understand any discussion in which people actually discuss tings with each other instead of monologuing at each other and in which not every merely “yes, I agree” statement is an attack.

    With fans like you, comics sure doesn’t need enemies. ;)

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