Wednesday, February 5, 2014


Back in 1964 the U.S. Supreme Court was hearing a case to determine whether certain publications or movies were pornography or obscenity and therefore illegal under the law. There had been many attempts to get a definitive ruling to make clear what the law could and would allow. It was during that case that Justice Potter Stewart made his famous statement. He said, and I will paraphrase, I really can’t define pornography but I know it when I see it. That statement is the basis for this essay.

Did you see the Grammys? How about Miley Cyrus’ performance on another of the many awards shows which permeates the television screen. I confess I don’t watch these kinds of shows because I have no interest in these awards. I did however see numerous news reports and snippets of the performances. I will further add that I am not unhappy that I missed those particular pornographic displays. If you watched either of these shows, I am pretty sure that you would have to agree they were pure pornography.

Now I recognize that some will disagree. Some might even think that these displays are “free speech” and as such are protected by our constitution. This then brings us to the point of “community standards.” What does the community allow? Under our constitution, what can the community allow or forbid? Can an individual run around undressed? Can the perverts among us expose themselves without fear of repercussion? Can couples engage in overt sex acts in public? Of course not. We have, through legislation, passed laws forbidding these activities in public.

Not too long ago there was the famous “wardrobe malfunction.” You remember. A young singer “accidentally” undid the young girl singer’s gown exposing body parts which the community had decided must be covered in public. The television network was fined for the offense. Well clearly, that was nothing when compared to Miley Cyrus’ on stage sex act as well as Beyonce's similar performance on the Grammys.

What have we become? First let me assure you that I am not a prude. In my years I have seen and experienced a lot. I appreciate art. I appreciate the beauty of the human form. But, there is a time and a place. The time is not “prime time.” The place is not network television going into the homes of young families with children glued to the screen.

The same is true of language. I am a military veteran. There is probably no word or combination of words that I have not heard. But again, there is a time and a place. Network television at prime time is neither the time nor the place for vulgarity. Communities have decided that public use of obscene language is illegal. Even in the face of “free speech,” some speech is illegal. Radio and television networks subscribe to codes of conduct. They recognize that we all have standards that must be met.

I have tried to listen to some of the lyrics in the so-called music that my grandchildren like. To me these lyrics are just obscene garbage. Their only value is to shock the listener.

Fortunately I have an on/off dial on my radio and television which I use liberally. While that works in my house, I fear for the many kids who have no parental control or restriction. Their minds and souls are being poisoned and there will be a price to be paid. That is not a happy thought.

Justice Potter Stewart knew pornography when he saw it and so do I. I believe we all know. The question is what, if anything, will we the community do about it?

Ron Scarbro

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