• Because murder is a terrible thing, the state of Alaska wants to outlaw films depicting murder.
• Because physical abusing and raping women is a terrible thing, the state of Alaska wants to outlaw TV programs showing this.
• Because sexually exploiting children is a terrible thing, the state of Alaska wants to outlaw drawings that show adult cartoon characters having sex with child cartoon characters.
All three of those are ridiculous, but the last one is true.
Americans are not allowed to look at photographs of actual children being sexual with actual adults. In fact, pictures don’t have to show kids having sex to be illegal—they just have to show “lascivious exhibition of the genitals or pubic area.” “Lascivious” is defined by whatever 12 people who couldn’t get out of jury duty decide it is, which has already included children wearing bathing suits.
Americans are not even allowed to look at photos of actual children whose non-sexual images have been computer-manipulated to look as if the child is being sexual with an adult.
Alaska wants to criminalize cartoons that remind people of pictures they’re not allowed to look at. That would be like criminalizing paintball shoot-outs because they remind some people of actual killings.
The legislators and prosecutors behind this proposal believe that because the cartoons are disgusting, they should be outlawed. They say the cartoons encourage bad thoughts in adults, and can be used to encourage children to comply with invitations for molestation.
No one can say these things aren’t true, of course. What we can say is that none of that creates an exemption from our Constitutional protections. Alaskans own a huge number of guns—and they defend their right to do so, even though guns encourage bad thoughts in adults, and are often used to coerce or harm others.
As Joan Bertin of National Coalition Against Censorship says, the would-be illegal cartoons “represent someone’s fantasy life. When you start regulating that kind of matter, you are getting into thought control, and that is very dangerous.” Federal Judge Roger Gregory agreed when he dissented in the conviction of a Virginia man for owning some Japanese cartoons, encouraging the defendant to take his case to the U.S. Supreme Court. He called it “government regulation of private thoughts, convicting a man for the victimless ‘crime’ of privately communicating his personal fantasies.”
Aaron Sperbeck of the Anchorage DA’s Office is driving the new law, encouraged by Alaska’s House Judiciary chair Rep. Jay Ramras. The images he has in mind “are almost as graphic and disturbing as real children.” Alaska Assistant U.S. Attorney Audrey Renschen says of anime, “even though a real child wasn’t used, it still sexualizes the child [who someone might show it to].”
That’s a lot of “what ifs.” These professional lawyers—working for a District Attorney and a U.S. Attorney—apparently don’t understand the principle that in America, we jail people for breaking the law, not for having the means of breaking the law, or for enjoying disgusting ideas.