Cops and Morality Police—World’s Best PR Agents

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The long dark night for Abercrombie & Fitch is over. The obscenity charges have been dropped. Shoppers across America can resume fighting the war on terror.

Last week, new A/F photos went up in 363 U.S. stores. One showed three buff guys from behind, a little butt crack showing for your dining and dancing pleasure. The other showed some partial side-breast—no nipple, thank you. You’ll note that the pics show less skin than you see at the beach—or at most supermarkets.

When some mall customers in Virginia Beach, VA complained, police confiscated the photos and cited the manager for “obscenity.” Think about that—two cops decided that the photos should be taken down, and when they weren’t, they tore them down.

Less than a week later, the Deputy City Attorney had the charges dropped, saying the ads weren’t “technically” obscene. That’s like saying someone isn’t “technically” pregnant. It’s cop-speak for “we look like idiots and we disapprove of your stuff, but the darn legal system prevents us from running this town our way.”

I don’t buy A/F (I’m hardly their demographic) and rarely go to the mall, so I wouldn’t have seen the ads—until they were seized, of course. When the New York Times, Forbes, and the entire internet yakked about it, I became well-informed. And so did everyone else.

That’s the beauty of censorship—it actually expands the audience for the evil material.

Janet Jackson’s right nipple? Not everyone watches the Superbowl, you know, and most don’t watch the entire half-time show. After the nuclear-powered uproar, everyone watched the quickie unveiling on youtube, over and over.

NYPD Blue? That five-year-old episode had disappeared—until the FCC fined stations $1.4 million for showing it. Then I and everyone else had to see it. It’s a nice 2 seconds of a pretty lady’s butt.

The Parents Television Council is the most generous censor. They actually post clips of their “worst” show every week, and keep an archive. It’s a helpful guide—with samples—to enjoyable fare that they think is dangerous for us to see.

Of course, this is old news. When shows or books were “Banned in Boston,” turn-of-the-century audiences flocked to them. Some producers and publishers actually falsely claimed the honor. And the Vatican’s List of Prohibited Books has guided Catholics to racy and subversive literature for over 400 years.

Whether governmental, religious, or “morality” based, censorship promotes the work it finds dangerous. Unfortunately, it also damages innocent individuals, and our would-be adult society, along the way.

Won’t someone please ban my latest book?

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