Here’s Why Matt Walsh is Dead Wrong on Banning Porn

 

When conservatives say they want a less intrusive government, they mean it. Until they don’t. Conservative podcaster and commentator Matt Walsh published a piece for The Daily Wire arguing for more restrictions on, and even the banning of pornography. 

In the article, Walsh discusses a letter that a group of Republican lawmakers sent to Attorney General William Barr urging him to enforce obscenity laws to combat hardcore pornography. Not only does Walsh support them, he also states that the government should go so far as to outlaw pornography altogether. 

He’s wrong. I’ll show you why.

Before I start, I must give the obligatory disclaimer: I am in no way defending pornography or the porn industry. I agree with Walsh‘s contention that it is a profoundly harmful activity. Nevertheless, it is not the state’s role to prohibit people from consuming it.

To start, Walsh points out that the lawmakers are not suggesting additional regulations on pornography, nor are they attempting to ban it. But he does state that he wishes for the state to take a more active role in addressing porn:

“To be clear, what they are requesting is the enforcement of existing laws that would help to tamp down some forms of pornography. They are not calling for new laws to be put on the books. Personally, I’d hope that this is a first step towards a wider-ranging war on hardcore porn, though that’s not what the lawmakers are advocating.”

Walsh then gives his first argument for more restrictions on pornography: Sex trafficking. “First of all, the link between the sex trafficking industry and porn is well established,” he writes. “The porn viewer may assume that the figures on the screen are acting consensually, but the fact is that, at least some of the time, they are not. The viewer may also assume that the people involved are all adults (unless he’s intentionally accessing child porn, which is a billion dollar industry in its own right), but sometimes they are not.”

His assertion is correct; human traffickers often force their subjects to participate in pornography. But, as Walsh later acknowledges, we already have laws on the books against sex trafficking and child porn. But he claims that “legal porn provides a platform for both.”

Again, even if this is true, both practices are illegal. If the state wanted to pass more laws specifically addressing these two crimes, it’s doubtful that anyone would object. But there is no real indication that banning pornography outright would solve this problem any more than getting rid of street corners would prevent prostitution. 

Walsh then goes on to state that state intervention is appropriate because of the impact that pornography has on children. “But even if this significant concern could be put to the side, the case for regulating or banning porn would remain,” he writes. “That’s because porn — even consensual, adult porn — harms children.”

At this point, Walsh describes how children exposed to pornography suffer adverse psychological consequences:

“On average, children are first exposed to hardcore porn at the age of 11, if not sooner. This exposure is not neutral in its impact. Children are damaged in quantifiable ways, affecting their emotional and psychological development, their attitude towards themselves and others, their behavior, and their ability to form healthy sexual relationships in the future. Porn even produces neurological changes in the brain.”

The most common conservative/libertarian response to such an argument is pointing out that it is the responsibility of parents to ensure that their children are not exposed to pornography. In fact, there are many different tools available that can shield a child’s eyes from accidentally viewing illicit images on the internet. In response, Walsh notes that regardless of the quality of parenting, children can still be exposed to porn through other kids whose parents do not monitor their online activities:

“Parents cannot possibly shield their children from a porn epidemic that is so ubiquitous and accessible. Even if they restrict all internet access in their own homes, and refuse to allow their children to have phones with internet access (a wise move, to be sure), all it requires is one friend whose parents have not taken that step.”

He’s not wrong. How many of us who have children worry about what their friends are showing them at school and elsewhere? It might seem impossible to ensure that your child’s acquaintances are not showing them indecent content. But again, this is not a good enough reason to get the state involved. 

One could easily make this argument with alcohol consumption among minors. According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), “excessive drinking is responsible for more than 4,300 deaths among underage youth each year.” 

The CDC also notes that “young drivers (ages 16-20) are 17 times more likely to die in a crash when they have a blood alcohol concentration of .08% than when they have not been drinking.” Unfortunately, there are a disturbing number of minors dying from driving while intoxicated. 

It is illegal for minors to drink alcohol, but it happens anyway. If we are going to ban porn because it could harm children, why aren’t people like Matt Walsh arguing for the banning of alcohol? After all, pornography is damaging to both children and adults, but it does not kill those who consume it. 

Of course, there is also the problem of punishment. How would the state prevent people from creating and consuming pornography? Would the government fine these individuals? Would they throw them into cages for watching naughty videos online? It does not seem that there could be an appropriate punishment for such an activity. 

The notion that the government should act as our parents is standard on the left, but it cannot be denied that this also present on the right. The temptation to accept a state solution to a problem rather than changing the culture can be far too enticing to some who would call themselves conservatives. But allowing the government to intervene in this matter could have worse consequences.

What happens when progressives manage to gain control of the government? What if they determine that particular right-leaning views are obscene? It’s easy to see how this type of power could spiral out of control and lead to more tyranny. Instead of running to the government, it’s always better to err on the side of liberty. 

What do you think? Let me know in the comments below!

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