The 2005 Prince of Pomposity Winner

Here we were nearing the end of 2005 and Concerned Women for America (CWA) didn’t have a winner for our annual “Prince of Pomposity” (PP) award.  But as happens in this magical season, our Prince appeared in the nick of time.

’Twas days before Christmas and all through my house,
Not a creature was stirring ’cept my computer mouse;
When from my computer there arose such a clatter,
I sprang to see what was the matter.
Away to Windows I flew like a flash,
Clicked open the shutters and threw up the sash.
And what to my wondering eyes should appear,
Our PP winner bedecked with a sneer!

By way of background, our PP winner, John Dvorak, writes for PC Magazine. He read our December 1 press release heralding the news that Vint Cerf, chairman of the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), announced November 30 that the .xxx domain proposal had been removed from the agenda for ICANN’s upcoming meeting.

A not-too-cheery Dvorak promptly called CWA to say that he wanted to talk to me “to find out where in the world you guys got the idea that the .xxx domain would be a bad thing.” Our press secretary called Dvorak back at my request and asked him to read my Ubiquitous Porn: Alive on the Net,” which was also posted on the Web sites of Fox News and ABC News.

As a result, CWA has received calls and e-mails from some who share Dvorak’s opinion that we are “naïve do-gooders” and “knuckleheads,” and suspect that “pornographers themselves are behind” our opposition.

And wouldn’t you know? Most of the callers and e-mailers say they are evangelical, techno-wizard, God-fearing, porn-hating, dads and granddads who agree with CWA on most issues but will never again support us because we’re ignorant, bigoted and stupid. And they expect we will find them sincere because Dvorak told them we’re women who can be “tricked.”

So it is our great pleasure to bestow CWA’s 2005 Prince of Pomposity Award on John Dvorak. Just as Al Gore’s Internet links us all to the World Wide Web, oh, what merry fun it is to link these cyber-spaced PPs.

Dvorak spent sufficient time on our Web site in order to beef up his feeble argument with our “cookie-cutter Jerry Falwell theology” and our “red, white, and blue” articles on birth control, gay marriage, evolution, stem-cell research, etc. Can you spell r-e-l-e-v-a-n-c-e?

After acknowledging that he’s “certain that most online pornographers would all rather have a .com extension,” Dvorak blames us that “porn publishers are getting their wish to stay in the mainstream.” We’re trying to figure out how he will get pornographers into his voluntary .xxx domain and also get them out of the “mainstream.”  Maybe another one of Santa’s cheery elves will e-mail an explanation. Maybe they’ll also explain how Dvorak will make pornographers, who get to self-regulate their .xxx domain, keep kids out, when they refuse to do so now.

I forgot. Dvorak says his creation won’t be a “magnet for kids” because “most normal kids do not want to see porn.” They must be virtual kids. So much for the legal doctrine known as “attractive nuisance” and the cold, hard fact that most kids have seen cyber porn, want it or not.

So how would an exclusive .xxx domain “make it brain-dead easy to keep porn out of the American family home”?

Dvorak equates it to “zoning” and “isolation,” and assumes that because CWA opposes his “creation,” we “would demand” that “adult bookstores [locate] next to churches.”

Now why didn’t we think of this sure-fire fundraiser for our church-oriented constituency? We’re just naïve women who need to be led by brilliant men.

Apparently while scouring our Web site, Dvorak missed or chose not to inform his readers that I spent several years assisting city officials across the country in drafting zoning and licensing regulations for sexually oriented businesses (SOBs). In all my years of consulting with city officials, I’ve never heard anyone suggest that the “real” solution to protecting kids and families from the adverse secondary effects of SOBs would be to create an exclusive, voluntary, SOB-regulated porn zone and let the SOBs continue to operate in all existing locations.

There’s the cyber-world and then there’s the real world. In the real world, real cities with real enforcement power require brick and mortar SOBs to locate in real zones with real distances, as in measurable feet, from sensitive uses such as churches, schools and residential zones. They enforce laws with real consequences that really reduce the adverse effects.

In keeping with the spirit of Christmas, we’re giving Dvorak credit for understanding that there isn’t a measurable distance between one cyber-domain and another, and that every cyber-domain “locates” on every Internet-accessible computer within mouse clicks of another. We’re talking about members of an industry that flagrantly violate federal obscenity laws that contain real punishments in order to make billion-dollar profits. Surely he understands that they will not voluntarily abandon all their current sites and operate from one domain. Surely Dvorak knows there’s no virtual world overhead equivalent to the real world that would motivate them to do so.

Dvorak says the .xxx domain will make it easier for software filters to aid parents in keeping porn out of their homes and away from their children. There are effective software filters, but no company claims it has a foolproof version that creates an impenetrable wall between kids and porn. Furthermore, millions of kids have access to Internet computers without filters. And many figure out how to disable them.

Worse yet, creating an .xxx porn domain would make it harder, not easier, for filter companies, because it will double their work. There’s a good reason there’s an ANN, Assigned Names and Numbers, in ICANN.

Porn Web sites have at least one assigned .com name, such as www.filth.com, and some have several, such as www.filth.net, www.filth.org, www.filth.info, www.filth.biz, etc. Dvorak would add www.filth.xxx. Remembering a name makes it easier to find sites on the WWW. Otherwise, everybody would have to know and remember a site’s Assigned Number (numeric IP address), which is what computers that run the Internet use to find Web sites. Currently, filters block Web sites by name.

Dvorak and other proponents of an .xxx domain argue that all software filters will have to do, assuming all smut-peddlers exclusively relocate in the .xxx domain, is to block that domain. Here’s one big lump of coal in that stocking. There are many Web sites that provide the numeric IP address when a user enters a .com name. All that’s necessary to get to a Web site that’s blocked by a filter is to put its numeric IP address into the Web browser and hit “go.”

If one computer-savvy kid knows that, how long do you think it will take the information to pass through cyberspace to other kids? When it does, filter companies will have to identify the numeric IP address for every porn site and block that as well as the .com name. At last count by the former N2H2 software filter company, and its successor, Secure Computing, there are 2.1 million porn Web sites, which at a rate of 200 pages per site, translates to 420 million porn pages in their data base. You do the cyber-math.

As I said in my column: “Allowing an industry that produces and distributes hard-core pornography prosecutable under the federal obscenity laws to voluntarily self-regulate makes as much sense as allowing Murder Incorporated to regulate hitmen who voluntarily register with www.wackjobsrus.mob.”

Rather than shaming Vint Cerf, as Dvorak has, all of us who think the .xxx porn domain should “dash away! dash away! dash away all!”, should write Cerf a thank you letter and tell him to “delete” the .xxx domain delusion permanently. His address is:

Vint Cerf, Chairman
ICANN
4676 Admiralty Way, Suite 330
Marina del Rey, CA 90292-6601

Send a copy to:

Secretary Carlos Gutierrez
U.S. Dept. of Commerce
1401 Constitution Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20230

And to John Dvorak, Merry Christmas! May you laugh like a bowlful of jelly.