September 1, 2006
The Death of a President: Political PornographyBy Thomas Lifson
Britain's Channel 4 is to broadcast and market worldwide, via the Toronto Film Festival, a docudrama, The Death of a President (DOAP), depicting the future assassination of President Bush, providing the latest and highest budget artifact of the leftist craze Michelle Malkin aptly has dubbed 'assassination chic.' Until now, haters of the president wishing to gratify their fantasies of his death have been confined to novels, static art exhibits, punditry, T—shirts and buttons and the occasional Air American talk show rant.
It is a wave of political pornography, unlike anything prevsiously seen, offering gratification to the frustrated desires of people whose fantasies include the illicit, illegal or violent acts they would not admit to in polite company. The Clinton years, for all the alleged hatred of his critics, had nothing to compare with it.
There is legitimate concern that deranged individuals, seeing their fantasies played out on a screen, will be encouraged to realize their dreams of power, glory, gratification, and a place in history. There remains a vigorous debate over the effect of sexual pornography on behavior, with one side maintaining nobody ever got pregnant from reading a book, and the other cautioning that seeing repressed desires expressed can lower the inhibitions against enacting them. Serial co—ed killer Ted Bundy, a handsome and pleasant—seeming man, was, after all, a porno addict before he launched his career as a rapist—murderer.
Whatever the merits of that debate, however, the American judiciary has taken its position, and a huge pornography industry not only exists, it has taken a leading role in developing the internet as a medium for the distribution of motion pictures.
There is probably no legal means for preventing the distribution and showing of the film, so civil libertarians, like the fellow on Fox News earlier this morning who defended the film as protected 'criticism' of the President, can relax. Given the provenance of the film, I am certain that it will tart up the pornographic aspect with enough 'serious' expository material that it will be readily defensible.
The question isn't really one of legality, but of morality, and of the term used by the United States Supreme Court with regard to the other type of pornography: 'community standards.' Is this something with which respectable (in the sense of occupying responsible positions in society) people would want to associate themselves? Evidently, at least in Britain and Toronto, it is.
The relevant question then becomes, if this is to be the new standard, are we ready to apply the standard evenly?
To wit: Hillary Clinton is now responding with the not very enigmatic phrase 'stay tuned' when asked if she plans to serve her full six year term as Senator from New York, in the likely event she is re—elected. In other words, she is more likely than not running for the presidency.
Are civil libertarians and Democratic officeholders really comfortable with the prospect of future films depicting the assassination of Hillary Clinton? How about a film in which she is kidnapped and sexually assaulted by her captors? There can be little doubt that a fairly substantial market would exist for such an enterprise, if a pornographer can be found who is not a Democrat in the mould of Larry Flynt.
It is reported that the producers of DOAP have digitally imposed President Bush's face one the actor portraying him getting shot. Such technology could equally be employed for Hillary Clinton to greater effect, giving the sexual assault scenes the sort of aesthetic values found in conventional pornography actresses, but requiring in turn a willing suspension of reality by the viewers.
I am quite urgently interested in the position of every Democrat office holder on the question of community standards and political pornography. Are they comfortable with the production and distribution of material depicting grave physical harm imposed on office holders? If so, they should go on the record.
If not, they also should go on the record, and suggest what they think should be done. Should theatres or broadcasters showing such material be shunned? Will they urge their supporters to boycott this material?
I have no doubt in my own mind that DOAP will inspire more than a few potential assassins to move in the direction of realizing their fantasies. The Secret Service is equipped to deal with this threat, but perhaps given the emerging new community standard it needs its budget increased and new investigatory powers authorized. Civil libertarians, be careful what you wish for.
Make no mistake, we are moving down a slippery slope, and our civilization is getting less civilized. Madmen (and women) walk among us, as any visit to my home town of Berkeley, California will readily demonstrate. Such delusional souls are subject to suggestion. If we cannot use the force of law to restrain what they hear and see (and we can't), then we must rely on the tattered remnant of civil society's norms for protection.
God help us, President Bush, and all future office holders. The 1930s in Japan are referred to as the era of 'government by assassination.' History does tend to repeat itself, and we are all warned.
Thomas Lifson is the editor and publisher of The American Thinker.