Dear Polk County residents: Do you realize how your law enforcement officials are making you look to the rest of the world? No? The words "ignorant," "backward" and "hay-munching rubes" come to mind. It's a little mean, granted, but we're just relaying the facts here, people.
Remember Chris Wilson? (If not, see "The most depraved site on the Internet," Oct. 6.) He's the 27-year-old founder of www.nowthatsfuckedup.com, a website that allows subscribers to post amateur porn, either videos or still pictures. It also allowed soldiers stationed in the Middle East to post graphic images of war dead. The Army wasn't thrilled, but there wasn't much they could do.
As news of the site broke, your sheriff, Grady Judd, decided to intervene. On Oct. 7, Judd had Wilson arrested not for the gore, but for the porn, which is the same type of garden-variety smut that you can download on about a googol of websites (that's 10 to the power of 100, your Happytown™ Mathematical Factoid of the Week™) throughout the world. Judd said the arrest had nothing to do the gory war images and that he hadn't arrested Wilson at the Pentagon's request. A recent Rolling Stone article alleges that he did. We find Judd's denials slightly unbelievable, but for now we'll give him the benefit of the doubt.
Judd and prosecutor Brad Copley charged Wilson with 301 counts of disseminating obscenity a specious charge considering Wilson's site is in Amsterdam. Wilson raised the $30,000 bail. He was released, returned home, kept operating the site and things looked quiet as he headed to trial.
In late Nov-ember, Copley asked Judge J. Dale Durrance to revoke Wilson's bond and send him back to the slammer. Copley complained that Wilson still had porn up on his site, which violated the requirement that Wilson "refrain from criminal activity" while out on bail. Wilson reluctantly removed the porn and blocked any new postings, but the prosecutor still demanded a revocation hearing on Dec. 16. Judge Durrance ruled there was probable cause to believe Wilson's site is obscene and yanked Wilson's bail. Now Wilson will sit in jail awaiting a pre-trial conference on Feb. 7, 2006.
There's one problem with Copley's argument: No one has determined that Wilson's site is obscene, and therefore illegal. That's for the trial jury. To convict Wilson, they have to make a determination of obscenity. So Copley is asking a judge to jail Wilson for a crime that no one besides Polk County law enforcement has said is a crime.
Obscenity law is based on a test the Supreme Court devised in 1973, known as the "Miller test." Not only is obscenity itself based on "community standards," and whether or not something is so sexually vile that it is "patently offensive," but also "whether the work, taken as a whole, lacks serious literary, political or scientific value." Spend any time on Wilson's website the whole thing, as the Miller Test seems to require and we think you'd be hard-pressed to say it has no redeeming value, unless you believe the depiction of ground-level effects of war on humans lacks any societal value.
"They're trying an unprecedented attempt to punish him," Wilson's attorney, Lawrence Walters, told us shortly before the hearing. There has been no ruling about what's obscene, he says; more importantly, Walters says that based on his research, no prosecutor has ever tried anything like this before.
Wilson's supporters have set up a website, www.freechris.org. Take a gander and keep yourself up to date on what's happening.
So this is what MoveOn.org considers a victory? On Dec. 12, Happytown™ received an excited "MoveOn Media Action Delivers!" e-mail blast. As we reported Dec. 8, the Orlando Sentinel's decision to slash 54 jobs 21 firings, 33 empty positions eliminated even though its parent company, the Tribune Co., was rolling in the dough enraged the MoveOn crowd, which pledged a petition drive to combat this corporate greed. They gathered 45,000 signatures to protest the undercutting of local news coverage at eight Tribune papers, which have cut some 800 jobs this year. Then they cornered Tribune CEO Dennis FitzSimmons at a stockholders' meeting in New York City and asked that he meet with some petition signers.
"No," FitzSimmons answered and walked away. Nothing changed. Nothing will change. They sneaked into a meeting, got flatly rejected by a suit who no doubt reasoned that these "activists" had just escaped the nuthouse, and declared victory.
"The corporate owners of the Orlando Sentinel know the public is angry about their cuts to your newspaper, but they think the worst of the backlash is over," the MoveOn screed reads. "We've got to show them this isn't going away we demand they protect quality journalism by stopping the staff cuts."
Hate to say it, but it's not like the Sentinel was kicking ass before the layoffs. On the whole, the Tribune Co.'s commitment to muckraking journalism especially at its smaller papers; the larger ones still occasionally turn in a jaw-dropper has long since gone the way of the dodo.
So, we received an e-mail last week accusing SeaWorld of not including all religions in their holiday celebration, which is titled "Christmas at SeaWorld." According to the e-mail writer, "El Scorcho," the water park is "catering to the 'keep Christ in Christmas' crowd and not standing up for the rights of others."
That would be sexy, if it were true. Turns out it isn't. "Christmas at SeaWorld is one of our most popular events," says the company's PR department. "While the event is named after the Christmas holiday, we respect all the seasonal holidays and traditions and recognize them during the event with several of our entertainment elements. We do not have a policy defining how employees share holiday greetings."
There you have it, El Scorcho.
This week's report by Jeffrey C. Billman and James Carlson.
WHO, WHAT, HOW AND WHY:
ASK IAN THE I.T. GUY
Q: I'm concerned we're losing the war on Christmas. Do you have a victory strategy?
No. 1: Find Santa Claus and kill him. Sources report that he's been holed up in a secret training camp somewhere in the Arctic. Because of the vastness of the territory involved, U.S. Special Forces must enlist the aid of Inuits and polar bears to track down and eliminate the Capo of Christmas himself. This may take a great deal of time, but will most likely be accomplished just before the 2006 congressional elections.
No. 2: Eliminate funding for holiday giving. This means shutting down charities that launder donations by giving presents to underprivileged children, such as Toys for Tots, food banks, the Salvation Army and so on. The NSA needs to be authorized to look at individual bank accounts for signs of gift-buying, charitable donations and purchases of accoutrements such as turtledoves and partridges in pear trees.
No. 3: Classify religious holiday greetings as hate speech. Jail sentences are apropos for those who use language such as "merry Christmas," "bless your family" and "Jesus loves you."
No. 4: Educate our children about the dangers of Christianity and other quasi-mystical belief systems. All public schools must hold mandatory re-education classes explaining that mythical creatures like Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny and God don't really exist and can't really hurt them. Make sure they know how to turn in any adults claiming to believe in such things to the proper authorities.
With these simple steps, we can eliminate Christmas in our lifetimes. And, finally, let me wish everyone an enjoyable, nondenominational, reality-based holiday season.