Danger Rethunk

April 5, 2006 | 23 comments
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I’ve taken down the post titled “The Real Danger?” because it was pointed out to me that its impetus was unnecessarily divisive. This was certainly not my intent and so I considered deleting my first paragraph. Without a statement of that impetus, however, the post simply became a denunciation of pornography, which someone else pointed out was something everyone agrees with and someone else said was old news. Such a denunciation has been done much more effectively in the LDS context by President Monson in the recent General Conference and by President Hinckley in the Priesthood Session of the April 2004 General Conference.

If you want to see a Mormon “standing on a wall” preaching against the insufferable evil of pornography, go to those sources.

[UPDATE: I have reposted the original in fairness to the commenters and the record.]

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23 Responses to Danger Rethunk

  1. Costanza on April 5, 2006 at 5:50 pm

    Sorry to see the old post go.

  2. mullingandmusing (m&m) on April 5, 2006 at 5:56 pm

    I was wondering why my post didn’t post. :)

    I think there was a valid point in the first paragraph, however. In my mind, it’s important to consider. Pornography is of the devil and should be a concern to women and to all. Priesthood and patriarchy, however, as ordained by God, are NOT a threat to women. I think often critiques of these principles reflect either bad experiences with individual situations that were handled poorly (abuse of power or whatever else) or a lack of understanding of the principles as God sees them. What came to my mind after reading John’s post is that maybe we as women should not be so concerned about what isn’t really a threat to us at all — but is just perceived as such. I’m sorry that couldn’t have been discussed more. (And I hope my posting is not perceived as divisive….)

  3. Ronan on April 5, 2006 at 6:21 pm

    No! John, it was a great post. At least put it at ABEV. It’s useful to hear secularists denouncing pornography. “God doesn’t want you to watch pornography” is not enough for some, but “it’ll ruin your marriage” might be. We need every tool.

  4. S. P. Bailey on April 5, 2006 at 6:28 pm

    I am not a big fan of your decision to pull a post because comments or other communications (emails between T&S insiders?) expose the post’s problems. Sure, technically, it is T&S’s ball and it can take it (or any part of it) and go home if it wants. But why not simply acknowledge the problems in a comment and leave the post for others to read and draw their own conclusions? Why not simply close comments if the post proves too contentious?

    Just eliminating the record is a striking act of unilateral revision of a group-authored document. And it seems a little Big Brotherish.

  5. DHofmann on April 5, 2006 at 6:52 pm

    If the the husband of a wife who has a pathological fear of dogs one day brought home a pit bull and refused to take it back, wouldn’t this have a similar effect on the marriage as pornography?

    Many arguments against pornography seem to be based solely on the fact that it breaks up marriages. Debt can do the same thing, and yet nobody says you shouldn’t get a mortgage.

    Others are straw man arguments, like: “my husband brought home pornography and he was also cruel and that’s why pornography is evil”.

    John, what I liked about your post was that it actually gave some good, solid explanations why pornography is bad. (And some that were not-so-solid, but nobody’s perfect.)

  6. john f. on April 5, 2006 at 6:54 pm

    S.P. Bailey (Shawn?): It wasn’t T&S — I just decided to pull it as a personal decision. Reading your comment, I think your suggestions are great. My main concern was that I had been unnecessarily divisive. I didn’t want to be contentious, particularly since I am writing as a guest blogger on this forum and it would be ungracious to do that to my hosts.

    Maybe I was a little hasty in removing it but again, it was my personal decision with no input at all from T&S bloggers.

  7. Matt Evans on April 5, 2006 at 6:54 pm

    S. P. Bailey,

    The decision wasn’t made among the T&S insiders — I didn’t know anything about it until just now and the T&S permabloggers have exchanged two dozen emails today.

  8. john f. on April 5, 2006 at 6:59 pm

    Ronan, since the post at least partially arose as a contemplation on the Financial Times article, I might post it at Headlife in a modified form to eliminate the LDS angle (it is, after all, a policy issue in both the UK and USA).

  9. Costanza on April 5, 2006 at 7:08 pm

    The permabloggers have exchanged two dozen emails today!!? How do you have time for anything else? :^)

  10. cchrissyy on April 5, 2006 at 7:26 pm

    Shoot, I shared the old link already…
    would have prefered a solution that preserved the origional. oh well.

  11. DKL on April 5, 2006 at 10:17 pm

    I disagree with S. P. Baley. I’ve had to make the decision to delete posts before, and I think that it’s a fine thing to do. There’s just no reason to preserve posts past the point that the author (or his collaborators) believes that it is worthwhile. (Perhaps it’s worth noting that I’ve never complained when my comments have been edited or deleted.)

    That said, I’m disappointed to have missed the post.

  12. s p bailey on April 5, 2006 at 11:43 pm

    DKL: You are wrong. Strangely enough though, I like it when you, the official bloggernacle contrarian, disagree with me. It makes me feel even righter. (Mentally insert smiling, tone-moderating emoticon here.) Now if only you had disagreed as Arturo Toscanini. Or is that persona still banned?

    Posts should be preserved. Authors should stand behind what they write, good or bad. If they write something they regret, they ought to note it, write a follow-up, close comments, but not destroy the record. Authorship and responsibility go hand in hand. The power to delete at any time for any reason eliminates responsibility. And when authors delete not only their own work, but also comments several people have contributed, others’ legitimate interests are affected.

  13. Kimball Hunt on April 5, 2006 at 11:49 pm

    Moral philosophers — whether the pro-chastity religious, or the “We’re against overt (hetero-) sexuality” strain of feminists, et cetera — always advocate balance with regard to either sacredly affirmed or repudiated (depending upon interpretation) sexual desire. So, in any case, what then, exactly, is pornography? The root /porno/ means “harlot.” So then any material supplying a (celebratory? mercenary? take your pick) rendering of sensuality is pornographic?

    Given that scripture has been “given us as manna” to teach us God’s ways, we see that in scripture particular women are mentioned as often as not in where it’s thought important to mention they possess some quality of physical attractiveness; and in such instances this comeliness is subtly endorsed or else it’s just made mention of, from a standpoint of moral neutrality, or else it’s condemned, depending on the circumstances. So certainly an amount of endorsement or at least matter of fact expression of sensuality within an appropriate context is OK, while certain expressions in inappropriate contexts aren’t.

    And perhaps there should also be considered a sort of two-tier system: It’s perhaps informative to note that in Brigham Young’s time, there were allowed houses of prostition let alone bars for the use of gentiles — and the various counties of Utah are still not “dry” and also permit regulated “escort services” (which of course provide prostitution under a thin legal cover). So perhaps a wider latitude should be allowed society as a whole in legally pursuing erotic types of works than many an individual of faith might personally find of negligible social value. And which works might be hoped to be illegal and which might simply not want to find a place for in our home might be judged according to different standards. A believer of the Holiness (Penatacostal Protestant) persuasion, a member of a Catholic order, or many a Mormon might find a Victoria’s Secret catalogue too much of an invitation for mere lust, while other’s simply might view it as a useful tool from which to choose unmentionable items of apparel or even as works of art of a sort.

    Also, cultures which involve extened families and the community into suggesting romantic pairings and which also promotes fairly youthful of marriages can afford to have its young people who are much more inhibited, repressed, and ignorant of “sensualities” than can a culture in which its individuals are expected to go about the business of finding their own marriage partners. And the simple fact is that the woman who strikes just the right cultural balance between too much (brazenly whore-ish) sexiness and (frumpily) not enough will enjoy the most choice when it comes to romantic pairings, all other factors, of course, being equal. And in any case, back when there was polygamy in the Church (or, for that matter, even in Iran or among contemporary “fundamentalist” offshoots) a much more stringent standard of modesty would be appropriate than for living in a more contemporary of culture. But then again perhaps it’s less important which particular set of rules are enforced within any place and time than that there some enforced, whatever these might be. As, for example, with regard to whatever are the current rules for dress as are imposed on BYU students at present, it’s probably true that a BYU a co-ed can pretty safely “flout decency” without any long term consequences simply by wearing (insert whichever outlawed worldly fashion here)–and perhaps in this is the wisdom of their being a moving line of decorum among the more conservative elements of society that’s perpetually at least a step or two this side of those of the world at large.

  14. Blain on April 6, 2006 at 2:27 am

    For folks interested in this for nonacademic reasons, who want something more constructive than “No” “Don’t do it” and “Stop” when it comes to dealing with porn issues, here are some useful resources:

    Latter Day Sexual Recovery information, discussion forums and mail lists for those who struggle with pornography addiction and their spouses
    Heart-t-Heart a general-purpose LDS 12 Step fellowship
    Addiction Recovery Program Meeting Schedules Church sponsored 12-Step meetings for addiction recovery via LDSFS. The linked document includes a link to the PDF version of the ARP manual, or you can buy paper copies through the distribution center for $5.

    To anybody who thinks that pornography addiction isn’t every bit as destructive as Pres. Hinckley has been saying, I’m going to suggest you pull your head out of the sand and do some research. Patrick Carnes book “Don’t Call it Love” is a good place to start. Or find a Sexaholics Anonymous meeting in your area and talk to the contact person there. Or find a support group for divorced Mormons and ask how many of the folks there had their marriages savaged by the use of pornography.

  15. Kimball Hunt on April 6, 2006 at 2:47 am

    Oh and s p bailey’s point above I’m sure resonates with many readers (who yet appreciate John Fowles/ DKL’s reasoning re removing stuff already “blogged”); still the tone of s b’s citation of DKL’s alleged contrarian reputation rang to me as sort of gratuitous? (Since it lacks specific detail in application to the point at hand?)

    Anyways, when I think of what folks in Times & Seasons have been saying about the admonishments for civil dialogue or what have you, apparently in the Conference address by elder Wood, I observe that any structure such as the Church’s, dependent as it is on what are essentially appointed apostolic “lords,” will be guaranteed to be an utterly conservative one by its very nature at least as far as the issue of “appeals to authority” are concerned, for sure; and in any such conservative milieu, utmost diplomacy will ever be worth a premium! And what better way is there to engender such diplomacy than to practice it? Notice it’s the genteel who both benefit from and also tend most to excel at the practice of gentility and manners, in a way.

    (And, as an after thought: Spiritual plebes like me, instead of peppering my speech with “your grace” can merely mention now and again my jack mormon status? As recall that in the most traditional legal systems, a witness’s testimony is acknowledged to be weighted his class — as a recognition of what happen in practice anyway, when everything else being equal, the testimony of the person who’s stature most alignes with the judge will receive favor.)

  16. DKL on April 6, 2006 at 10:41 am

    s p bailey: you [are] the official bloggernacle contrarian

    Three things: First: since when do I get contrarian marks for agreeing with T&S? Second: with all due respect, I hardly think that it’s your place to decide who is the “official” contrarian. Are you the official contrarian designator? Third, what kind of contrarian would I be if I agreed with you about being a contrarian?
    s p bailey: Authors should stand behind what they write, good or bad.

    Actually, they should be able to say, “Never mind,” whenever they want.

    s p bailey: Authorship and responsibility go hand in hand.

    Responsibility enters the picture only when adverse consequences result from the writing or omission of the writing. Otherwise, the question of whether to publish or not to publish is a morally neutral one.

    s p bailey: The power to delete at any time for any reason eliminates responsibility. And when authors delete not only their own work, but also comments several people have contributed, others’ legitimate interests are affected.

    The person who owns the medium has carte blanche on how it is used, and it is only fair to call something a misuse when it’s the result is measurably harmful. And there is no meaningful sense in which commenters own the comments that they submit in a public forum.

    Kimball, s p is just giving me a hard time. Not only is this fair payback for my own behavior, but the give and take is something that I exuberantly enjoy. Concerning T&S’s admonitions about polite discourse, I think that their emphasis is misplaced. Not all discourse can be polite. All discourse can be (and should be) free of bestial meanness.

  17. Christian Y. Cardall on April 6, 2006 at 11:41 am

    The owners of a blog can do whatever the hell they please with it, but I find the revisionism of deleting posts repugnant. I’m not sure why—I don’t know that I feel as strongly about “responsibility” as s. p. bailey—but something about it really bothers me, maybe as an aesthetic more than moral matter. It may be that I find deletion cowardly or something. Also, while I agree that commenters have no rights, and can save their own comments and get their own blog if they wish, I do think it’s a rude slap in the face to delete a post people have taken the time to read, ponder, and comment on. I think posting an apology while leaving the original is almost always the better solution. To see a person’s reconsideration or evolution of thought on something may be a better learning experience for all concerned than to have it vanish from existence.

    In the case of this particular post, it had academic and secular arguments beyond what one hears from Church leaders, which I think provided an opportunity for useful discussion. I wish it hadn’t been deleted.

  18. S. P. Bailey on April 6, 2006 at 11:43 am

    I am still right, interstitial commentary notwithstanding. And I will gladly present my “official contrarian designator” credentials if we ever meet.

    The discussion does highlight what I consider a significant drawback of online media. The author who regrets yesterday’s opinion column can’t get back every copy of yesterday’s Times. And that’s a good thing. Print authors know that is the deal when they write; that knowledge, that they will be responsible, that there is no option to destroy the record, is an incentive for accuracy, thoughtfulness, etc.

  19. S. P. Bailey on April 6, 2006 at 11:54 am

    Yeah, Christian, I acknowledged in my first comment that blog owners (and guest posters) can do whatever they want—and I never said that commenters have any particular rights. “Interests” was the word I used. Commenters do become interested or invested in threads, so it is a sort of betrayal when threads are simply deleted.

  20. john f. on April 6, 2006 at 11:59 am

    Everyone’s comments have been genuinely insightful to me. Therefore, I have reposted the original, unaltered. (I thought I was being considerate by taking it down and had no idea people would be critical of it!)

    One of the most persuasive reasons that has been articulated on this thread against removing the original post was that it was unfair to the commenters. On the one hand, I agree with DKL that an author can say “nevermind” if he or she so chooses. But since several people had already commented, some with substantial comments, it was unfair to them for the time they had spent in responding to remove the entire post on fiat.

    When I “removed” it, I simply redesignated it as a “draft.” Therefore, by republishing it right now, all of the comments remain intact under the post. Thus, the “record” that SP Bailey mentions is preserved, and the blog remains faithful to its commenters, alleviating Cardall’s concerns. Cchrissy, the link you sent should also still be valid, if I am not mistaken.

    The topic is up for debate again right below.

  21. Jonathan Green on April 6, 2006 at 12:10 pm

    But John, who wants to go back to discussing pornography? It’s far more interesting to blog about blogging, and discuss the nature of online discussion. Which has absolutely nothing to do with pornography.

  22. Christian Y. Cardall on April 6, 2006 at 12:24 pm

    Kudos, john f.! Glad you only unpublished it rather than deleted it. (I suspected outright deletion would be too painful for any author…)

    But Jonathan is right, I have a further comment on the phenomenon of deletion rather than a comment about pornography. ;-) It occurs to me that my visceral reaction to deletion is similar to the horror evoked by Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. Memories, even unpleasant ones, are part of one’s identity, so that erasing them would be tantamount to tampering with one’s very identity, which is ultimately unbearable.

  23. john f. on April 6, 2006 at 1:39 pm

    Yeah, but if we have the power to delete stupid or divisive posts, I’m not convinced that it’s wrong to do so. The comment above about the author of an op-ed piece not being able to retract it upon later consideration is a good point. But all of it takes blogging perhaps a little too seriously! I admired Jordan when he simply deleted his entire blog one day last year (his old Life According to Jordan blog, which had some excellent content). That was brave and, although unfortunate (because I genuinely thought much of the content was substantive and valuable), it put blogging back into perspective for me. I lean more toward what you and SP Bailey have written and am more in favor of preserving the record. However, this is all illusory in a certain sense because, if for some reason I can no longer afford the Typepad fee, my content presumably will all go away anyway. None of this content can exist in the blogosphere without someone paying for it to be stored somewhere on the internet (unless I misunderstand the nature of the internet and ISPs and hosts, etc., which might very well be the case).

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