The war on porn continues

But while millions of Americans appreciated pornography, their government didn’t. The Reagan administration pursued a relentless crusade against exposed flesh throughout the 1980s. As Martin Morse Wooster chronicled in “Reagan’s Smutstompers,” an article in the April 1986 issue of reason, the effort was headed up by an odd alliance of socially conservative “veterans of right-wing trench warfare” and “radical feminists whose views are normally abhorred by the hard right.” Reagan officials requested more than $5 million for a study they said would “scientifically identify and define ‘pornography’ and its variable effects on adults and juveniles.”

The Reagan White House’s anti-porn push was an outgrowth of a legal crackdown that began a decade prior. “Between September 1978 and March 1985,” Wooster wrote, “the FBI launched 2,484 investigations into pornography, resulting in 118 convictions and $7.1 million in fines and confiscated property.”

Three decades later, the crusade against pornography continues online and overseas. In the United Kingdom, Conservative Party Prime Minister David Cameron has long backed the creation of an opt-in system in which users must affirmatively choose to avoid government censorship. The program, first announced more than two years ago, went into full effect in January. The 20 million British households with Internet connections now must decide whether to opt out of a government-filtered Internet.