An intellectual freedom blog with an emphasis on libraries and technology

Sunday, December 05, 2004

Assault on Reality

The next wave

We have early indications of how pro-censorship forces will proceed during the next four years. The irrational and unscientific testimony of Judith Reisman of the California Protective Parents Association before the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation indicates that we are going to have a bumpy ride. Her statements to the committee on November 18th have only now come up in the alternative press. Rather than read second hand reviews and analysis, you can read Reisman's testimony yourself on the Committee's web site.

Here are some highlights:

Thanks to the latest advances in neuroscience, we now know that pornographic visual images imprint and alter the brain, triggering an instant, involuntary, but lasting, biochemical memory trail, arguably, subverting the First Amendment by overriding the cognitive speech process. This is true of so-called “soft-core” and “hard-core” pornography. And once new neurochemical pathways are established they are difficult or impossible to delete.

And wait, it's gets better:

Pornography triggers myriad kinds of internal, natural drugs that mimic the “high” from a street drug. Addiction to pornography is addiction to what I dub erototoxins -- mind-altering drugs produced by the viewer’s own brain.

What are Ms. Reisman's qualifications? Well, like it or not, she does have a Ph.D. from Case Western University. But the subject of her dissertation, A Rhetorical Analysis of Dorothy Fuldheim's Television Commentaries relates to mass communications, not neuroscience. She hardly has the qualifications to name a new brain chemical. And as Analee Newitz in her column in the San Francisco Bay Guardian writes:

Geneticist Dean Hamer argued in his recent book, The God Gene, that the feelings associated with revelation and transcendence are hard-wired into our brains. In addition, many neuroscientists now believe that all kinds of thought patterns have the power to alter the brain's neural circuitry. Being converted to Christianity probably changes the brain's structure far more than masturbating to some glitter-covered cutie on It's even addictive, since Christians start to feel bad if they don't go to church at least once a week.

If pornography re-wires the brain, so do lots of other stimuli. If I testify that looking at Arlen Specter makes me sick, can Congress outlaw him too?

Newitz also points out that Reisman's illogical unsubstantiated testimony makes a frontal assault on the First Amendment. In a similar fashion to the effort to promote creationism as science after the courts threw biblical study out of the public school system, the far-right now looks to subvert science to impose censorship. We can reasonably guess that those who advocate censorship will not stop at pornography.

Dr. Reisman has also made news (although not in the mainstream broadcast media, yet) with her attacks on Kinsey which have gathered some media attention in the publicity surrounding the new movie about the sex researcher about to open in December. You can read an excellent description and analysis of Reisman's hysterical and bizarre accusations about Kinsey and his research in a New Yorker article: Why Know? by Daniel Radosh.

I liked Mr. Rasosh's article so much that I wrote this e-mail to the New Yorker:

Dear New Yorker staff,

I greatly enjoyed reading Daniel Radosh's piece on the right-wing ideologue Judith Reisman. I have one question. Mr. Radosh writes "To a reader of Reisman’s scholarly papers, it sometimes appears that there is little for which she does not hold Kinsey responsible." My question is what scholarly papers? I am a professional librarian with access to commercial databases of academic peer reviewed journals. I tried to find her scholarly writing but did not find any results in Proquest's Academic Research database (which covers the social sciences quite well). I did find some self-published lunacy on Google with her name and affiliation. This then looks like a new use of the word "scholarly" with which I am up to now not familiar. I do not mean to nit-pick, but I think it important to note that Judith Reisman could not pass her so-called research off on a peer review committee unless she drugged them.

What "self-published lunacy" you ask? The more I looked for Reisman's writings, the more strange and reprehensible verbiage I found. She writes high praise for "The Pink Swastika" a book that makes the argument that Nazism was a homosexual inspired movement. (I'm not making this up! I don't have the imagination. You can see for yourself--the book's on sale on

Here are some choice passages from my Google search:

On Judith Reisman's web site you can find the following document: in which I found this:

Instead of evidence finding Nazism in conflict with homosexuality, Lively and Abrams [authors of The Pink Swastika] report the strategies of the German homosexual movement to ensconce National Socialism (the Nazi party) and Adolf Hitler, triggering a holocaust which engulfed all of Europe.  Writing of those days in The Mass Psychology of Fascism, radical German sexologist and Hitler contemporary, Wilhelm Reich, warned that Nazi leadership was both ideologically and actually homosexual. 

And on

Lively and Abrams reveal the reigning gay history as revisionist and expose the supermale German homosexuals for what they were - Nazi brutes, not Nazi victims.

Why do we care what a right-wing ideologue says to a Senate Committee? As Dan Perkins (a.k.a.: Tom Tomorrow, author of This Modern World) stated in his blog entry about Reisman:

Easy to dismiss her as a crank, but she's the sort of crank to whom our Republican overlords give face time. And that's really the point here: if you voted for Bush, then this, too, is part of what you voted for.

Remember, censors will not stop with pornography.