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Bill Britt

Lights. Camera. Action?

Bill Britt

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By Bill Britt
Alabama Political Reporter

There is porn, then there are obscenities.

Pornography is regulated by the legal standards that govern the concept of obscenity; while a moving target, it generally refers to things society may consider disgusting, foul, or immoral.

In today’s America as in Alabama, there are all types of porn. There are also acts more repulsive, loathsome, and wicked than physical indulgences. Among these are the willful neglect of a government which fails to police itself, provide for needy children and aged all while turning away from making the hard choices to address such needful things.

In the September 26 issue of The New Yorker, writer Katrina Forrester observes, “Porn is abundantly more, in every way: there are more people, more acts, more clips, more categories. It has permeated everyday life, to the point where we talk easily of food porn, disaster porn, war porn, real-estate porn—not because culture has been sexualized, or sex pornified, but because porn’s patterns of excess, fantasy, desire, and shame are so familiar.”

There is also political porn which is doing a booming business in the Heart of Dixie.

It is not just the scandals surrounding the conviction of former Speaker of the House Mike Hubbard, or the ongoing investigation of Gov. Robert Bentley’s administration. No, the problems stem from the acceptance that politics in Alabama is nasty, brutish and mean when it need not be so.

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To paraphrase Forrester, the patterns of excess, fantasy, desire, and shame are simply part doing business with State government in Alabama, this is just political porn. The obscenity is when the government holds a special session to find money to keep poor people on dialysis and then turns around and asks to borrow $800 million for no-bid contracts to build prisons.

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Years of systemic government corruption, one-party rule—be it democrat or republican—and the tendency to view citizens as chattel feeds the shame here at home.

The purveyors of political porn include the actors (elected officials), agents (political consultants), extras (bureaucrat and lobbyist), script writers {astroturf groups, bloggers-for-hire and hacks (think David Asbell), as well as critics (journalist, reporters, and muckrakers). But that is the cast and crew who set the lights, build the set, provide the talent, pen the dialogue and, of course, the stars who must “sell the scenes.”

It must be noted that many times lobbyist make the best script writers crafting a more plausible narrative for lawmaker’s who are generally inept at delivering a convincing performance or casting a difficult vote that might actually help anyone other than their producers.

Oh, I forgot to mention the producers. They are the monied class, the big-dog donors or political operatives like former Gov. Bob Riley and BCA’s Billy Canary or associations such as ALFA. Yes, there are casting couches on which politicos must perform to clinch their next starring role. Many producers fall under the obscenity standard.

Then there are the censors; they are mostly timid souls at the state’s ethics commission which wishes more than anything to not watch the moves at all.. Alabama’s censors are more akin to the old-fashioned ushers who walked theater aisles making sure Pee Wee didn’t do anything stupid.

The porn stars refuse to hold another bad actor accountable, so it is left to the Attorney General’s Special Prosecution Division to punish those who lie, cheat, and steal.

The word pornography comes from the Greek pornographos, which literally means writing about prostitutes, a combination of pornē prostitute + graphein “write.”

Could anything more fittingly describe a reporter’s job in Alabama?

In 1964, Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart opinion gave rise to the “I know it when I see it” test for obscenity.

Look around at our failing school’s, our underemployed, and unhealthy citizens. Do you see it? Do you know what it means?

We have a lot of scintillating political porn and too many obscene policies. We have cut and paste laws from ALEC or other rightwing groups. Porn.

Commissions to study everything, so no one is held accountable for anything. More porn.

A Governor who changes his mind more frequently than XXX actress changes partners. Even more porn.

Bentley leans on his girlfriend for advice on the weightiest matters yet if her jejune political instincts were cloth wouldn’t make a g-string. Porn, porn and more porn.

All political porn and it’s a blockbuster at the State House and at the Governor’s Beach Mansion. And that is the way things are and not likely to change until some actors, extras, and producers are out of the business.

But what is unthinkable and unacceptable is the obscenity of doing nothing in the face of some much need.

 

Bill Britt is editor-in-chief at the Alabama Political Reporter and host of The Voice of Alabama Politics. You can email him at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter.

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