Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Laws, Sausages, and Porn

Two things you never want to see get made are laws and sausages.  Yet we consent to someone doing our dirty work for these things because – even though we may have different definitions of this – everyone loves a version of civil justice or some tasty, tasty pizza, even in their cheapest possible versions.  Maybe you wanna spend an afternoon sucking down Papa John’s during a Judge Judy marathon.  Go for it!  But at least have the decency to peek behind the curtain and see who’s pulling what in order to satisfy you.

For example, last week the reactionary reality-TV version of pornography called Girls Gone Wild declared bankruptcy after running for 15 years, and frankly, that’s surprising.  Not surprising that they went bankrupt, mind you, because who the hell pays for porn anymore?  People quit buying newspapers around 2008 thanks to the internet.  And now the preponderance of internet subscribers have speeds fast enough to make full use of free resources like RedTube, XTube, ExtremeTube,  YouPorn, PornHub, PornMD, SpankWire and Peeperz, just to name a few.  Yet Ironically, the existence of these entities seems to have nothing to do with the reason GGW founder Joe Francis took the company into Chapter 11.

Rather; the hand trying to flush this turd comes in the form of lawsuit after lawsuit, the biggest ones coming from Steve Wynn, a multi-billionaire Las Vegas hotel and casino owner.   There’s been some back and forth as to allegations of unpaid multi-million dollar gambling debts, but the real victories have come in the form of slander suits Wynn filed against Francis for talking about angry emails supposedly sent by Wynn.

Francis claims to fear for his life when he was emailed a death threat written "In all caps, and then exclamation points – like a crazy person's e-mail”.  He then tried to give credence to this claim by invoking the name of Quincy Jones as a witness to the message.

First of all Mr. Francis, you seem to have no concept of what it’s like to argue on the internet.  If someone threatens, as you claim, to hit you in the back of the head with a shovel and have you buried in the middle of the desert, caps lock and exclamation points are not the dividing line between crazy and rational. 

Second;  there’s already a generation of people who know to call bullshit when you say something like, “No really, don’t take my word for it, Quincy Jones saw it, he’ll vouch for me.”  It’s an email.  All you had to do was print the email.

Finally; heads up, jackass.  You’ve been raking in millions of dollars exploiting the knee-jerk, drunken reactions of people’s sisters, nieces, and daughters since 1997.  If you’re trying to give the impression that this is your first death threat, you’re as ignorant as you are evil.

Now – why evil?  Aren’t the people in these videos consenting adults, whether explicit or implied?  Don’t they know what they’re getting into, and isn’t it their fault for making a bad decision on the spot?

Consider this; one woman, Tamara Favazza, with her full knowledge and consent was dancing in front of a Girls Gone Wild camera crew.  While being filmed, a member of the crew lifted up Tamara’s shirt while Tamara could be seen mouthing the word “No.”  The video was published and sold anyway.  She sued the company and was awarded $5.8M but only after the judge gave her a re-trial after the first jury sided against her in spite of what the judge called a “preponderance of evidence.”

Now consider this – in 2000, while on Spring Break, one particular woman bared her breasts on camera for two men who offered her beads to do so.  Then those men sold that footage to GGW.  GGW not only used the footage in their video, but put her face on promotional materials.  She was recognized not only by fellow students, but her teachers and coaches.  On the one hand, yes she made a dumb mistake she later regretted.  On the other hand, dumb mistakes later regretted are regularly made by 14-year-old middle schoolers. 

That’s right – the woman in this example is named Lindsey Bullard.  On her Spring Break trip in 2000 she was 14-years-old, and not yet in high school.  She’s been trying to sue the company since 2004 claiming she never gave her consent for its commercial use.  Lawyers on the other side of the case are arguing no wrongdoing, she did give her consent at the time, and because it was in a public area, they didn’t violate her privacy.  All they did was purchase a video somebody else took.

The case is being argued in the Georgia State Supreme Court because federal law proved too vague for a clear verdict.

Girls Gone Wild has declared bankruptcy now, but not becausethey’re out of cash.  A statement from GGW equates their company to American Airlines and General Motors, filing Chapter 11 to seek reorganization to “re-structure its frivolous and burdensome legal affairs.”


With knowledge and forethought they’re making profits off the ill-considered actions of drunk people at parties.  Sometimes they’re violating those people for the purpose.  Sometimes they’re purchasing and re-selling child pornography.  They only face consequences when they get caught, and only then when they lose the argument, which they can only do when the law is clear and specific enough to tell them how they’ve done wrong.

Perhaps Steve Wynn will use the nearly $50M awarded him in judgments – and maybe some of his own extra billions – to fund a lobby that creates a law that doesn’t make it so easy for Joe Francis to reap rewards from the exploitive shame of others.  Certainly there are large numbers of mothers and fathers, aunts and uncles, brothers and sisters and cousins and friends and allies who wouldn’t mind watching that particular law get made.

You’re on your own with the sausages.