STOPPING S.983

By: Randy Lee Payton


Following the June 16th anti-censorship conference in Chicago we called and wrote to the most likely groups we knew around the country who we thought would actively endorse the Coalition, hoping to kill the so called "Pornography Victims" bill while still in Committee, BEFORE they could reach the Senate floor. The hearings were slated for July 23, so there wasn't much time and we had to move fast.

With over 20 groups on board by June, we sent out a press release sufficiently describing the bills, announcing the coalition and explaining why we opposed said legislation (along with copies of the bills themselves) to ABC, CBS, NBC, CNN, USA Today, AP, UPI, New York Times and others, fully expecting at least a couple of major news outlets to pick up on this (one would think) newsworthy story, right?

Wrong. Except for National Public Radio (on the day of the hearings) no one touched the story--of the Coalition OR the hearings themselves! Barry Lynn of the ACLU had told us we may at this early stage indeed have trouble cracking the media but encouraged us to send our press release around anyway, as "it'll at least let them know about the bills and maybe they'll file it and use the information or even call you up about it at a later date' should the bills survive the hearing on the 23rd. But WHY the media blackout? Coalition member Dr. Roger Libby of N.O.S.E. suspects that the combination of "AIDS and the recession" has contributed to the "increasingly conservative stance" of the media to where it's nearly impossible for genuine voices of national dissent (i.e., those advocating simple freedom of expression!) to be heard. We also found it curious that the AFA, FOF and Pat Robertson weren't beating the war drums and rallying their "flock" to support these bills (perhaps to better "slide" them through committee, sans any high profile fanfare?).....

In any event, the word had gone out and scores of people throughout the U.S. were alerted (via the Grass Roots Coalition and other groups) to call their Senators, call Sen. Biden (Chairman of the Committee) and generally galvanize oppostion to the bills, all of which undoubtedly played a part in the being stymied at their initial hearing on the 23rd. And despite the blackout on this story by the big news media the word got out ANYWAY throughout several key regions of the country thanks to such fine alternative press papers (and Coalition members) as FRANKFORT'S ALTERNATIVE INDEX in Kansas and the ORLANDO SPECTATOR in Florida. Also the newsletters of Coalition members N.O.S.E. in Atlanta, the Avant Garde Society in S.F. and ROCK & ROLL CONFIDENTIAL all ran pieces on the bills and urged readers to actively register their opposition with their elected representatives. Perhaps, as the national, corporate news media continues to tighten it's sphincter, there's a lesson about the need for the anti-censorship movement to strengthen our OWN alternative media through which to communicate with each other, let alone reach the larger public in the period before us. There WILL most likely come a time when the Anti-Censorship Movement reaches a point of such "critical mass" that the national media will have no choice, basically, but to cover it as the growing, increasingly cohesive, national force that it is. But until then...

People working closely with "Coalition Central" over the last couple months (and hence constituting a kind of informal 'coordinating committee') include: Lee Ballinger, Mike Caddell, Kat Coker, Ann Castro, Barbara Dority, Gary Gahagan, Susan Gahagan, Doug Kaplan, Dr. Roger Libby, Bobby Lilly, Barry Lynn, William Margold, Ben Markeson, Steve Messick, Maria Pinto, Brenda Loew Tatelbaum and John Woods--sisters and brothers-in-arms all!

We're continuing to monitor the status of the S.983 and ROC readers interested in updates or participating in the Coalition should write us at P.O. Box 436, New Philadelphia, OH 44663 or call Randy at (216) 364-2705.

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