Catharine MacKinnon: Mass Media Reflexively, Subtly Protect Pornographers

Mass media often confuse their interests with those of pornographers, says Catharine MacKinnon in In Harm’s Way: The Pornography Civil Rights Hearings (p.3-24). This is unnecessary and unfortunate, and has the effect of impoverishing the debate about porn and discrediting those opposed to porn.

Until the publication of [In Harm’s Way], the public discussion of pornography has been impoverished and deprived by often inaccurate or incomplete reports of victims’ accounts and experts’ views. Media reports of victims’ testimony at the time of the hearings themselves were often cursory, distorted, or nonexistent. Some reports by journalists covering the Minneapolis hearings were rewritten by editors to conform the testimony to the story of pornography’s harmlessness that they wanted told. Of this process, one Minneapolis reporter assigned to cover those hearings told me, in reference to the reports she filed, “I have never been so censored in my life.” Thus weakened, the victim testimony became easier to stigmatize as emotional and to dismiss as exceptional. Its representativeness has been further undermined by selective or misleading reports of expert testimony on scientific studies…

Much of the media persistently position women against women in their coverage, employing the pornographers’ strategy in the way they report events and frame issues for public discussion. Corrective letters showing wide solidarity among women on the ordinance are routinely not published…

The false statement that scientific evidence on the harmful effects of exposure to pornography is mixed or inconclusive is now repeated like a mantra, even in court. It has now become the official story, the baseline, the pre-established position against which others are evaluated…the common sense view that needs no source and has none, the canard that individuals widely believe as if they had done the research themselves. Few read the scholarly literature or believe they need to. No amount of evidence to the contrary…is credible against the simple reassertion of what was believed, without evidence, to begin with…

The legitimate media act in their own perceived self-interest when they defend pornography, making common cause with mass sexual exploitation… They seem to think that any restraint on pornography is a restraint on journalism… The resulting tilt is inescapable…

NPN further explores issues of media ethics, fairness and accuracy in these posts.

3 thoughts on “Catharine MacKinnon: Mass Media Reflexively, Subtly Protect Pornographers

  1. I agree with NPN. Porn defenders’ abusive comments definitely reflect the negative effects pornography has on them.

    Go on, Catharine, we love you! We love your work as well as Andrea’s. Nevermind what those pro-porn idiots say about you.

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