Secondary Effects Across America: 1977-1999

[Updated: 3/4/07, 6/1/08]

The official site for Nye County, Nevada contains a large trove of research on adult-use zoning and the secondary effects of adult businesses. This compilation of studies (PDF) spans a wide range of times and places in America, and we have augmented it here with links from Community Defense Counsel. Some highlights:

Phoenix, AZ, 1979
Three study areas (near locations of sexually oriented businesses) and three control areas (with no sexually oriented businesses) were selected. The study and control areas were paired according to the number of residents, median family income, percentage of non-white population, median age of population, percentage of dwelling units built since 1950, and percentage of acreage used for residential and non-residential purposes.

On average, the number of sex offenses was 506 percent greater in neighborhoods where sexually oriented businesses were located… Even without considering the crime of indecent exposure [the most common sex offense] the number of other sex crimes, such as rape, lewd and lascivious behavior, and child molestation, was 132 percent greater than in control areas without sexually oriented businesses.

On average, the number of property crimes was 43 percent greater in neighborhoods where sexually oriented businesses were located, and the number of violent crimes was 4 percent higher in those areas.

Garden Grove, CA, 1991 (PDF)
Crime increased significantly with the opening of an adult business, or with the expansion of an existing business or the addition of a bar nearby. The rise was greatest in “serious” offenses (termed “Part I” crimes: homicide, rape, robbery, assault, burglary, theft and auto theft)…

Overwhelmingly, respondents said that an adult business within 200-500 feet of a residential and commercial property depreciates that property value. The greatest impact was on single family homes. The chief factor cited for the depreciation was the increased crime associated with adult businesses.

Phone calls were made in a random sample of households in the Garden Grove Boulevard vicinity… More than 21 percent cited specific personal experiences of problems relating to these businesses, including crime, noise, litter and general quality of life. Eighty percent said they would want to move if an adult business opened in their neighborhood, with 60 percent saying they “would move” or “probably would move”.

Los Angeles, CA, 1977 (PDF)
More crime occurred where sexually oriented businesses were concentrated. Compared to city-wide statistics for 1969-75, areas with several such businesses experienced greater increases in pandering (340 percent), murder (42.3 percent), aggravated assault (45.2 percent), robbery (52.6 percent), and purse snatching (17 percent). Street robberies, where the criminal has face-to-face contact with his victim, increased almost 70 percent more in the study areas. A second category of crime, including other assaults, forgery, fraud, counterfeiting, embezzlement, stolen property, prostitution, narcotics, liquor laws and gambling increased 42 percent more in the study areas over the city as a whole.

Whittier, CA, 1978 (PDF)
After experiencing a rapid growth of sexually oriented businesses since 1969, the Whittier City Council commissioned a study of the effects of the businesses on the adjacent residential and commercial areas…

After 1973, 57 percent of the homes in the adult business area had changes of occupancy, compared to only 19 percent for the non-adult business area. Residents complained of “excessive noise, pornographic material left laying about, and sexual offenders (such as exhibitionists) venting their frustrations in the adjoining neighborhood…”

In the adult business area, criminal activity increased 102 percent (the entire city had only an 8.3 percent increase). Certain crimes skyrocketed (malicious mischief up 700 percent; all assaults up 387 percent; prostitution up 300 percent). All types of theft (petty, grand and auto) increased more than 120 percent each.

Indianapolis, IN, 1984 and Indianapolis, IN and Los Angeles, CA, 1984 (PDFs)
From 1978-82, crime increases in the study areas were 23 percent higher than the control areas (46 percent higher than the city as a whole). Sex-related crimes in the study areas increased more than 20 percent over the control areas. Residential locations in the study areas had a 56 percent greater crime increase than commercial study areas. Sex-related crimes were four times more common in residential study areas than commercial study areas with sexually oriented businesses.

Homes in the study areas appreciated at only half the rate of homes in the control areas, and one-third the rate of the city… Appraisers responding to the survey said one sexually oriented business within one block of residences and businesses decreased their value and half of the respondents said the immediate depreciation exceeded 10 percent. Appraisers also noted that value depreciation on residential areas near sexually oriented businesses is greater than on commercial locations.

Cleveland, OH, 1977 (PDF)
For 1976, study tracts had nearly double the number of robberies as the city as a whole (40.5 per study tract compared to 20.5 for other city tracts)… Of the three tracts with the highest incidence of rape, two had sexually oriented businesses and the third bordered a tract with two such businesses. In these three, there were 41 rapes in 1976 (14 per tract), nearly seven times the city average of 2.4 rapes per census tract.

Oklahoma City, OK, 1986 and 1984-1989 (PDFs)
This study contained the results of a survey of 100 Oklahoma City Real Estate Appraisers. Appraisers were given a hypothetical situation and a section to comment on the effects of sexually oriented businesses in Oklahoma City. The hypothetical situation presented a residential neighborhood bordering an arterial street with various commercial properties which served the area. A building vacated by a hardware store was soon to be occupied by an “adult” bookstore. No other sexually oriented businesses were in the area and no other vacant commercial space existed. With less than a one month response time, 34 completed surveys were received by the city.

Thirty-two percent of the respondents said that such a bookstore within one block of the residential area would decrease home values by at least 20 percent. Overwhelmingly, respondents said an “adult” bookstore would negatively affect other businesses within one block (76 percent). The level of depreciation is greater for residents than businesses… Frequent problems cited by the appraisers included the attraction of undesirable clients and businesses, safety threats to residents and other shoppers (especially children), deterrence of home sales and rentals, and immediate area deterioration (trash, debris, vandalism).

Austin, TX, 1986 (PDF)
To determine the effects of these businesses on property values, the city sent surveys to 120 real estate appraising or landing firms (nearly half responded) For trade area characteristics, three businesses (a bookstore, theater and topless bar) were observed on a weekend night to determine customer addresses…

Eighty-eight percent said that a sexually oriented business within one block of a residential area decreases the value of the homes (33 percent said depreciation would be at least 20 percent). Respondents also said such a business is a sign of neighborhood decline, making underwriters hesitant to approve the 90 to 95 percent financing most home buyers require. They said com
mercial property is also negatively affected by such businesses.

Of 81 license plates traced for owner addresses, only three lived within one mile of the sexually oriented business; 44 percent were from outside Austin.

Seattle, WA, 1989 (PDF)
Seattle had eight such dance halls (termed “adult cabarets”), six established since 1987…

The increased number of cabarets resulted in citizen complaints, including phone calls, letters (from individuals and merchant associations) and several petitions with hundreds of signatures. Protests cited decreased property values; increased insurance rates; fears of burglary, vandalism, rape, assaults, drugs and prostitution; and overall neighborhood deterioration. The report noted that patrons of these cabarets most often are not residents of nearby neighborhoods. Without community identity, behavior is less inhibited. Increased police calls to a business, sirens and traffic hazards from police and emergency vehicles are not conducive to healthy business and residential environments.

Adams County, CO, 1980s-90s (PDF)
The study concluded that there was a clearly demonstrated rise in crime and violence, and an increase in the attraction to transients to the area as a result of nude entertainment establishments. This caused a danger to residents and an undesirable model for youth and the community at large…

An April 1988 study of six adult business locations in Adams County, revealed that 76% of patrons were transient.

Denver, CO, 1998 (PDF)
The [Adult Use Study Team] found that adult use businesses caused negative secondary impacts to nearby properties and neighborhoods, including criminal activity, litter, noise, traffic problems and depreciation in property values. The study notes that the litter generated by such businesses includes printed material containing pornography, used condoms, sex paraphernalia, and used syringes. The crimes, which were significantly higher around adult use businesses compared with the city as a whole, included disturbing the peace, public indecency, prostitution, drug-related crimes…

Environmental Research Group to the American Center for Law & Justice, 1996 (PDF)
Surveys of businesses in Bothell, WA and Austin, TX revealed that less than three percent of vehicles parked in the lots were registered to an owner that resided a mile or less away.

ERG concluded that the impact of sex-businesses for small towns is more intense than that of big towns. The business district of a small town is not as large and not capable of “dividing up” sections of town. A national survey of real estate appraisers and lenders revealed that the placement of a sexually oriented business is generally an indicator of the decline of a community–in a small town, the business district is impacted as a whole. Also, the target audience of a small town will not suffice for sex business and must draw business from a regional area. Sex businesses also set the tone of the pedestrian intent in the area. Interviews with non-sex business patrons and passersby indicated a likelihood that a person will be prospected for sex acts or be sexually harassed.

Saint Paul, MN, 1988
The 1987 study included statistics showing that most “prostitution arrests in the city occur within four blocks on either side of the concentration of four adult businesses.” Other problems included “the propositioning” and “sexual harassment of neighborhood women mistaken for prostitutes”, “discarding of hard-core pornographic literature” (which is “most strongly associated with adult bookstores”) “on residential property where it becomes available to minors”, a “generally high crime rate,” and “a general perception” that such an area “is an unsafe place due to the concentration of adult entertainment that exists there.” Redevelopment experience in St. Paul showed that adult use areas caused a “blighting influence inhibiting development.”

Las Vegas, NV, 1978 (PDF)
Among brokers and realtors, overwhelming majorities said that adult entertainment establishments had negative effects on the market value (82%), saleability/rentability (78%), and rental value (76%) of the properties located near these establishments. According to 81%, there is a decrease in the annual income of businesses in the vicinity of adult establishments.

Dallas, TX, 1997 (PDF)
The study found that the presence of an SOB in an area can create a “dead zone” which is avoided by shoppers and families with children that do not want to be in areas that also have adult uses. Also, the late hours of operation combined with loitering by unsavory people in the area where SOBs are located, appear to lead to higher crime in the area. In fact, a look at police calls for service over a four-year period (1993-1996) shows that SOBs were a major source of the calls…

The study shows that a concentration of SOBs has a higher negative impact on the surrounding communities than an area with one isolated SOB. When concentrated, SOBs tend to be a magnet for certain businesses such as pawn shops, gun stores, liquor stores, etc., while driving away more family-oriented businesses… Interviews with owners of commercial property near SOBs confirmed that the loss of property value manifested in a variety of ways, including: increased operating costs, like additional security patrols, burglar alarms, and trash cleanup; properties selling at much lower sales prices; and extreme difficulty in leasing properties.

El Paso, TX, 1986 (PDF)
[T]he average crime rate in the study areas was 72% higher than the rate in the control areas… residents in study areas had great fear of deterioration and crime than residents in control areas.

In addition, some respondents told survey interviewers they feared retaliation from SOBs if they gave information about problems related to SOBs.

See the complete compilation of secondary effects studies gathered by Nye County (PDF), and the additional studies available at Community Defense Counsel. We call your special attention to the in-depth reports and adult-use zoning plans from Islip, NY (PDF, 1980), Beaumont, TX (PDF, 1982), Saint Paul, MN (PDF, 1983), Des Moines, WA (PDF, 1984), Manatee County (PDF, 1987), Bellevue, WA (PDF, 1988), Minnesota (PDF, 1989), New Hanover County (PDF, 1989), Tucson (PDF, 1990), St. Croix County, (PDF, 1993), New York City (PDF, 1994),  New York City (PDF, 1994, Times Square Area), Newport News (PDF, 1996) and Cleburne, TX (PDF, 1997).

36 thoughts on “Secondary Effects Across America: 1977-1999

  1. I noticed you left out this little tidbit from your highlights:
    “While empirical data for 1969-75 did not conclusively show the
    relation of property valuations to the concentration of sexually
    oriented businesses, more than 90 percent of realtors, real estate
    appraisers and lenders responding to the city questionnaires said
    that a grouping of such businesses within 500-1,000 feet of residential propery decreases the market value of the home.”

    In other words, just because people fear something doesn’t make it true.

    I like this one, too: “Residents complained of ‘excessive noise,
    pornographic material left laying about, and sexual offenders (such
    as exhibitionists) venting their frustrations in the adjoining neighborhood.'” Of course, there’s no explanation
    for any of this. For instance, how did the residents know
    that these people were sexual offenders? And how exactly were they “venting their frustrations?”

    By the way, you should probably look at the possible secondary effects of forcing adult businesses to locate near Wal-Mart. If Wal-Marts have their own problems with secondary effects, how will locating an adult business near them make Northampton safer?

  2. Andrew, while I am impressed by your doggedness, I don’t really understand your motivations. On July 1 you wrote on your blog, “My instincts tell me that the proposed ‘pornography store,’ as the Republican refers to it, won’t happen on King Street. And to me, that’s a good thing. I drive past that location a lot and I can imagine a lot of conversations that I don’t have with my kids if it does open.” On July 13 you wrote, “For the record, I don’t want the store to open, and I don’t think it will. I don’t say that based on any inside information, just on a gut feeling.”

    Despite these sentiments, you have been trying for months to confuse the issues, question the validity of mountains of evidence, dispute common sense, oppose modest, well-tested adult-use regulations, belittle citizens who care about their neighborhood, sidetrack a debate about adult businesses into a debate about Wal-Mart, and minimize bad behavior on the part of the porn merchants (e.g. Anthony Nota). Please state for the record whether you are being compensated in any way by Capital Video or its affiliates or agents.

  3. This is an example of your intellectual dishonesty. In trolling the Internet for any source that will support your views, you should spend some time examining where the information comes from. It’s weak to present the evidence but not the source. You’ve submitted it as evidence; you should explain where it came from.

  4. Now you accuse me of working for Capital Video. I suppose that’s the next logical step for you after accusing people of being “pro-porn.”

    My motivation here is my hatred of dishonesty. By cherry picking evidence, you have led people to believe that the zoning ordinances will save Northampton from all kinds of bad things, but you know that’s just not true. The zoning ordinances will not lessen the amount of pornography in Northampton. Even if the correlation between adult businesses and secondary effects can be proven, the zoning ordinances will not protect Northampton from secondary effects; they will just move them to a different area of town. The zoning ordinances will also likely not even prevent Capital Video from opening a store on King St.

    All your campaign has succeeded in doing is scaring people for no reason and opening up Northampton to litigation that could be costly.

    If you’re confused about my position, it might be helpful to keep the words of Emerson in mind: “A foolish consistency is the hob-goblin of little minds.” Like most people, when I first heard that Capital Video was opening a store on King St., I was afraid. However, instead of finding evidence to support my fears, I decided to see if my fears had any basis in reality. I realized that my first reaction was wrong.

    I’ve also realized that
    you’re really engaging in a lot of fear mongering, and I think that’s just wrong. As I said at the City Council meeting the other night, don’t tell me that I need to be afraid of something without solid evidence that it’s a real threat.

    And for the record, I live closer to the King St. location than you do, so it’s my neighborhood, too.

  5. Where’s the dishonesty? All this information was generated by the considerable efforts of government officials and citizens who care about where they live. For a detailed example of one of the studies citied, see this planning document from Islip.

  6. I note that you have not given a clear denial of being compensated by Capital Video.

    You are the cherry picker. You highlight a tiny handful of outliers in the study of secondary effects and dismiss the clear preponderance of the evidence substantiating them. It would appear that only 100% certainty would satisfy you. As we have discussed before, that is an unreasonable and inappropriate standard to apply to the study of human cities.

    Some of our opposition is definitely pro-porn. Look at their signs.

  7. You’re twisting things again. I am not demanding 100% certainty, though that would be nice. I’ve asked for evidence that Capital Video has impacted the towns where it has stores in the way that you say it will impact Northampton, but you haven’t provided it. I’ve asked for information about Hadley’s experience with secondary effects, but you haven’t provided that, either. Your response is that your evidence is “good enough.” I don’t see it that way, so you accuse me of working for Capital Video. If I did work for Capital Video (and I’m not saying that I do), would that mean that I am not worthy of asking questions? That sounds like an ad hominen argument to me.

  8. Capital Video’s impacts in Kittery have been obvious, resulting in court-approved legislation. Clearly many citizens of Springfield are also unhappy with their presence. Moreover, the ordinances approved by Northampton’s City Council don’t just apply to Capital Video, of course, but to a wide range of adult enterprises. It is enough to show, as we have, that secondary effects are commonly seen around these enterprises.

    It is unreasonable to expect small municipalities, let alone private citizens, to produce local scientific studies on demand. Fortunately, the courts agree. The evidence is in, there’s plenty of it, and conclusions can be drawn.

    If you are receiving compensation from Capital Video, then you are a web journalist with an undisclosed conflict of interest. Paid content belongs in the advertising section of the Masslive website, not the editorial portion.

    In your public statements, you have gone to considerable efforts to portray yourself as “a husband and father who lives near the King St. location”–i.e., as authentic family-friendly grass-roots opinion. I imagine people might perceive your arguments and credibility differently if you were in fact being paid to advance Capital Video’s cause.

    Capital Video is welcome to state their case, but not to present it in a deceptive wrapping through false fronts.

  9. If you’re going to accuse me of working for capital video and of being a liar, please provide proof. Short of that, I will expect an apology for your attempts to besmirch my reputation.

    And I’ll ask again: how do I know that you’re not working for Capital Video? You’ve certainly done a lot of promotion for them over the past couple of months.

  10. I accuse you of nothing. I asked you to state clearly whether you were receiving any kind of compensation from Capital Video. So far you have made no clear denial. I find that interesting.

    If you are not in fact being compensated by Capital Video, surely it would be easier for you to affirm this than for me to monitor all your financial transactions, something that, being a private citizen and not a government investigator, would be hard for me to do, if not illegal.

    On my part, I can state that neither I nor my wife have received compensation of any kind at any point from Capital Video, its affiliates, or its agents. Considering Mr. Nota’s attitude towards us on October 26, it’s absurd even to suggest it.

  11. You’re using a trick that has become common in political campaigns of late: accuse someone of being something they’re not and then force the person to prove their innocence. I am not going to defend myself against unfounded accusations. You don’t need my financial information to prove where I work. You’re good at research, why not do some and find out if I work for Capital Video?

    What I find interesting is the fact that you can’t conceive that someone who opposes your campaign could come to this conclusion on their own, without compensation from Capital Video.

    You have called my statements deceptive and false and, by accusing me of working for Capital Video, labeled me a pornographer, without proof.

    I’m still waiting for my apology.

  12. Sorry, Andrew, no apology. We haven’t done anything wrong. We just asked you a question. Unless you are in fact being compensated by Capital Video, I’m baffled by why you can’t answer it in a straightforward fashion. We are not asking to see your tax returns or bank statements.

    You are a journalist on Masslive. As such, certain standards are expected of you. As the BBC puts it: “It is essential that the integrity of the BBC and its programmes is not undermined by the outside activities or financial interests of any of its journalists… The onus is on the journalist to let the BBC know if they have any interests that could give rise to an actual or perceived conflict of interest.”

    Your obligation here is to the public, to not withhold material information that has a bearing on your credibility.

  13. I understand now. When someone from Capital Video calls you a name, it’s a a horrible thing and evidence that the name-caller is not fit to be a part of the Northampton community. But when you call someone else a name (because, to paraphrase you, no matter how you dress it up, that’s what you’re doing) it’s okay.

    I’m surprised that you would lower yourselves in this manner.

  14. Here’s the situation: I asked a journalist if he is being paid by a company he has been vigorously defending for weeks. He refuses to give a straight answer and responds with bluster and counterattacks. What should I conclude?

    Let’s recall last year’s controversy when it was disclosed that commentator Armstrong Williams was paid $240,000 by the federal Education Department to promote the No Child Left Behind Act. When journalists might be motivated by more than seeking the truth, the public is right to be concerned.

  15. I’m not a journalist. You should really educate yourself on what blogs are all about.

    I have not attacked you. In fact, unlike many of your opponents, I have never resorted to name calling, something you cannot lay claim to.

    It’s enlightening that the only conclusion you can come to is that I must be working for Capital Video; that certainly shows a lack of imagination on your part. Is this what you mean by “common sense”? Once again you engage in fallacious thinking here, specifically the either/or dilemma, as in, either someone agrees with you, or they must be working for Capital Video.

    And I’d also like to point out that I have not been vigorously defending Capital Video for weeks. Instead, I’ve been pointing out the weaknesses in your argument. It is possible to be against NoPorn AND to be against Capital Video, another point that you just can’t seem to grasp.

    Earlier in this thread I spoke of intellectual dishonesty. Well, you’ve certainly done a good job of demonstrating that for everyone.

    I think you’re smart enough to understand how ridiculous your accusation is. The dangerous part of what you’re doing is potentially reducing an intelligent discussion to nothing more than a name-calling exercise.

    Please enlighten me: how does one go about proving a negative? How would you have me, someone you’ve accused of being a liar, prove to you that I don’t work for Capital Video?

  16. You are a blogger hosted on Masslive, a major newspaper site serving our region. To me, that makes you a journalist.

    Even if you were a private citizen, it would be fair for me to ask if you had financial ties to Capital Video. Since you are a journalist, and Masslive profits by selling advertising next to your content, even higher standards apply. One of Masslive’s major assets is the credibility of its content providers. Without that, why should people go there, if their trust might be taken advantage of?

    Besides Capital Video attorneys Lesley Rich and Michael Pill, I can think of few people in the region who have been advancing Capital Video’s arguments and defending their behavior as stridently as you, whether on your blog, Your Stories Northampton, Talk Back Northampton, or in comments to this blog.

    I am not accusing you of lying. I am observing that a journalist is refusing to clarify whether a corporation might be improperly influencing his coverage.

    To prove you aren’t being compensated by Capital Video, it would help if you would state clearly that you are not in fact being compensated by them. Short of that, it would appear that this is indeed a live possibility.

  17. Wow. Now you get to define what I am. Brilliant. One of the criticisms of pornography is that is objectifies people and deprives them of their humanity. Apparently, you’re not above doing this yourselves, preferring to define me as you would like, not as I would like.

    I don’t answer to you. If the general public is interested in my line of work, they’re free to contact me.

    I guess by extension, the people who work/post at MoPorn and TalkBack must be working for Capital Video, too.

    If you get a chance, please provide me with Capital Video’s address so that I can send them an invoice. If you’re going to accuse me of working for them, I might as well hit them up for some money.

  18. I too have been accused of work for Capital Video.It seems that anyone that thinks differently or has another opinion,the automatically are affiliated with the video store.Anyone,including myself that either voices in favor of the store,or against your way of thinking,must be working for them.According to you anyway.I can tell you for a fact that I do NOT work for Capitol Video,I just happened to speak in favor of Capitol Video opening a store in Northampton.So please stop assuming that people with views other than yours work for them.

  19. paco, what’s been interesting in Mr. Shelffo’s case is that he hasn’t given a clear denial of being compensated by Capital Video. For someone who’s a web journalist on Masslive, that’s extraordinary. Mr. Shelffo even claims he’s not a journalist, and implies it wouldn’t be that big a deal if he was working for Capital Video:

    Shelffo: “If I did work for Capital Video (and I’m not saying that I do), would that mean that I am not worthy of asking questions?”

    We replied: “In your public statements, you have gone to considerable efforts to portray yourself as “a husband and father who lives near the King St. location”–i.e.,
    as authentic family-friendly grass-roots opinion. I imagine people
    might perceive your arguments and credibility differently if you were
    in fact being paid to advance Capital Video’s cause.

    “Capital Video is welcome to state their case, but not to present it in a deceptive wrapping through false fronts.”

  20. Now you’re going to offend me by suggesting that I’m not who I say I am. Can you explain what you mean when I say I’ve gone to “considerable lengths” to portray myself as a husband and a father who lives near King St.? Are you now suggesting that I’m not a husband and father who lives near King St.?

    Here’s another question for you: If I were some kind of a secret Capital Video plant hire to rail against NoPorn, do you really think I would hesitate to deny working for Capital Video?

  21. I’ve been rereading this exchange because Andrew made a big deal about it on MoPorn; I didn’t read it carefully until now.

    I have to say that your question to him about whether he works for Capitol Video seems to come from way out in left field; it’s a complete non sequitur. Your mention of “astroturf” in your FAQ is similarly strange.

    Do you have any evidence, direct or indirect, that Capitol Video does this sort of thing? I’d like to keep an open mind about your questions and suspicions, but it’s hard for me to imagine why you would suspect this sort of behavior. Do you have any special reason for thinking that Capitol Video pays people to post negative comments on your blog? Do you have any special reason for thinking that Andrew and Paco in particular are being paid by Capitol Video? On what basis does this possibility even cross your mind?

  22. Experienced activists have told me that it is unusual to see a significant number of pro-porn demonstrators at any event, and certainly not for several weeks running. In addition, I seem to recall some of the pro-porn demonstrators admitted to not even being from Northampton. I don’t know if Capital Video or anyone paid them to protest, but it’s a question worth asking.

    As for Andrew Shelffo, I have been having trouble reconciling his dogged anti-NPN stance with his professed desire not to see Capital Video establish itself at 135 King Street. It occurred to me that money or some other inappropriate influence might be a motivation. Since Capital Video owner Kenneth Guarino has had major ties to a capo in the Gambino family, and has gone to jail for conspiracy to evade taxes, it did not seem beyond the pale for Capital Video to secretly pay a local blogger to advocate for them.

    Astroturf, or “fake” grassroots opinion, is a well-known phenomenon in American politics. Capital Video might consider the sponsoring of bloggers, protesters or web posters to be a highly cost-effective way of spreading their message, creating the appearance of public support, and attempting to cast doubt on anti-porn arguments. The anonymity of web posts in particular would make them a tempting tool for disguised propaganda. We want people to be aware of this possibility, especially when protesters or posters won’t disclose their identity.

    I was surprised that Mr. Shelffo has not denied a financial tie to Capital Video, and that he responded to the question with bluster and counterquestions. For someone whose writing is presented as editorial content on Masslive, his stonewalling is unacceptable. If Masslive does not make it clear that its blogs are not to be used for Astroturf, other businesses might feel free to pay bloggers to advocate their views and products. The credibility and value of Masslive to the region would come into question.

    Citizen journalism is great, unless it’s fake citizen journalism.

  23. Adam
    This exchange is grotesque. You are not arguing a point you are impugning a person. Your fervor and your “when-did-you-stop-beating-your-wife” rhetorical cant diminishes your integrity and thereby your advocacy.

    Andrew Shelffo is due an apology. Address his opposition to your assertions at face value. Make your case and he’ll make his and whoever still cares will read and judge your cases on the merits of your arguments. This is merely sniping.

  24. In spite of your refusal to directly answer, I take it that you have no concrete evidence that any “astroturf” is taking place.

    There are lots of reasons why few pro-porn activists would attend anti-porn events. Perhaps they know when they’re unwanted. Perhaps they’re too busy masturbating. I don’t think you can really infer anything from the fact that you seem to have a lot of opposition on your blog. It’s much easier to post a comment here than it is to attend an anti-porn demonstration; your arguments are often flimsy and fallacious; I, for one, find your characteristic tone and the manner in which you respond to criticism or disagreement to be snotty, sanctimonious, and infuriating.

    Mr. Shelffo’s actions and attitudes aren’t completely mysterious. Although I can’t be positive, he clearly seems to object to your arguments, even if he thinks your conclusions are true. He seems also to think that your conclusions (and his earlier conclusions) are alarmist and unwarranted. He may also be motivated by the way he apparently dislikes you personally. But that doesn’t mean he’s being paid to oppose you by Capitol Video.

    Mr. Shelffo has disclosed his identity; he’s just refusing to directly answer your questions about whether he works for Capitol Video. He’s implied several times that he doesn’t. It seems likely that he finds the suggestion so insulting that he refuses to dignify it with a direct response. That reaction seems understandable. You are often arrogant and insulting to your opponents.

  25. Andrew is due no apology. We have accused him of nothing. We have asked him, a Masslive blogger, if he is being secretly sponsored by a company he is reporting on and giving opinions about. He has steadfastly refused to give a straight answer. For a web journalist–and that’s what he is–this is unacceptable.

    I generally assume that editorial content on Masslive is not secretly sponsored by interested parties. If I’m wrong, Masslive should make it clear what matter is advertorial, and who the sponsors are.

  26. When a web journalist is asked a straight question bearing on his media ethics, a straight answer is in order. Andrew has not provided this to date, so further investigation is warranted.

  27. When a “web journalist” is asked an insulting, infuriating, baseless question that is both insulting and completely without foundation, he is not compelled to give a straight answer. He may refuse to answer such an asinine question. When there is actual evidence of this kind of thing, then perhaps a straight answer is obligatory. But when there’s not, it’s not.

  28. I disagree. I am having a hard time understanding Mr. Shelffo’s goals or motivations. I would like him to rule out one possible motivation–money. It is unacceptable for journalists to be coy about conflicts of interest. It doesn’t matter if Mr. Shelffo doesn’t like the question or the questioner.

  29. I think it’s obvious what Mr. Shelffo’s motivations are. Based on what he’s written here and in his blog, it seems to me that he thinks you’re an alarmist, and he thinks that you play loose with the facts, and he thinks that you’re irresponsible, and he thinks that you’re arrogant and offensive. So he’s motivated by those opinions of you and of what you’re doing.

    So, anyway, if you have any evidence that Mr. Shelffo is being paid or compensated by Capitol Video, I hope you’ll share it. If there is none, and there isn’t, I hope you’ll say you’re sorry. That would be the courteous thing to do, and I know how upset you get when people aren’t courteous.

  30. A good investigator keeps their assumptions to a minimum. We don’t understand Mr. Shelffo’s stated motivations, since his actions could make his neighborhood less safe for his family for little benefit. His arguments are poorly founded in logic and evidence. His evasions and absurd counterarguments over the past 20 days have done little to reassure us of his authenticity.

    Mr. Shelffo is a web journalist, who enjoys the privilege of publishing on MassLive. As such, he has a duty to disclose material conflicts of interest. We asked him a straight question, with no bias one way or the other, and he refused to answer. Far from doing something wrong, we’re doing what a healthy press ought to do routinely. Must investigators always know in advance the answer to the questions they ask? As any police officer knows, it can be of great value to observe the reaction to a question.

    If the public doesn’t require clarity on this issue, it opens the possibility that interested parties of all kinds, from businesses to political factions, could infiltrate citizen journalism on MassLive. This would subvert what we understand to be one of MassLive’s goals for its blogs and features like Your Stories Northampton, which is to provide a forum for authentic grassroots reporting and opinion.

    Advertising should be confined to the clearly marked advertising areas of the MassLive site. If there is concern that advertising has infiltrated editorial portions of MassLive, that can diminish the credibility and value of the site. Mr. Shelffo’s bluster and evasions raise that concern.

    Astroturf, or public relations disguised as grassroots opinion, is a well-known phenomenon in Washington, DC. It would be a shame to see it grow in Western Massachusetts.

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