A dose of reality is good for what ails you, and it's even better for those characters who insist on ailing me.

Once upon a time, there was a group of censorship activists called Oklahomans Against Pornography, led by an old-school thunderer named George Harper. Perhaps needless to say, Mr Harper wasn't on my list of favorite people, but at least you knew where he and his organization stood. Then George Harper died, and OAP, after flailing around helplessly for a few months, followed him to the dustbin of history.

But you can't keep a bad cause down, and the censors eventually regrouped under the dubious name Oklahomans for Children and Families, in keeping with the ongoing tendency of activist groups to cloak themselves in the most glowing terms possible while concealing their agenda. Heading up the new group was Bob Anderson, a gentleman whose enthusiasm for older, happier times seems constantly to be getting in the way of having to live in newer and presumably unhappier times. I've met Mr Anderson; he radiates a lot of that kindly-grandfather aura, almost enough to offset his cluelessness. We tangled briefly in January 1995, at a public hearing on a bill proposed by a state legislator which would place restrictions on local BBS systems. The legislator, Tulsa Republican Fred Perry, while clearly devoted to his cause, did listen to the mass of modemers; Bob Anderson and his minions, meanwhile, handed out promotional pamphlets for OCAF, which blamed everything from dysfunctional families to global warming on pornography, a notion that might actually have persuaded some people in a state that continues to elect Bill Graves (R-Oklahoma City) to its legislature, a man who once argued on the floor of the state House that feminism causes breast cancer.

OCAF managed to stay out of trouble for a while after that, but 1997 saw them back in the news again. The State Fair board approved an application for use of the Arena for a concert by the Marilyn Manson band, which prompted the usual hissy fits. OCAF circulated a petition to get the board to cancel the concert; the board replied that it wasn't going to do any such thing. The fits got hissier, but that was the end of it. The concert was held as scheduled, Oklahoma City police assigned to observe reported nothing out of hand, and The Daily Oklahoman, which normally sides with OCAF, complained that the OCAF effort resulted mostly in higher ticket sales for Marilyn Manson.

The other OCAF project this spring was to get the Metropolitan Library System to remove, or at least restrict, a long list of materials. MLS head Lee Brawner scoffed. OCAF responded by threatening to organize opposition to the library's annual millage, which must be approved by voters each spring. Whatever organization they did, it didn't work; the millage passed, as usual, by about two to one. A hearing has been scheduled to consider a different set of restrictions on youth access, but restricting youth access to some materials might conceivably be defensible — and this time, at least, no one is talking about cutting off adult access. From this desk, it appears as though what will come about is a system of denial by default — if you're under age X, you don't get to check out such-and-such unless you have a note from the parental units. The big argument will be over the value of X, which I think should be around 12 (actually, I'd prefer zero — God forbid we should give any ideas to fetuses), and which OCAF probably thinks should be around 125.

Perhaps needless to say, the new proposals are far from ideal, but anything is better than turning the whole system over to the Thou-Shalt-Not crowd. And I wish to state for the record that I did not, contrary to what you might have heard, take it upon myself to see that four copies of the King James Version were reshelved in the Juvenile Fiction section.

The Vent

#45
17 March 1997

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 Copyright © 1997 by Charles G. Hill