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The year was 1873, the beginning of the American Gilded Age. The nation was exhausted by the Civil War. Robber barons were stealing public lands, importing cheap workers from abroad to build (and die on) the railroads, committing bank and securities fraud, and hiring thugs to beat up the newly organizing labor unions. The nation's economic structure was shifting from a very rough equality to an hourglass, with most of the wealth up top and most of the people on the bottom. In response to all this economic dislocation and misery, at least one reformer knew exactly how to restore America's moral greatness. At Anthony Comstock's urgings, Congress made it a federal crime to send "obscene, lewd, or lascivious" material (i.e., pamphlets about contraception or sexually transmitted disease, condoms, "French" playing cards) through the U.S. mail. Comstockery is alive and well in today's United States. When citizens distract themselves from economic disruption by focusing not on common matters of public policy but on personal matters of sexual purity, social historians call it a "moral panic"--and, from the Start report, which almost cost us a president, to the proposed Federal Marriage Amendment, the U.S. has had a runaway panic on its hands for at least a decade. Unfortunately, American journalism is making it worse--in part by covering precisely the wrong stories about sex and politics. Since Senator Gary Hart's infamous monkey business in the 1980s, there have been plenty of discussions about where the serious media should draw the line on coverage of public officials' sexual behavior. When is a scandal merely voyeurism, and when is it an invitation for investigative journalism? In theory, most of us agree: on the one hand, the media should never cover consensual and private adult behavior, even when it might seem unsavory. On the other, the media should always cover coercive or criminal behavior, especially when it abuses public power or reveals official hypocrisy. But in practice, for the last decade, the American media have been...
Source Citation (MLA 8 th Edition)
Graff, E.J. "The line on sex: when is a scandal merely voyeurism?" Columbia Journalism Review, vol. 44, no. 3, 2005, p. 8+. Academic OneFile, Accessed 22 Nov. 2018.
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