Poor Carole Bass! Her first anti-porn piece caused the New Haven Advocate to downgrade her column and for her second one she must now suffer the indignity of being praised by us. What’s a self-respecting progressive alt-weekly journalist to do? 

Bass’ earlier piece celebrating the successful eviction by Bishop Jay Ramirez of a Milford porn shop led her pro-porn paper to change the subtitle of her column from “the Advocate ‘s Take on New Haven’s Quality of Life, Compiled by Carole Bass” to “Carole Bass’ take,” an apparent withdrawal of editorial endorsement for the views expressed therein. Undaunted, Bass wrote a cover article this week challenging the pro-porn mindset of the alternative press:

We think for ourselves, that is, on most issues. There is no Advocate party line on the politics of gentrification, or affirmative action, or Wal-Mart. Nor do we expect an uncritical embrace of entire genres of pop culture–automatically equating folk music with workers’ rights, say, or indie rock with grassroots creativity.

Why, then, do we reflexively pimp for porn? What’s so alternative about that?

Why, indeed? Could it be the money? Just how lucrative are the sex-related ads that are such a staple of alt-weeklies? Could the New Haven Advocate, for instance, survive without them or would it go belly-up if it rejected porn-related revenue? And if the latter is the case, then is the alternative press’ pro-porn position really based on principle or is “free speech” just a cover for protecting the bottom line?

Bass does not address these questions, at least not directly, but her take-down of alt-weeklies’ ideological support for pornography is so devastating that the answers are not hard to guess at:

The pornography industry, overwhelmingly run by men for men, is deeply exploitive. That’s well documented, and I won’t try to prove it here. It’s also a very big and very lucrative industry, driven–like much of capitalism–by greed. So the “alternative” media, champions of the underdog, should at the very least be suspicious of pornography.

Sure, there are women who like porn, including some who make a feminist case for how it’s sexually liberating and economically empowering. That’s a distinctly minority viewpoint. How many women do you know who think porn is a good thing? How many women do you think get rich and powerful from the porn industry? Are you rooting for your sisters and girlfriends and daughters to choose a career in pornography? With few exceptions, it’s an industry run by men, selling images of women to other men.

There is so much logic and clear thinking in Bass’ piece that she ends up sounding like someone else who published on a similar topic this week. Here, for instance, is the next paragraph of Bass’ article:

And porn is a commodity. It’s not a vehicle for art or ideas. Legally it may be considered “speech” or “expression,” but that’s sort of like referring to a one-night-stand as “making love.” There’s no love involved. There’s no speech. Porn is a product.

And this is from a wire story on Pope Benedict XVI’s new encyclical Deus Caritas Est (“God Is Love”):

Physical love, reduced to pure sex, becomes a debased commodity, “a mere `thing’ to be bought and sold,” the pope wrote; it must be enhanced by spiritual, selfless love for God and for one’s neighbor to achieve a higher and full meaning.

Most Advocate readers will probably not be reflecting on the wisdom of Pope Benedict this week. But at least they will be reading Carole Bass.

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