The Briefing

The Briefing

Thursday, August 26, 2021

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Transcript

It's Thursday, August 26, 2021.

I'm Albert Mohler, and this is The Briefing, a daily analysis of news and events from a Christian worldview.

Part

Well, That Didn’t Take Long — OnlyFans Reverses Decision to Ban Pornography for the Sake of "Inclusion"

As you're looking at the changing moral landscape in the United States, pornography, as we have seen, is one of the big indicators of the direction of that change, and also the confusion of our times. We're going to be looking at that confusion playing out in the headlines. How's this? On Monday of this week on The Briefing, we discussed the fact that the social media platform, OnlyFans, had announced that it was no longer going to allow commerce in explicit sexuality or pornography, the so-called adult entertainment or explicit entertainment industry. That was big news. And it was big news in a way that was quite revealing because the morality that was being considered was whether or not the banning of such pornography would be unjust to the adult entertainers who, otherwise, would have to find some other way to make an income in this time of the digital explosion, but also a time in which pornography reveals some of the most confused moral thinking of our times.

The big story we talked about on Monday was the fact that OnlyFans had made this announcement and there was outcry from those who were very much involved in the business saying, "This is going to push us to the margins. This is unfair. This is simply moral censorship." Especially on the part of the credit card companies that had supposedly put the pressure on OnlyFans, by saying that they were going to pull back their business. We know there was more to it than that because venture capitalists, we were told, were also reluctant to have their capital invested with a business that had this kind of moral undertone. But today, the headlines are very different because yesterday OnlyFans made headlines again by announcing that they were going to reverse their decision not to allow live pornography. It's really a stunning development. It's incredibly telling about our day and about the confusion.

For instance, NPR reported that the OnlyFans announcement had come yesterday with a headline, "Reversing A Planned Ban: OnlyFans Will Allow Pornography On Its Site After All." Now, what I appreciate about that headline is because whether they intended to do so or not, there's the open admission that pornography is the issue now that's clarifying in itself. Pornography is the issue, and at least in this case, NPR actually used the word pornography, not adult entertainment, but pornography, not explicit, but rather pornography. That's what it is. The statement coming from OnlyFans yesterday said this, "We have secured assurances necessary to support our diverse creator community and have suspended the planned October 1 policy change. OnlyFans stands for inclusion," said the statement, "and we will continue to provide a home for all creators."

Now, I want to tell you what that sentence is. That sentence is not only immoral, it is a lie. It is absolutely a lie. Because the statement is, "We will continue to provide a home for all creators." I assure you right now, that is not true. By the way, we should never hope that it should be true. There are some things that no social media platform, legally or morally, could be allowed, such as abusive or exploitive behavior when it comes to children. But nonetheless, the statement shows you the moral posturing of the left in these days. "OnlyFans stands for inclusion and we will continue to provide a home for all creators." Inclusion. Now, just notice what we're talking about here under this moral mandate of inclusion. Who's included? Well, pornographers are included because we are told that they are no longer pornographers, they are workers in the sex industry.

New York Times reporter, Jacob Bernstein, speaking of the situation when OnlyFans said it would not allow pornography said, "It is hard to overstate the degree to which OnlyFans reversed the general downward trajectory of being an adult entertainment performer." That's an amazing sentence. Once again, here you have the New York Times saying, "Before OnlyFans said it wasn't going to allow pornography, it was basically, single-handedly, largely responsible for reversing what's described here as the general downward trajectory of being an adult entertainment performer." What in the world can that mean? In moral terms, a downward trajectory? No, that is not what that sentence means. It means financial terms. That it was OnlyFans that by creating a financial model for pornographers to move online and even during COVID for what amounts to online prostitution and move online when it comes to paying for sex acts, well, that we are told was the great achievement of OnlyFans. It, "reversed the general downward trajectory of being an adult entertainment performer."

But then we are told, having made the announcement on Monday, that it was not going to allow pornography. OnlyFans basically became a part of that general downward trajectory. But now it's reversed itself. It is going to allow pornography. So, it is back on track to being largely responsible for reversing, "the general downward trajectory of being an adult entertainment performer." This article in the New York Times is fascinating in so many ways. One of the statements is the change, that is the reversal of the policy now to allow pornography, "was in part because of the backlash of creators who were beginning to leave the platform in numbers." But now, notice the language. Always pay close attention to the language. The language begins by talking about adult entertainment performers. And then again, NPR was at least clear enough to use the word pornography, but by the time you go just a few paragraphs into this New York Time article, the adult entertainment performer, known otherwise as a pornographer, is now a creator, a cultural, creative, and artist.

You can see where this is going. Also, showing the kind of moral contrition that these companies are now called to when they offended the left, having reversed its policy to ban pornography, now that it's going to actually platform pornography, the company apologized to the creators saying basically, "Thank you to everyone for making your voices heard." It's an amazing sign. That's another thing you see in woke capitalism. You see so many of these companies falling over themselves to say, "We accidentally did the right thing. We're going to reverse that. Don't worry, we'll never do that right thing again. We're going to apologize for ever having done the right thing, and we're going to thank you for making your voices heard." One of the so-called content creator cited by the New York Times in this article said that the OnlyFans site had basically succumbed to pressure from Christian conservatives and others in announcing the ban on pornography that it has now reversed.

We are told that the credit card companies played their part, but that in refusing to allow their payment processing programs to be used for pornography. They were, "arguably playing into the hands of religious conservatives." Fascinating. You knew this was coming. You just need to buckle your seat belt and wait for the ride. It's coming. Blame this on Christian conservatives. Now, notice, just imagine what this implies, that Christian conservatives now have incredible influence against corporate America, such as Visa, MasterCard, American Express. The answer to that is, it's ludicrous. You look at the cultural agenda being fueled and funded by those companies. They are not showing the slightest bit of deference to conservative Christians. But what you see here is the fact that this is signaling. It happens in the larger societies. The way of putting it in this article to say, "If you're against pornography, then you're one of those. You must be some kind of religious zealot. You must be a fundamentalist. You must be someone who is just anti-sex, and you are one of the moral police trying to turn America into a great cartoon or The Handmaid's Tale."

Part

A Key Question: If You’re Against Those Who Reject Sexual Exploitation, Then Who Are You For?

Similarly, another article of the New York Times by Spencer Bokat-Lindell was headlined "How OnlyFans Became the Latest Casualty of the War on Porn." The latest casualty. Now, notice the moral language here. Now, the pornography industry is described as a casualty of a war on porn. And, of course, who's driving that war on porn? Well, the argument is, of course, it is cultural and especially Christian conservatives. But here's where we need to note something, and to his credit, Spencer Bokat-Lindell does acknowledge this. The war on porn is not being driven entirely by the right. It's not being driven entirely by Christian conservatives. It is also being driven to a considerable degree by many feminist activists, and by those who are opposing sex trafficking and the exploitation of women.

Now, that's a very interesting thing to watch. You're talking about one of the biggest cultural, moral issues of our time. You might not think so, but just consider these headlines that tells you this really is a hugely important issue. Because now, we have the combination of pornography and the entire adult entertainment industry, and you also have the sex trafficking issue, and just consider how big this is. Now, we're being told in this article that this war on porn has taken yet another casualty, that will be OnlyFans, but hey, OnlyFans has announced it's not going to be a casualty, it is going to be back in the porn business, don't worry. Now, why is there this unique combination of people on the right and on the left, conservatives and liberals, feminist activists, and yes, Christians so concerned about this issue? Well, it's because we're not being driven by the very same moral impulses, but they are, in combination, rightly understood as condemning pornography as immoral.

That's right. Moral language, immoral, not just wrong, not just inconvenient, but wrong. Now, why did the feminist activists say it's wrong? Now, they say it's wrong because of the objectification of women. Now, here, we're talking about the fact that most of the pornography, at least in terms of the American legal conversation, most of it, in this case, has had to do over long-standing concerns with women as the objects of the pornography. They are being objectified. Now, by the way, conservative Christians should share that concern. We should share that concern with the most ardent, ideologically, secular feminist activists. And you say, "How do we share common ground there?" It is because we believe the human beings being made in the image of God have an inherent dignity. And that inherent dignity means that no human being, whatever age, whether male or female, under any circumstance, should be reduced to mere objectification for the use of another ever, period.

The problem with the feminist activists on this is that the only argument that can really make is the objectification argument. Christians understand that it's a far more comprehensive argument because it's not just about the objectification of the person being portrayed, person or persons, we should say, being portrayed in the pornography, it is also the moral degradation of the consumer or the observer of pornography. At every dimension, from every angle, with every participant, Christians understand that it is porneia, the Greek word that is found in the New Testament, rightly understood as pornography. That means the incitement of wrongful desire or the wrongful incitement of desire. It is the intentional, commercialized, exploitative corruption of the image of God.

It is the corruption of the rightful instinct that God has put in men and women, the one for the other, as the Book of Common Prayer says. We're also told in this article by Melissa Gira Grant that when conservative Christians are opposing pornography and doing so against sexual exploitation, they're merely just rebranding. We're merely just repackaging our culture war. Now, here's what's interesting. You see where the left now has itself in a very interesting quandary. Do they believe that sexual exploitation is wrong or not? Do they believe that the objectification of people for sexuality is wrong or not? Because at the very same time, they want to argue that exploitation's wrong. They want to say that, "Well, exploitation's in the eye of the beholder." If you have a content creator who's an adult performer, who's basically taking online explicit sex into a commercial product for profit, well, that could just be self-expression.

And it would be wrong given the ethic of sexual liberalism to say that anything's wrong. You can simply say that it's consensual, you have adults involved in this, you have credit card payments to make everything fair, everybody gets paid. What could be the moral damage? That article in The New Republic by Melissa Gira Grant actually includes an absolutely fascinating paragraph. Listen to this. "Over the last two decades, as the anti-porn groups of the 1980s and 1990s proved to have failed, and as the Christian right sought to appeal to a younger generation, many such organizations have sought to redefine their sexual purity mission as one of social justice. Morality in the Media, an anti-porn group founded in the 1960s, has rebranded as the National Center on Sexual Exploitation." The paragraph ends, "It is among the religious right groups that have added sex trafficking to their more traditional agendas targeting abortion and LGBTQ rights."

Now, there's something else fascinating to watch here. This anti-porn movement is now so powerful that it has also chosen as one of its targets Nicholas Kristof, the longtime columnist for the New York Times, clearly a man of the left, who has written many pieces condemning pornography because of the sexual exploitation, by the way, on a global basis of especially women and children, while he's being derided as basically someone who exaggerates the case and doesn't concede the fact that there could be many people who were doing this out of their own cultural creativity, their own self-expression, their own sexual liberation, and to their own right to make themselves into objects of sexual desire so long as they make a profit. But that raises the huge issue we just have to address to the left these days, and the moral confusion of its absolute rejection of any kind of sexual sanity.

If you are against the groups that are against sexual exploitation, then who are you? There are a couple of other issues we simply need to note here. One is the fact that there are people who are saying, "Look, pornography is just such a thing in our culture. It's just so pervasive, it's unavoidable. We simply ought to teach people how to use it responsibly." This is why when we talked recently on The Briefing about liberal sex education being foisted on so many of our children and teenagers, one of the things that showed up in New York City is that at least some parents thought that they did not want their children to be taught pornography literacy, so-called porn literacy. There, you see the absolute insanity of where this moral and sexual revolution is leading us. Finally, on this issue, there are so many times we reflect upon how much time it takes or how little time it takes to see certain big moral changes take place.

The legalization of marijuana had first been going on for something like 50 years.  The development of same-sex marriage, you're really looking at about a 20-year-period. The cultural victories of the LGBTQ revolution's still unfolding. Well, at least you're talking about two generations, something like 40 years of moral activism. When you are talking about OnlyFans and its position on pornography, the moral revolution has taken all of, well, something like three or four days.

Part

The Death Penalty and the Liberal Crisis: Will the Biden Administration Uphold the Death Penalty Against Dylan Roof?

But next, another big story comes out of a Federal Appeals Court. In this case, the Fourth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, where a three-judge panel has upheld the death sentence for Dylann Roof. You'll recall that back in 2015, he went into an African-American church and intentionally committed mass murder. He was found guilty in the Federal Court of nine different murders.

He was sentenced to nine life sentences, but he was also the first person in American history to be given the death sentence for federal hate crimes since he had explicitly targeted Black worshipers in that service. And he made that very clear, he had indicated premeditation, he affirmed it even when he represented himself in court as his own attorney. Subsequent to the death sentence being handed down, attorneys assigned for Dylann Roof had gone into the Federal Courts arguing that he was wrongly convicted, and that the penalties and sentences against him should be struck down including the death sentence since he had improperly represented himself. By the way, just in terms of law, in most jurisdictions, if you argue that you are going to be your own attorney, and the judge rules that you are competent to make that decision, which according to American legal tradition is your right, but if you make that decision, it is extremely difficult in any jurisdiction to come back and make an appeal based upon the fact that you had an inadequate attorney.

But one of the most interesting aspects of the news concerning Dylann Roof and this death sentence is the fact that even as this Federal Court panel has upheld the death sentence, the question is whether it will ever take place because President Joe Biden and Attorney General Merrick Garland have indicated that they do not intend to move forward on any executions regardless of who it is, what is the crime, and the nature of the sentence and the circumstances. Now, this is going to lead to a very interesting situation. Now, on the pornography issue, we saw there were there's consternation on the left because they can't keep their argument straight. On the death penalty in this case, it's something very interesting. Just consider for example, the federal death penalty that was handed down in the case of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, one of the Boston Marathon bombers, again, a case of premeditated mass murder.

The state of Massachusetts did not have a death penalty so the prosecutors actually took the case into Federal Court so that he could be given a death sentence, which he was, and even the people of Massachusetts overwhelmingly said that that was the only just verdict and the only just sentence. The left is in a very interesting quandary right now on multiple fronts. One of them has to do with the fact that it is demanding that certain crimes be recognized for the heinous crimes that they are. And yet, at the very same time, it's arguing against the death penalty as a legitimate penalty for any kind of crime. And it just means any kind of crime. That includes mass murder and includes Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, and if you just take the logic of the current administration's position on the death penalty, it includes Dylann Roof.

Now, this is going to put the Biden administration in a very interesting quandary. Which is it going to stand by, its argument about the heinousness of hate crimes or its argument against the federal death penalty? Now, by the way, when you look at the death penalty, at least something like 6 out of 10 Americans believe it's legitimate. Now, that doesn't make it right, it doesn't make it wrong. We don't believe in morality by poll. We do believe in somewhat understanding the culture by those surveys. But the issue of capital punishment, remember for Christians, comes down once again to the image of God, as God himself made very clear in Genesis 9, if you try to destroy the image of God and a fellow human being, if you commit premeditated homicide, then you forfeit your own right to live. But there's something else that's very interesting going on right now.

Even as the Democratic Party has largely lost its confidence in the federal death penalty, it really doesn't know what to do in trying to come up with some kind of commensurate penalty that wouldn't be a death penalty. Now, if you go back to the 1960s, the arguments that emerged against the death penalty were basically two. Number one, that it is a cruel and unusual punishment and thus unconstitutional. The obvious problem with that is that the framers of the constitution clearly believed in capital punishment, and not only that created a structure of law that didn't just allow it but required it for capital crimes, for particularly horrible crimes. The second argument made against the death penalty is that it is unfair, it's unjust, because it is disproportionately applied. There are far more African-Americans per capita who are handed death sentences than there are white Americans. In terms of the percentage, is that a legitimate criticism of the death penalty? Well, yes and no.

Yes, it most certainly is a legit intimate and very important, morally mandatory criticism of the application of the death penalty. The society that would reveal those kinds of disproportionate numbers when you're looking at genuinely similar cases is unjust. But it's also very evident that in the United States judicial system, the biggest problem with injustice in the death penalty is based upon financial ability. The reality is that if a defendant is wealthy enough, they are able put together a defense that obscures the issues and at least calls into question so much evidence that it becomes nearly impossible for the death penalty, eventually, to be applied. But morally serious people have to separate the question as to whether or not the application of the penalty is unjust or the penalty itself is unjust. That raises another issue. You have had many people who have said, "In the United States, we need to just stop executing murderers and instead hand down sentences of life without parole."

Now, many Americans about that logic that's interesting in and of itself, but now you have the left, not only in the United States, but on a global basis, at least in terms of many organizations through the United Nations, but also the pope, Pope Francis making the statement that life sentences without parole are also inhumane, inhuman and unjust. So, that just means that evidently, what Americans were told is the alternative to the death penalty is itself not going to be accepted by many on the left as a genuine or a just alternative. Which means you're not just looking at the eradication of the death penalty, you're really looking at a society that is going to be unwilling to seriously prosecute murder or to imprison murderers. Finally, on this issue, we sometimes talk about just the common grace of the fact that God has implanted much moral knowledge in human beings simply by being made in his image.

And so, when you think about this, it's very interesting that on an issue like the death penalty, for example, if you press people, they often don't mean what they say. Even an article that recently appeared in the Los Angeles Times says that people who are answering, say, a machine question about the death penalty, support it to a greater degree than if a human being's asking the question that tells you that there's a social context there. But there's something else going on here, and that is that even when people insist that they are against the death penalty, they will often turn around and say, "Well, in that case, it would be mandatory. In that case, it would make sense." In the Boston Marathon bombing, of course, the death penalty is the only thing that would fit looking at what took place. In the horrible massacre in Charleston by Dylann Roof, yes, of course, in that case, the death penalty would be rightly applied. The big issue is this. If the death penalty is appropriate in any case, then it is not categorically wrong.

What combines all the issues we've talked about today is human dignity. As we conclude, let's just remind ourselves of what we know. If you deny the Creator who has made us in his image, there is no consistent way to hold on to human dignity, and certainly in our culture, we're not holding onto it for long.

Thanks for listening to The Briefing.

For more information, go to my website at albertmohler.com. You can find me on Twitter by going to twitter.com/albertmohler. For information on The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, go to sbts.edu. For information on Boyce College, just go to boycecollege.com.

I'll meet you again tomorrow for The Briefing.

R. Albert Mohler, Jr.

R. Albert Mohler, Jr.

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