December 16, 2008

"Explicitly moral, obscenely didactic, showcasing a perversely distorted view of the American legal system..."

"... justice porn is a potent, ubiquitous presence in our lives.... justice porn constantly preaches doctrines of prudence, responsibility, and self-empowerment..."

That doesn't sound very porn-like. Why is Greg Beato analogizing TV judge shows to pornography? Is it like those fliers one occasionally still sees posted around campus that begin with -- in large print -- "SEX" and continue -- in small print -- "now that I have your attention"?

Beato's real point is that the TV judge shows teach people to think of their disputes as lawsuits, and he -- as befits his forum in Reason magazine -- doesn't like litigiousness.
Instead of making us more responsible citizens, more inclined to rely on our own good judgment rather than public institutions, justice porn popularizes the idea that the court system is a legitimate venue for mending friendships, punishing moral (but not criminal) transgressions, and seeking inspirational hugs from stern but caring authority figures. At the same time, it positions judges as unquestionable authorities with unlimited power to scrutinize our lives.
Fair enough. Good point. I'm just distracted by trying to think about how pornography does something like that? It seems to me that pornography teaches men to take care of their problems on their own.


tim maguire said...

I assume he is using "porn" as a way of describing an unhealthy fascination--like weather porn and disaster porn on the news. In this case, an unhealthy, even prurient interest in other people's disputes.

Brian O'Connell said...

Greg Beato is using porn in the sense of an experience being unadulterated, or pure, and liable to abuse through overindulgence- a usage which is becoming more common. The word is becoming detached from the content of the original porn. I've heard it used this way in many contexts. People also use the word crack this way.

I watch a few of those judge shows. They haven't made me more litigious- I think they've made me more aware of responsibilities. Cheezy as some of them are, in most cases the judge takes a big mess of a problem and identifies one or more wrong steps taken by the participants. Sometimes I think, I might have done that- or in fact did. So it can give me something to think about. Plus, all the trashy people!

Henry Buck said...

Why do you view the male sexual urge as a "problem"?

Lem said...

It seems to me that pornography teaches men to take care of their problems on their own.

Hardly ;)

Sofa King said...

Why do you view the male sexual urge as a "problem"?

I think she was presuming that frustrated sexual urges are "problem" for many(most?) males(people?) - one that porn is uniquely suited to "solve."

Meade said...

I think the analogy is: TV judge shows is to pornography as justice is to healthy sexual love.

He's using the term porn to mean ersatz, exploitive, addictive, and ultimately unsatisfying in that it corrupts one's perception of, approach to, and attainment of the real thing.

Lem said...

I would have a separate porn tag.

Porn is not sex. not the good kind anyway.

Meade said...

Wait - I said that wrong. Should be: TV judge shows is to justice as pornography is to healthy sexual love.

Damn! There went my perfect SAT verbal score.

rhhardin said...

It's soap opera porn.

The analogy is when for the audience, it takes over all the terrain; which is also where porn becomes a problem.

This just happens to be for women.

Meade said...

"It's soap opera porn."

I disagree. It's: soap opera IS porn.

EDH said...

I think a better analogy with these Judge Shows is the barker outside an old-time strip club trying to entice passers by to come joint the fun (read: empowerment). And with a hint of freak show thrown in.

Hence, no surprise the commercial interests interested in supporting this fare are heavy with ambulance chasers, SSI disability firms, structured settlement and pay day loan sharks.

Aside, don't libertarians as a rule prefer private causes of action as the substitute for government regulation?

reader_iam said...

pornography (n.)
1857,"description of prostitutes," from Fr. pornographie, from Gk. pornographos "(one) writing of prostitutes," from porne "prostitute," originally "bought, purchased" (with an original notion, probably of "female slave sold for prostitution;" related to pernanai "to sell," from PIE root per- "to traffic in, to sell," cf. L. pretium "price") + graphein "to write." Originally used of classical art and writing; application to modern examples began 1880s. Main modern meaning "salacious writing or pictures" represents a slight shift from the etymology, though classical depictions of prostitution usually had this quality.


(porn [n.]
1962, abbreviation of pornography [q.v.]. Porno [adj.] is attested from 1952.
bestiality [n.]
1393, from O.Fr. bestial [13c.], from L. bestialis "like a beast," from bestia [see beast]. Sense of "below the dignity of a human" is from c.1400. Bestiality "unnatural connection with a beast" is first attested 1611; OED 2nd ed. marks this usage as obsolete, but that was before the proliferation of porn spam.
{Emphasis Added}

Heh! LOL.)

Meade said...

"Aside, don't libertarians as a rule prefer private causes of action as the substitute for government regulation?"

I don't think Beato is arguing for more government regulation, do you? He's just freely mocking a part of the culture addicted to taking their petty private causes public and he's lamenting how that has led not only to even more government but even worse more government.

Lem said...

The analogy is when for the audience, it takes over all the terrain; which is also where porn becomes a problem.

Pork porn ;)

Christy said...

I always feel sordid when the TV lands on a judge show. Is that a symptom of porn?

Dad was a courtroom groupie. He watched "Divorce Court" avidly. He'd be in hog heaven with today's plethora of judge shows.
Not long after Dad retired, my lawyer cousin fainted dead away while addressing a judge. When doctors wouldn't let her drive, Dad happily chauffeured her to courthouses all over East Tennessee for the next 6 months. Cousin told me he would always find a case to interest him (not necessarily hers) while she did her thing.

When I was a kid he would be the first person family and friends would call when anyone got locked up, so I suspect he had a lifelong fascination with courts and connections with those who worked there. Courts on TV was just icing on the cake.

ricpic said...

There's Gold In Them Thar Scales

Judge Judy has a private jet,
The People's Court pays big.
Vox populi? You bet!
Ka-ching Ka-ching that powdered wig.

Lem said...

Judge Wapner was-da bomb.

A pornographer showed up one time being sued for some medical expenses by a porn actress he had worked with (dont ask me how I know).
She claimed they had lived together. They didn’t get in to the details ;)

Were they using the show? Or was the show using them?

There is really no good answer to that.

EDH said...

I don't think Beato is arguing for more government regulation, do you?

No, but libertarians who want to curtail government regulation tend to argue that private litigation is a viable substitute, which would contradict Beato's seeming critique of litigation.

Of course, litigation over silly matters is the other extreme and he may just oppose that.

BTW, Beato's name reminds me of the 1946 song by Hoagy Carmichael that was declared the World's Longest Song Title by the Guiness Book of World Records:

I'm a Cranky Old Yank, in a Clanky Old Tank, on the Streets of Yokahama with My Honolulu Mama, Doing Those Beat-o, Beat-o, Flat on My Seat-o, Hirohito Blues.

rhhardin said...

There's Stanley Cavell on causes of action, from a lit crit and philosophy point of view.

Edgehopper said...

I've actually been on both sides of the small claims courtroom, sort of--mediated a number of cases in law school, and filed a claim against a company (Gamestop) while studying for the bar. People's Court, at least, is a pretty realistic portrayal of small claims court cases, and if it's unrealistic, it's only unrealistic in the judge spending too much time on each case. This was in Brooklyn, incidentally.

When I watch People's Court, I frequently see cases that are carbon copies of ones I've mediated. The most common scenario is the following:

* Alice and Bob are relatively poor.
* Alice has some sort of continuing obligation on a chattel, such as a cell phone rental, a leased car, or something like that.
* Alice doesn't want the chattel anymore, and gives it to Bob with the understanding that Bob will pay the lease/monthly fee/rent.
* Bob doesn't pay the 3rd party.
* 3rd party comes after Alice, adding extra fees and charges.
* Alice sues Bob in small claims court.

John Burgess said...

So... when I read a court decision, then, is it just indulging in a higher quality porn?

If I listen to the oral arguments made in the USSC, is that just 'oral sex', and not the real deal?

Anyway, I'd rather watch where the bad guys get jammed by the police--COPS, Party Heat, etc. That's the raw stuff, without a chance for second thought, other than by the film editor, of course.