Pornography & Liberty
After several detours of bad logic around the most unmissable facts, Bret Stephens reaches this conclusion:
If America wants to tilt the balance of Muslim sentiment in its favor, it needs to stand up for its principles, its liberties and its friends—Israel, Playboy and Lady Gaga included.
Well, if Bret thinks his comfort with pornography distinguishes him from the radical extremists, he has another thing coming. According to the 9/11 Commission Report, pornography and other sex-related expenditures were among the main non-operational uses of the hijackers’ “blessed and honored” funds. This handy timeline has more:
In late February 2001, hijacker Ziad Jarrah frequents a strip club in Jacksonville, Florida (see February 25-March 4, 2001).
In July 2001, hijackers Hamza Alghamdi and Marwan Alshehhi make two purchases of “pornographic video and sex toys” from a Florida store (see July 4-27, 2001).
Some hijackers, including possibly Satam Al Suqami and Waleed and Wail Alshehri, sleep with prostitutes in the days before 9/11 (see September 7-11, 2001).
On September 10, three hijacker associates spend $200 to $300 apiece on lap dances and drinks in the Pink Pony, a Daytona Beach, Florida strip club. While the hijackers had left Florida by this time, Mohamed Atta is reported to have visited the same strip club, and these men appear to have had foreknowledge of the 9/11 attacks (see September 10, 2001). [Boston Herald, 10/10/2001]
Marwan Alshehhi and Mohamed Atta are seen entering the Hollywood, Florida, sports bar Shuckums already drunk. They proceed to drink even more hard alcohol there (see September 7, 2001).
Atta and Alshehhi are seen at Sunrise 251, a bar in Palm Beach, Florida. They spend $1,000 in 45 minutes on Krug and Perrier-Jouet champagne. Atta is with a tall busty brunette in her late twenties; Alshehhi is with a shortish blonde. Both women are known locally as regular companions of high-rollers. [Daily Mail, 9/16/2001]
A stripper at the Olympic Garden Topless Cabaret in Las Vegas, Nevada, later recalls Marwan Alshehhi being “cheap,” paying only $20 for a lap dance. [Cox News Service, 10/16/2001]
Several hijackers reportedly patronize the Nardone’s Go-Go Bar in Elizabeth, New Jersey. They are even seen there on the weekend before 9/11. [Boston Herald, 10/10/2001; Wall Street Journal, 10/16/2001]
Majed Moqed visits a porn shop on three occasions and rents a porn video. The mayor of Paterson, New Jersey, later says of the six hijackers who stayed there, “Nobody ever saw them at mosques, but they liked the go-go clubs.” [Newsday, 9/23/2001; Newsweek, 10/15/2001]
Nawaf Alhazmi and Khalid Almihdhar often frequent Cheetah’s, a nude bar in San Diego. [Los Angeles Times, 9/1/2002]
Marwan Alshehhi is possibly seen in the Cheetah nightclub in Pompado Beach, Florida, on July 1, 2001. Six dancers who work there later claim to have seen him. [Federal Bureau of Investigation, 10/2001, pp. 173 ]
Hamza Alghamdi watches a porn video on September 10. [Wall Street Journal, 10/16/2001]
None of this is at all surprising, but it does undercut Stephens’ suggestion that pornography somehow distinguishes Us from Them. The Muslim world has its own pornified pop culture. The production and consumption of pornography is intimately bound up with the operations of Muslim extremists, who use it as a means of communicating extremist messages and as a way to identify and recruit new members.
Stephens begins his article by disclosing that he has a Playboy in his office drawer. I take it that Stephens shares the common opinion that pornography, precisely because it has so little value as speech, is the greatest sign and guarantee of our liberty. After all, if a government refuses to restrict something as worthless as pornography, we can be fairly certain that more substantial forms of speech are protected. This is the kind of thinking that I’d like to see my more secular and libertarian-minded friends abandon. Whatever you think of pornography’s ill effects, its presence is no sure symbol for freedom.