By Martin J. Kidston
Last week, a woman fresh off her bachelorette party took a roll of film into a Helenabased ShopKo to have it developed. Imagine her surprise when they told her they were going to keep it, not give it back, and destroy it after four years because they thought its contents were obscene and offensive in nature.
Pass this sad event off as temporary insanity call it a momentary lapse of reason. I use the terms temporary and momentary because, truthfully, I hope the chilling incident was just that an isolated event that will never repeat itself especially being that this sort of insanity can often prove contagious.
Insane is just what ShopKo officials must have been last week when they took prudish strides to protect our virgin society by confiscating the role of film after deeming it as offensive.
Shut your eyes and plug your ears, ShopKo said there were terrible things on that film that would, if the company developed it, constitute the dissemination of pornography, heaven forbid.
Oddly, when the retail bully took the film, it carefully chose the term confiscate over theft. However, the term confiscate doesnt seem to fit in this case because ShopKo took the film wrongfully, making the company one of thieves. Thieves steal, police confiscate whats wrong with this picture? Its quite likely that if I confiscated merchandise from ShopKo because I thought it was offensive, I would be charged as a thief, not as confiscator, whatever that is.
But this is a finicky matter. The real horror is the idea of a moral policing unit invading privacy and taking property because it fears the nature of the material.
In the case with ShopKo, the company took the film after calling it pornographic, obscene and offensive. There was no such thing on the film, but if there were, it is fortunately for the average citizen that these terms are loosely defined. And they should be.
Pornography, by definition, is sexually-oriented material, limited by law to adults. So when did sexually-oriented become offensive and obscene?
The twisting of terms that has cast a dark shadow over sexually-oriented material is unfortunate in itself, but luckily, the terms that have been used to define it, such as obscene and offensive, are still subjective in nature: What offends one may not offend the other.
While the cover of Cosmopolitan has been called offensive by some, others are willing to overlook such trivialities, which proves the variations in perspective.
Because there are many variations in terms, the idea of a community standard of decency has been established as the guideline. Hence, following the idea of a community standard, the question comes to beg: When did ShopKo become the representation of a community standard?
The last time I checked, a community was comprised of individuals, not a retail giant, a store clerk or a film developer. ShopKo should get off the righteous wagon of morality, as its ill-suited to decipher what is publicly offensive and what is not. The companys policy of not printing what it deems as offensive is one thing. However, to confiscate what it calls offensive is something entirely different.
ShopKo and all like-minded organizations, such as Montanans for Public Decency Through Law, should discontinue their quest to curtail the freedoms of others. Whether we like or despise the practices and wants of others, they have the innate right to their pursuits. And unless it involves an illegal act (obscenity is not illegal), the moral police should find something worth enforcing.