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Do Republicans really want to ban pornography? Not exactly, but thanks to the politics of party platforms and the ease of freaking out online, a proposed official statement on the “public menace” of porn has typically chiller people gearing up to freak out.


To be sure, the relevant language offered for the new platform is broad and vague enough to make anyone wonder just what it means. “Pornography, with [its] harmful effects, especially on children, has become a public health crisis that is destroying the life of millions,” it warns. “We encourage states to continue to fight this public menace and pledge our commitment to children’s safety and wellbeing.”

It’s not a call for specific change. It’s conspicuously light on details. But even at a time when the topic of porn and sex addiction has crept toward the mainstream, the phrasing wades the Republican Party into thorny, contentious, and muddled debates over the nature of online abuse, the sources of self-harm, and the character of consent.

So why bother? Because a few delegates cared enough to push it through, in a fleeting triumph of symbolism over substance. For some activists, it’s their best chance to make a big impression, even if it’s certain to amount to nothing more.

Over the objections of fellow subcommittee members, for instance, another set of stalwarts just managed to force a tough plank on the issue of transgender bathroom use into the proposed GOP platform. Meanwhile, Donald Trump has publicly offered Caitlyn Jenner the use of any bathroom on Trump properties worldwide. The national party might ultimately feel compelled to weigh in on porn. But for many Republicans, the rule of hot takes will apply: attention won’t last, action won’t be taken, and life will go on.

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