Film Review – Traffic Control: The People’s War on Internet Porn

I just picked up a copy of the documentary Traffic Control: The People’s War on Internet Porn. In a word: it was excellent. I highly recommend picking up a copy.

(Watch the trailer at the bottom on this post to get a better feel of the film.)

From January to November 2006, Bryan Hall and his team traveled the US, capturing hundreds of hours of footage. They interviewed some of the top adult entertainment promoters, members of the Free Speech Coalition, porn addicts, business owners, ex-porn stars, technology experts, doctors, psychological experts, children, and hundreds of teenagers.

The film seeks to capture the debate around First Amendment rights and our society’s obligation to protect children from unwanted and graphic Internet content. The film followed the efforts of Ralph Yarro and his controversial piece of legislation called the Internet Community Port Act (CP80 Initiative).

The film makes a great effort to take a stand against Internet pornography, but not as a religious or moral issue. Instead they emphasize the widespread exposure children have to pornography in our culture as a mental health crisis.

John Carosella, Vice President of Content Control Blue Coat System, says in the documentary it is high time for our best legal minds and best mental health minds to get together to craft a law that is consistent with the type of laws that our government has made about tobacco and alcohol restrictions. He says that before we can have community action, we need to see it as a community issue.

Carosella points out a question that people often ask about this problem: Shouldn’t the pornography producers be stakeholders in solving this? He agrees that they should, but thinks that we can’t wait for them to lead the way in solving this problem.  “They have an inherent conflict of interest,” Carosella says. “They want to get you to use pornography. And if they can get you to use ‘accidentally’ when you’re young and get you hooked ‘accidentally’ when you’re young . . .” Carosella pauses with a smirk, “Let’s not hold our breath waiting for the adult content providers to build a bulletproof system.”

I had a chance to show the film to an ethics class at the local college and hear some the students’ reactions.

Many students were struck by the interviews with the teens. They were shocked by the prevalence of pornography and sexual activity among the teens. Students were especially shocked when they heard about the large number of teens that have started making their own porn, mimicking what they see on the Internet.

A number of students commented about how informative the interviews with Dr. Dean Belnap were. Belnap is a Fellow in the American Psychiatric Association and has done extensive research in the area of how viewing pornography affects the brain, and in particular how it affects the stages of psycho-sexual development in minors. I personally found the information presented to be very compelling.

Nearly every student commented about the interviews with two ex-porn stars, Shelley Lubben and John Johnson. These two former adult-industry workers give a behind-the-scenes look at the pornography industry. They retell a number of their own disturbing experiences in the adult industry. Some of the students were deeply moved by their stories, their sexually abusive pasts, the emotional trauma they encountered in the industry, and how they eventually got out.

I spent most of the class asking students to respond to some of the statements made in the film by the peddlers of porn. The documentary provokes a very interesting discussion. Some of the students were shocked by those in the pro-porn camp who continually denied the existence of porn addiction and denied any real problem of children viewing pornography.

Traffic Control was produced by Living Biography and is the first of three full-length films slated to follow the affect of Internet pornography on our society, and America’s demand to regulate it. Traffic Control won the viewers choice award at the 2007 Zion Film Festival.