1942 September 30

FBI Creates “Obscene File,” Opens Crusade Against Pornography

 

Until the early 1940s, the FBI had not taken much interest in pornography. That changed on this day, when it opened an “Obscene File” and began a decades-long crusade against sexually oriented materials. The federal laws justifying this effort involved use of the mails, interstate commerce and, by the 1970s, the federal RICO (Racketeer influenced and Corrupt Organizations) law.

Most famously—and ludicrously—the FBI expended considerable resources in the 1960s trying to determine if the rock and roll classic song, Louie, Louie, was obscene (see May 20, 1964).

Read: Douglas M. Charles, The FBI’s Obscene File: J. Edgar Hoover and the Bureau’s Crusade Against Smut (2012)

Learn more: Athan Theoharis, J. Edgar Hoover, Sex, and Crime: An Historical Antidote (1995)

Learn more about sex and civil liberties: Leigh Ann Wheeler, How Sex Became a Civil Liberty (2013)

And more: Dave Marsh, Louie Louie (1993)

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