I have not exactly reached a mass audience with my scholarly work (I actually thought maybe my first book would, given the presence of the word “pornography” in the title, but perhaps I just failed at self-promotion, I’m not sure), but when Charles Keating died the other week, it seemed an opportune moment to weigh in.
Keating is remembered primarily for his central role in the Savings & Loan debacles of the 1980s, where he and other unscrupulous financial schemers took advantage of deregulation to defraud tens of thousands of investors (and ultimately, the American public) of billions of dollars. Keating was rightly convicted for his fraudulent activities, though his (reduced, of course) time served was drastically less than it should have been, IMHO.
But I spent a good chunk of my twenties investigating Keating’s earlier career, as the most prominent anti-smut activist in the United States. As founder and leader of Citizens for Decent Literature, he presided over a moral empire from the late 1950s through around the mid-70s, when his interests really shifted toward junk bonds and other shady investment rackets. I’ve written about Keating before, pretty extensively–in Perversion for Profit (named after CDL’s most famous film), in the guest post I did at Temple of Schlock about their lost 1968 anti-Supreme Court film Target Smut, etc.
So this weekend I wrote a piece for Salon about Keating’s moral activism, and how it played a central role in modernizing conservative sexual politics. As a wonky academic, I think I work best in 10,000-word increments, so looking back at it, I can see several places where I’d happily expound further. But altogether, it’s a neat opportunity to reach a wider audience–I’ve even begun receiving my very own troll email, informing me that my piece is a “hatchet job” and helpfully telling me about very relevant things like reapportionment in the 1920s. And for a glorious moment yesterday, there I was, almost right next to Thomas Frank…