The Barnum of Cyberporn
On July 3, last summer Time magazine hit the stands with the sensationalist scoop of a new Carnagie Mellon study proving that the Internet traffics almost entirely in porn. The cover was a pseudo-human child, with a blow-up doll expression (slightly reminiscent of the same magazine's slightly altered O.J. cover). The headline: "On a Screen Near You: Cyberporn".
According to Marty Rimm, the student who conducted the study, 83.5% of all images passed around on the Usenet newsgroups were pornographic. The Georgetown Law Journal published the findings, Senator Exon pronounced the statistics on the Senate floor, and Time, of course, ran it as a cover story.
Soon, the cyberporn scare was running wild. Journalists, Christian fundamentalists, Senators, and worried parents now had a definitive study which proved their fears: the Internet is all about smut.
A little history on this guy called Rimm, who we like to call
The Barnum of Cyberporn:
At the age of sixteen, as part of a study to show that the majority of his fellow Atlantic City high school students had entered and gambled in the local casinos, Marty went undercover. He wrapped his head in a burnoose and infiltrated the Playboy Hotel and Casino, posing as an Arab sheik and collecting data. At the prompting of his study, the state legislature soon thereafter raised the gambling age to 21.
Seven years later Rimm published a book about the casino industry called An American Playground. Interestingly, a Taj Mahal employee noticed flyers on cars in a local mall announcing the book and offering $25 in chips to anyone who presented the flyer at the casino. The flier also contained a false quote from Donald Trump, hailing the book as "one of the most phenomenal literary events of the '90's."
In 1995 Rimm wrote another short book that never gained much press: The Pornographer's Handbook: How to Exploit Women, Dupe Men, & Make Lots of Money. Marty pitched this book to the operators of pornographic bulletin boards to get memberships and the inside scoop on their material. He then passed off the data he gleaned as indicative of the Internet at large.
This guy is a natural showman, who gave a lot of powerful groups just the ammo they needed.
Some people are still passing around statistics from the Rimm study.