Judge Alex Kozinski regrets posting those pictures

Is it a good idea for public figures to host porn on their public Web sites? You be the judge.

Published June 12, 2008 5:30PM (EDT)

Oh, man. I'm glad I'm not Alex Kozinski. On Tuesday, news broke that Kozinski -- chief judge of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit -- had posted sexually explicit material on his publicly accessible Web site. According to the Los Angeles Times, in addition to music files, personal photos and links to his legal writing, Kozinski's site was home to content including "a photo of naked women on all fours painted to look like cows and a video of a half-dressed man cavorting with a sexually aroused farm animal." Other hits? A step-by-step tutorial on a woman shaving her pubic hair; images of masturbation, public sex and contortionist sex (including a man giving himself a blow job); and a "series of photos of women's crotches in snug-fitting clothing or underwear."


I could go on about the irony of a federal judge -- who currently happens to be presiding over an obscenity trial and has been mentioned as a candidate for the U.S. Supreme Court -- keeping an online repository of pornography. But instead, I'd like to ask a different question: Why has no one taught these people about the Internet? One of Kozinski's defenses -- in addition to retroactively blaming his son Yale for posting the photos (which he'd previously claimed to have remembered posting himself) -- is that he didn't know that the Web site could be accessed by the public. Really, Alex? But you passed along links to the photos to friends! How did you think they saw them? And if you didn't want other people to ever link them to your name, why did you post them on www.alex.kozinski.com? (Users needed to type in a subdirectory, but still.) And also, Kozinski himself is no stranger to Internet embarrassment -- take, for example, this 1968 video of him on "The Dating Game," in which he refers to his date as the "flower of the heart" and then smooches her squarely on the mouth, much to her -- and the audience's -- surprise. After that one made the rounds, surely he realized that the Internet has the power not just to provide crotch shot montages but to damage political careers?

Apparently not. For the sake of their jobs, let's hope that other public figures take away two lessons from this: First, the "World Wide Web" is not some locked box you keep under your bed. And second, there is a Murphy's law of the Internet that dictates that the most embarrassing, politically damaging material online that's linked to your name is exactly what is going to end up making its way out. That's bad enough if you've committed random acts of kissing on 1960s dating shows. If you've got pictures of naked women dressed up as cows? Even your son can't help you out on that one.

By Catherine Price

Catherine Price is an award-winning journalist and author of Vitamania: How Vitamins Revolutionized the Way We Think About Food. Her written and multimedia work has appeared in publications including The Best American Science Writing, The New York Times, Popular Science, O: The Oprah Magazine, the Los Angeles Times, The San Francisco Chronicle, The Washington Post Magazine, Salon, Slate, Men’s Journal, Mother Jones, PARADE, Health Magazine, and Outside. Price lives in Philadelphia.

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