First Amendment

WTF? ‘10 Most Obscene Cities’ List Doesn’t Include Most Likely Suspects


Business Insider this week published its third annual “10 Most Obscene Cities in America” list, and New York City ain’t on it. Neither is friggin’ Chicago.

According to the online magazine’s posts since 2008, the methodology of the list’s creation was inspired by Florida defense attorney Lawrence Walters. Posts link to a June 2008 New York Times story that details Walters’ defense of a man who operated a pornographic website out of Santa Rosa County, Fla. To prove that area’s community standards weren’t as pure as prosecutors claimed, Walters subpoenaed Google Trends data to show that sexual terms like “orgy” might be plugged into the search engine more often than, as the Times put it, “more wholesome ones.”

Walters sought results from Pensacola as “the only city in the court’s jurisdiction large enough to be singled out” in Google Trends data, the Times reported. With the coastal city hosting a naval air station and other U.S. Navy and Marine facilities, it would also be a location where lots of folks might be known to curse like a sailor.

According to Business Insider, Walters’ tactic was never tested because his client accepted a plea bargain. But that didn’t stop the magazine from taking the idea and massaging it—they used comic George Carlin’s infamous list of the seven words you can’t say on TV as the search terms to check.

The 2010 list includes Los Angeles lagging at No. 10; Rochester, N.Y., but not the Big Apple; Louisville, Ky.; two small towns outside D.C.; and Philadelphia.

One question the story doesn’t answer is whether residents were searching those terms for prurient interest or because they were so innocent they wanted to know what the words meant. (Oh, excluding Philly.)

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