Sunday, September 04, 2005

Let the Sun Shine In

Or The World Wide Fucked-Up Web

(a note: I link to some pretty strange stuff this time. Don't click on things that you can't handle)

Steve Huff
and Trench are two of my favorite crimebloggers, as any reader of this crimeblog knows. Recently, they've been double-teaming the scary fact that there are pedophile webrings on Xenga and Livejournal. Steve's spearheading the investigation, and Trench is writing letters and calling for a boycott.

I'm not sure this is the right tack to take. First, a few points that should be obvious: One: Child molesters are scum. Given. I totally understand the revulsion Steve and Trench feel.

Two: Public pedophile webrings provides means for increased communication between pedophiles, which can spread foster the spread of child pornography, give the molesters a sense of community that could encourage them to commit more crimes, and theoretically even create a type of "underground railroad." These are all bad things.

Three: As Alyric, a frequent commenter on Trench's board, points out in an open letter to Livejournal, "I cannot speak for your Terms of Service, of course, but the ideal of free speech applies only to censorship by the government. As a private entity, it is entirely within your discretion to terminate these accounts. " It is true that you can't cry censorship unless the government shuts you up (but I don't agree with the way Alyric puts it here. There is more to the ideal of free speech than simply preventing censorship). If Livejournal wanted to kick any user they felt like, that's their business.

But isn't it better to have these people out in the open where they can be monitored? In truly scary cases (such as the man Steve Huff points to who has had a lifelong affair with his mother (his own, not Steve's) and speaks of starting one with his daughter) ..Well, that might be something that should be pointed out to the FBI. In which case good has come from the perv being online and in the open, right?

While Steve's mentioned not linking to these people because he doesn't want to foster the communication, I say that light kills cockroaches. Let folks read the shit they write. What's better: widely publicized and scrutinized webrings or the harder-to-find sites that will replace them? Child molesters have been setting up secret communication for decades to spread pornography. Sure, Steve is doing a public service by alerting parents that these sites exist. But is it not better to let parents see these sites? Is it not better for people to monitor the sites, looking for clues to the identities of these people (surely, clues will slip out) and to try and determine members who are actually committing abuse?

The truly dangerous predators have pages on Livejournal or Xenga that you will never root out, because they are posing as teens or tweens. Those are the bastards to watch out for, and the kind you'll never find like this. There's always the fine sport of baiting, right? And I am not a parent, so maybe this is easy for me to say, but parents: you've got to monitor your children's Internet use, and monitor it constantly. There's just no Nerf padding online.

The truth is that the Internet has helped create a lot of support groups for evil or sick ideas. There are pro-beastiality sites. There are places where anorexic girls can get together and plan how to better slowly kill themselves. Satanic Parenting. That Fred Phelps asshole. You could argue that child molesters are the most evil people alive. But Nazis are pretty bad too.

Of course, you could argue that child molesters just have to walk out the door to start their molesting, which makes them in a practical sense more dangerous than people who want to kill all the black people. I'm not sure.

And another ugly truth is that the politicized "childlove" movement isn't going to just go away. Everyone from conservative Christians to gays to atheists have learned how to speak the language of the oppressed, and child molesters are learning it too. When I was a "radical" teen I subscribed to an anarchism magazine that published occasional articles in this vein. So I've heard the argument. And it is bullshit. Unfortunately, I do not think that is is worthwhile to attempt to rationally discuss the issue with these people, as I see most of their arguments as pure rationalization of their urges.

But where do you draw the line? I would say, exactly where you would for any other serious crime: when someone speaks of the commission or planning of a crime.

I do not know what percentage of these people actually commit child abuse (Steve seems to think it is very high). But, again: is it not better to have public forums where these people can be monitored? I imagine that at least one of the people Huff or Trench have noticed is an undercover cop trying to set up their own contacts.

Again, I'm all for shining the light on these sites, and as always I'm impressed by Steve's researching ability (and prolific nature ... Steve, do you know how quickly you could write a book? What are you waiting for? You've got Ann Rule's thumbs up). But I still am a fanatic when it comes to freedom of thought. If these guys are just talk, then it's just talk. If they're doing more than talking, keeping them in the open where they are likely to get caught is better than driving them underground.

I'd like to get Henry Garfield's take on this. He spends his life researching stupid, bad and evil thought.


Blogger Trench said...

All excellent point but like you said...

Public pedophile webrings provides means for increased communication between pedophiles, which can spread foster the spread of child pornography, give the molesters a sense of community that could encourage them to commit more crimes, and theoretically even create a type of "underground railroad." These are all bad things.

That fact alone is enough to make me want to get these "communities" shut down. Especially since places like Livejournal and Xanga have users that are mostly kids.

They are welcome to their free speech but they must also know there are repurcussions to their free speech.

4:51 PM  
Anonymous Alyric said...

Re-read what I wrote. I think the problem is where I was, mentally, placing the stress on the sentence. It was worded poorly.

My intent wasn't to say that free speech only applies to censorship by the government, but it only applies when censorship is by the government.

My bad?

10:59 PM  
Blogger Henry Garfield said...

Several key questions are being posed here. Let me see if I can answer them in turn:

1. Are these pedophiles the scum of the earth who need to be dropped into a very deep hole for the good of mankind? Yes.

2. Do these site add anything to the debates regarding human sexuality? No. There are a lot of questions regarding minor’s sexual growth and age of consent laws that need to be addressed. But as the Bookhouse Boy points out, these sites don’t do that. Their arguments are obviously mere rationalizations made to justify the fact that they like to fuck kids.

3.Should the government ban these sites? No. Unless child porn is being exchanged or specific crimes are being planned, they fall under first amendment protection.

4.Should the web hosts shut down their sites? Yes. Internet companies must be responsible for what appears on their servers. Sites that promote pedophilia, like sites that advocate white supremacy, are deeply offensive to most people. Boycotts and letter-writing campaigns against the web hosts are appropriate in cases like these.

5.Should we (bloggers) publish links to these sites? Ah, the big question. My answer is no. On my blog, there are links to several white power sites, which some people would find offensive. The difference is that, no matter how twisted they are, the neo-Nazis are in fact putting forth a legitimate political ideology worthy of discussion. The pedophiles, as I have mentioned, are not. As for the shining light on cockroaches theory, I’ve never really bought it. The feds are already aware of all of these sites. They don’t need a heads-up from us. And most people already know that pedophiles are scumbags. They don’t need to see a site to reaffirm it. As a final note, it’s possible that the authorities have implanted spyware on these sites to record the identifying numbers of computers who log on. Even if it’s a long shot, we shouldn’t be sending people to a site that could put their name on a government watch list.

10:38 PM  
Blogger Mike Schuler said...

Actually, the FBI agent in charge of finding and investigating Internet pedophiles here in Spokane has emailed me twice to thank me for reporting the things I found that violated the US Code. I was appalled however, to find out what kinds of things are perfectly legal. Now, we need to change some laws. I have discovered that pedophiles have discovered perfectly legal was to sexually exploit children, and are doing it on these blogs and forums. I'm still researching, but by next week I'll have a new blog that will expose what they are doing, so we can get people aware enough to demand some new laws to stop these freaks. Meanwhile, there are billions and zillions of pages on the Internet, and you can't expect or assume that the authorities already know about them. Pedophile blogs may be legal, but some of them contained statements that are probable cause for a search warrant. These are the ones that need to be reported, if you find them. I found one blog that was only a couple of hours old, and the freak was uploading his picture galleries at the same time as I was sending his link to the FBI agent.

4:33 PM  
Blogger The Bookhouse Boy said...

Keep us updated, Mike.

6:21 PM  

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