Thursday, September 13, 2012

Balls of Steel Journalist Award

This year's winner: Rick Falkvinge.

Internet freedom, privacy, free-speech and copyright activists are well aware that special-interest groups and politicians often use child porn as the pretext to introduce computerized wiretaps and internet filtering schemes (which can, once created, be used to do legal and illegal wiretapping, enforce copyright claims, secretly block websites for political reasons, and so forth.)

But usually activists combat the child-porn arguments by simply pointing out that child porn is not the real motivation behind such technological measures, or, going out on a limb, that they are unlikely to reduce child abuse. Until now I haven't seen anyone directly and openly reject the underlying assumption that we must have laws against possession of child porn. Not only does he reject that idea, he's got the flaming liberal stones to suggest that a pair of 17-year-olds making love can be "one of the most beautiful things in the world" and adds that "I started watching porn at age ten".

Well, that's TMI for me, but I gotta say, he's right. How can an action be perfectly legal to actually do but a crime to record? Or worse, how can something that is merely sexually suggestive be less legal than sex itself? And why don't police put more resources into catching child molesters instead of porn viewers?

The problem, of course, is that most people are not willing to stand up and argue with those who say we need to step up enforcements and punishments against porn possession. It is just like the phenomenon where politicians increase prison sentences (and impose minimums) for specific crimes--the opposition can point out that the higher sentence would be unfair in some cases, sure. They could point out that it's illogical to have a higher sentence for this crime than this other, lesser crime, to double the sentence for having one evil motive instead of another evil motive, or for attacking someone with weapon X instead of weapon Y or Z. But it's risky, since the retort is so simple and effective in our stupid sound-bite world: "you're soft on crime!" "you're in favor of revolving-door prisons!!" "damn bleeding-heart liberals!!!"

So kudos to this Rick guy for actually standing up and opening a rare debate.

Personally I am annoyed by the "conviction by public outrage" in these cases. The instant the police claim that somebody has child porn, it's all over. The accused can say it's not child porn, but the public cannot judge for themselves since they cannot legally see the images, so of course they just take the police's word for it. Long before the hard-fought acquittal, the accused loses his job, his friends, his money and his dignity... of course, it's a fair bet he'd lose his dignity even if the images could be made public, because although the images may not be child porn, somebody must have found them offensive or it wouldn't be in court.

Mind you, if there is an acquittal, it is sometimes possible to obtain the evidence. Which brings us to Rick's follow-up article, which actually contains an image that was ruled to be child porn all the way up until the Supreme Court ruled that it actually isn't.
"If you’re a somewhat typical person, you’re now reacting with a OMG I’ve looked at child porn, omg omg I’m a horrible horrible person! That’s normal. We’ve been trained to think and feel that way."
Trained. That's the perfect word for it. Because the picture isn't really sexual if you have a well-adjusted mind. You know, there are still cultures in the world, though they may be disappearing, where children or (more rarely) adults spend a lot of their time partly or fully naked and it's perfectly normal for them. I recall hearing that in the past they were more common, but Christian missionaries went around the world teaching their particular interpretation of the Bible, that the naked should be ashamed of themselves. With nudity now gone from North American society, most people can no longer imagine living without these strict limits on our natural state of being. And yet, despite the complete absence of nudity from television and public view, you remain human, your sex drive is the same, and your sexual experiences still tend to involve nudity. Thus we are trained to associate nudity and sexuality, making us repulsed or "weirded out" by images that, in another lifetime, we could have found pleasant and natural.

Am I really saying this out loud? I must be a ballsy journalist too.

If you need further proof that lawmakers may be going too far: "Outlaw possession of written accounts of child abuse" says MP - "Sir Paul said he had long been aware of a correlation 'between those who possess or distribute indecent printed material of children and those who commit horrific contact offences against children'." Oh yes, yes... and there is a strong correlation between drunk driving and drunk-driving fatalities; let us therefore prohibit all car owners from drinking under any circumstances, and give it the same prison sentence as manslaughter. Also, I have surprising news for overweight men out there: it turns out that a large belly is correlated with advanced pregnancy. It's time to schedule an ultrasound!

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