NEW YORK - Robert "The Rev" Peters, President of Morality in Media (MIM), has a little problem with child pornography: He can't seem to distinguish it from adult pornography.
Here are a couple of clues, Bob: 1) Child porn is illegal; adult porn isn't. 2) Child porn has kids in it; adult porn doesn't. And according to the latest data, we might add 3) Adult porn - the better stuff, anyway - is mostly Made in America these days. Kiddie porn is mostly made in Russia, and the vast majority of it that's available on the World Wide Web is on Russian servers.
The Rev would know that if he'd bothered to ask the people who have to deal with child porn on a regular basis, like Joan Irvine of the Association of Sites Advocating Child Protection (ASACP) or Ernie Allen, president of the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children's CyberTipline, both of whom (and their organizations) check out reports of child porn on the Web and forward verified sightings to the FBI.
But facts have never stood in the way of a good press release (or fundraiser) for The Rev, so of course he had to weigh in on FBI Director Robert Mueller's statement to the House Judiciary Committee last week, when asked by Rep. Trent Franks (R-Ariz.) about child porn on the Web, that, "We're losing."
"It is growing on the Internet, exponentially is probably too strong a term, but just about every crime there is has gravitated to the Internet, and in certain cases, the Internet has provided the vehicle for expansion that otherwise would not be there, and that's certainly true with child pornography," Mueller told Franks and the rest of the committee.
"It doesn't surprise me that we are losing the war against child pornography," The Rev wrote to Mueller. "I still recall the shock I felt upon hearing that the U.S. Justice Department's focus under Janet Reno was on apprehending suspected child molesters, not on curbing child pornography as such." [Translation: It's still all Clinton's fault.]
"Thankfully, former Attorney General Ashcroft began to change that policy," Peters continued, "but from what I read it would appear that law enforcement energies are still focused primarily on apprehending suspected child molesters. Meanwhile, child pornography proliferates."
Well, y'see, Rev, that's because the FBI isn't Interpol or Russia's Federal Security Service (the replacement for the KGB); it can only arrest those involved with child porn here in the U.S., and for the most part, that would be viewers of child porn, because for the most part, the makers of the child porn and the ones putting most of it on the Internet are in Russia, where the FBI can't touch them.
But never mind all that; The Rev was on a roll!
"The FBI also makes it difficult to successfully wage war against child pornography by refusing to devote more than token resources to combating obscenity and by refusing to investigate obscenity crimes that do not depict the most extreme hardcore pornography," he wrote to Mueller. "The explosion of obscenity contributes to sexual exploitation of children in a number of ways. First, child molesters use 'adult' obscenity (i.e., no minors depicted) to entice, arouse, desensitize and instruct their child victims... Second, there is growing evidence that many men arrested on sexual exploitation of children charges began their downward spiral by viewing not child pornography but 'adult' obscenity."
But according to the article Peters cites for his first point - FBI Agent Kenneth Lanning's report, "Child Molesters: A Behavioral Analysis" - pedophiles use multiple methods to "entice, arouse, desensitize and instruct their child victims" including simply paying attention to them, showing affection toward them, giving them gifts (especially toys, dolls and model planes or boats), behaving like clowns or magicians; decorating their homes in ways that would attract kids, such as hanging posters of rock stars or anime characters, or including items like toys, games and popular music CDs; and even using "seduction techniques, competition, peer pressure, child and group psychology, motivation techniques, threats, and blackmail." Showing them sexually explicit material may be one facet of a seduction technique - but Peters doesn't suggest outlawing Barbie dolls or Monopoly games or Pokemon cartoons because they also may be used.
The report also suggests that parents watch out for "high-status authority figures" who could turn out to be child molesters; you know, people like "teachers, camp counselors, coaches, religious leaders, law-enforcement officers, doctors, judges" who could "present even greater problems in the investigation of these cases. Such offenders are in a better position to seduce and manipulate victims and escape responsibility." [Emphasis added]
Boy, ya can't trust anybody these days - except adult video producers, who have to keep records of who they hire to perform sex.
As for the second item, it's pure crap. A pedophile - someone attracted to pre-pubescent minors - would no more get aroused by looking at "adult obscenity" (he probably means "adult pornography," but then, he has trouble making distinctions about anything sexual) than an adult heterosexual would "turn on" by looking at gay male porn. And Peters' source for this amazing revelation? The Oct. 17, 2007 issue of the Buffalo News; specifically, an article titled "An Addiction he Couldn't Break Away From." (Subscription required)
The article refers to former greenhouse worker (and now-convicted child molester) Clarence A. Johnson, who "once enjoyed the adult pornography sites he viewed on the Web. But after a while, the thrill was gone. So Johnson started clicking on some of the advertisements that popped up on his computer screen above the naked men and women he was staring at. He was seeing something new - young teenagers, and even young children, posing in the nude, having sex with each other or being molested by adults. At first, the 49-year-old Batavia man was appalled. But once the shock wore off, Johnson couldn't get enough."
While the article doesn't give the time frame in which Johnson allegedly looked at adult sites, clicked on their ads and was taken to child porn sites - newspaper reports have, after all, been known to contain fabricated anecdotes used to bolster a point - that scenario is exactly the type of thing that Joan Irvine's group and the CyberTipline people have been combating for several years now, and Irvine reports that it's been a long time since she's found any adult porn site where the click-through leads to actual child porn. Moreover, no scientific study is referenced in the article; merely the statement of David G. Heffler, a local "psychotherapist who is appointed by the courts to counsel child pornography offenders" who claimed, "Many men told me they started out looking at adult porn and never intended to look at children. But after looking at adult porn for a long time, they get bored. They want to try something different. They start looking at children. Then, they can't get enough of it."
Part of the difficulty lies in the phrase "looking at children" - who, according to the legal definition, would include anyone aged 17 years plus 364 days and younger. Peters faults the Supreme Court for its decision in Ashcroft v. Free Speech Coalition, which struck references to "young-looking adults" from the Child Pornography Prevention Act, but there's a huge difference between being turned on by post-pubescent girls with breasts and pubic hair and pre-pubescent girls without them. Many adults would find the former attractive; few would find the latter exciting, and it's impossible to tell which group Heffler and/or his patients are referring to.
But for Peters, that "17 years, 364 day" dividing line doesn't really exist, since he rails against "obscenity featur[ing] teens who may be at least 18 but who are promoted for their youth." Get it straight, Bob: Seventeen years, 364 days = illegal; 18 years or older = legal. And adult industry producers do check IDs!
The Rev has similar myopia regarding who's hooking these days:
"[T]here is growing evidence that many men who are addicted to obscenity use prostitutes to act out their porn fueled fantasies... To the extent that addiction to pornography helps maintain or increase the demand for prostitutes, it also helps maintain or increase the demand for women and children who are trafficked into prostitution."
So: First Amendment-protected expression should be criminalized because some men who view it may hire prostitutes, whose profession should be decriminalized and allowed to be practiced openly ... which would make it much harder for traffickers to force women (and certainly children) into the business in the first place? Good thinking, Rev!
And, of course, inevitably, Peters gets around to, "addiction to obscene materials is also destroying countless marriages, which puts children at greater risk for sexual abuse."
Do we really need to go into the fact that there is no such thing as porn addiction - "Dr." Laura Schlessinger actually admitted that fact on her radio show on Tuesday - but only "obsessive/compulsive disorder," which can focus on anything from porn to gambling to praying to hand washing? Do we really need to remind everyone that marriages don't fail because of porn, but may fail in part because the partners are unable or poorly able to communicate with each other about their sexual fears and desires? Or that porn viewing has nothing to do with child sexual abuse?
"In addition to protecting children from sexual exploitation," The Rev continues, "the Justice Department and FBI should also be doing all they can to protect children from exposure to Internet obscenity."
Great news, Rev: Computer programmers have developed this thing called "Web filtering," which can be set to screen out anything hinting of sexual material - breast-cancer exams, Betty Boop cartoons - and lots more. In fact, your pals at the American Family Association will let you subscribe to their own ISP which will do all that filtering for you! And besides, aren't you the guys who keep ranting about how parents should be in charge of their children's sexual education? Wouldn't part of that consist of monitoring what their kids look at on the Web? I mean, isn't that their job???
But of course, once again, it's the Supreme Court's fault for not having upheld unconstitutional laws like the Communications Decency Act and COPA.
"It wouldn't require a tremendous allocation of investigative and prosecutorial resources to substantially reduce traffic in obscene materials," Peters claims, "because much if not most hardcore pornography is controlled by a relatively small number of companies based in the U.S. But it would require a commitment."
Um ... no. In case you hadn't heard, the Internet is often referred to as the "World Wide Web," and there's a clue in that phrase as to why "commitment" by a U.S.-based law enforcement agency just won't cut it: Servers can be located anywhere in the world, and a click on a URL can bring in images from Denmark or Antarctica just as easily as it can from right next door - maybe easier.
In his Morality in Media Newsletter, Peters boasts that his ObscenityCrimes.org website recently scored its 70,000th citizen complaint, and although he says he forwards all such complaints to the Justice Department and local U.S. attorneys, he doesn't mention how many of those complaints have resulted in prosecutions. We're guessing zero, zip, nada, since the people who subscribe to his newsletter, and complain on his Website, even get offended by the covers of Redbook and Cosmo at the supermarket checkout line.
But ... "In 2002, MIM also retained the services of two retired law enforcement agents to follow up on select complaints and prepare investigative reports which provide information about various pornographic websites. MIM also forwards these reports to the Justice Department and local U.S. Attorneys." And we're guessing that it's because that stuff has been so valuable that two years ago, Congress cut off the funds it was donating to keep the website running.
So remember: Keep those donations coming!