Child pornography is one of the greatest taboos of our time. Infact its possibly the greatest. It may be vile but it is still legal to possess and distribute images or digital recordings of beheadings and war. I can’t think of a single politician who has called for possession of the Nick Berg execution to be made illegal. We may rightly be repulsed by the events that occurred, but we don’t accuse anyone in possession of that footage for being the executioner by proxy.
On the other hand there seems to be an entrenched inability to be rational about images that contain child abuse. The main reasons given for banning child abuse images are that it desensitizes the viewer to the point they become an abuser, and it encourages further abuse as a result of which you are in essence abusing by proxy. Both those arguments are essentially about condoning thought crimes.
It has been argued repeatedly that viewing violent computer games or movies encourages violent behaviour without there being conclusive evidence to support that. At the most you may become desensitized to what you see, but that doesn’t make you mimic what’s on the screen. If there was a simple casual link between viewing images and repeating behaviour the highest correlation between those who saw the images and abused children would be with the police officers who investigate the images. I don’t believe any such casual link exists and it is quite frankly absurd for anyone to suggest that viewing a naked image of a child is more likely to make me a rapist.
Similarly I can’t extend that argument to suggest that if more people were to view abuse images more abuse would occur to ‘fill a demand’. As an analogy despite numerous ‘beheading videos’ being produced there hasn’t been a demonstrable increase in beheadings occurring in other parts of the world. There hasn’t been a greater desire for ‘snuff’ movies simply because someone logged onto liveleak. It is one of the ironies of our time that we can accuse someone of being an ‘abuser by proxy’ for possessing a picture depicting the rape of a child yet if that child had been decapitated by a bomb or beheaded by a terrorist we’d never think of inflicting the same ‘thought crime’. This is before we even consider the actions of photojournalists.
One of the most laughable aspects of this hysteria is the fact it is illegal to possess an ‘indecent image’ of a 16 year old yet it is perfectly legal to have sex with them. Regardless of what justification you want to use to support these laws, I’ll leave you with this. There is no Statute of limitations on child pornography. Quite simply you are not only held responsible for something you did not do, you are held responsible even if it occurred before your birth. It is brutal and absurd to suggest anyone born today is responsible for the worst images that were apparently produced decades ago. I simply cannot justify that a person who is born 20 years from now could be held culpable for a rape that occurred 20 years ago.
The rape or execution of any individual are grotesque acts that should be punished, but unless we start to question laws that hold us accountable for merely possessing documentary evidence of something we didn’t do we risk going down an ill-thought out road where horribly injust decisions are supported.
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Filed in: Civil liberties,Culture,Moral police