opinion

What's More Important?

Joan Irvine
I'm not much for rants, so I'm going to let somebody who's a little more eloquent than I am help me out here. Dr. Philip Jenkins is a distinguished professor of religious studies and history at Penn State and the author of a book (which I recommend) called "Beyond Tolerance: Child Pornography on the Internet." He appeared as an expert witness during recent congressional hearings on sexual exploitation of children over the Internet. Here's some of what he had to say.

"All too often, 'get tough' campaigns garner rich publicity by appearing to be striking at the problem enthusiastically, but the effects are minimal, if not counterproductive. Furthermore, the horror inspired by child pornography naturally inspires politicians to try and do something, but the 'something' in question has nothing to do with the issue at hand.

"So deep is this unfocused concern that it all too readily justifies legal efforts directed not against the genuinely harmful area of child pornography but against far milder forms of adult-themed indecency, including explicit images and even language. Hence the instant appeal of successive high-octane campaigns against 'cyber porn,' none of which would have the slightest impact on the real world of child pornography. When misdirected laws fail to suppress child porn, the predictable result is to pass still more laws of the same hue, and so the cycle continues."

I don't think anybody could put it any better than that! Attacking the adult industry does nothing to help fight child pornography. For instance, the notion that you can prevent CP by beefing up 2257 requirements is based on a flawed premise — namely, that the online adult industry is eager to exploit minors. ASACP knows that's not true, adult webmasters know it's not true, and frankly, the hands-on CP fighters in law enforcement know it's not true.

But their bosses' bosses are politicians, and equating adult entertainment with child pornography helps politicians cater to the Religious Right. Politicians want those votes, and they're willing to ignore the practical reality of protecting kids to get them. This is dangerous because it saps resources and diverts attention from more practical and focused approaches. So here's a short quiz for lawmakers:

QUESTION: Which is more important? 1) waving your arms and shouting "We must protect our children!" or 2) actually doing what's necessary to protect kids.

ANSWER: Some things are more important than politics.