August 21, 2006

Pedophilia vs. Webophobia

lolitahula.jpgIn part two of our two-part series on The New York Times' two-part series on online pedophilia, we look at an article headlined On the Web, Pedophiles Extend Their Reach.

Unlike the first installment, which raised a few questions but was not terribly objectionable, this one is a stinker. Again, I'm not saying it's Landesmanesque or anything. It's merely another in a long line of breathless, overhyped, underanalyzed stories fed mostly be a pathological fear of the Internet. I've been pissing and moaning about this genre for nearly ten years and not much has changed.

The tip off comes early on when Eichenwald refers to online activity as "chatter in the ether." Ooh, ether! Mysterious! Primordial! This may seem like a small thing, but these turns of phrase reflect a fundamental discomfort with the Internets that color everything in the article. After all, when was the last time you saw a newspaper refer to a phone call or radio show as "chatter in the ether"?

The premise of this article is that the pedophilia community (did I really just write that?) "uses the virtual world to advance its interests in the real one." In practice that means lumping together three distinct types of activity so that they enhance one another in the reader's mind, the scary (but infeffectual) ideas making the other parts more scary by association, and the effective (but less scary) ideas making the scarier parts sound more effective.

The three activities, in descending order of seriousness, are:
• Using the Internet to gain physical access to children
• Using the Internet to justify sexual feelings for children, thus allowing pedophiles to cross the line from thought into action (The Times's experts call this "the most dangerous element," but I think my ranking makes more sense)
• Using the Internet to promote societal acceptance of pedophilia

Let's take these one at at time.

Using the Internet to gain physical access to children

The evidence that this is taking place is as follows:

One man asks if anyone knows "of girls’ camps willing to hire adult males as counselors?" There is no mention of anyone responding in the affirmative, or of the man getting a job at such a camp, or of whether any such camps exist and whether they do background checks or anything.

One man who "had been offered a job leading a boys’ cabin." Ah-ha! A pedophile using the Internet to get a job at a summer camp! Oh, wait. He doesn't actually say he got the job online, or that the Net helped him get the job in anyway. The only role the Internet plays in this story is that it's where the man came to gloat after securing the job in some more traditional manner. I look forward to the Times' freak-out series on the dangers of classified ads.

Speaking of which: "One man posted an Internet 'help wanted' advertisement from a single mother seeking an overnight baby sitter for her 4-year-old daughter." There is no mention of anyone responding to the ad, or getting the job.

"Someone calling himself Vespucci asked in June whether a single man could become a foster father." The response: it's very, very difficult. There is no mention of Vespucci making the attempt.

One man "recommended shopping at weekend estate sales, since plenty of bored minors showed up accompanying inattentive parents." Yes surely without the Internet, pedophiles would never have figured out that they should go places where there are children with little parental oversight. Again, I look forward to the article on the dangers of weekend estate sales.

The most alarming anecdote from this section concerns "an organization called BL Charity said it was seeking money to send Eastern European children to camp." Since the web site closed down "largely from a lack of money," the lesson would seem to be that the Web is bad at generating money for pedophile activities. There is scant evidence that the camp ever existed, or, if it did, that the Internet had anything to do with its extremely limited success.

Using the Internet to justify sexual feelings for children, thus allowing pedophiles to cross the line from thought into action

Here's where you get all the oogy-boogy quotes. Because, yes, there is nothing creepier than hearing pedophiles claim that little children are making sexual overtures to them; that they are the only ones who truly understand children; that their abuse causes no harm.

There is also nothing new about it. These justifications, excuses and "neutralizations" are intrinsic to the pedophile mindset. I recognized every one of them from Lolita, and I don't recall Humbert Humbert having broadband. Despite all the experts who weigh in here, there isn't the slightest evidence that the Internet actually facilitates anything that wouldn't take place entirely in the pedophiles' minds anyway.

What's more, there are, scattered throughout the article, a handful of anecdotes that are meant to express something else but that could be used, if an enterprising trend-story writer wanted to do so, to portray online pedophile communities as places where would-be pedophiles have their justifications challenged: One person tells the camp counselor to restrain himself "from doing anything." Another tells a "teacher" that the boy holding his crotch in class "might have just needed to go to the bathroom.“ "Believe it or not," another pedophile is told "most young children are NOT anxious to have sex with adult men.” See! The Internets is our best line of defense against child predators!

Using the Internet to promote societal acceptance of pedophilia

This is a joke, right? Yes, it's interesting that pedophiles have their own logos. That's the sort of touch that could be included in a decent feature story on the topic. But not in a fearmongering front-page news story, because let's face it, if the movement can't design a better web site than this, it's not going far. Shit, NAMBLA has been at this for 30 years with nothing to show for it except retreat and humilation. (For my favorite evisceration of the "pedophile rights" argument, skip to 19:19 in this South Park episode.)

Although I have no doubt that the religious right has already jumped on this article as proof that granting civil rights to gays is as slippery slope that will lead to legalized child-rape, the idea that this "cause" could gain any traction is so self-evidently absurd that any decent article about it would at least point out that such talk is probably not meant seriously, but is rather just another type of fantasy.

Wait, what? Fantasy? Oh yeah, that.

Eichenwald includes one CYA graf that a careful reader should come back to after every single anecdote.

The conversations themselves are not illegal. And, given the fantasy world that the Internet can be, it is difficult to prove the truth of personal statements, or to demonstrate direct connections between online commentary and real-world actions. Nor can the number of participants in these conversations, taking place around the Internet, be reliably ascertained.

So those jobs pedophiles supposedly hold? Maybe not so much. "Pediatrician specializing in gynecology"? Uh, sure pal. And that poll about whether pedophiles would “have full intercourse with a little girl.” I'm shocked that even 17 out of the 74 would say no. Not because I think all 74 really would, but because these polls are not only "not scientific," they're not supposed to be anything more than spank material. Pedophiles who go online to chat with other pedophiles aren't looking for analysis of the pedophile mind, they're indulging in fantasy and preparing to get off. The Times's last-minute effort to shoehorn in a JonBenet news peg —  "In e-mail messages to a journalism professor that investigators believe were written by Mr. Karr, statements about children seemed to echo the online dialogue among pedophiles" — actually undermines the article, given that it seems increasingly likely that Karr is completely delusional.

For real insight into the world of pedophiles, it's better to pay attention to what they say when Eichenwald actually sits down and talks to a few in person.

Oh wait, he doesn't. And now we get to the crux of the problem. Writing an article based entirely on newsgroup and chat room conversations and never doing a single interview? That's not journalism... that's blogging.

Posted by Daniel Radosh


Great piece, and great tagline.

I was hoping to come up with something more clever and snarky, but I didn't. So there you have it.

Great part 2. CNN announced last night that FBI/LEA met in Texas (Dallas?) and they have announced that the result of their conference is that sometime in Jan/Feb they will roll-out a PSA campaign urging girls to shut off their web cams and stop revealing personal information on the web. I would love to get hold of a DVD of that meeting to pick apart its rhetoric.

When I wrote of age apartheid, earlier, I meant it. Having studied terabytes of naked totty I can tell you that I found a favorite, who even though she keeps her clothes on, is surely the hottest 14-year-old on the planet.

One of her fan sites took a chance on me and invited me into one of the circles closer to her. I was asked to join MSN chat. I have always believed the FBI when they said that chat was the Devil. But I installed MSN chat. I finally nailed the learning curve. From there I was eventually invited into a secret (hidden) IRC room. Now, IRC has a far steeper learning curve than MSN.

The kids helped me find the right client program (mIRC) and then I learned to customize its look and feel and features with add-in scripts. These kids are way beyond adults. A 13-year-old among them regularly designs web portals for international corporations. When I chat with him it is usually about such things as PhotoShop, CSS, or often about the more recent developments in neuroscience.

From there, I learned to install, the very chat server program itself, an IRC daemon (to study and learn its workings) and then the bots that interface with the server. Think of them as artificial intelligence, that keep the show running. From there, I learned to compile the server program from source code, compile the bots from source code and even integrate the whole shebang within Windows Installer. Oh, I even enabled it with Secure Socket Layer, having compiled OpenSSL for Windows from source code. I made the program's frame picture from one of the 14-year-old starlet, (actually with a picture where she looks nude).

I compiled graphical statistics from a week of chat, and graphs revealed that I spoke most often to a 12-year-old girl. The stats report, records random strings of dialog from each individual. There was no salacious conversation. The kids are tech wizards and far faster than am I.

Most adults will never discover the social networking technologies these kids are pioneering. But LEA is there. LEA has co-opted the children to keep up with them and consequently, that leaves most adults behind.

Radosh, you are welcome to a copy of the stats report, or I am more than willing to serve as your guide into their world.

Um, yeah, I'm gonna take a pass on that one. Feel free to keep the rest of these thoughts between yourself and your FBI field agent... I mean, 12-year-old chat partners.

Regarding logos & promoting social acceptance: This reminds me of a classic Mr Show sketch (all of them, of course, are classic).

"NAMBLA: We're Not Killers."

By the way, RC, I hope you're using an anonymized IP address. You don't want Bill Gates tracking you down! Take special care when on MSN chat -- I hear Mr Gates has some powerful connections at MSN.

I'm not ready to write off the Times piece. But one point they don't make strongly enough, perhaps, is that one thing the Internet does do is make it easier to track the thought patterns of pedophiles (impossible before, just about) and to catch them when they are about to act.

On the other hand, isn't it pretty plausible that pedophilia is sufficiently rare that there didn't use to be pedophile communities, whereas there are now?

Not sure I follow you. How does the net make it easier to "track thought patterns"? As I note, there's nothing in this piece about the psychology of pedophiles that I didn't already know from pre-Internet sources. Nor do I get how it makes it possible to catch them when they are about to act. Is there any suggestion that pedophiles are pre-announcing their crimes with enough specifics to do anything about it? (Which is not to say that I'd be against monitoring their public chats to find out)

I do suspect that pedophiles are more community-oriented now, thanks to the Internet, though these communities seem in many ways to be little more than group narcisism. And while that may be interesting sociologically, it's kind of a "so what" as far as a basis for fear.

I'll go transparent then. Gates and I have played cat and mouse for years. My best guess is Gates is the money behind the whole child protection racket. It makes his penchant for the police state all that more loud. He trots the globe pedaling his special perv protection software to various countries, and probably to customers like Ron Noble at Interpol. Surely you see Gates' unrelenting prison themes on MSNBC.

My email, actually, the pornography commission's email, is at hotmail.com So Gates has probably an easier time at reading my mail than if it were elsewhere. Hey, I'd like to see Microsoft heal itself.

If I was so smart, I wouldn't have double-posted nor make grammatical errors. Or stupid remarks. I'm no Radosh. But I do have the banners going back to last decade. I anticipated no one else might keep them to archive true history. Also i have collected news stories when arresties end up dead. Donna Rice Hughes once had a web site calling for the murder of all such suspects. I also avoid the diversion of pictures.

Fox news affiliates have publicly announced the Sex Offender Registry is so that people can be hunted down and slaughtered. Hey, who is gonna object?.

I keep a reel of the almost non-stop agitprop from MSM. I suspect that Ernie Allen is running mythical numbers. Radosh found that link on mythical numbers. Good work. Radosh is my favorite writer. This is Daniel's blog and I'm just an interloper, hopefully not too boorish.

I have the many collections of news stories of on-topic arrests going back 20 years and have documented the evolution of these laws. I do know the communities on USENET, and they have been over-run with floods of Cr*p by detractors. I have never posted to USENET, yet still find people trying to impersonate me, as they do community members in order to trash their nicks. There are also as of late, terrorists of the Donna Rice ilk en mass with non-stop threats and hate speech.

Radosh is so beyond Landesman or Eichenwald or their predictable parroting of party line.

I Chat with the brightest kids I've ever encountered. All speak multi-languages, some as many as six. I state my true age. All is logged. They are all overseas with very little chance of crossing the pond. The logs reveal everyone's mutual concern for everyone else.

MSN messenger has a few nice features like a paging flag, file transfer, etc. All MSM traffic is logged. I sometimes use it.

IRC is every bit as large as is USENET. Both are substantial layers of the Internet. Some MOTDs plainly state: "All children are cops". On-topic material is said to travel more over Bittorrent though.


Wow, who is this guy? He's hilarious.

Just a quick link to a newly posted message by BL Charity:


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