Fox in the Hen House – Neil M. Cohen

April 21, 2010

Quis custodiet ipsos custodes? -Juvenal (Literally: “Who will guard the guards themselves?” modern usage: “Who watches the watchmen?”)

Neil M. Cohen‘s connection with child pornography first broke in July 2008. Cohen was a Deputy Assembly Speaker in the New Jersey statehouse. NJ.com reported on his case and said that

Among the more than 100 laws Cohen has sponsored is one that created a 24-hour hotline for members of the public to report computer crimes, including child pornography.

Cohen’s case has made its way through the legal system and the Associated Press reports on this. Two things stand out.

Neil Cohen, 59, acknowledged viewing and printing images meant for sexual gratification from a computer in his former legislative office.

The text “meant for sexual gratification” is interesting. It should be irrelevant whether Cohen was aroused or repulsed by the images. If we take into consideration how a defendant felt about an image in determining whether that image is or is not child pornography, then we are really trying him for his feelings and not for his actions. Also it’s interesting how neither this article or any others I’ve see about Cohen allude to how the images he had were the worst imaginable kind or had infants being raped. Is it Cohen’s high profile position that caused the police to withhold such statements, or were such statements not representative of the images Cohen viewed? Could it be that Cohen’s images and interests were in little more than teenage girls shaking their boobs?

The Associated Press article also includes this

“Mr. Cohen, through his actions in viewing and distributing child pornography, linked himself to an abhorrent industry that preys on children,” Attorney General Paula Dow said in a statement. “Every single person who willingly enters the criminal network of suppliers and users of child pornography becomes part of the tragic exploitation and abuse of the innocent victims.”

I wish Dow would clarify how “an abhorrent industry that preys on children” and “criminal network of suppliers and users of child pornography” and “innocent victims” all relate to the teenage girls who are threatened with child pornography prosecution for “sexting” racy pictures of themselves to their boyfriends?

Dow’s statement is suspicious, especially her use of the terms “industry” and “criminal network”. I’ve just finished Philip Jenkin’s Beyond Tolerance, and already a relevant passage comes to mind.

The non-commercial nature of the {child porn} trade deserves emphasis, because so many writers on the topic still make highly inaccurate remarks about the supposedly profitable nature of the trade and its organized-crime ties: this image is reinforced by the misleading word industry for the child porn world. 1

Jenkins knew this back in 2001, and in the last three years I’ve found nothing to contradict his earlier findings. Dow should know this too, so her use of this inflammatory language smacks of a deliberate lie and an intentional distortion of the reality of the child porn world.

1 Philip Jenkins, Beyond Tolerance, (New York: New York University Press, 2001), 91

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