My reading of child porn news reports seems endless. Sometimes I think I’m one of the few men in the world not collecting child porn. That feeling was reinforced today when I read this story from the United Kingdom.

An expert hired to set up the Government’s £10 million database of violent sex offenders has been jailed for almost three years for distributing child pornography.

Vincent Barron, 50, a senior probation service manager, was seconded to the Home Office ViSOR project because of his expert knowledge of offenders. He helped set up a national computer database containing the details and photos of more than 60,000 of the most dangerous criminals, including 25,000 registered sex offenders.

At Durham Crown Court he was jailed for 33 months after admitting 21 charges of distributing indecent images and one charge of possessing 3,800 indecent images.

More details are here and here and here.

Every day I hear of police or clergy or teachers or coaches or lawyers arrested or sentenced on child porn charges. And now a man with “expert knowledge of offenders” who was working on a government database of offenders turns out to be an offender himself. How fitting. I guess Mr. Barron will soon be listed in the very database he helped create.

The Journal story is a good example of lies, myths, doublespeak, and shoddy journalism in action. It quotes the judge in Barron’s case as saying “Each image represents a child being often horribly sexually abused” yet the same article states that only two of the 3,800 images were of the most serious (category 5 – ‘sadism or bestiality’) while “the majority of the images – 2,798 – were of the least serious type” (category 1 – ‘erotic poses’).

Incidents like this make me suspicious of other self-proclaimed child porn expects such as Ernie Allen of NCMEC’s , John Walsh of America’s Most Wanted, and Andrew Vachss, author of novels featuring themes of sexually abused children. These three men share a willingness to perpetuate lies, myths, doublespeak, and shoddy journalism about child porn. I have long-term plans to write more about each of these men in the future.

Where is it all?

October 10, 2007

In doing research for this blog I read dozens of news stories about child porn cases each week. I routinely search Google and Technorati with variations of child + porn. Pssst! Wanna know a secret? I haven’t encountered a website that seems to seriously offer child porn for sale or for free. Not once. Notice how I said seriously. In my research have found two websites that purported to have child porn for sale. But I considered both of those sites to be virtually screaming honeypot! setup! sting!

Some of the news stories I read talk about how many websites offer child porn, or how the child porn problem is exploding. But my efforts to find any hard figures to backup these claims have hit mostly dead ends.

Then imagine my surprise at the claim made by Dr. Laura Berman in a Yahoo blog post

However, as of August 21st {2007}, I discovered five child porn Web sites that offered Visa and MasterCard as a form of payment.

She must really know how to use Google. That’s a joke. I’m sure she used Yahoo’s search engine for her research. Maybe that’s my problem, I’m Googling when I should be Yahooing!

I wonder if she knows how to sniff out a sting operation, or if she’s delving into an area far outside her field of expertise. She won’t give the URLs (to “protect the children” of course) so no one can try to verify her claim. Does she think her readers would all go running off to join those child porn websites ASAP?

Disclaimer: I consider most television station websites to be little more than tripe.

A recent story on the website of an Omaha, Nebraska NBC affiliate, WOWT, only served to reinforce my opinion of television station websites. The story, called “Cyber Cops Uncover Child Porn Trend,” starts off with the shocking claim that “a startling new trend in child pornography has been uncovered by cyber crimes investigators.” So what is this startling new trend? Yawn… Oh, it’s the use of picture sharing sites such as Photobucket to store child porn images. Startling indeed. Yawn… The writer at WOWT would like us to believe this is somehow significant because

What concerns investigators about this latest trend they’ve uncovered in cyber crime is that it makes porn portable.

All that a suspect needs is a remote internet access device that can pull up Photobucket or other storage sites and view child pornography while taking a walk in the park.

I wonder if someone foolish enough, as three Nebraskans recently were, to store their child porn on a picture sharing site like Photobucket would have the technical skills to operate a “remote internet access device.” (What is a remote internet access device anyway? A web-enabled cell phone?) I’d think it would be easier, not to mention more secure, to just keep ones child porn collection on a laptop (though you probably shouldn’t use your work laptop) or a USB drive. Both seem quite portable.

This whole story reads like a bunch of cyber cop pabulum regurgitated by a technically illiterate television writer.

Now for the hypocrisy. Of the three Nebraskans arrested after using Photobucket to store their child porn, one is a 16-year-old child. Remember that as far as federal child porn law goes anyone under 18 years of age is considered a child. This child is being charged… yes, you guessed it… as an adult.

Now watch what you say or they’ll be calling you a radical… liberal… fanatical… criminal. – Supertramp, “The Logical Song”

On another forum, I found a person with a like mind! I should bring this guy on as co-author of CP Explosion. I’ve long though that simple thought experiments would easily debunk many of the ridiculous, absolutist assertions made about child porn. A poster by name of Cangee, on a ahhh… very interesting forum, wrote the following as part of a thread about child porn.

I propose that a number of experiments be set up to study the properties of this amazing phenomenon of children being abused merely by the act of someone looking at pornography of them. Some of these experiments aren’t very practical and are more thought experiments than anything, but I’m sure methods can be devised with which to test the effects.

Experiment 1:
Assuming that a photograph of a nude child is not child pornography, but a photograph that is zoomed in on the nude child’s genitals is, what is the effect of taking a nude photo of a child, and cropping it to only show the genitals? Does the child who was in the photograph experience the effects of abuse when the cropping occurs? What if a computer is set up to automatically crop, and then someone *views* the cropped image later. Does the child experience the effects of abuse when the computer crops the file? Or only when the person observes the cropped image? An experiment should be set up with a computer and an observer, and a child in a separate room hooked up to monitors that can measure the amount of abuse that the child has sustained.

Experiment 2:
In order for the information about the abuse to travel from the viewed photograph to the child, there must be some sort of abuse wave or particle that communicates this information. What is the speed that this information propagates? If a child is on earth, and a pornographic photograph of her is on a space station a light year away, and someone on the space station views the photograph, does the child experience the abuse a year or more later due to light travel time? Or is the abuse immediately felt like some sort of “spooky action at a distance”, defying relativity?

Experiment 3:
What happens when a pornographic photograph is viewed that is a century or so old, and the child in the photograph has long since grown old and died. Assuming that the postulate of ‘all viewing of child pornography abuses the child in it’ is correct, how does the deceased child in the photograph become abused? Perhaps the abuse particle is some sort of tachyon and moves backwards in time to when the child was still alive? Viewing the photograph in the present causes the child to be abused in the past.

The ‘viewing → abuse’ postulate certainly generates some fascinating effects which will certainly advance our understanding of the universe.

Eternally searching for the elusive abuse particle,
Cangee

Thanks, Cangee, for taking a load off my back. I couldn’t have done better myself.

The Big Lie

January 22, 2007

All this was inspired by the principle – which is quite true in itself – that in the big lie there is always a certain force of credibility; because the broad masses of a nation are always more easily corrupted in the deeper strata of their emotional nature than consciously or voluntarily; and thus in the primitive simplicity of their minds they more readily fall victims to the big lie than the small lie, since they themselves often tell small lies in little matters but would be ashamed to resort to large-scale falsehoods. It would never come into their heads to fabricate colossal untruths, and they would not believe that others could have the impudence to distort the truth so infamously. Even though the facts which prove this to be so may be brought clearly to their minds, they will still doubt and waver and will continue to think that there may be some other explanation. For the grossly impudent lie always leaves traces behind it, even after it has been nailed down, a fact which is known to all expert liars in this world and to all who conspire together in the art of lying. These people know only too well how to use falsehood for the basest purposes. – Adolf Hitler, Mein Kampf (James Murphy translation, page 134)

The law enforcement agencies responsible for “fighting” child porn seem to have taken ol’ Adolf’s words to heart. Some of the biggest lies coming from the government and law enforcement today concern child porn. I suspect that only the “war on terror” generates more examples of the Big Lie than the war on child porn.

I’ll first cite a few examples of the Big Lie in use, then I’ll try to state it succinctly.

Example #1

In Child Molesters: A Behavioral Analysis, 4th edition, by Kenneth V. Lanning, Former Supervisory Special Agent with the FBI, we get this statement: “Child pornography, by itself, represents an act of sexual abuse or exploitation of a child and, by itself, does harm to that child.”

Example #2

On November 8, 2006, The Penn State Daily Collegian quoted Centre County District Attorney Michael Madeira as saying about child porn, “what we are trying to get people to understand is that when you possess these pictures, you are abusing children.”

Example #3

On September 29, 2006, The Buffalo News ran a story “12 men face federal child porn charges”. (This story is now only available in their paid archive, which is no loss since the story had little redeeming value anyway.) The story contained the following paragraph:

U.S. Attorney Terrance P. Flynn said Internet child pornography is a continuing act of child abuse committed by those who not only produce the images but also possess and exchange them. “[The children] are being abused time and time and time again because the picture is not destroyed,” he said.

Example #4

From the website of a Toronto TV station, we get the following snippets:

He sexually abused the young girl for years and took photos which are still being exchanged on the Internet…

“The absolute worse thing about everything that happened to me was that Matthew put my pictures on the Internet. He traded them with other people like baseball cards,” Allen’s statement read.

The young girl added that her “virtual abuse” will not end because the images are available online.

The “Allen” referred to is Masha Allen, and I do not in anyway condone what her so called “father” did to her. I hope to say more on Masha’s situation in a future post.

OK, I can see how someone just skimming these stories or only half paying attention to the evening news could think these statements were reasonable and plausible. But with deeper examination it’s clear that these statements fall somewhere between utterly ridiculous and absolutely false.

The Big Lie:

All child pornography documents the sexual abuse and exploitation of a child. Viewing child pornography, or even possessing child pornography, is tantamount to committing the abuse yourself. The abuse of the child continues each time the images are viewed or exchanged. Indeed, children are now being harmed by “virtual” abuse.

Rebuttals 

Mr. Lanning seems to be saying that the mere existence of child porn indicates that a child has been sexually abused or exploited. Remember, he writes, “child pornography, by itself, represents an act of sexual abuse or exploitation of a child and, by itself, does harm to that child”. Well, in the USA, any sexually explicit image of a person under 18 years of age is legally child porn. Consider this: Two 17-year-olds decide to partake in oral sex. The sex is consensual, and both enjoy the experience. In fact, during their fun, these two 17-year-olds had the audacity to place a camcorder on a nearby table to record the action for posterity. The tape, clearly showing sexually explicit activity by 17-year-olds, is unquestionably child porn. While the average parent probably wishes that their 17-year-old would refrain from such activity, how many parents would say that their 17-year-old son, having participated in this activity, was sexual abused or exploited? How many parents would say that their 17-year-old son, having participated in this activity, has sexual abused or exploited his partner? How many parents would want their 17-year-old son, having participated in this activity, to go to prison as a child pornographer?

I’d like to ask Mr. Madeira the following: If some Trojan or spyware is secretly downloading child porn to my computer, am I still abusing the children in those pictures? You said, Mr. Madeira, “…when you possess these pictures, you are abusing children.” Mr. Madeira, how can law enforcement agencies justify the retention (i.e., the possession) of child porn images given that such retention constitutes the abuse of children?

Mr. Flynn, are there any peer-reviewed studies that demonstrate that children are aware of and suffer abuse each time someone looks at or exchanges an image of child porn? If what you say is true, it would appear to provide near-conclusive evidence that extrasensory perception is in fact real. Furthermore, Mr. Flynn, has the FBI (or any other law enforcement agency) studied the harm that is done to the children depicted in child porn when law enforcement agents, prosecutors, and judges view the “evidence” in child porn prosecutions? Could it be that less harm would be done if we simply did not prosecute child porn cases and thus could avoid all those extra sets of eyes gawking at the child porn and thus abusing the children yet again?

Finally, if I understand this correctly, Ms. Allen is still being “virtually abused” because images of her are still available. Now I’m wondering if all images of holocaust victims should be destroyed in order to end the “virtual genocide” that apparently continues to this very day.

Conclusion 

We in the United States (along with much of the Western world) have lost our collective minds concerning the subject of child porn. The blind acceptance of government and law enforcement rhetoric, no matter how ridiculous and unsubstantiated it is, smacks more of McCarthyism, the Spanish Inquisition, and the Salem witch trials than of a democracy where free thought and debate are the rule.

Disturbing Images

December 29, 2006

The state must declare the child to be the most precious treasure of the people. As long as the government is perceived as working for the benefit of the children, the people will happily endure almost any curtailment of liberty and almost any deprivation. – Adolf Hitler, Mein Kampf

The case of James Perry has all the signs of a tremendous miscarriage of justice.

  • The defendant, Perry, evokes suspicion: A single, 31-year-old male kindergarten teacher in Oakland County, Michigan.
  • The accusation: The “heinous” crime of forcing two boys, 4 and 5 years old, to perform oral sex on him.
  • Suggestions that Perry’s attorney did a poor job of representing his client.
  • Statements from the boys that were initially conflicting on several points (including the rather key point as to whether the boys were alone or together when the alleged assaults took place) that later coalesced in to a more coherent story after repeated questioning of the boys, over the course of weeks, by their mothers.
  • After Perry’s conviction, information came to light that other teachers, who were never interviewed by the police before the trial, were in the room where the assaults allegedly occurred, at the time the assaults allegedly occurred.

While the information presented above is interesting, and points to a real travesty of justice, it is outside the scope of CP Explosion. No, what really concerns CP Explosion are the photos and videos that the police seized from Perry’s home after his arrest. The prosecutors wanted to show these images to the jury as evidence that Perry was a pedophile, but their request was denied by a judge who deemed the images irrelevant to the case. What was shown in the photos and videos seized from Perry’s home? Certainly not child porn. The photos were mostly of Perry’s half brothers and of Perry’s students at school and on school field trips. Perry was apparently the unofficial photographer for school events and field trips. The videos, and this is where it gets real juicy, were of such children’s staples as The Lion King, Harry Potter, and Little House on the Prairie. The prosecution has stated that the last, Little House on the Prairie, constitutes “non-pornographic erotica” for pedophiles. Better check your collection of old video tapes lest ye too be accused of being a pedophile…

An Oakland County Assistant Prosecutor, Andrea Dean, reportedly described these images as “very disturbing”. I wonder what she would think of the images she would find in my home… I wonder what she would think of the images she would find in your home…

In the Perry case, the prosecution wanted to present innocent photos and videos as evidence of the accused being a pedophile. In cases where a person is charged with possessing child porn, the jury typically doesn’t get to see the images in question. Only the police, prosecutor, and judge are free to leer at those “terrible” images. The jurors instead must rely on evaluations of the images by the investigators. When we have prosecutors labeling Little House on the Prairie as “non-pornographic erotica” and declaring that innocent images are “very disturbing”, it makes me wonder how many baby-in-bathtub photos have been described to juries as child porn…

My source for information about the Perry case was the Detroit Free Press.

The $20 Billion Lie

December 5, 2006

In a time of universal deceit, telling the truth becomes a revolutionary act. – George Orwell

It’s nice to start on a positive note. One of the most absurd numerical figures ever floated in the child porn discussion was the idea that child porn amounted to a $20 billion business. Yes, $20 billion is such an easy figure to throw around… it’s nice and round… and totally bogus.

Imagine if the market for Child porn really was $20 billion. That might break down as one million customers each spending $20,000 per year on child porn… that’s a lot of wealthy customers. It could be ten million customers each spending $2,000 per year. That’s still a lot of people with a lot of money to spare. Well, it could be one hundred million customers each averaging $200 per year on child porn. That’s a more realistic dollar figure, but also a whole lot of people interested in child porn… If that’s not enough, as recently as March 2006, The Christian Science Monitor was quoting Ernie Allen, president of the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC) as saying the child porn was a $20 to $30 billion business and that the use of child porn was “absolutely exploding”.

Finally, in April, 2006, two writers who actually seem to care about practicing journalism, Daniel Radosh and The Wall Street Journal’s Carl Bialik, looked into the source of the $20 billion figure. Both these articles provide a refreshing antidote to the otherwise pathetic state of journalism when the topic is child porn. The trail of the $20 billion figure leads to the NCMEC, then to a consulting firm McKinsey & Co, then to the FBI. When questioned on this, however, an FBI spokesman replied that, “the FBI has not stated the $20 billion figure.”

At the same time Radosh and Bialik were following the dead-end trail of the $20 billion figure, Representative Joe Barton, Chairman of the House Committee on Energy and Commerce was stating here that, “child pornography is apparently a multibillion, my staff analysis says $20 billion-a-year business.” One is led to wonder exactly what type of “analysis” Rep. Barton’s staff performed to arrive at that figure… Perhaps his staff’s idea of analysis consists of parroting the same unsubstantiated figures that everyone else was reporting… some “analysis” that is.

Even though the $20 billion figure was thoroughly discredited in April, 2006, fully five months later, on September 19, 2006, U.S. Senator Wayne Allard saw fit to issue a press release tooting his own horn and noting that, “child pornography is a $20 billion industry worldwide”. Senator Allard issued more that 40 press releases in September 2006 alone. Perhaps Senator Allard’s constituents (and the truth) would be better served if Allard’s staff dedicated more time to verifying the accuracy of his press releases, and less time cranking out mindless drivel.

I wonder how many more lies we are being fed by those with a vested interest in exaggerating the child pornography “problem”.