Tuesday, January 29, 2008

The grand inquistion: destroying teens to save them.

It appears the entire student body of Parkland High School ought to be registered sex offenders, if the law were applied. But the local police and district attorney are not going to apply the law because virtually the entire school is guilty of possession of child pornography.

State police have been sent to the school to scare the bejeesus out of the students into co-operating. Apparently images of two girls were distributed by cell phone from one student to another. In one case the girl involved had taken a photo of her breasts herself. District Attorney James Martin said of this girl, “she’s a victim and she’s not a victim.” There’s a clear legal standard.

Another girl was photographed having oral sex with an unidentified boy. Police can’t, or won’t, say if this is was done with her knowledge. So we don’t know if she too is “a victim and not a victim”.

Police have gone to the school to ensure that every student erases any such images from their cellphones or the students face prosecution for child pornography. In fact, the district attorney is being very careful with his wording. He said: “Our thrust has been to get the kids to come forward and we’ve indicated we will not charge them for possessing the images.” Please note that that the word indicated is one of those lovely weasel words. It doesn’t mean “promised” it merely means that the district attorney has said this is possible. It is a sign of something not a confirmation.

The real reason that they are hedging and hawing over this is that if they actually applied the laws as they stand they would have to prosecute most the teens at this high school and many in other schools who also saw the images. Samantha Smith, a junior at the school, clearly noted the problem: “The school isn’t going to get everybody because it is everybody. I don’t know anybody who didn’t get the pictures.” And in this case the everybody includes about 3,200 students.

Now, to prosecute 3,200 students means around 6,400 angry parents. It means outraged grandparents and cousins. It means pissed off neighbors. In other words it means the district attorney would be toast in the next election. So here the law will be selectively enforced to save the DA’s ass.

But as noted the DA only “indicated” that there won’t be prosecutions. He hasn’t promised it. And he’s also being very political here. He wants to have the option to prosecute someone just in case the anger goes the other way. He said: “I’m not sure what we’re going to do with the participants at this point.” Actually that should have been what he was going to do “to the participants” not with. With implies they are happy participants in the DA’s actions and I doubt that is the case.

The DA refers to the participants which, I assume, includes the girl who took a photo of her own breasts, that’s the girl he said was “a victim” and “not a victim” at the same time. So the DA is implying that they face a real possibility of being prosecuted as child pornographers even though they were the children in question.

This wouldn’t be the first time. The courts have backed up the sex panic laws that apply to kids as much as adults. Teens who stupidly record their own sex lives, in any way, can be, and have been, prosecuted as child pornographers. The Florida state appeals court has ruled that this legit. In the case they heard a 16-year-old girl and 17-year-old boy took some sexual photos of themselves. These digital photos were then sent from the girl’s computer to the boy’s e-mail. At no time did they distribute the photos to anyone else. Court records are unclear but somehow the police learned the photos existed and both teens were arrested for victimizing themselves. And the boy was charged with possessing child pornography (the photo of himself and his girlfriend) as well.

Now the courts have ruled that the teens can have sex without facing prosecution. But if they photograph those acts then they become heinous criminals, a threat to Western Civilization, cause Jesus to weep bloody tears, and encourage terrorism. Well, not quite but damn close.

The robed morons in Florida had some unique arguments in the case. Judge James Wolf though it fine to ruin the lives of these kids in order to not ruin their lives. He argued, in the majority opinion, that it didn’t matter that these “victims” hadn’t shown their own photos to anyone. He said they could still sell the photos to child pornographers (someone should let this moron know that because one is a minor in the law doesn’t make one a child -- teens are not children. They may not be adults yet but neither are they children.) Apparently the judge imagined that these two kids would be able to find child pornographers. Perhaps they are listed in the Yellow Pages. And he assumed these pornographers, who didn’t exist in the case, would actually want to buy these photos.

But this ignoramus said “the statute was intended to protect minors like appellant and her co-defendant from their own lack of judgment...” Even if one accepts that premise how does turning these teens in sex offenders protect them? They face a life time of harassment because they did something silly as teens. Apparently the judge is like the Inquisitors who were willing to execute someone in order to save them.

He also wanted them convicted because the “mere production of these videos or pictures may also result in psychological trauma to the teenagers involved.” If it were a crime to be stupid this man would have been jailed long ago. Does this “judge” actually think that these photos, taken by the teens themselves, are actually more traumatic than being arrested, hauled before idiots in robes, and convicted as child pornographers? Talk about irrationality in the courtroom.

The reality is that pornographers who want photos of teens of that age can find them legally and easily because that is the age of consent in most of Europe. The U.S. is unique in having a much higher age of consent than other countries when it comes to such matters. The age of consent for porn used to be 16 in the United States: so it is unlikely any of the teens we are talking would have been criminals under the old law. The law was changed by one of the worst attorney general’s in U.S. history, Ed Meese. Meese was a professional panic-monger when it came to sex and he was doing his level best to eradicate the “porn menace”.

Meese had the federal law changed to 18-years-of-age. He argued that while 16-year-olds might be able to consent that teens younger than that can’t. But some teens who are 14 appear to be 16 so to protect them he had the law raised to cover all teens until they turn 18. The idea was supposedly to protect teens younger than 16, not teens older than 16. Of course once Meese got his way things really took off. In fact, at that time the U.S. government claimed there was a massive increase in child porn. Duh! What they didn’t tell the public was that the porn in question had been legal until a few days earlier. The increase was entirely due to the change in definition. But with the increase in arrests the sex panic industry got rolling.

From that point, until today, the police and prosecutors, under both Democrats and Republicans, have been expanding their ability to arrest and incarcerate Americans for having consenting sex lives and sometimes for less. During the reign of Attorney General Janet Reno, a real sexaphobic monster, things got worse. Some of the cases I remember include a university student arrested for owning a video of teenage girls, fully dressed, using a mink’s tail to pretend to whip each other. A grandmother who went to take a bath decided to bath her infant granddaughter at the same time. The husband thought it was beautiful and took a photo. They were prosecuted as child pornographers and the grandmother accused of “imminent lesbianism”. In another case a man was convicted for owning a photograph of a teenage boy who was shirtless. The courts ruled that since the man allegedly found the photo appealing it qualified as child pornography.

No one questions the necessity of the law to protect children. But there is plenty of reason to think the law defines child far too broadly. And there is plenty of evidence that prosecutors are doing more harm to the alleged “victims” in these cases then they are doing good. The reality is that the legal system is exploiting a common fear among parents and that fear is being used to harm lots of teens in the process. When teens are traumatized by police, courts and being registered sex offenders, in order to protect them from themselves then things have really gotten out of hand.