Monday, June 23, 2008

College girls whistle at builders, here come the politicians.

Let us start with an incident that, under normal circumstances, would be amusing --- along the lines of mailman bites dog. Apparently some girls at West Kent College, in Tonbride, England, have allegedly been whistling at male builders working on campus. Having seen English builders I take this as more of a sign of desperation than anything else.

The school sent an e-mail out to the pupils chastising them for such behaviour and warning them that “making comments to, or whistling at, the builders whilst on site and as they walk around the campus” is “totally unacceptable.” This is “harassment” of the big, butch builders, fragile things that they are.

Oddly the contractors themselves who have hired the builders have said that they have received no complaints from builders whatsoever. None. Not one.

Such comments are annoying under many circumstances and welcomed under others. There are even cases where they may actually reach the level of harassment. Of course for some people just smiling at them sends them into fits of fear and they find that harassing.

But here is the real issue. Under new legislation, The Sexual Offences Bill, that is proposed for parts of the U.K., this sort of gauche behaviour becomes becomes a crime. It will be called “communicating indecently”. Note that indecent communication won’t mean things like politicians lying through their eye-teeth about some crisis or another that needs “urgent” attention and a “firm hand” to “deal with it.”. Their indecent communication, as usual, will remain exempt.

But these college girls having a whistle at some builder could well become criminals. According to the London Telegraph the new legislation not only makes whistling a crime but it would mean the whistler would be “placed on the sex offenders register.”

I have harped on this issue before. My contention has been that once the registers were created bureaucrats and politicians have done everything in their power the definition of “sex offender” in order to capture more and more people. This political class benefits from public panic. To fuel the sex hysteria they have to show a crisis. And an ever expanding list of sex offenders is one way to do that. If there were 10,000 offenders on the list last year and 15,000 this year that allows scare headlines like: “Sex offenses double in last year.”

As long as people don’t figure out that the increases are due entirely to redrawing the boundaries the fear continues. People see these lists and assume rapists. They imagine some adult male raping attacking a small child. They don’t imagine two teens have a romp on a date or a school girl whistling at builder. But the sad reality is that the list of sex offenders is being expanded with precisely these kind of offenses.

And, if you think about it, that would have to be the case. There has been no significant increase in real sex offenses. If anything they would have declined. As the Washington Post reported in 2006, “The number of rapes per capita in the United States has plunged by more than 85 percent since the 1970s...” They noted that a “stunning reduction in sexual violence” has been “consistent over the past two decades”.

As an aside I might point out something about this decline. Since the 1970s the internet has become ubiquitous. And, like it or not, anyone who wants porn can get more than they can possible view, free of charge, in less than 30 seconds. As a test it took me 8 seconds to open up google, images and type in the word “porn” and to have the first batch of photos on my screen. Eight seconds! What that means is that more and more people are viewing porn and real sexual offenses, like rape, are declining. By the way, Judge Richard Posner theorized in his book, Sex and Reason, that increased porn would lead to fewer real sexual offenses not more. He was right and the feminist-fundamentalist alliance was wrong -- again.

With real sex crimes declining the only way to keep the sex panic going was to find more and more offenses. Ever since those registers were created the definition of sex crimes have been expanded well beyond anything that is actually a crime. Remember the fundy prosecutor in Maricopa County, Arizona tried to force a 16-year-old boy to register as a sex offender because he showed a copy of Playboy to some school mates. In Utah they prosecuted two 12-year-old kids as sex offenders because they had sex with each other. In Washington they tried to prosecute kids as sex offenders for running around school and slapping each other on the butts.

The sex offender hysteria has gone out of control. And now we hear that whistling at someone might be enough, in the UK, to get one registered as a sex offender! Of course the officials say that it will only be used in extreme cases. We’ve heard that line before. It is always used to justify the camel’s nose in the tent and then they go hog wild.

The only way this is going to stop is that people have to keep spreading the meme that this has happened. Case histories illustrating this hysteria need to spread. And people need to understand that these registers aren’t “protecting” kids but making them less safe.

One interesting point that has been made regarding the accumulation of information is that an increase in information means, after a certain point, a decrease in actual police efficiency. Just as increasing taxes, after a certain point, decreases revenue the accumulation of worthless data makes one less efficient in finding important data.

Previously the pool of potential suspects was a smaller one with the most likely suspects listed. But as the pool expands, with fewer and fewer real criminals included the search time to process that information expands as well. Surveillance cameras in England didn’t increase crime prevention. All it did was hand police massive amounts of tapes to search through. The politicians are overloading the system with useless information.

The reality is that if one uses the sex offender data base to find real sex offenders one is going to be spending a good deal of time chasing down innocuous people who shouldn’t be on the list at all. Information overload means that the real information gets buried under layers of minutia. That doesn’t protect anyone except the real offenders.

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