“For The Children,” With A Vengeance

Greta Thunberg speaks of impending climate disaster. David Hogg speaks of the mass shootings of students. What distinguishes them, and others, isn’t the subject of their activism. Many people speak to these issues. But that they are children, using the “purity” of their youth to play upon the emotions of others. Neither possesses any expertise to justify anyone heeding their cries, and yet their passion can move people, and so they’re put front and center as useful pawns for the cause.

And it works. It works exceptionally well, because we are a nation that loves our children, that wants to make them feel happy and safe, that cares about them.

But Greta is no climate scientist. Hogg only got into Harvard by affirmative activist action. Being close to tragedy may enable a person to speak to his feelings, but provides no legal and policy insight whatsoever. Still, it’s hard to challenge children who are used to promote causes about which they know nothing more than empty platitudes and simplistic answers.

In light of these success of using children to front for a cause, the New York Times is making a new push into old turf by suggesting a panic in our midst, again for the children, with the hysterical and hyperbolic headline:

The Internet Is Overrun With Images of Child Sexual Abuse. What Went Wrong?

The headline alone indulges in the fallacy of begging the question, since “what went wrong” assumes the “internet is overrun” to be true. This is a particularly problematic claim, as most of us wouldn’t have a clue, not merely having no interest in knowing, or seeing, child porn, but studiously avoiding it. It’s repugnant, it’s illegal and there’s no way in hell any normal person is going to search for it, look at it, find out whether this is real.

Are we a nation of child porn perverts, sadists, masochists, sick and twisted adults doing outrageous things to children, our children, other people’s children, but children? You aren’t. I’m not. No one I know is, although one never really knows what others do in the quiet of their own worlds. But the New York Times says it’s an epidemic, and what sort of decent person would allow such an outrageous epidemic to go on?

The images are horrific. Children, some just 3 or 4 years old, being sexually abused and in some cases tortured.

Pictures of child sexual abuse have long been produced and shared to satisfy twisted adult obsessions. But it has never been like this: Technology companies reported a record 45 million online photos and videos of the abuse last year.

That sounds horrific, like an explosion of kiddie porn images, all of which means that there must be an explosion of children being abused. But this doesn’t mean that there are 45 million different photos reflecting 45 million instances of horrific abuse. It means that’s the total reported, and the same image could be hypothetically reported 45 million times to reach the same number. In other words, we’re offered outrageous claims and a dearth of evidence to support them.

But since it’s about children, since the few descriptions which we will happily accept as true because there is no way we would want to find out for ourselves, are horrible, what sort of animal would question a cause so right? As with each of the causes using children, only a person who hates children or supports doing them harm would question their cause. And we are a nation that loves its children.

But the story isn’t written for the sake of making us feel awful about the children, but to push us to support measures that will eradicate this awful harm.

An investigation by The New York Times found an insatiable criminal underworld that had exploited the flawed and insufficient efforts to contain it. As with hate speech and terrorist propaganda, many tech companies failed to adequately police sexual abuse imagery on their platforms, or failed to cooperate sufficiently with the authorities when they found it.

Law enforcement agencies devoted to the problem were left understaffed and underfunded, even as they were asked to handle far larger caseloads.

The Justice Department, given a major role by Congress, neglected even to write mandatory monitoring reports, nor did it appoint a senior executive-level official to lead a crackdown. And the group tasked with serving as a federal clearinghouse for the imagery — the go-between for the tech companies and the authorities — was ill equipped for the expanding demands.

Who is this “insatiable criminal underworld” of sick perverts? Does it matter, since it sounds just horrible, and since it’s a criminal underworld, it’s not as if they’re going to pose for pictures, even if providing images to their “insatiable” porn addicts is what they do.

So we need more laws, more cops, harsher punishments to fight this epidemic, like “hate speech and terrorist propaganda.” See how they slipped that in there?

There is no question that kiddie porn exists and is horrible. There is no question that people who create it, peddle it, are beyond disgusting. There is no question that we, as a nation, should find the abuse of children intolerable. But is it an explosion of child porn, or is this breathlessly vague reporting attempting to induce panic to get the groundlings all worked up about yet another reason to forsake the Constitution, throw ever-greater funds into law enforcement, create ever-increasingly harsh sentences, because this epidemic must be stopped at all costs.

What, if anything, should be done about? Eliminate encryption, eradicate the “dark web,” give law enforcement and the keepers of the interwebs the ability to check our every word and thought for kiddie porn, not to mention hate speech and terrorist propaganda as long as they’re already watching?

Perhaps we need better policy to address this problem, but effective policy that both deals with the problem, whether or not it’s the panic the New York Times is selling, without eviscerating rights to save the children never comes from vague hysteria. But appeals to mindless emotion when it involves the children have been working really well lately, so the NYT plays it again to see if we’ll fall for it.

8 thoughts on ““For The Children,” With A Vengeance

  1. Richard Kopf


    A few random thoughts from someone who deals with child porn frequently:

    1. Your empirical point–that the number is grossly overstated–seems accurate. There are various “series” of this stuff using the first name of the child that are constantly recycled. For example, let’s call it the “Richard series” to avoid the obvious. I have seen the “Richard series” time after time after time. And the same goes for the “Scott series.” And there are numerous other series. Same images shared back and forth between guys in their basements who couldn’t get jobs masturbating monkeys. (See Skink for details on the monkey business)

    2. I see very few producers as opposed to consumers. The producers–out here in flyover country at least–are often parents as horrifying as that is. But the vast majority of the mass production comes from Eastern Europe who put out this stuff on an industrial scale.

    3. Almost none of the consumers I see are “hands on” abusers–they did not participate in the video abuse, have never abused a child and are unlikely to do so. As a result, the rate of variance from the Sentencing Guidelines is large–meaning almost no serious federal judge sentences consumers anywhere near the Guidelines range. And that is to the good.

    4. If you want to slow kiddie porn, begin cutting off foreign aid to Eastern Europe until they get serious. Put real pressure on Russia on these issues. After all, they were good enough to stop Hillary! (Or maybe that was the Ukrainians–I get confused easily.)

    5. The NYT has no clue and stirs the emotional pot to no end. OK, next. Let’s talk now about child sex trafficking. It’s horrible. We need to do something. I hope the NYT gets on the case. After all, it’s for the children. After that, let’s write about kids in cages. And, so it goes.

    All the best.


    1. SHG Post author

      I only know it from a distance, as I just don’t have the stomach for it, but you confirm my understanding.

      Then again, there can be no reasonable voice when a panic picks up steam.

  2. B. McLeod

    “Technology companies reported a record 45 million online photos and videos of the abuse last year.”

    And the basis of this reporting was. . . ? It puts me in mind of the adage that 42% of people make up statistics on the Internet (maybe 60% at the NYT).

    1. SHG Post author

      Either way, that didn’t take long. You knew they would milk this for their own purposes. What else could they do?

      1. Jim Tyre

        It took negative time. The DOJ thing was scheduled two days before the NYT piece was published. (See the date at the bottom.) But yeah, of course they’ll milk it.

        1. Rendall

          Huh. Weird. It’s almost like the NYT and and specific departments of the government cooperate to advance their interests.

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