We are developing the social individualist meta-context for the future. From the very serious to the extremely frivolous... lets see what is on the mind of the Samizdata people.

Samizdata, derived from Samizdat /n. - a system of clandestine publication of banned literature in the USSR [Russ.,= self-publishing house]

When someone shouts “Shark!”…

… it pays to ask if they are in a shark-repellent salesman before deciding just how risky swimming really is.

Do bad people use the Net to find victims? Without doubt they do and I would not make light of the harm that can be caused by ‘paedophiles’. Yet so often when I hear of the ‘epidemic’ of child abuse going on, it turns out that the story emanates from some agency or NGO who just so happens to have its funding come up for review or who are in some way rattling their begging bowl. But of course who would deny funding to people who only want to protect children? And who would questions the additional motivations of people who make their living in this line of work, not to mention the veracity of the figures for just how serious a problem it really is? To ask those sort of things runs the risk of having your motivations and ‘interests’ questioned in ways that would make most decent folks rather uncomfortable.

But just as legitimate grievances about civil rights have in many countries spawned monstrous civil rights industries that are little more than vehicles for shaking down certain sections of society and which have a vested interest in perpetuating the idea that some problems are worse than they really are, I have little doubt that legitimate concerns about internet predators have already led to something similar in the ‘preventing child abuse industry’. Oh, do not get me wrong, I neither doubt child abuse is a real and legitimate issue nor do I think everyone who works to prevent it is just looking to pad their bank accounts, but given how much I surf the net, I cannot help thinking that the scale of this problem does not seem to match the shrill rhetoric we hear on the subject. To listen to some people the fact I managed to grow up going to untended playgrounds and not treating adults as probable abusers… and yet somehow managed to never attract the attentions of a ‘kiddie fiddler’ must make me the luckiest lad around. Yet somehow I rather doubt that.

Cynical? You bet.

12 comments to When someone shouts “Shark!”…

  • Euan Gray

    I think this is a valid point.

    However, it is terribly difficult to discuss it. Suggesting that paedophilia is simply not as widespread as the scares indicate leads people to assume that one is oneself a paedophile.

    There is in my mind no doubt whatsoever that paedophilia is a grossly exaggerated phenomenon. So are global warming, obesity, racism, you name it. All these things exist, and they will always exist as long as two people are different from each other. However, you cannot legislate for humanity – what you can do is enforce appropriate punishment on those who do inappropriate things to children, but this does not require the assumption that all people (for which read “all men”) are latent paedophiles.

    Sometimes I wonder how humanity managed to reach its present level of development, plagued as it obviously is with rapists, paedophiles, murderers, incompetent parents, over-eaters, environment destroyers and alcoholics. Amazingly enough, we seem to have survived 6,000 years of civilisation without social workers, outreach coordinators and disabled black lesbian single parent entitlement officers. How on earth did we do it?


  • Stehpinkeln

    EG, One baby at a time, mostly. I forget if that is R breeding or K breeding. And mostly the ‘present level of development’ means the tools we use have gotten better. IMHO, the humans of 6,000 years ago are interchangeable with today humans. Fire up the way back machine and pick up a few, dress them and put them in the tube and you couldn’t tell them from ‘modern’ humans.
    Darwinism is about how animals adapt to their environment. Humans adapt their environment to suit themselves, so I’m not convienced that another 6,000 or 60,000 years will change the condition of being human very much. Civilization is a technical matter, so what will change is the definition of civilization.

  • Euan Gray


    There was a certain degree of irony in my comment. Perhaps you missed it.

    I know how evolution works, what is civilisation, and so on. It’s not quite as simple as you imply, but nearly so.


  • Stehpinkeln

    My bad, sorry. And while paedophilia is not as widespread as the fearmongers would have us believe, molested children are reasonably common. How many did that Catholic priest in Boston get? 150+ or so? And while the precentage of paedophiles is most likely the same now as it was 6,000 years ago, there are a hell of a lot more people around today.
    While I don’t think the State has a right to take the lives of it’s citizens, something along the lines of electro shock or a pre-frontal would be great. Let the sick bastards spend the rest of their natural days pushing a broom down the gutter. Then when his victims grow up, they can spend odd moments throwing trash in the gutter in front of him.

  • So are global warming, obesity, racism, you name it. All these things exist, and they will always exist as long as two people are different from each other

    Is it me or is global warming less about the differences between people (thousands of years old) and more to do with people burning fossil fuels? Lumping these problems under one big banner of “well it’s because people are different” is basically admitting defeat on them, as it implies that since we can’t change the fact that people are different, then we should never attempt to deal with these issues.

    Enough with the pseudo-authoritative social commentary already! Are you really trying to make any sort of useful point here, or is this just an articulation of a deep-seated vague cynicism about everything?

    I appreciate the downright cynicism in the original post – cynicism being as it always is a poor imitation of informed skepticism; colouring all groups which it comments on with the bad attributes of a few while then going on to say that it didn’t mean it (why bother saying it then?) – but let’s not make our points even more bland than they need to be.

  • snide

    Lumping these problems under one big banner of “well it’s because people are different” is basically admitting defeat on them

    No, I think the point he was making is that ‘global warming’ has less to do with how things really are and rather more to do with finding another reason to regulate and tax. The scientific basis for ‘man-made global warming’ is shaky to say the least… there is far more evidence that it is a cyclical thing, after all, most of Greenland is unihabited ice whereas it was once farmland that supported a far higher population 500 years ago than it does today… and that can hardly be blamed on industrian polution!

  • Slowjoe

    The use of the work “paedophile” seems to be
    a flag to me. It mixes up child murderers, child rapists, makers of child pornogrophy, and those in possession of child pornogrophy.

    It occurs to me that the confusion this causes helps only those with a hidden agenda. It is probably not a coincidence that “paedophiles” started to be a problem at the same time that law enforcement started to worry about control of the net.

  • Euan Gray

    No, I think the point he was making is that ‘global warming’ has less to do with how things really are and rather more to do with finding another reason to regulate and tax

    Yes, that was my point. My comment could have been better phrased, I admit.

    I think SlowJoe has a point about the timing of the thing. There is no doubt that the internet and the ready availability of digital cameras have greatly eased the production and distribution of pornography, but I’m not convinced that it makes any difference to the relative incidence of things like paedophilia. If you have sexual urges towards children, then presumably you will have them whether you can look at pictures or not. If you don’t have them, I don’t see why the availability of pictures is going to change this.

    The danger is that instead of trying to catch the paedophiles – to which few people would object – the focus will be on trying to control the internet. Whether this is possible in practice is another matter, but that never stopped anyone trying. And of course this raises another difficult issue – if one opposes regulation and censorship of the internet, one is assumed to be a pornographer or worse.


  • I'm suffering for my art

    I wonder how y’all feel about child sex offender registers. I happen to think it’s rather a thorny one. I am conflicted over the issue.

  • duncan

    Offender registries are one of those, great in theory, mostly useless and possibly dangerous in reality. First off, if you happend to get on one of these things by mistake, not a stretch I don’t think, being labeled as a sex offender is something that is not easy, if possible at all, to totally erase.

    And as much as you may think certain offenders deserve what they get, I know of at least one instance where the registry was used to track someone down and cause them harm. If you did jail time, or did whatever the judge felt you needed to do, it’s not right that ones life should be put in continual danger in this manner.

    I’m not trying to defend a sex offenders from getting what they deserve, but the registry can have everyone from a *true* child molesting piece of garbage to an 18 year old who had sex with his 16 year old girl friend… certainly not in the same line I don’t think.

    Why not a registry for drunk drivers, or drug users or child abusers (so what if it was only a smack on the rear)? It’s just too far down a steep slope I thinks…

  • I'm suffering for my art

    Duncan – I am in agreeance to some extent. If you serve your time, regardless of the crime, you should be considered rehabilitated in the eyes of the law, until you reoffend.

    However, when it comes to my child – not that I have had one yet, but I’m pretty sure I’d feel this way – I’d absolutely suspend that kind of reason to protect him/her. If a person with a record of paedophilia had just moved into my neighbourhood, I would absolutely want to know about it. I wouldn’t be willing to take the risk of assuming his rehabilitation.

    I accept it’s a genuine injustice to people who have committed paedophilia – not of the statutory rape variety – in the past and have been rehabilitated. I’m sure it makes their life incredibly difficult. However, my child’s welfare would be of greater concern to me.

  • Duncan

    I hear ya.