Censorship and kiddie porn

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Some years ago now I was involved in exposing somebody as a publisher of child pornography. That man is no longer in New Zealand as a result, and I am glad of that.

I would find child porn reprehensible no matter what my family situation, but I have four children. That makes the thought of child porn even more grotesque to me. In recent discussions over the last day or so with a couple of self-styled libertarians, they put it to me that a libertarian (which I am not) should oppose all censorship, and since banning child pornography counts as censorship, it should not be banned. One of these men was a particularly vile defender of the child pornographer who is no longer in this country. I could understand this coming from him, but the other person is ostensibly a Christian. The principles of liberty and free speech, he insisted, extended to the publication of child porn.

What say you then? If you believe in free speech, do you extend this freedom to a person who writes homosexual erotica where men in their thirties seduce and engage in sexual acts – acts described in lurid detail – with young boys (pre-pubescent), and who advocates in that literature that people stop persecuting “boy lovers?” If not, why not? (I use this example because this was one of the examples I was confronted with in the case of the child pornographer I referred to earlier). I’m interested in what readers think about this. Do you agree that libertarianism should lead to the freedom of the child porn industry?

Please be aware that in this particular thread I will be enforcing the blog policy fairly strictly. Read it before posting if you’re not sure what it involves. Please note also that I will not publish any advocacy of child porn or paedophilia at this blog. This is my blog, and you don’t have the freedom to use it however you like. Just don’t post it OK?

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{ 12 comments… add one }
  • Thrasymachus September 26, 2010, 1:16 pm

    It seems the libertarian line for this will be fairly clear.

    Pornographic photographs of children wouldn’t be okay on Libertarianism because it fairly obviously violates the harm principle. There’s a bit of a grey area as how to how libertopia treats people without capacity, but all libertarians will front-load the calculus to get the results they want. The children can’t consent, and the Libertarian will assume this fails the ‘next test’, that of best-interest.

    But there’s similarly abhorrent things that can’t be proscribed. Writing or drawing erotica with children doesn’t violate the rights of any child. Likewise paedophile activism. So stopping it surely isn’t on by the lights of libertarianism: they’d say although this sort of thing is disgusting and repulsive and so on, it isn’t the role of the state to be a moral censor, even when the ethics is plainly not in doubt. Instead, ‘punishment’ would be left to private individuals in excoriating, shunning and so on.

    So Libertarianism is plainly wrong here. The main error, I reckon, is that speech acts can be incendiary and can do profound damage. Although a commitment to freedom of expression is important, it isn’t the only (and sometimes not even the foremost) concern to a decent society. We shouldn’t be so worried about offending the freedoms of paedophiles to fantasize or advocate molesting children if criminalization helps protect children.*

    * The latter is an empirical question: there’s a lot wrong with how we deal with paedophiles. Making paedophiles hostis humani generis, and making admission to being sexually attracted to children socially suicidal is probably counter-productive: these people will surely go underground rather than seek help. That said, there’s a big difference between this arrant and quixotic hatred of paedophiles and normalizing their behaviour. Although we should be supportive of paedophiles who abhor their sexual attraction, we should be very intolerant of those who advocate it, or who produce materials that cater for it.**

    ** Sorry for second footnote. Another issue is whether ‘paedophilic erotica’ that doesn’t involve children in its creation (eg. text, drawings) has a good or a bad effect. Do paedophiles who use these things get ‘egged on’ to abuse a child, or does it instead attenuate this drive? I have no idea. If it’s the latter, though, there may be a case for permitting these sorts of things on harm reduction grounds: no children are abused in their creation, and their ‘use’, appalling though it is, is far preferable to the additional abuse that would otherwise occur.

  • Glenn September 26, 2010, 2:43 pm

    “There’s a bit of a grey area as how to how libertopia treats people without capacity,”

    One particularly insidious tactic of the pornographer who isn’t here anymore (who was also a self-styled libertarian) was to praise cultures where the age of consent was ten years old. And of course, if adults decide that children can give “consent,” then videos and photos are fair game as well as fantasy writing.

  • Curtis S September 26, 2010, 5:55 pm

    Okay, I’ll bite. I’m a libertarian for the most part. This seems so obvious to me that I’m sure I’m missing something. A thing is right or wrong and does or does not affect other individuals and thus society.

    If no real children are involved in any way then how is a wrong done to any individual or society that requires a restriction of freedom? I realize there is a question of escalation in the pedophile’s activities to the point where harm is done. This has never seemed to me to be a good reason for prohibition. If I drink, I may get to feeling good and want to go for a drive. Better make drinking illegal. But we don’t. We educate and punish. In the drinking and driving issue it is having some effect.

    We cannot protect everyone from every harm. So, erotica is hard or impossible to get for the pedophile. Next, (because erotica is gone and help isn’t wanted) the perv confesses after arrest that he was…um…getting his fix watching the boys on Sesame Street. What? Now we take Big Bird and friends off the air? I do not believe the pedophiles problem is the prevalence of erotic material. His problem is mental, emotional and spiritual. He will control himself or not.

    You know where it goes from here. Right? One attempt at a biosphere found that trees with no wind died as the roots did not grow deep to support them in the non-existent wind. I don’t want to live in a rubber room rapped in bubble wrap, nor do I wish to raise my children in such an environment. Of course, to make things totally safe I won’t get to raise my children anyway. Will I?

    I have always valued freedom over safety. You know the cool quotes from the old dead philosophers and political leaders from the founding of America at least. Okay enough rhetoric and slippery slopes from me.

    What is the rationale for limiting freedom for a marginally safer society that could be made safer in ways that don’t affect that same freedom?

  • Glenn September 26, 2010, 9:26 pm

    Curtis, do you think that there are just two alternatives: No censorship of any form of speech whatsoever, or else we are in a rubber room wrapped in bubble wrap?

    Do you think it’s possible that other options might exist?

    As for your question about rationale: I suppose the rationale would be one that doesn’t regard a man’s personal freedom as the greatest of all possible goods. To speak like a dead philosopher (someone like Locke, for example), I might say that the publication of fantasies involving – and the publication of the advocacy of – adult men having sexual relations with boys is such a clear violation of the law of nature, which is the basis of all just and good law, that promoting such things should not be permitted any more than the publication of tracts literally calling for the violent overthrow of the state.

  • Mandeno Musings September 27, 2010, 12:26 am

    Pornographic photographs of children wouldn’t be okay on Libertarianism because it fairly obviously violates the harm principle.

    Making child porn would violate the libertarian non-aggression axiom, viewing it would not. Therefore a libertarian can justify the watching of child porn if the non-aggression axiom is his highest law (he is incentivising but not compelling the making of child porn: only compelling leads to culpability).

    These matters raise a fundamental question: where does your moral code come from? Secular humanism allows each person to develop their own moral code and the result is conflict (for an example of this see http://mandenomusings.wordpress.com/2010/09/23/moral-codes-and-dead-possums/ ). This is not true relativism, because secular humanism is absolutist in denying absolutism.

    Governments based on secular humanist principles – which, as far as I know, is all of them – are also absolutist in imposing the state’s morality upon the population. Eg, thou shalt pay taxes, and thou shalt not smack your children.

    Relativism fails the reality test: eg, a true relativist who saw his wife being murdered in front of him would shrug and say “It is moral by the assailant’s principles, who am I to tell him that he is wrong?” and take no action against the murderer.

    The human condition requires a moral code that governs the relationship between individuals (eg pornographers and kids): again, where is this moral code coming from? Presently it’s coming from a bunch of demagogues in Wellington.

    Many libertarians do regard the non-aggression axiom as their highest law, but without external revelation that axiom is a form of humanism and applying it leads to moral problems that cannot be solved without infringing someone’s personal or property rights. I believe that the non-aggression axiom is consistent with the Bible, but my application of that axiom ceases when doing so contradicts the Bible because the Bible is my highest law.

    Despite these problems, a society where the non-aggression axiom was the moral code that governed the relationships between individuals – as well as the state’s relationship with the citizens – would be a vast improvement on what we have now. I believe that utopia is unachievable this side of a certain event, but we’d be a lot closer to it if our laws were derived from the non-aggression axiom.

    To prevent any confusion: both making and watching is child porn is a violation of my personal moral code, and repugnant in the extreme.

  • Curtis S September 27, 2010, 5:11 am

    Glen,
    Of course I think there are other alternatives. I did declare my language as rhetorical and of the slippery slope. However, history has shown us repeatedly that limiting freedom always tends to the extreme over time. If some in society must be limited in their freedom, why must it be the free speech of the majority that is limited in order to protect the free movement of the pedophile? It is not an issue of speech or expression at the root but an issue of freedom and responsibility.

    When our freedom here in the US was so curtailed to protect the “rights” of the minority (the Crown) we did “publish tracts calling for the violent overthrow of the state.” I find that was both moral and necessary to regain the freedom that had eroded over time. It was the children of Locke that thought it was time for just such publication.

    To my request for a rationale for censorship you responded, “I might say that the publication of fantasies involving – and the publication of the advocacy of – adult men having sexual relations with boys is such a clear violation of the law of nature, which is the basis of all just and good law, that promoting such things should not be permitted any more than the publication of tracts literally calling for the violent overthrow of the state.”

    I’ve dealt with the tracts calling for violence against the state already. I have no problem with their publication. This brings me to the core of my response. The word publication. You really don’t believe publication is a violation of the law of nature, do you? I believe it is the fantasies, the advocating, and the actual having the described relations that violate those laws. Therein lie the alternatives. Who does the fantasizing, the advocating, the relating? Remove them, censor them, not actions that they do (publish) but the persons themselves. They have radical freedom until they cause harm, at that point they are held radically responsible. I believe in deterrent.

    The publications on the other hand, that is where the (I think) dismissive response above from Thrasymachus comes in, “Instead, ‘punishment’ would be left to private individuals in excoriating, shunning and so on.” The public square is where the norms of society are formed. If porn is normative it is because the public square approves or ignores it. Without the disapproval of the public square no amount of prohibitive law will prevent the spreading of the publications of the type in question. With the disapproval of the public no lack of censorship will make the publication prevalent. This is quite similar language to many of our (USA)revolutionary fathers statements. I have always agreed.

  • Curtis S September 27, 2010, 5:56 am

    It just seems to me that the first place we always turn to is passing a law limiting freedom for everyone. It’s easier and makes us feel better even though it hardly ever works. Violence goes up despite gun laws. The clandestine stills and drug manufacturing makes poison and kills even more than pharmacies would. The pervs will go underground too. They already are. We have no real drive to stop them so they’ll thrive there.

    Before these, for instance, I could say to my daughter, “see, that’s how you carry and use a gun responsibly and if you have an issue with one of those pedophiles over there at the magazine stand just get a nice person with a gun.” Or, “look daughter, you use drugs and you’ll end up over there in the ditch with them, but don’t worry they won’t hurt you because everyone is armed and they know it.”

    Instead I have to tell her, “if the pervs bother you yell really loud cause no one will be armed to help. We just hope the police will show up in the usual 20to30 minutes and you’ll still be alive.” And, “see daughter, watch out for that guy, you can’t really tell but he is probably a druggie. He has to hide it because it’s illegal. And, since it’s illegal he’s probably got an illegal gun to rob you with because the price is so high and no one will stop him. You see, we thought passing laws would make us safer and it hasn’t, so now we have to watch out for ourselves, just like before, only now we have less power to do it with, and we might even get in trouble for doing it.”

    My responsibility remains the same regardless of what laws pass. Every law limits freedom in some way and unfortunately seem to grant the immoral more rights. You pass a law against publishing. Big deal. The pervs are in my neighborhood. They don’t fear me because they know I’m not armed. This was done to make my neighborhood safer. I can’t speak against them or point them out as this would be “hate speech.” I can’t join with my neighbors to regulate against them or shun them because that would discriminate against their “equal housing opportunity.” I can’t refuse to hire them at my daycare business because they haven’t committed a crime yet and that would violate their “equal employment opportunity.” Our laws have done quite well at protecting them. I suppose when the perv takes a child from my daycare, it will be decided that daycare businesses are just too much of a temptation in neighborhoods were pedophiles live therefore they are banned. Surely this will protect our children. YES,YES, YES…this is over the top. But doesn’t anyone get the picture?

    Guns don’t kill people. People kill people.
    Laws don’t stop drugs. They push them underground.
    Laws limit freedom and never change the morals of a nation while making it harder for the moral to defend their way of life.

    Sorry for the rant.

  • Thrasymachus September 27, 2010, 11:46 pm

    Glenn:

    I agree. Age of consent laws are necessarily a bit fuzzy: it’s 16 where I live, but I’m sure there are 14 year olds who have capacity, and 18 year olds who don’t. I guess the argument of the self-styled libertarian would be something like “look, over here they have the age of consent at 12 or whatever, and no harm comes of it, so why can’t 12 year olds consent over here?”

    I’m unsure whether no harm does come of it (by my lights, sex between two twelve year olds falls under a much lighter shadow of suspicion than sex between a twelve and a forty-two year old). But pretend there’s ‘pederastiland’ we know about where all children have sex with adults as part of growing up and yet seem entirely normally adjusted and show no ill effect. So what? We aren’t in pederastiland. Where we live, child-adult sex is child abuse, and does vast and horrific damage to another human being. The fact these harms are culturally plastic doesn’t make them less severe.

    But perhaps all of this is doing the pornographer an unnecessary intellectual charity for his dissemblance.

    MM: I don’t pretend to be up to speed on Libertarianism, but wouldn’t buying/sharing pictures and videos be criminal in libertopia for similar reasons to why (knowingly) trafficing stolen goods would be?

  • Mandeno Musings September 28, 2010, 12:36 pm

    I don’t pretend to be up to speed on Libertarianism, but wouldn’t buying/sharing pictures and videos be criminal in libertopia for similar reasons to why (knowingly) trafficing stolen goods would be?

    As far as I can see the most literal interpretation of the non-aggression axiom is that in both cases the end user is not violating the non-aggression axiom, therefore he would not be culpable if the axiom is the highest law. This comes back to my point about application of the axiom without moderation by the Bible being humanistic and problematic. Eg Walter Block says that an unwanted baby in utero is a trespasser and the mother has the right to evict; what happens post-eviction isn’t her problem.

    As I said, I believe that the axiom contains biblical principles (cf Ex 21-22), but my application of it ceases when doing so contradicts the Bible.

    The libertarian creed rests upon one central axiom: that no man or group of men may aggress against the person or property of anyone else. This may be called the “nonaggression axiom.” “Aggression” is defined as the initiation of the use or threat of physical violence against the person or property of anyone else. Aggression is therefore synonymous with invasion.

    If no man may aggress against another; if, in short, everyone has the absolute right to be “free” from aggression, then this at once implies that the libertarian stands foursquare for what are generally known as “civil liberties”: the freedom to speak, publish, assemble, and to engage in such “victimless crimes” as pornography, sexual deviation, and prostitution (which the libertarian does not regard as “crimes” at all, since he defines a “crime” as violent invasion of someone else’s person or property). Furthermore, he regards conscription as slavery on a massive scale. And since war, especially modern war, entails the mass slaughter of civilians, the libertarian regards such conflicts as mass murder and therefore totally illegitimate.

    All of these positions are now considered “leftist” on the contemporary ideological scale. On the other hand, since the libertarian also opposes invasion of the rights of private property, this also means that he just [p. 24] as emphatically opposes government interference with property rights or with the free-market economy through controls, regulations, subsidies, or prohibitions. For if every individual has the right to his own property without having to suffer aggressive depredation, then he also has the right to give away his property (bequest and inheritance) and to exchange it for the property of others (free contract and the free market economy) without interference. The libertarian favors the right to unrestricted private property and free exchange; hence, a system of “laissez-faire capitalism.”

    In current terminology again, the libertarian position on property and economics would be called “extreme right wing.” But the libertarian sees no inconsistency in being “leftist” on some issues and “rightist” on others. On the contrary, he sees his own position as virtually the only consistent one, consistent on behalf of the liberty of every individual. For how can the leftist be opposed to the violence of war and conscription while at the same time supporting the violence of taxation and government control? And how can the rightist trumpet his devotion to private property and free enterprise while at the same time favoring war, conscription, and the outlawing of noninvasive activities and practices that he deems immoral? And how can the rightist favor a free market while seeing nothing amiss in the vast subsidies, distortions, and unproductive inefficiencies involved in the military-industrial complex?

    While opposing any and all private or group aggression against the rights of person and property, the libertarian sees that throughout history and into the present day, there has been one central, dominant, and overriding aggressor upon all of these rights: the State. In contrast to all other thinkers, left, right, or in-between, the libertarian refuses to give the State the moral sanction to commit actions that almost everyone agrees would be immoral, illegal, and criminal if committed by any person or group in society. The libertarian, in short, insists on applying the general moral law to everyone, and makes no special exemptions for any person or group. But if we look at the State naked, as it were, we see that it is universally allowed, and even encouraged, to commit all the acts which even nonlibertarians concede are reprehensible crimes. The State habitually commits mass murder, which it calls “war,” or sometimes “suppression of subversion”; the State engages in enslavement into its military forces, which it calls “conscription”; and it lives and has its being in the practice of forcible theft, which it calls “taxation.” The libertarian insists that whether or not such practices are supported by the majority of the population is not germane to their nature: that, regardless of popular sanction, War is Mass Murder, Conscription is [p. 25] Slavery, and Taxation is Robbery. The libertarian, in short, is almost completely the child in the fable, pointing out insistently that the emperor has no clothes.

    Throughout the ages, the emperor has had a series of pseudoclothes provided for him by the nation’s intellectual caste. In past centuries, the intellectuals informed the public that the State or its rulers were divine, or at least clothed in divine authority, and therefore what might look to the naive and untutored eye as despotism, mass murder, and theft on a grand scale was only the divine working its benign and mysterious ways in the body politic. In recent decades, as the divine sanction has worn a bit threadbare, the emperor’s “court intellectuals” have spun ever more sophisticated apologia: informing the public that what the government does is for the “common good” and the “public welfare,” that the process of taxation-and-spending works through the mysterious process of the “multiplier” to keep the economy on an even keel, and that, in any case, a wide variety of governmental “services” could not possibly be performed by citizens acting voluntarily on the market or in society. All of this the libertarian denies: he sees the various apologia as fraudulent means of obtaining public support for the State’s rule, and he insists that whatever services the government actually performs could be supplied far more efficiently and far more morally by private and cooperative enterprise.

    Rothbard is both cerebral and clear: the above is from http://tinyurl.com/c2mzc2

    This has revolutionised many people’s understanding of money: http://tinyurl.com/2q4lok

  • Rob R September 28, 2010, 2:10 pm

    Violence goes up despite gun laws. The clandestine stills and drug manufacturing makes poison and kills even more than pharmacies would.

    The idea that making something illegal doesn’t effect it’s availability and prevalence just isn’t true.

    A good counterexample, despite what your politically correct history books tell you is alccohol prohibition in the US. I’ve spoken to a doctor about it who saw the relevant statistics on it in medical school. When prohibition came, liver disease dropped drastically and when it ended in the 40’s, it took decades, until the 70’s for alcohol consumption levels to reach it’s pre-prohibition levels. And the crime rate related to prohibition certainly wasn’t nearly as high as it is today.

    that’s not to say that I think the law is always the answer. I support keeping child porn illegal. But laws don’t make people good. They can aid a society and restrain evil to an extent, but ultimately, you have to have people aggressively seeking moral excellence and integrity of their own initiative and only institutions like the church are good at pushing people to do this.

  • Curtis S October 2, 2010, 8:17 pm

    Rob R,

    Prohibition of alcohol in the US began in 1920 and ended in 1933, just to get the time correct. The fact that alcohol was illegal cannot be directly linked to it’s availability and prevalence, regardless of liver disease statistics. The counter example doesn’t take into account that many law abiding Americans chose not to break the law to get what they may have otherwise wanted and felt was okay. If they had, I believe there would have been a supply for the demand. There is no statistics to show this true of false. Though fewer people may have been drinking, I do not recall any stories of difficulty finding a drink for very long. My conclusion is that alcohol during prohibition was as prevalent and available (to anyone wanting a drink)as it was before 1920 and after 1933. The differences (just as drugs today) were the cost was higher, the product was less safe (bad shine could blind or kill you), and all involved were exposed to the violence of the criminals supplying the demand and the government war against it.

    “And the crime rate related to prohibition certainly wasn’t nearly as high as it is today.” I’m not sure how that is relevant? The crime rate related to a lack of prohibition in alcohol and drugs would certainly be extremely less that the crime rate caused by their prohibition. The number of people who kill, rob, drive under the influence and all such related crimes are much less than the number who are violently killed as the result of gangs, organized crime, military, and law enforcement activities related to prosecuting the “war on drugs.”

    It’s pretty simple I think. Fewer laws make for fewer criminals. Fewer criminals make for fewer crimes. Fewer crimes make for fewer victims. I think you would have to demonstrate that the number of real victims actually goes higher when prohibition is dropped. By real victims I mean people who have no choice in participating in the activity that harms them. Failing to demonstrate this tells me that the activity in view should be left to the local community and not the state to regulate.

    Yes, I think child porn should always be illegal. There is a real child involved. What was mostly in question I believe could better be called cartoon porn or language porn (in case of written or audio material.) Um…cartoons and ink letters on pages aren’t real children. The rest of the argument about inciting the pedophile to act in real life can be addressed by education and consequences.

    Just this week I helped bury a 19yr old kid. It is yet to be seen what the full facts are but I’m aware of other cases where the facts are known. This young man made some mistakes (smoked some pot, not sold, grew or trafficked) law enforcement tried to get him to wear a wire and risk his life just to keep a misdemeanor and a fine off his record. He wanted out of the whole situation. He was straightening his life out. Word got out (just rumors) he was going to wear a wire and now he is dead. 19 years old! He maybe knew a local pothead who sold on the side. They wanted to throw him in with the big dogs and just rumors about it got him killed. Sure he has some responsibility for breaking the law. Prohibition, our “war on drugs,” and over zealous “crime fighting” has more responsibility for his death than “possession of paraphernalia.”

    Cartoon porn is not child porn as no child is involved. No victim, no crime. Seems pretty simple. I guess that was our original subject, but it goes for all such prohibitive laws.

  • Amber Lee James August 13, 2012, 6:43 pm

    Dr David Kenneth Cochrane Registered Sex Offender Six Counts of rape including minors, three counts of indecent assault all involving patients dating back to the early millennium. Psychiatrist 6 months in Jail, 2 years probation, including 6 month license suspension. North Bay Canada Ontario and now re-employed for the regional health centre.

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