Sunday, February 19, 2012

a thought experiment

Someone  asks you to watch a video of the Daniel Pearl beheading. The video makes you sick, makes you turn away because it is so violent, so ugly, so wrong to watch a man die that way. Your friend, though, doesn’t turn away and you can tell that he is excited by the video. He leans into the computer to watch, to be closer. When the video finishes, you breathe more easily, even though you can already tell that the images are not something you can forget. Then your friend says, “Now let’s find the Nick Berg video!”

Does this make you think differently about your friend? Would you want him dating your daughter? Surely you recognize that there is something twisted in him that lets him enjoy such horrific images. Something sick. You know that his reaction to the video is wrong and not something you want to be around. His enjoyment of that violence is perverted. The images are extremely disturbing but the videos are not illegal. That is about the only difference between the beheading videos and child porn. Both kinds of images are photos/videos of horrible crimes, both make people sick because they recognize how wrong the actions depicted are. When someone enjoys either the beheadings or child porn, we recognize that something in that person is sick, twisted.

Why is one illegal and the other is not? Are we punishing people for their thoughts when they view child porn? Thought crimes are a little too 1984 for my tastes. If the person is sick, they need help. It should be possible for a sick person to get help without having to face imprisonment.

The crime is the act of victimizing/molesting a child. Should it really be a crime to look at images of a crime? It isn’t a crime to look at videos of a robbery or photos of a murder scene. I worry that someone will think I am excusing child porn. I am not. I read parts of a stranger’s sentencing memo in which the images found on his computer were detailed. I read the description of one image and part of another before I had to stop. Even the descriptions are horrifying. Child porn images should be illegal, as they are. The crime of looking at them, though… Can we punish people for owning the images and not for what they think when they view them? And not for fear that the offender will do something worse? We don’t throw a robber in prison for life because we fear that he will go on to commit murders.


Mary said...

Child porn exists because there is a market for it. The consumers of child porn and the demand for it make it possible for it to continue to exists. The victim of child porn is continually victimized by people viewing the image. Imagine having had naked pictures taken of yourself and then having them sold by the thousands on the internet. You would never again go anywhere without wondering if you were meeting the eyes of a complete stranger who had seen you naked or performing an intimate sexual act. The victims of child porn are victimized so long as their images are there for strangers to see and feast on. Can they/will they ever recover? Some will. Some won't. Is their pain worth some guy's momentary sexual satisfaction from the pictures? Absolutely not.

Anonymous said...

It is the possession he would be in trouble for. He had to possess it, much like a drug user must possess the drugs in order to use them, in order to view the images. He also probably had to pay for some of it as people are often into hurting children in such a way for profit. That brings in a whole other set of legal issues.

So, yes, viewing child porn should be illegal. He possessed child porn.