Guantanamo Bay here we come! Brace yourselves, oh heretics of Britain; pack away your remembrance of freedom to the size of a crushed dream; it’s the only personal property we’ll be left with when they take us away: a war against paedophilia has now been officially declared, along the lines of the war against terror in the wake of 9/11.
Paedophiles are to be treated like terrorists. In his forthcoming legislative programme, prime minister David Cameron “wants to close a loophole that allows sexual predators to produce and possess ‘manuals’ giving tips on how to identify victims, groom them, and evade capture”, according to the Guardian. In future, they will face the same kind of sanctions as extremists who download guides to bomb-making. The issue came to light, we are told, after GCHQ and the National Crime Agency found examples of the guides online in the “dark web”. GCHQ, it will be recalled, is the UK’s electronic spying headquarters, whose Big Brother surveillance of entire populations has become globally notorious thanks to the work of Edward Snowden.
The new law is expected to be in force by the time of the general election next year, and could be implemented in an amendment to the Obscene Publications Act 1959, the Guardian said. The Terrorism Act 2000 outlawed terrorist training manuals.
Now, “virtuous” paedophiles of the “nothing to fear if you are innocent” persuasion, or delusion, may believe the measure targets only those who are up to no good. If you show people how to become engaged in illegal acts don’t you deserve whatever is coming to you? Why oppose such a law and thereby identify yourself with the “bad guys”?
Nothing could be more dangerously naïve. The proposed measure is a threat even to those of us who are not denizens of the “dark web” and have never seen the alleged “manuals”. I can say this with some authority, having personally been collaterally damaged in a previous attack on a so-called “how to” guide. Some here may remember the fuss over a book briefly listed on Amazon in 2010, called The Pedophile’s Guide to Love and Pleasure: A Child-Lover’s Code of Conduct, by Phillip R. Greaves II. Amazon quickly withdrew it after taking flak for allegedly facilitating child molestation.
I do not know the author and have not read his book, which may or may not have encouraged readers to break the law. But I do know what happened next. Under pressure from a mounting campaign against selling books that had anything to do with paedophilia, Amazon caved in, withdrawing several other titles, including my own Paedophilia: The Radical Case, despite the fact that it has scores of citations on Scholar Google. Other writers of entirely legal and scholarly books who found their works de-listed were David Sonenschein, once a researcher with the Kinsey Institute, and David L Riegel, whose papers grace the peer-reviewed academic literature.
My suspicion is that even Greaves’ book was falsely demonised as a molester’s charter. Interviewed by CNN, he reportedly said: “True paedophiles love children and would never hurt them… Penetration is out. You can’t do that with a child, but kissing and fondling I don’t think is that big of a problem.”
What’s not to like about that? As an opinion it is fine, I think, and one many here would share, provided the author was describing what would be OK if it were legal, rather than recommending anyone to go and do it. One has to wonder whether some of the supposedly evil material on the ominously named “dark web” is really that different to Greaves’ rather charmingly artless – innocent, even – candour.
Not that it was deemed innocent in law. The unfortunate Greaves, based in the United States, was charged with “distributing obscene material depicting” (merely in words?) “minors engaged in harmful conduct”. He pleaded no contest and was put on probation for two years.
So, if writers can be silenced and punished even in the land of constitutionally protected free speech, how much more threatened should we feel in the UK? Much will depend upon how tightly the wording of the proposed new law is drawn. Previous legislation aimed against paedophilia affords scant cause for optimism, especially in view of the present enfeebled state of civil liberties campaigning in the UK: there will be little public pressure to amend any clauses that could be applied too broadly. At least Spiked has come good on this occasion, though. I blasted Frank Furedi recently, but his latest piece is positively excellent: The war on paedos: grooming the public’s fears.
Maybe my “open letter” to him had the desired effect!
Even somewhat overbroad legislation against “how to” manuals ought not to impact Heretic TOC legally, as this blog definitely does not incite law-breaking. Indirectly, though, it would have a very chilling effect. What worries me far more is the potential for yet another measure, because they never stop coming, do they? And what would it look like, this further laceration in our slow death by a thousand cuts? Now that we are to be firmly yoked together with terrorism it’s obvious, isn’t it? Glorifying terrorism was made illegal by the Terrorism Act 2006. So logically the next step would be to ban the glorification of paedophilia – a “crime” that could well be framed to include saying anything whatever in its favour. This could spell trouble for Heretic TOC, and possibly for any advocacy aimed at lowering the age of consent, even by only a year. Now, that would really be a scary prospect for democracy.
Overshadowed by the sensational terrorism rhetoric, meanwhile, another appalling measure crept under the radar recently. How many, I wonder, are aware of the Anti-social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act 2014, which is now the law of the land, having received the Royal Assent a couple of months ago? The Act both covers and commits a multitude of sins, and our interest in the latter takes us to Part 9, Protection from sexual harm and violence, sandwiched between Part 8, Firearms, and Part 10, Forced Marriage. This measure has an important and complicated history, though, so it will have to wait for another time. If there are any lawyers here who would like to do a guest blog on this I would be mightily relieved!