Friday, October 02, 2009

Trust Me, This Didn't Start Just So I Could Shoehorn That In, But Once It Came To Mind ...

not Calvin
Above: not Calvin

Prompted in part by the Polanski brouhaha -- a topic about which I think (1) good lord, not another entry in the Hilbert Hotel (?) of beachheads for self-appointed culture warriors to ejaculate about how this proves Hollywood should be burned to the ground and Obama should be impeached, twice, and (2) that Mr. Riley's first entry in his latest Olio says it far better than I ever could -- James Poulos and Will Wilkinison had a pretty interesting diavlog on yesterday in which they discussed many sticky issues, and no doubt to the dismay of many, I responded to someone else's comment by foisting (important letter, that O, as you'll soon see) my stream of semi-consciousness onto the poor visitors to the forum and so in case you haven't seen it over there, here is a copy for your reading pleasure(?):

Okay, yeah. But I have to say, the larger question that led Will to that point -- whether drawing an obviously sexualized picture of a generic juvenile human being should constitute a crime (an instance of child pornography, say) -- is a fascinating one in its thorniness. You'd be hard-pressed to raise another issue that would cause my mind to ping-pong as rapidly as this one does.

Clearly, there is an initial reaction of disgust -- YOU PERV!!! -- and I would guess that for almost as many of us, there is a quick second thought, which Will noted -- this comes awfully close to a "thought crime." My third impulse is to think, eh, hard problem, sure, but you have to wonder about someone who would do such a thing, but is it really a widespread problem, so do we need to respond to one instance of this by saying THERE OUGHT TO BE A LAW? (More on this in a moment.) And then the fourth impulse is to think, man, those computer animations are getting pretty lifelike these days and they're only going to get more so, so hadn't we ought to start thinking about this now before someone makes a movie where you really will not be able to tell that that is not a real five-year-old, hogtied to a bed, being set upon by some real adult? Or is that really just the same question as the original one? But then what happens when you have, with six thousand such videos, available for streaming? And what about when this website upgrades its software, to allow visitors to upload a set of photos of themselves that can be digitally manipulated so that the uploader then gets to star in the role of the adult (with a purely fictitious, digitally-created "child") in the previous example video? But do we want to get into the business of making laws because we can imagine scenarios, that with enough hand-waving and extrapolation, could persuade a majority of the population to say, "okay, that's just wrong"?

And of course, following up on impulse 3 above, if you do decide that Something Must Be Done, then you're back at the basic dilemma of how to define pornography. There are endless examples of depictions of (non-specific) naked children that are considered art -- a significant fraction of Christianity-motivated paintings for the last half of the previous millennium feature cherubs, often with their little wieners flapping in the breeze, and pretty much no one less disturbed than John Ashcroft has a problem with these. Also, I find it heart-breaking when I read a story about some parent getting in all sorts of trouble because a cretinous employee at EZ-Kwik Photo called the cops when he saw a perfectly innocent picture of Junior in the bathtub or at the beach.

Due to the lack of any conclusion to these thoughts, I was going to title this post Möbius Strip, but, you know, family web site.

(pic. source)

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