the baggy trousered misanthropist

missives issued from the lair

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Amanda Platell being lowered into the vile, roiling pit that is internet child porn by the editors of the Daily Mail was one of the more enduring images of this weekend for me. Platell, who is an ex-advisor to William Hague, was obviously identified by Paul Dacre’s managerial minions as the intrepid journo most capable of traversing the darkest depths of humanity without getting permanent stains on her action pants, and traverse it she did, exposing herself to all manner of revolting videos to supply further ammunition to the paper’s contention that it’s the internet’s fault this kind of depravity exists.

Specifically Google’s.

In the resulting article, Platell suggests that the ISP use the money they saved avoiding tax “to cleanse such filth from the internet. They have the technology — we must persuade them to have the will”. The implication being that if Google was doing it’s job properly, the internet would be a child porn free zone and we could all enjoy photos of cats together.

It’s the kind of paradoxical logic that thrives at the Daily Mail, where borderline minor, barely dresssed actresses, socialites and singers are regularly fetishised in the now notorious ‘Sidebar of Shame‘ alongside moral panic inducing editorials about the increasing sexualisation of children. Under these auspices, Platell’s conclusion is entirely logical. Unfortunately, we live in the real world.

Applying controls to internet consumption is controversial – opponents counter the idea that access to certain types of content should be restricted by citing examples of countries who have used ISP blocking to prevent their people from accessing information about gay issues, politics and “subversive communication” as well as pornography. They’re also relatively easy to circumvent (assuming you know what you’re doing and are prepared to risk a stint in jail if caught). Apart from posing all kinds of uncomfortable questions regarding freedom of speech, it fails to acknowledge the same piece of rucked up carpet that forcing ISP’s to monitor content and remove that deemed inappropriate trips over and breaks it’s pretty nose on every time it stretches it’s legs.

Child abusers and the makers of child porn are people, not monsters, as the Daily Mail would have it. Putting a big cage around the internet will not stop them from getting in and spoiling our otherwise pure world because they’re already in here, living among us and accessing all of the benefits a modern society can offer, including the internet.

It’s not a comfortable notion, for sure. No one in their right mind wants to be compared to the likes of Stuart Hazell, who abused and murdered twelve-year-old Tia Sharp after looking at pornographic images he summoned to his computer with the search term “little girls in glasses”. But while it’s preferable to believe that Hazell was brought up in some sort of isolation tank, he wasn’t. He was brought up in the same society as us,  laughing at Jim Davidson’s jokes, watching Jim’ll Fix It and It’s A Knockout and learning that it’s ok to ogle tits over breakfast and anyone who protests has no sense of humour. And we all know how that went.

It would be erroneous to claim that the British media’s attitudes towards sex are responsible for the explosion of interest in child pornography, but like the rest of us, the Daily Mail must address it’s own inconsistent attitudes before chucking one of it’s staff into the pit and assuming they’re too good to get hit with the back splash.

Fyodor Dostoevsky, who knew a thing or two about how societies function, once said “the degree of civilization in a society can be judged by entering its prisons“. Even in the nineteenth century, he knew that separating the morally bankrupt from the rest of us was at best, a mistake. And he didn’t even have access to Google.

An awful lot of kids have been abused since then. Are we going to just keep pretending forever?

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