All in the Mind

Today’s Hate Hour

"Today we're dedicating our hate hour to an evil man, suffering from a chronic psychopathic sexual disorder. He deserves only contempt and should bury himself under the nearest rock. This man was caught viewing paedophiliac images on the Internet. We don't have any evidence linking him to real-life sex crimes, but are in no doubt that anyone casting their malevolent eyes on images deemed paedophiliac will sooner or later commit such a crime. It is imperative that we apply the preventive principle to avert any repetition of the Soham murders. Indeed as a precaution all teachers who have not been certified as "non-paedophliac" should be witch-hunted out of schools."

This is more or less the tone of media coverage over the Paul Reeve case. As soon as the key terms "child pornography" and "Internet" are mentioned in the same breath, we suspend critical analysis. These key words represent the ultimate evil and any measures, however draconian, should be taken to protect our children from sad depressed lonesome weirdoes glaring at pixelated renditions of underage sex. How could anyone sink to such extremes of depravity and how could anyone forgive such perverts? These are questions we are asked to address.

No doubt in the coming weeks Channel 4's hate season will feature a documentary on a purported paedophile gene, causing some chemical imbalance and remedied by a new variant of Risperidone or Zyprexa. Next we'll hear calls for early intervention. I've already seen posters depicting a teenage male baby sitter and a caption suggesting he's a paedophile. Maybe some of your neighbours are closet paedophiles. Go on, spy on your neighbours, you know just in case!

Then the omnipresence of depravity dawned on me. If child pornography is such a unique evil (and definitions please, lest the police sequestrate photographs of my three year-old daughter playing on the beach), then why not arrest the director general of Channel 5? In depressed moments late at night I have occasionally briefly switched over to this channel, now available to most TV sets in the UK. My random sample would indicate a certain obsession with documentaries on the porn industry including footage of a famous North American porn star claimed to be under 16. Next why not arrest the owners of Wanadoo Internet or the predecessors Freeserve? When I had an account with this ISP and was stupid enough to use Outlook Express with inline images enabled (I've since switched to Firefox and Thunderbird on Linux with most spam pre-filtered into my online spam folder), I was deluged with spam. First it was Prozac, then Viagra spelt in numerous creative combinations of comparable characters, then adult sites, farmyard sex and worse, which I personally find exceedingly distasteful. I tried to delete these unwanted HTML-enhanced e-mails, but often images would briefly appear on my screen. These bitmaps are actually stored in your temporary Internet cache, even if you delete them straight away. I used filters and disabled images, but eventually dumped Freeserve, frustrated that some genuine e-mails had been blocked. Many porn sites can be accessed within two clicks from many high-profile news and sports sites. Just click on any link to a gambling site and chances are it will sport a link to an adult site, which in turn will cater for all tastes, mature, hetero, homo, bi, teen and early-teen and not quite teen yet. With all the media outrage over kiddie porn you'd expect the government to clamp down on the porn industry, but that's not quite the case. In 2004 the UK government granted its friends in the entertainment business licences for the provision of adult content, a euphemism for hardcore anal, oral and multiple-orifice frollicking, on 3G phones and terrestrial digital TV.

That child sex abuse can have severe long-term psychological implications is beyond dispute. It seem a bitter irony that the same establishment promotes the bio-genetic model for personality disorders like schizophrenia rather than looking at environmental factors closer to home, despite a wealth of evidence linking child abuse in various guises with psychosis later in life. But there must be a distinction between gaining pleasure from viewing or interacting with virtual reproductions of depravity and committing such acts. I'd argue that exposure to media trivialising or desensitising us to various forms of depravity, be it sexual abuse or physical harm, does make us more likely to commit such acts in real life, but only if we are otherwise psychologically unstable and believe we can get away with it, i.e. there are no counteracting social forces. Thus it is argued that people can play first-person shooters six hours a day, but never dream of killing in real life. This begs the question as to why such games need to feature blood-soaked murder, rather than other pursuits that test your hand-eye co-ordination and strategic skills. If you like target-practice, you need not fantasise targeting a human being, you can play darts instead.

Likewise one can consume large quantities of porn, of dubious taste and realism, perfectly legally. Rape of over 16 year-olds is still, as far as I can tell, a crime in this country. I suppose rape of an under-16 year-old is a more severe crime, but rape of anyone is a crime nonetheless. Besides promoting the notion that anyone not particpating recreational sex at least twice a week is erotically deprived in need of more partners, sex toys or drugs, the media encourages everyone, especially women, to flirt proactively and be obsessed with their body image so they attract the right calibre of partners. So what happens if someone fails in the shagging race and cannot control his libido, but is exposed to perfectly legal media telling him both gang bangs and first-person shooting are positively cool. So if kiddie porn promotes child abuse, then all pornography promotes rape. And if you think all legal pornography portrays acts between consenting adults, think again! Much shows re-enactments of unrequested penetration with the victim first repelling her assailant and then revelling in it.

We are supposed to believe that someone who has not only been cautioned by Police for the crime of viewing a depravity and admitted such a caution to his employers, would overstep the mark by abusing his position as a PE teacher by actually fondling teenage students in a sexual way! Suppose Mr Reeve had been a Manhunt addict instead, would he want to kill his students? I don't think the grotesque violence portrayed in Manhunt would help stabilise any psychological weaknesses he may have had, but 99.9% of teachers would be in no doubt what constitutes immoral behaviour in a changing room and most enlightened enough to realise that nudity is not, per se, sexual. The harsh reality is that it's getting harder to recruit teachers who can deal with the level of intimidation and defiance exhibited by many students in UK secondary schools and teachers are increasingly targets of false accusations. Indeed in some cases the alleged victims, and we're talking about 14 and 15 year-old girls here, have taken the initiative on male teachers on whom they have a crush, encouraged by gossip in girly mags, peer pressure and fantasies of wealthy boyfriends.

Anyway I'm off to the police to hand myself in as a potential serial killer for having endured "The Terminator II" during a long-distance bus journey. I will then ask to be placed on the sex offenders' register for having viewed multiple-orifice copulations in Playboy at the tender age of 14. I haven't raped or killed anyone yet, but you know just in case!