April 10, 2007
The War on ChildrenBy J.R. Dunn
It seems at times that not a week goes by without a child disappearing or being found dead under ghastly circumstances. It may well be as appalling to you as it was to me to learn that there's no easy means of checking whether or not this sort of crime is increasing at a national level. Child molestation is not one of the seven "index crimes" utilized by the FBI to track the crime rate. At best, such crimes will be mixed in with "assaults" or sex crimes in general. There is no central source, and no way to be certain whether the numbers are rising, falling, or standing still.
But general impressions are often correct in cases such as these. That was true with the great crime wave of the 60s, in which the public at large insisted that something unprecedented was occurring with crime levels, while the media, experts, and academics preferred to view it as simply a "statistical mirage" created by improved reportage. The public was correct -- crime was exploding, increasing faster than at any other time in the nation's history, nearly quadrupling over a period of ten years. Something similar seems to be the case here.
These crimes appear to be peaking in terms of viciousness as well. One example will suffice, a case referred to by Alicia Colon in a recent column.
All this being true, what do we make of Jack McClellan and his "Seattle-Tacoma-Everett Girl Love" website, described as a "how-to" guide for tracking down the best places to get close to little girls, along with tips on how to avoid the attention of the cops and those running the events.
McClellan is a self-confessed pedophile who admits to "erotic arousal" over female children, while insisting he'd never, ever act on it. Deal with him, you say? It can't be done, not under the positivist interpretation of the law currently in fashion. McClellan has never been arrested, so he can put up what he wants and go where he wants, despite the public menace that he obviously represents. (His web server finally shut down the site, which doesn't explain how it got through in the first place.)
There are actually plenty of methods of curtailing the activities of the McClellans of the world. Trespassing, loitering with intent - any enterprising street cop would, in times past, have been able to interpret some passage of the law in such a fashion as to inconvenience such types. McClellan is also suspected of being a peeping tom, to the extent that most of his neighbors have purchased attack dogs. The case seems open and shut. But nobody in authority is willing to make the move.
Quite the contrary. Another story informs us that the College Park Church of Carmel, Indiana, has gone out of its way to provide comfort and support to a former elder, Terry Van Gorp, who confessed to molesting a three-year old girl. The child he used, as often happens in these cases, was not so fortunate. The church provided her family with some money, an act which reeks of "pay-off", but went no further. Church officials have justified themselves by claiming the congregation supports them. In fact, churchgoers were told only that Van Gorp had "hurt someone". If this goes according to pattern, the church will eventually move to interfere with judicial proceedings in an attempt to get Van Gorp a light sentence. (The model here is the Bonnie Garland slaying, in which a group of Catholic clergy intervened to assure that Richard Herrin served only a few years after beating Garland to death.)
None of this should come as any surprise. It's a natural result of twenty years and more of mainstreaming pedophilia even as child sex offenses grew in number and ferocity. Consider Larry Flynt's Hustler magazine, which regularly ran a cartoon feature, "Chester the Molester" which was drawn by actual apparent pedophile, the late D. Dwaine Tinsley (1945-2000), who was charged and conviected of molesting his own 13 year old daughter, but who was freed after 23 months in prison, once a sympathetic court ruled that his conviction had been based in part on the comic strip, and this somehow violated his First Amendment rights.
The coarsening has become widespread. Film director Victor Salva, was convicted of child molestation in1988 but he seems to have no problem getting financing for his pictures - a series of horror films in which supernatural beings molest young boys.
Calvin Klein few years ago notoriously ran a repellent series of ads which for all practical purposes depicted the seduction of a teenage boy by an adult male. Looked in your closet lately?
This is not to overlook the pedophile priest scandals in which misguided and, not to put too fine a point on it, flat-out evil princes of the Church covered up the crimes of malicious clergy not just once, but in two distinct scandals within a twenty-year period.
And what became of these people? You all know about Flynt - he's a hero. They made a movie about him. Salva and Klein haven't been so immortalized yet, but it'll probably come. Okay, so the American Church got a thorough and long-deserved shaking up, but only after decades of abuse and after being forced to act by unrelenting public pressure. It shouldn't have taken that long, or required that much effort.
How can this possibly be reconciled? A veritable epidemic of assaults on children is occurring, while some of the promoters and exploiters of this kind of behavior don't get so much as a harsh look? What kind of schizophrenic society tolerates this?
In truth, it's not unprecedented - much the same thing occurred in the 1950s in regard to violent crime in general. Social strictures against criminal behavior collapsed under steady pressure from media and misapplied sociological and psychological studies. The problem criminals of the era were largely teenagers and minorities, and sentimentality became the rule in dealing with them. The message was endlessly repeated on film and television (see Michael Margolies' superb study of the best example of this subgenre, Sidney Lumet's 12 Angry Men. Caryl Chessman, a vicious rapist biding his time on death row, became a kind of antihero to the educated classes. In the end the criminal justice system followed public opinion, loosening legal strictures on criminal behavior with such court decisions as Mapp, Escobedo, and Miranda. The end result was the great crime wave of the 1960s, a disaster which unfolded over a period of three decades and from which we have still not completely recovered.
The late- 20th century crime explosion was ended in the 90s by a return to strict public policing and harsh sentencing. But social attitudes had to change first. A law-enforcement establishment is only as rigorous as the society it serves. The public, politicians, and the media had to cease romanticizing criminals to enable the police and prosecutors to do their jobs. Police today need little encouragement - they do yeoman work in pursuing sex offenders (outside of the Seattle area, anyway).
But we do need to reestablish the social proscriptions opposing such behavior. Molesters should be allowed no public platform, and be evicted from the ones now open to them. The national support structure that has evolved to defend these criminals must be denounced and shamed. Bill O'Reilly has discovered the public's hunger for this sort of advocacy, but as yet few others have joined in the call for shunning those who are culturally, politically, or judicially soft on this sort of crime. Notice needs to be served to activists, church officials, web server operators, and media figures that defending or aiding individuals who prey on children will no longer be tolerated.
None of this should represent any challenge. It's not as if child molesters have a real constituency. But they have been sentimentalized and portrayed, by people who ought to know better, as victims of appetites beyond their control.
We have seen enough of crime over the past fifty years to begin to suspect that social ecology has a lot to do with the type and level of criminal activity - that a society that signals its tolerance of deviant behavior will simply get more of it.
As a product of flawed human nature, it's unlikely that pedophilia can be abolished. But it can be controlled. Previous generations didn't find that extraordinarily difficult. There's no reason we should either.
J.R. Dunn is consulting editor of American Thinker.