Two (sort of) freedom of speech issues are in the news in Europe lately. I think I disagree with the way they’ve handled both of them.

1. The EU has passed a law making it illegal to deny genocides (or claim that they were less than they were). This only works for genocides that fall under the statutes of the International Criminal Court, so Rwanda is included, and that thing that Hitler did, but not the thing that Stalin did.

The best thing about the law is that it allows EU states to ignore it. If they feel that it violates their freedom of speech, then the individual countries can choose not to enforce it.

I’ve said before, several times, that I’m against laws that chip away at freedom of speech. I think it’s a bad idea to send people to jail for saying things about the past. They’re not threatening someone; they’re not causing a dangerous situation, or starting a riot. They’re espousing a stupid and offensive thought. They should be marginalized and hated, but not sent to jail.

2. Second Life, the virtual world thingo, has always had a huge sex thing going on. I’ve spent a few fun hours exploring in there, and have occasionally found myself walking past some very strange stuff.

Like, I’m on my way to see some lecture on NASA, but happen to pass two bears, a dog, three women, and an adolescent boy having extremely gymnastic sex that just wouldn’t work in our gravity-laden real-life world.

But it’s not a real dog, or a real adolescent. You do have to be human, and over 18 to join. Of course, this is impossible to enforce, but I’d betcha that most kids joining up are using adult avatars. They’re not advertising their illegal status. (I won’t address what avatars dogs use, because I don’t want to give away any secrets. After all, dogs have blogs, too!)

So that brings up some really interesting legal and moral questions, which have been debated throughout Second Life for a long time. Then you add the fact that images and actions in Second Life can be recorded, and disseminated. That means that you have images and video of cartoon-like children having sex. You could also have rape, snuff flicks, and other nasties.

Is this ok?

Apparently, in the US, “virtual” child porn is legal, but in Germany it is not. So the German authorities are going after some Second Life pornographers. They also say that these people are selling real child porn, but that’s sort of beside the point. Obviously we need to lock them up for that, but the virtual thing is more interesting.

Off the top of my head, I’d put this stuff in the same category as drawings or cartoons, which have been around for a long time, so maybe this isn’t anything new. It should probably be illegal to sell porn cartoons to kids, but it shouldn’t be illegal to draw pictures of whatever you want, and then sell those drawings to adults.

Beside my whole aversion to thought-police, my main thinking is that these images aren’t going to get anyone interested in child porn if they’re not already leaning that way. But it does allow those so inclined to have a safe, legal (in the U.S.), and harmless outlet. No kids are hurt or exposed.

Some advocacy groups apparently think that allowing pedophiles to imaginatively act out their fantasies will lead to their doing so in real life. I just hope that before we pass laws about it, someone has more than a wild guess about whether it actually leads to more crimes against kids.

Because, though I don’t know anything about it, it seems at least possible that it could lead to FEWER crimes against kids. If they can get their porn from a drawing, knowing that no one’s being hurt, maybe they’ll leave the real stuff alone. I think that a lot of pedophiles don’t want to hurt anyone.

Because I definitely don’t think we should lock people up for having harmless fantasies. And any fantasy is harmless if it doesn’t become real, or lead to having real people take their clothes off. Drawings aren’t real.

And one thing we know for sure: NOT allowing pedophiles any legal outlet hasn’t stopped the exploitation of children.

[Meanwhile, I should say that I don’t really buy this as a freedom of speech issue. I don’t believe that freedom of speech has anything to do with porn, and I never understood that argument. But I don’t think we should tell adults what to do, unless doing it hurts someone.]

3 Responses to FREEEEEEEEDOM!

  1. BruceS May 14, 2007 at 3:15 pm #

    That last line sounds suspiciously Libertarian.
    I also have no problem with people espousing outlandish opinions, whether it’s to deny a genocide (unless perpetrated by a “left-winger”) or to assert a vast conspiracy running the world. The only part that really bothers me is that these folks will gain credibility with time. I’ve personally met (can you meet someone impersonally?) two people who saw the Nazi death camps. When there’s nobody left with direct experience, it’s easier to convince people that the historical record is false.

  2. weeklyrob May 15, 2007 at 9:37 am #

    I agree with a lot of libertatrian thinking.

    Meanwhile, I’ve met literally dozens of people who survived the death camps. And it’s true that as they die off, their stories will be easier to dismiss. Of course the question is how we should safeguard the truth. I don’t think we should safeguard it by locking people up who lie and distort.

    Will we start locking up the Creationists? Their lies are certainly dangerous.

  3. BruceS May 15, 2007 at 3:20 pm #

    I agree. I don’t advocate legal sanctions against either Holocost deniers or Creationists (nor Mormons, radical vegetarians, Klansmen, etc.) for merely spreading their beliefs. I can see a danger from letting them rant, but think it a bigger danger if we stop them.
    We just need to do our best to spread Truth (e.g. “meat is the proper food of humans”), and hope for the best.

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