Two (sort of) freedom of speech issues are in the news in Europe lately. I think I disagree with the way theyâ€™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.
Iâ€™ve said before, several times, that Iâ€™m against laws that chip away at freedom of speech. I think itâ€™s a bad idea to send people to jail for saying things about the past. Theyâ€™re not threatening someone; theyâ€™re not causing a dangerous situation, or starting a riot. Theyâ€™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. Iâ€™ve spent a few fun hours exploring in there, and have occasionally found myself walking past some very strange stuff.
Like, Iâ€™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 wouldnâ€™t work in our gravity-laden real-life world.
But itâ€™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 Iâ€™d betcha that most kids joining up are using adult avatars. Theyâ€™re not advertising their illegal status. (I wonâ€™t address what avatars dogs use, because I donâ€™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, â€œvirtualâ€ 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 thatâ€™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, Iâ€™d put this stuff in the same category as drawings or cartoons, which have been around for a long time, so maybe this isnâ€™t anything new. It should probably be illegal to sell porn cartoons to kids, but it shouldnâ€™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 arenâ€™t going to get anyone interested in child porn if theyâ€™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 donâ€™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 oneâ€™s being hurt, maybe theyâ€™ll leave the real stuff alone. I think that a lot of pedophiles donâ€™t want to hurt anyone.
Because I definitely donâ€™t think we should lock people up for having harmless fantasies. And any fantasy is harmless if it doesnâ€™t become real, or lead to having real people take their clothes off. Drawings arenâ€™t real.
And one thing we know for sure: NOT allowing pedophiles any legal outlet hasnâ€™t stopped the exploitation of children.
[Meanwhile, I should say that I donâ€™t really buy this as a freedom of speech issue. I donâ€™t believe that freedom of speech has anything to do with porn, and I never understood that argument. But I donâ€™t think we should tell adults what to do, unless doing it hurts someone.]