Wednesday, 20 July 2011

Sexting And Legislative Idiocy

Time to pop across the Atlantic for some more crystal ball paternalism, because this development looks nailed on for replication over here at some point.

Children who create and send sexually explicit messages of themselves electronically will be breaking the law in Rhode Island, after a new Bill was signed this week.

Under the new measure, anyone below the age of 18 who creates and sends a sexually inappropriate image of themselves can be charged with a “status” offence.

Such offences are acts which are only considered criminal when committed by a young person.

Even tougher penalties can be handed out to those who possess or forward sexually explicit images of another young person.

Such an action can be prosecuted under the state’s child pornography laws and if convicted the person may have to register as a sex offender.
Got that? To protect children from sex offenders, it's necessary to label children as ... sex offenders.

If you've ever laughed at one of those articles listing hilarious US state laws which are still in force - you know, like it being illegal to look at a moose from the air in Alaska; or forbidden to stroll down the street playing a violin in Maine (both real, btw) - this measure illustrates exactly why they occurred.

It's a combination of the authoritarian eagerness to be seen to be doing something in order to bolster their political ego (1), an over-estimation of their powers (2), and the belief that the public are unable to look after themselves without state interference (3).

On all three fronts, just like the return to prurient treatment of lifestyle choices, we are seeing a return to the stupid governmental habits of a century ago.

1) In the case above, the problem of sexting has prompted Rhode Island politicians' knees to jerk as they proudly puff out their chests and boast of finding a perfect solution.

2) Except that it's not perfect at all. How they can possibly believe they are capable of stopping the practice simply by declaring it a crime, one can only imagine. Perhaps the plan is to routinely spot check the personal mobile phone photos of underage kids? Yeah, I think there are any number of privacy and property conflicts with that idea, let alone moral concerns.

3) The state increasingly believes that the public are entirely incompetent. Otherwise this law wouldn't exist while, instead, parents were educated in how to tackle issues with sexting and given help should they request it. Incredibly, Rhode Island have still gone ahead with this law despite admitting that they really don't possess the powers to fully do the job.

[Attorney General Peter Kilmartin said] “Talking to children early and often will help to protect them from the dangers that can lurk in cyberspace.”

And the Attorney General continued that parents should also discuss their expectations for their children’s behaviour, and “discuss the consequences” for failing to meet those expectations.
Well exactly. In other words, this is a parental task and there is absolutely nothing the state can do about it without becoming hideously intrusive and - as they often do - making things several times worse.

And I'd call having underage kids on a sex offenders register for life classes as pretty bloody damaging for the kids they profess to be protecting.

So Westminster will no doubt be tabling a bill along the same lines very soon ... the idiots.


Single Acts of Tyranny said...

So if a seventeen year old texts a photo of herself on the beach in a bikini to say, her boyfriend, some plod may decide that it is 'inappropriate' by some non-defined law and bang them both up?

Un ~ ******* ~ believeable

Dick Puddlecote said...

That would appear to be a rough précis of it SAoT, yes.

Smoking Hot said...

Always the same Dick ... legislation is their answer to everything. Once legislation is in they move onto the next problem ... repeat,repeat,repeat ad infinitum.

As Led Zep sang ... 'How many more times'

Ian B said...

Unfortunately, we are in a "doomed to repeat it" stage of history. Large numbers of girls in the USA were locked up in institutions as "delinquent" for sexually "inappropriate" behaviour. Once again, normal behaviours are being pathologised, in this rebranded Victorianism.

Remember when Sex Offenders Registers were being sold purely as a defence against pathological child molesters? We've come a long way from there in so short a time, haven't we?

Of course the reason they are "sex offender" registers rather than "child abductor registers" is that the intention was always to expand them as a means of persecution for any moral transgressor.

How anyone can be so fucked up in the head that they want to ruin a girl's life for sending a picture of her tits to her boyfriend, or ruin his life for looking at it, is beyond me. These people must be pretty sick in the head to even contemplate such a thing.

Dick Puddlecote said...

SH: It has been ever thus since around 1990 (with an increase in activity from '97 on).

IanB: Agreed. It's definitely cyclical IMO, and is rapidly mirroring the prurient nonsense we used to look back at the late Victorian era and laugh at. Table legs to be covered to protect morality soon, perhaps?

Paul said...

Ian B: Large numbers of girls in the USA were locked up in institutions as "delinquent" for sexually "inappropriate" behaviour.

You could have chosen an example closer to home than that: the Magdalene laundries in Ireland well into the 1960s and 1970s. In (the Republic of) Ireland's case it was the Catholic church that had an iron-like grip on morality there; here we have our lords and masters in government and the BBC. It's going to get a lot worse before it gets better.

Considering that, for years now, people who have been caught urinating in darkened alleyways after a few pints after pub closing time could be put on the Sex Offenders Register...

V4V said...

Off topic but thought you would like this.
and this

Tom Paine said...

Historically, we have tended to go through a puritan/liberal (old sense) cycle. It all got a bit wild in the C18, so there was a (theoretical) clampdown in the C19 and so on. I sense we are coming to the end of the current puritanical cycle. The more stupid laws the politicians enact and the more obvious innocents they criminalise, the more chance the people will rise. Optimistic, perhaps but not by comparison with expecting politicians to relinquish voluntarily any powers they have acquired.

Ian B said...

Tom, my own view is that we're in the intensification stage of the puritan cycle, not nearing the end of it. Right now is equivalent to the early nineteenth century, with the hegemonic morality coming towards the end of its *formation* phase, but implementation has (on historical precedent) a long way to run before a reactionary generation, tired of the constraints, would arise. Unless we can preempt it by using our historically derived wisdom to head off a repeat of the mistakes of the past.

The Founder Generation are currently in full flood; the Revolutionary Generation (the Red/Green Guards) are pouring out of the schools and universities. This isn't the end. It isn't the beginning of the end. It may be the end of the beginning.

We have no way of knowing how this one is going to run. It depends how well reactionary forces (that's us, that is) can organise, and whether mass communications via the internet etc will overwhelm the capabilities of the regime to implement its will. But it has to be said, with the Puritans being very well organised, and on an international level, any resistance and rollback is not going to be easy.

They have spent the entire post war period putting in place the institutional structures necessary to achieve a global ideological domination. Our response needs to be systemic and structural and based on the development of tools which will enable an end-run around the hegemonic power structures by a broad-based coalition of resistance.

Angry Exile said...

DP, you probably won't be surprised to hear that that's already happened Down Under:

Under Victorian child pornography laws, it is a crime for anyone to transmit or possess naked pictures of a person aged under 18. But recent incidents show that while police have the power to charge or caution those under 18 who transmit sexts of themselves or of their peers, they do not respond consistently.

In one case, a boy and a girl, both 17, from the eastern suburbs made a sex tape and sent it to their friends. Both were charged under child pornography laws, and then given formal police cautions.

In another case, police questioned a 16-year-old girl who sent naked pictures of herself to her 19-year-old boyfriend, but did not charge or caution them.

So naughty photos, very bad and evil thing. But in all those examples riding each other round the bedroom is fine because the age of consent in Victoria is 16. Of course it is a problem that some kids send a photo they in the expectation that it would be kept private and it's later circulated by the recipient, but the answer to that isn't to criminalise naivety and punish the kids who do it.