Check out this latest article about how a budding new moral panic, the teenage cell phone phenomenon of “sexting” is about to turn into the next salvo on free speech and expression in America.
The ACLU, to its credit, is at least taking on this Pennsylvania county’s paranoid and destructive attempt at prosecuting teenage girls who sent provocative pictures of themselves to their boyfriends over the cell phone. And this prosecution is taking place despite the fact that THE TYPES OF PICTURES SENT BY THE GIRLS ARE NOT CLASSIFIED AS ILLEGAL IN PENNSYLVANIA!!!!!!!! So what the &^$%ing %#&* happened to equal protection under the law?
What happened is the latest case in the ages-old social phenomenon of the moral panic. A moral panic usually ensues when some strange and unusual event, some aberant occurrence is suddenly blown out of proportion (most easily by the mass media) and cast as a pernicious crisis threatening all of society. Sexting is just the latest moral panic, right after the scientifically baseless media violence hysteria, the steroid paranoia, the violent video game hysteria, the Satanic heavy metal hysteria, the comic book moral panic of the 1950s, the Red Scare, and all the way back to the colonial witch trials.
Sexting, as so perfectly argued by Fordham Professor Paul Levinson on today’s Culture Wars radio show, is not child pornography. It is not created under the same circumstances and it is in no way an equivalent of child pornography. Child pornography is the victimization of children, the videotaping or photography of children against their will by a pornographer, for distribution and sale. Sexting is teenagers voluntarily taking pictures of themselves and controlling those pictures by distributing them to friends and boyfriends. It is sexual experimentation and rebellion by kids at an age when every generation of teenagers had been rebellious, when they have experimented with sex and sexuality. Comparing sexting to child pornography is ludicrous.
But sexting is also a wonderful boon to various groups of censorious crackpots and control freaks like the Parents Television Council (check out their web page where they bemoan the creeping immoral menace of sexting) and the rest of their meddling ilk who use this as an opportunity to push for more intrusive laws and regulations that control private behavior. And just be sure and take a look at the part of the Pennsylvania sexting article that describes some of the punishment the authorities want meted out to these girls. A forced “re-education” program? RE-EDUCATION?? The Soviet Union used to have re-education programs in the Siberian gulags!!!
So don’t believe for a microsecond that all the moral watchdogs and media crusader groups are as appalled and saddened and outraged by sexting as they claim. These folks are happy as can be every time they imagine another kid “sexting” a picture of herself. The more kids sexting, the better, they must no doubt be gushing in their most private moments. Every such incident is just more ammunition for these parasites to launch their assaults on free expression and civil liberties.
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