Last night I received email from Steve Silberman, the author of the Wired article I mentioned in Somebody Else’s Problem. In it, he corrected my reading of his article as follows:

I can only think that you must have been reading so quickly

that you skimmed over the following paragraph:

“‘The strongest argument you can make in court against child

pornography,’ Lanning told me in June, “is what it does to the person

in it. We don’t know what percentage of people become molesters, but

we know that looking fuels demand. Every time you download an image,

there is an implicit message left behind: ‘I like this. I want to see

more of it. And when I come back, there had better be something new.’

When thousands of GIFs and MPEGs can be duplicated and transmitted

globally with the sweep of a mouse, the abuse of the original victims

can be magnified exponentially by thousands of netsurfers at a

comfortable distance from the scenes of the crimes.”

…which addresses precisely the point you raised.

In a second message, he went on to say:

there’s a huge difference between understanding that looking

*increases* abuse of the children in the images by fueling demand —

which it certainly does! — and insisting that looking at porn *turns

people who might not have been abusers, had they not looked at the

images, into abusers* — which is the “conventional wisdom” of the

media on this. Very few people claim anymore that watching action

movies turns 1/3 of those who do watch into killers who charge into

the Pentagon firing machine guns, yet if you read 2000 news stories

on child porn, as I did, you’ll see that there is an insistent claim

that looking leads to molestation *by the lookers*, backed up by

“facts” which I believe are bogus, such as the US Postal Inspection

service figures, which are heavily loaded with prior sex-crime

offenders. This has never been closely examined in the media before.

Since that assumption drives public policy and the allocation of

scarce resources for protecting kids, I believe it deserves very

close examination.

Well put. There’s little I can say in response except that I apologize. The problems of demand for child porn driving actual abuse/exploitation, and of indifference in US media to problems (including those we create) abroad, are very real, but clearly Steve is already aware of that and was not the appropriate target for my tirade. Thank you, Steve, for setting me straight in such a thoroughly professional way, and for writing so incisively about the issue.

P.S. Steve mentioned that he found my site through Google. I didn’t ask what search terms he use, because I really don’t want to hear that my site can be found by searching for “child porn”.