Wednesday, January 15, 2003

In defence of Pete

IN DEFENCE OF PETE: In yesterday's Guardian, Rod Liddle kind of defended Pete Townshend by suggesting that it's not much good for society to make looking at things illegal; in the same edition Zoe Williams suggested that his arrest was part of panic and confusion about child porn. Well, hers and Rod's maybe - she suggested that typing "child pornography" into Google "could land illegal matter on to my hard-drive." Both miss a rather important point - Townshend wasn't idly Googling or clicking by accident; he paid money to people selling images of children being sexually abused. His crime wasn't looking, or even searching, but in providing cold, hard cash to the people running the sites. It's a vital distinction.

There's a more considered support for Townshend by Howard Owens at BlogCritics, which carries a large chunk of an article on Townshend site from a year ago, where Pete talks about his anger at the availability of child porn and suggests that Google should be made to censor searches on certain terms and words (cheers, Pete). This, suggests Owens, backs Townshend's claims that he was doing research and not merely perving off on pictures of kiddies. Well, maybe. Although you could argue that a lot of paedophiles do use the cloak of child protection as a cover for their activities; or even that writing angry articles about child porn proves disgust, but doesn't disprove self-disgust.

To me, the key question seems to be: Pete finds all this kiddie porn online in 1996-7, and is angry and disgusted about it. Why is it that he only goes to the police to complain about it in December of 2002, when the papers have been reporting that police are going round arresting people who've given their credit card details to the site? Surely, the way to protect children would be to complain at the earliest available opportunity, not five years later?

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