If patriotism is the last refuge of scoundrels, that implies that there are others; god is a common one, since no one can gainsay you if you claim that an invisible inaudible superbeing told you what to do. But the very worst, the most contemptible, the most cowardly hiding place for rascals and swindlers and liars is ducking down behind the backs of children.
David Cameron, the UK Prime Minister, has announced sweeping new censorship rules applied by default to the internet in the UK. I had no idea you people on the other side of the pond were electing such sanctimonious prigs. But he dredged out all the familiar pretexts and buzz words for imposing “family-friendly filters” on everyone. (Warning to everyone: when a politician uses the word “family”, they always mean their version of family, which is usually white, middle-class or better, and patriarchal. A single black woman raising three kids, or a pair of homosexual men with a child, or a whole clan of an extended family raising sons, daughters, nephews and nieces under one roof do not count as “family”, but are instead aberrations that must be remolded into a conventional form.)
He said: “I want to talk about the internet, the impact it is having on the innocence of our children, how online pornography is corroding childhood.
“And how, in the darkest corners of the internet, there are things going on that are a direct danger to our children, and that must be stamped out.
“I’m not making this speech because I want to moralise or scaremonger, but because I feel profoundly as a politician, and as a father, that the time for action has come. This is, quite simply, about how we protect our children and their innocence.”
You are a moralizing scaremonger, you ass.
I am so tired of hearing “innocence” touted as a virtue; it’s always used as a synonym for ignorance. These people treat experiences and novelty and adventure as “corroding childhood”, when that’s what childhood is — exposure to a great big complicated world where everything is new and the unusual is to be savored and the forbidden is begging to be exposed. Every kid’s goal is to be “corrupted”…that is, to become an adult and to have exciting new opportunities. Some of that involves sex. If you really want to skew children’s views of the sexual world, bring them up with the idea that it’s a filthy, dangerous horror that needs to be walled away from curious minds.
I’m sure Cameron remembers growing up in a world without the internet; I know I do. Does he remember buddies smuggling pages torn out of Playboy so school, and everyone huddling over them at recess? How about the myths about sex kids told each other on street corners? Reading National Geographic for the photos that showed exotic women with bare breasts? We weren’t innocent then, and we were struggling frantically to lose what little innocence we had.
With my kids, who grew up with the internet, we were totally open: they all got hand-me-down computers from me as soon as they were old enough to type, and one year I gave my oldest boy the present of a big spool of CAT-5 and connectors and a crimping tool, and he wired up all the household computers so everyone could get the internet in their bedrooms (this was before wi-fi was commonplace). We had no restrictions on their access, and we also respected their privacy; we didn’t snoop, we didn’t ask, we didn’t monitor, we didn’t control. I suspect they all ran across porn intentionally or accidentally, yet somehow, they all grew up to be decent, moral, sensible human beings.
Yet, when these bluenoses decide to protect children from “direct danger”, they go after the internet. Hey, how about doing something about the fact that one in six children lives in poverty, or that thousands of London children are malnourished, or that 5% have been victims of child sexual abuse? Or how about the fact that American drone strikes are causing horrific civilian casualties, killing children as well as terrorists? Those are stories that really corrode childhood, that demolish innocence and trust.
But maybe that’s the next step. After you’ve established that you can censor breasts and penises from the internet, it’s an easy transition to eliminating stories about priests raping children (that’s pornographic, after all), and then cutting out those embarrassing stories about starving children with neglect, and then government policies that lead to the murder of children? Why, horrors, we can’t let the kiddies know about those! It’ll give them nightmares!
If you’re really serious about protecting children, the formula is to foster their creativity, encourage them to be independent, teach them to explore and learn, and also provide them with security so they have a refuge they can voluntarily enter when they need to. Children brought up in a dark box learn to live in a dark box. Children brought up in the light learn to illuminate the world.