The whole principle [of censorship] is wrong; it’s like demanding that grown men live on skim milk because the baby can’t eat steak. – Robert A. Heinlein
In my column of January 9th I pointed out that
…modern culture encourages people…to surrender personal responsibility for their actions. It’s not the fault of the human for misbehaving; it’s the fault of the drugs/tobacco/video games/porn/ guns/gambling/television/movies or whatever. Even sex is called an “addiction”…The prostitute who offers a service is no more responsible for clients who come to her when they shouldn’t than an auto manufacturer is responsible for someone who is harmed by driving his car off of the highway, and neither can a client be held responsible for the free choice of a whore. It’s time for people to stop allowing governments to treat them like children, and the way to accomplish this is to stop acting like children by running to Big Brother every time someone hurts our feelings, or expecting Nanny to remedy every consequence resulting from our own ill-considered actions. It’s time for modern people to leave their state-run, police-guarded nurseries and grow the hell up.
One of the most potent weapons collectivists use to shoot down personal-responsibility-based arguments against the Nanny State is the “for the children” strategy; since everyone agrees that children lack adult capacity for judgment, clearly they can’t be held accountable to the same level of personal responsibility as adults and must therefore be protected. That’s the foot in the door; it is quickly followed by the leg (all legal minors are “children”, exactly equivalent to four-year-olds) and then the body (in order to be sure “children” aren’t affected by whatever-it-is we have to prohibit it to adults as well). Those who would defend an adult woman’s right to whatever sexual arrangements suit her are attacked by the “child sex trafficking” fetishists, who claim that it’s just and ethical to endlessly harass tens of thousands of adult whores in order to make it more difficult for a few hundred teenagers (characterized as “trafficked children”, of course) to ply their trade; furthermore, they believe it’s perfectly legal and sound to file nuisance lawsuits against advertising venues in the hopes of A) becoming wealthy without working for it, and B) establishing the precedent that websites are responsible for user-generated content. Either they don’t recognize the damage such a precedent would cause to the American economy (as internet companies relocated to countries without such burdensome restrictions and users switched to international ISPs) and the chilling effect it would have on free expression, or they simply don’t care; fortunately, not every court is hell-bent on gutting the First Amendment, so a federal judge recently nipped an attempt at establishing such a terrifying precedent in the proverbial bud:
A federal judge in St. Louis has thrown out a lawsuit accusing Village Voice Media of knowingly allowing a pimp to advertise a teenage prostitute’s sexual services on one of its websites. The suit filed last year on behalf of the teen sought at least $150,000 in damages. It claimed that Backpage.com, a website similar to Craigslist, knew prostitution was being facilitated on the site but did nothing to stop it. U.S. Magistrate Judge Thomas Mummert dismissed the suit Monday, [writing that] the allegations “do not distinguish the complained-of actions of Backpage from any other website that posted content that led to an innocent person’s injury…Congress has declared such websites to be immune from suits arising from such injuries. It is for Congress to change the policy that gave rise to such immunity.” Those comments were in reference to the Communications Decency Act.
The girl’s attorney, Bob Pedroli Jr., was critical of the act and said he would appeal. “We plan to continue our fight in the courts and we ask everyone who cares about sexual trafficking of children on the Internet to write to their senators and…representatives and tell them to change this law now,” Pedroli said. Phone messages left with an attorney for Village Voice Media were not returned.
The lawsuit did not list the name of the girl who said she became a prostitute at age 14. The girl’s pimp, Latasha Jewell McFarland, 28, of St. Louis, was sentenced to five years in prison after pleading guilty in 2010 to federal prostitution charges. Prosecutors in the criminal case said the girl ran away from home and met McFarland in 2009. They said McFarland persuaded her to work as a prostitute by telling her she could earn $100 for each sex act, and that McFarland took half the proceeds. McFarland admitted she posted nude photos of the girl online, bought condoms, arranged meetings and drove the teen to hotels…In her lawsuit, the girl contended that items advertising sex with her were posted on Backpage.com…
Unless Pedroli is wholly incompetent, he knows that the CDA as initially enacted would’ve done exactly what he wanted it to, but the portion of the Act allowing such censorship was struck down by the U. S. Supreme Court practically as soon as it was passed. And rightfully so; holding companies like Backpage (and by extension WordPress, Facebook, message boards, etc, etc…) legally responsible for the content of posts created by their users would utterly destroy the usefulness of the internet as a venue for individual voices (such as this blog), reducing it to control by monopolies large and complex enough to cope with onerous and intrusive government regulations and slowing its growth to a crawl as each and every new item had to be individually checked to ensure compliance with government standards. Furthermore, the costs resulting from this level of micromanagement would mean an end to the virtually-free internet as we know it.
Ashton Kutcher has his answer now; during his Twitter tirade of June 29th he posted, “hey @villagevoice hows [sic] that lawsuit from the 15 year old victim who alleges you helped enslave them [sic] going?” Of course, Ashton’s not bright enough to understand that he should be glad the suit failed, but most reasonable people are and for the moment, at least, that’s still enough.
One Year Ago Today
“Advice for Clients” is a short tutorial on what to do (and what not to do) when making or keeping an appointment with an escort.