Freedoms are a tricky thing. Not only do we have to fight for those freedoms with which we agree, but if we are to truly be free, we have to fight for those freedoms with which we are adamantly opposed. I think that this part is obvious to anyone reading this. The positive side to my obscure little corner of the net is that the vast majority of people that read my musings tend to be like-minded or mostly like- minded individuals. Where our viewpoints differ tends to be on the more detail-oriented items, but it seems to me that on the big-picture stuff, we all read from the same book, overall. There are elements, however, that blur the line. Today I want to talk about War-Line.
I first ran across War-Line when it was linked from a web forum I frequent. The text of the link described founder John Reneer's practice of sitting outside of adult bookstores and photographing the customers for later posting on his website's You're Busted page.
Why would he do this? According to their mission statement:
At War-Line we intend to focus attention on people and places that we believe promote demeaning sexual practices or exhibit sexually violent or aggressive behavior.What can I say? This sounds great, in theory. In practice, there's some tricky wording in there. Most notably, "people and places that we believe promote" such behaviors. What does John think promotes those behaviors? According to an email exchange that I have had with him for the past week or so, pornography:
I do not propose or believe that everyone who watches porn will commit a sexual crime. On the other hand, there is a large body of evidence including case studies which directly connect the use of porn to serial rape and often murder.
The Slippery Slope
Here is where we mount our slippery slope and see how long we can manage to stay atop. Let us assume, for the sake of argument, that there is a direct, provable, causative link between pornography and serial rape despite arguments to the contrary and even research indicating the exact opposite; we'll just assume it's true. What percentage of porno consumers end up committing sexual crimes? Well, the numbers here are insanely hazy; so much so that a skeptical person might call this research into question entirely. Let us assume, also for the sake of argument, that 25% of all porn consumers go on to commit some sexual crime. I think we can all agree that 25% is probably way over the top.
So, we've established a hypothetical, causative link between porn and rape in which fully 1 in 4 people that purchase porn commit a sex crime. Now what? Do we ban porn? Do we assume that all porn should be stopped? Should we post the pictures of consumers of pornography so that our puritan society can ostracize them?
Rational beings should agree that such actions would be ridiculous; and it stands to reason that if it's foolhardy in the above, perfect scenario, it is certainly ignorant to do so in the real world, where there is no such proved link, let alone a link that yields a 1:4 ratio. We would be throwing the baby out with the bathwater. This amounts to thought-crime. War-Line's premise is that if you are turned on by bondage or pornography, you are a mere step away from rape or sexual assault; so the purveyors and consumers of bondage gear or porn are not innocent, and deserve no protection from being "outed" on the internet for the denizens of kink that they are.
I have no desire to argue the case as to whether pornography can cause rape, nor do I wish to argue even the potential link between the two. That has been argued in a much more scientific fashion than I am prepared to do here, and the jury is still out; what can I possibly add to that discussion. What I do want to argue is whether or not the potential link to a small percentage of sexual assaults should be remedied by treating all pornographers, sellers of sex toys, and customers of the both as criminals.
The Bully Mentality
The fact of the matter is, pornography, especially niche-kink pornography, is an easy target for such bully tactics. Who is going to come out in favor of porn? Who is going to argue for a person's right to masturbate by humping an inflatable sheep? What sane politician is going to go to the mat over virtual kiddie porn? Damnably few, damagingly few. So John Reneer can freely destroy the lives of innocent people on his anti-porn crusade. Even better, he can hide behind the rhetorical "for the children" that has become so fashionable as of late. From our email discussion:
The innocent are punished? That is synonymous to saying that because there is a possibility of collateral damage it is improper to fight a war to protect ourselves, our country, our loved ones, even when the safety and lives of our children are at stake.Note the insidious sneaking in of how urgent it is to defend our children and loved ones from this "war". Clearly, if I am against his methods, I must be on the other side of his "war". This mentality has proven pervasive throughout his writing. Later in the same email he refers to the customers of porn shops with more war metaphor:
That is especially true when your "innocent" intentionally place themselves right in the middle of the battle zone where they see bullets and mortar shells thick in the air after having passed warning signs along the way.
The "bully mentality" is further reinforced by even a cursory review of the contents of the War-Line website. On the You're Busted page, pictures feature snide filenames such as "Oops She got the wrong side worked on" describing a woman's posterior, "getting fat and sloppy" next to a picture of a porn store employee, and "Maybe she got Belly Augmentation" on a woman's photograph. These remarks are not typical of individuals trying to "make a change" or "prevent rape". These are the remarks of an angry bully, lashing out. Similarly, remarks from the News page bear the similar phrasing.
She tried having a life in the worlde[sic] of her favorite cheerleader coach, but hubby and the coach both nixed that. Hubby because he was jealous and the coach because he was sicken[sic] at the thought of her.and
In addition to all that she is a fat embarrassment to all those who have to associate with her, including Cathy and the other Allen family girls. My goodness, she sure is a fat little mess.Now, are these the words of an activist out to make a difference, or is such petty name-calling more commensurate with generic bullying? Could John just be lashing out at people whose sexual proclivities differ from his own? From one of his emails to me:
I just do not believe you are taking all the facts into consideration or giving appropriate importance to the real problem, which is NOT the comfort or discomfort of people with perverted sexual needs and habits.So, all you perverts that use sex toys, practice BDSM, or enjoy pornography, be on notice; War-Line considers you fodder for the greater good.
Application of Freedoms
And here is the crux of the matter. John Reneer and his cronies hide behind the very freedoms they deplore. They need the freedoms this country offers in order to photograph individuals against their will, and they need those freedoms to post the pictures. They need these freedoms when they post snarky commentary about the people they dislike. All the while, they desire to strip from others the freedom to engage in their sexual practices free from discrimination, punishment, or ostracism. In a perfect world, these photographs would not matter. In reality, such pictures could legitimately destroy a person's family, livelihood, and social standing.
No, this War on Perverts that War-Line has cleverly disguised as the War on Rape must be exposed for the fraud that it is. It begins by acknowledging that when no crime has been committed, there is no victim and there is no punishment--something John Reneer and his War-Line gang need to recognize.
I would love to invite commentary on this topic. Please, discuss away by clicking the Comments? link below. You can post anonymously even (although those messages require me to unscreen them, merely to keep down spam; I assure you, if you post it and it's not an advertisement, it'll go up). So what do you think?