Sunday, January 6, 2008

"What About the Children?!!"

One of the easiest ways to influence people is to appeal to emotion. I mentioned fear in my previous post "The Ministry of Fear":
and I mentioned this book:
The Culture of Fear: Why Americans Are Afraid of the Wrong Things

But the most effective emotional appeal is "What about the children?!" It combines fear and concern for children; to be afraid for the little ones.

American parents show slavish devotion to children:

"..many people don't understand how kiddie-centric America has become. To me, this is one of the central givens of contempo American life. It seems so blazingly evident to me that I tend to assert it as established fact, and am amazed to encounter people who dispute it.

What's my proof? .. impressions, really. .. what has jumped out at me most during my times abroad is the way that other cultures don't organize themselves around children to the same extent that the U.S. does.

I spent a school year in Rennes, Brittany in the early 1970s. Here are a few examples of how their attitudes towards kids differed from ours.

  • They never took vacations for the kids -- .. the idea of devoting a few weeks of one's treasured time-off to a kiddie destination would have been found laughable. Vacations were to be spent where the parents could enjoy their well-earned leisure.
  • Days and weeks weren't organized around the kiddies' obligations and plans: playdates, music lessons, soccer games, SAT-coaching appointments, etc. Life was organized around the parents' rhythms.
  • Grownups didn't choose neighborhoods to live in strictly for the sake of the kids. They might (or might not) move someplace because they knew the schools there to be better. But that was rare. And, in any case, parents certainly wouldn't sacrifice anything in the way of their own dignity and pleasure for the sake of, say, a big backyard."

Given how crazy parents are about their children, appealing to that emotion is very effective.

It's a standard media propaganda trick. If the day ever comes that the Internet will be censored, it will have started because of child porn or to "protect" children from porn. That will be the nose of the camel in the tent. Indeed, mandatory child porn filters are now required in Australia:

When smearing Ron Paul, the media often used the fact that he wants to get rid of the Department of Education. It of course elicits the reaction "What about the children?!" In the sound bite, of course the media doesn't explain Ron Paul's stand, that the parents in a community should decide how a school is run, not some bureaucrat in Washington. After all, local property taxes pay for schools, not the Federal income tax.

Many stupid laws, regulations, and even behavior, are about "What about the children?!" Sometimes in the morning I drive by a school. Traffic always backs up at the crosswalk, and it's the crossing guards' fault. Instead of making the vehicles and the children take turns, the crossing guards immediately stop the cars when even a single child approaches, so that the child doesn't even break stride, nor even look to see if cars have stopped. . The guards do this even if there is a large group of children 10 seconds behind the lone one, where he could have stopped the one child in order to continue to let cars pass until the large group arrived. The ridiculousness of this situation is so obvious to me, that I yell my displeasure at the crossing guard, who then of course yells back at the impatient ogre who just wants to mow down little children.

Not only does this system force everyone else to waste time and be slaves to the little children's whims, but it does not teach them the individual responsibility of watching out for their own safety to check the street for oncoming cars. People are so busy child-proofing the world, that they forget the more important task of world-proofing the child!

A friend was a juror in a child abuse case. The defendant was accused of abusing his girlfriend's child. The child had fallen and hit his head while the mother was away, so the worried defendant took the child to a doctor. The doctor said the kid was fine, but noted minor bruising on the kid's arms. The doctor was required by law to report this to Child Protective Services. And so the circus began.

All the witnesses said they never thought the defendant would hurt the child. The cops who had seen the child did not think so either. The only person accusing the defendant was an employee of Child Protective Services who filed suit based on pictures that the cops took. She had never even seen the child. After several days of testimony, the big day finally came where the incriminating photos would be shown to the jury. Squinting at the blurry, badly exposed polaroids, the jurors all shook their heads and could barely see any bruising.

The defendant had explained that the kid liked to rough-house, which explains the slight bruising on his arms. The jurors thought there was no way this guy was guilty. Then suddenly, surprise! The defendant accepted a plea bargain! In exchange for pleading guilty and paying for expensive "child rearing seminars", the charges would be dropped. My friend was so shocked he approached the defendant's lawyer and told him "why did you not wait for a verdict, we were gonna find him not guilty". The lawyer shushed him and explained "we're never sure which way the jury goes".

So much for justice. All in the name of "What about the children". Part of the deal too was that the guy move at least 300 miles away. All this could have been prevented if the law did not require a doctor to report all cases of bruising to Child Protective Services, but instead relied on a doctor's or cop's common sense to make the decision whether to report it or not.

Read this story about how young children can have false memories implanted by a child psychologist, leading to convictions of child molestation. It starts with a fascinating experiment where a false story of a mousetrap accident is implanted in a child, about 40% of the way down the page:

On this page about 1/3rd of the way down is a chapter entitled "Child Sexual Abuse"

..rape and sexual harassment pattern — expanding definitions, rapidly increasing accusations, intensely politicized publicity campaigns, and significantly high percentages of false allegations — has also appeared in still another arena, the agencies which deal with the sexual molestation of children.
We are now learning that children can be manipulated into supplying dramatic testimony of sexual abuse and that in most cases the accusation originates not with the child but with the mother.

Allegations of child abuse, both divorce related and in general, are flying out so frequently that those who believe themselves victimized by false charges have organized a nationwide support group, VOCAL (Victims Of Child Abuse Laws), ... In 1989, its summary of relevant statistics cited 23 studies ... the lowest assessment of false allegation was 35%, the highest 82%, averaging at 66%.

Recovered Memories

Those joining VOCAL are finding that an even more dramatic form of child abuse allegation is now sweeping the country. It originates with a "recovered memory" of sexual atrocity, often involving incest or satanic ritual abuse, usually made by an adult daughter against her father, and almost always discovered in therapy. This form of allegation made the headlines when celebrities such as Roseanne Arnold, La Toya Jackson, and Suzanne Sommers declared they had suddenly remembered a long repressed victimization.

Other sources suggest that the kind of child abuse caused by satanic ritual cults is almost totally a myth. There may be a satan and he may have followers but, contrary to widely held belief in the mid-eighties, they did not surface all over middle America. Where accusations actually led to trials, as in Jordan, Minnesota and in Los Angeles in the McMartin Preschool Case, prosecutors suffered embarrassing defeats.

A strong phalanx of professional opinion has raised significant doubts about the veracity of long repressed memories even within a carefully disciplined therapeutic context.

The media's overhyping of child molestation has created a fear of being accused of child molestation. The reaction is that people who work with children don't touch children anymore. This may have a tragic side effect:

In a cross-cultural study of affection and aggression done at McDonald's playgrounds, pre-schoolers in France playfully touched each other twice as much US children did, but while the French children acted aggressively only 1 percent of the time, the US youth did so 29 percent of the time. Anthropologists have long known that cultures that shower physical affection on young children have little adult violence, dating back to Margaret Mead's studies in New Guinea."There's got to be some relationship between a lack of touching and violence," said Tiffany Field, MD of the University of Miami Medical School, who conducted the study at the McDonald's playgrounds especially since international statistics have consistently shown that France has the lowest homicide rate of developed nations, while the United States has the highest. Dr. Field said she fears there will be even less physical affection toward children in our society as a result of teachers and day care providers worrying about accusations of sexual abuse.

All of this I believe, is part of creeping statism, and the death of common sense.

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