The issue also features a bread-and-butter libertarian piece, “Anatomy of a Child Pornographer”, about a sixteen-year-old boy facing child pornography charges for receiving lascivious text messages and pictures from a fourteen-year-old girl. As Nancy Rommelmann writes in the piece:
The federal statute criminalizes the production, distribution, and possession of images depicting underage subjects engages in sexually explicit conduct; depending on the charges, it mandates sentences of five to 30 years in prison. Because the technology that allows sexting is new, age-appropriate punishments have yet to be hammered out. Instead, laws designed to thwart middle-aged people who prey on children are being applied to the children themselves.
According to the article, this is the sort of thing that would be bettered handled by an awkward conversation between two families and restrictions placed on adolescent socializing. Instead, there’s a sexually normal kid in Rochester facing registration as a sex offender. “I just wish the families could have handled it better,” the boy explains. “I would have been happy to mow their lawn all summer.”
While the piece isn’t really that novel—I’ve definitely read about precisely this sort of thing before—Rommelmann does something very creative in explaining how this new form of faux-pedophilia is mostly undertaken via cell phone messages. The subject of the article, of course, lives just miles away from the Eastman Kodak Company, which enthusiastically introduced the Brownie camera in 1900: “So simple, they can easily be operated by any school boy or girl.” Yea, exactly.
There’s a slightly weird column by contributing editor Greg Beato about the advantages of memory deletion. Researchers at SUNY Downstate Medical center have apparently discovered a way to delete rodent memories. Next stop: bliss! While there are ominous Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind implications to this technology, Beato thinks this might actually be a good thing. Considering the way the Internet allows people to easily access the past, why not also allow people to erase the unpleasant memories associated with that past? While Beato’s idea is interesting, his take is decidedly superficial. He apparently thinks that the SUNY study means that while we may soon be able to delete unpleasant memories, there’s no cause for concern, people: the past lives on on the Internet. This ignores the obvious fact that not all people appear on the Web with equal ubiquity, and the past usually lives on the Web for—at best—a few years.
There’s a short article in the front of the magazine about how, with the economic downturn, journalists are writing pieces about Charles Dickens’s Victorian stories flying off the shelves. Cavanaugh writes that articles about Dickens’ popularity are both inaccurate and troublesome. This is not just because Dickens’s popularity is old news, but also because Dickens didn’t really understand anything about economics. “Again and again in Dickens’ work,” Cavanaugh points out, “money problems get resolved not through sound financial management or hard work but through patronage.” Oh, where is Horatio Alger when we need him?
The back page features a brief column about A Scary Thing Happened, the creepy 9/11 children’s coloring book removed from the FEMA website. That book was pretty outrageous. But is there anyone who didn’t already know about this one?