Thursday, January 16, 2003

The Kids are Alright

You almost could have heard the collective gasp of shock when it was reported earlier this week that Pete Townshend had been picked up as part of an investigation into child pornography.

Townshend's defense, that he was doing research as part of an anti-kidporn crusade he is on, has been met with skepticism and ridicule. For the average person, it seems that guilt by association is good enough for conviction.

It's really been interesting to watch long-time Who fans wrestle with this. They had a difficult enough time accepting that Townshend dallied with the "rough boys" back in the 80s. Already suspect in many minds, the equation of Townshend and kiddie porn added up for many people to equal perversion of the worst kind.

I'd like to remind these folks, however, that in the Western world, we have traditionally relied on the concept of "innocent until proven guilty." We don't know what was removed from his house or what investigators will find on his computers. But we do know that he wasn't charged with anything after he was taken down to the station for questioning.

Is the fact that he wasn't charged enough to claim that he's completely innocent? No. Simply put, all the facts aren't in. As the father of two kids, I deplore kiddie porn as much as anyone, but I'm willing to give Townshend the benefit of the doubt until a stronger case is made.

I think that Townshend was caught up in the net of zealous prosecutors on both sides of the pond. That we've had several relatively high profile cases of stars-with-kid-porn lately makes me wonder. If you'll recall from John Ashcroft's confirmation hearings, getting child pornographers is one of his top priorities. What better way to make a spalsh than to arrest some "Hollywood stars"? Paul Reubens, Jeffrey Jones, Pete Townshend ... who's next?

This ties in completely with a report just issued by the ACLU. According to the report:

"If we do not take steps to control and regulate surveillance to bring it into conformity with our values, we will find ourselves being tracked, analyzed, profiled, and flagged in our daily lives to a degree we can scarcely imagine today. We will be forced into an impossible struggle to conform to the letter of every rule, law, and guideline, lest we create ammunition for enemies in the government or elsewhere. Our transgressions will become permanent Scarlet Letters that follow us throughout our lives, visible to all and used by the government, landlords, employers, insurance companies and other powerful parties to increase their leverage over average people."

Is what is happening to Townshend and others the tip of the iceberg? I think so.

Pursuing people who do bad things is to be commended. Ruining good people and writing it off as collateral damage is inexcuseable.

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