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The toxic Lolicon debate

Swiss LibertarianMar 27, 2021, 1:50:44 AM
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Minds is an incredible platform for free speech - I actually supports totally free speech in line with the 1st Amendment of the US constitution for the entire planet. Political, ideological, religious debates, content that is offensive or shocking, erotic and pornographic content are all allowed.

NSFW ("Not Safe For Work") content simply has to be labeled as such (there's room for improvement, i.e. it would be cool to be able to block out just specific categories and to be able to switch the protection on and off with a simple page header function).

There are minimal rules for what kind of content is not acceptable:

  • Anything criminal and prohibited by US law
  • That includes pedophile content
  • Threats of violence
  • Calls for violence
  • Representations of extreme violence (e.g. beheadings)
  • Doxing
  • Attempts to manipulate the token system (which would be fraud)

Instead of rejoicing over the freedom the platform offers, a bunch of people have started whining because Bill Ottman (@ottman) published a statement confirming that Lolicons that include sexualized content are banned. This was not a new decision, it was inherent in the prohibition of illegal content.

Lolicons are drawings of Manga-style characters that look like prepubescent children, mostly girls, often sexualized or even engaging in openly sexual activities.

People who complain include those who actually publish Lolicons on their page or in groups and others who pretend to be "defenders of free speech".

Does the prohibition violate free speech?

Accusations thrown around include:

  • Censorship, Fascism
  • Puritanism
  • Right-wing talking points
  • "no better than xyz" (Twitter, Facebook etc.)
  • false claim that sexualized Lolicons are legal

What kind of "speech" are they talking about?

The only statement someone is making by posting pictures of characters that clearly represent prepubescent children in a sexualized context is that the poster is a pedophile who would abuse children if given the opportunity.

That's basically self-incrimination.

Some people may argue that this is not necessarily the case, that there might be other motives. That's irrelevant. It only matters how the message is received.

It would only be censorship if it was arbitrary and concerned speech that was legal or politically relevant. Legal speech prohibitions for political reasons could be challenged and fascist anti-free-speech laws should be ignored if at all possible. But this is not the case. Lolicons do not make a political statement other than the attempt to normalize pedophilia.

There are probably some people who don't realize this and just think that being offensive is "cool". They intentionally publish the worst stuff. Things I found here on Minds on an account defending pedophilia: a little girl appearing to be around 5-6 years old getting raped by a man with a really big penis, 2 little girls licking a penis etc. The user was very explicit about the fact that he or she intended to be offensive. As in "I want to force everyone to see the most offensive material I can find to convince them that they should never limit my right to publish whatever I want".

That's the best way to convince people that free speech is a problem and thus limit the right of those who really have something of interest to say.

Is it about puritanism?

Given that Minds allows porn, the "puritanism" accusation is prima facie absurd and utterly ridiculous.

Being revolted by the sexualization of children has absolutely nothing to do with puritanism. No decent person will ever tolerate the abuse of children, including people who enjoy sex, have no problem with the representation of sexual content and porn.

Those who use this accusation of "puritanism" shoot their own foot: porn is clearly made for sexual stimulation. So they argue that sexualized Lolicons represents porn and thus that they are intended for sexual stimulation of pedophiles. In other words, they try to normalize pedophilia and pretend that it is just a form of sexuality. It is not - pedophilia is a mental illness.

Pedophiles try to claim that their victims "enjoy" what they are doing. Except that children cannot give consent. Being sexually abused as child - even as adolescent - causes life-long trauma to the victims of pedophiles, aggravated by the shame and the fear of revealing what was done to them, which is one instrument pedophiles use to control their victims.

An illustration of this trauma is provided by 2 French women who recently published books about their life-long trauma following their exploitation by a French writer and Marxist ideologue, Gabriel Matzneff: Vanessa Springora ("Consentement") and Francesca Gee who was depicted at the age of 15 on the cover of Matzneff's book «Ivre du vin perdu». He also used letters and photos of her in his essay «Les moins de seize ans» in which he defended pedophilia. She had finished her script for her book on the abuse she suffered in 2004, but all the editors in France refused to publish it. They all protected Matzneff.

Although they were adolescents when it happened,  the trauma of the abuse is still present in those women who are now over 60. It would have been far worse if they had been prepubescent. Lolicons represent the sexualization of prepubescent children. Let that sink in.

Is this about "right wing talking points"?

One of the most fervent opponents of pedophilia on social media is "Shoe on Head", a young woman who is politically on the far left. She supported Bernie Sanders. No one's perfect. She also attacks feminists and "woke" culture. She did one episode in which she attacked "Cuties", the Netflix version of a French movie that sexualized 11-13 year old girls and was revolted by the attempt to make this about "right wing politics" by defenders of that horrible movie. She rightfully said: "It is truly sad that the defense of children's sexual integrity is now a partisan issue".

The left has always been conspicuously tolerant of sexual abuse and pedophilia - as long as it concerned anyone of their own tribe. The German "Green" (Marxist) Party had the legalization of pedophilia in their official party program from the 1970s until 1993. They finally agreed to an official investigation arrived at the conclusion that party members had abused more than 1000 children during those years.

Interestingly, Twitter allows a lot of pedophile content and is now being prosecuted for it, so they are the best example of what not to do.

There are lots of people on the left who do not support pedophilia at all, but   those who do, publicly, are all on the left. Because the left does attract crackpots.

To quote George Orwell in "The Road to Wigan Pier": “One sometimes gets the impression that the mere words ‘Socialism’ and ‘Communism’ draw towards them with magnetic force every fruit-juice drinker, nudist, sandal-wearer, sex-maniac, Quaker, ‘Nature Cure’ quack, pacifist, and feminist in England.” 

Empathy for victims of pedophile crimes

As I came across some of the really abhorrent material that some users post, publicly, just after reading a post by a user who wrote an entire book about his experience of being sexually abused as a child, I realized that such images represent a much greater problem: if a person who experienced such crimes comes across such images, it will definitely tear open old wounds.

The entire debate would not even exist if those who post Lolicons were doing so strictly within private groups. No one else would even know about it. They are entirely free to do so.

But that's not what they want. It's not about their personal enjoyment of such images, among like-minded friends, for whatever reason. No, they absolutely want to share them publicly. Which really does reek of "normalization of pedophilia" from a mile away.

Posting images that represent a criminal act (sexual abuse of a minor) in a way that minimizes the crime or even glorifies it, even in the form of a fictional representation, can be seen as encouragement to commit such crimes.

Pedophiles screaming about how their rights are violated and how they are not really bad guys are a classic. The trauma experienced by their victims tells another story.

Are sexualized images of children legal?

Defenders of Lolicons that represent sexualized images of minors claim that they are legal in the US if they represents only fictional characters. This is based on the 2001 section 18 U.S. Code 2256 where two legal definitions were ruled unconstitutional by SCOTUS. These were then amended and the section that lists legal definitions was reinstated:

18 U.S. Code § 2256 - Definitions for chapter

They also refer to the laws of California, where such images are legal if they do not represent real existing individuals.

At the federal level, the relevant law is 18 U.S. Code 1466A, which explicitly states: "It is not a required element of any offense under this section that the minor depicted actually exist."

The full text is provided by the Cornell University Law School:

18 U.S. Code § 1466A - Obscene visual representations of the sexual abuse of children

To quote the essential parts:

  • Any person who, in a circumstance described in subsection (d), knowingly produces, distributes, receives, or possesses with intent to distribute, a visual depiction of any kind, including a drawing, cartoon, sculpture, or painting, that (1) (A) depicts a minor engaging in sexually explicit conduct; and
  • (B) is obscene; or
  • (2) (A) depicts an image that is, or appears to be, of a minor engaging in graphic bestiality, sadistic or masochistic abuse, or sexual intercourse, including genital-genital, oral-genital, anal-genital, or oral-anal, whether between persons of the same or opposite sex; and
  • (B) lacks serious literary, artistic, political, or scientific value; or attempts or conspires to do so, shall be subject to the penalties provided in section 2252A(b)(1), including the penalties provided for cases involving a prior conviction.
  • (b)Additional Offenses.—Any person who, in a circumstance described in subsection (d), knowingly possesses a visual depiction of any kind, including a drawing, cartoon, sculpture, or painting, that—
    (1)(A) depicts a minor engaging in sexually explicit conduct; and
    (B) is obscene; or
    (2) (A) depicts an image that is, or appears to be, of a minor engaging in graphic bestiality, sadistic or masochistic abuse, or sexual intercourse, including genital-genital, oral-genital, anal-genital, or oral-anal, whether between persons of the same or opposite sex; and
    (B) lacks serious literary, artistic, political, or scientific value; or attempts or conspires to do so, shall be subject to the penalties provided in section 2252A(b)(2), including the penalties provided for cases involving a prior conviction.
  • (c) Nonrequired Element of Offense.
  • It is not a required element of any offense under this section that the minor depicted actually exist."

Those who make the claim that Minds "violates their rights" simply ignore the law and intentionally or unintentionally threaten Minds as well as all Minds users:

Based on 18 U.S. Code § 1466A, even the mere possession of images that represent a minor in any sexualized context can potentially be prosecuted. Just scrolling through Minds content might cause such images to be stored in the user's computer memory and potentially in temporary files even if a user never intended to look at or store such images.

Minds thus has the obligation to take down any such illegal images to protect their users.

Those who complain about the ban on illegal content, including any representation of sexualized minors, in text or image - especially under the false pretense of "free speech" - thus endanger the free speech platform Minds and might be doing so intentionally.

Those who honestly thought that this was an issue of free speech should admit that they were wrong and that their action only undermines free speech.

The slippery slope argument

Every defender of the right to publish pedophile material insists that if this is prohibited, we'll be on a slippery slope and that other prohibitions will follow.

This is a grotesque fallacy: the rejection of pedophile material is extremely specific and entirely justified for all of the above arguments. There is nothing that would support the assumption that any similar arguments could be made about other types of posts. There is especially zero desire to impose further restrictions. I'm an absolutist in the support of free speech and so is Mr. Ottman, based on what he said about the issue, so far.

The slippery slope goes the other way: 

At some point, it becomes obvious that one cannot give in to every demand of the most intolerant minority:

The Most Intolerant Wins: The Dictatorship of the Small Minority 

by Nassim Nicholas Taleb, author of the "Black Swan".

Given the debating style of those supposedly "defending free speech", with their insults, personal attacks and hyperboles ("Minds now worse than Twitter", "Ottman is a fascist" etc.), their desire to disrupt the entire debate and their sometimes openly formulated wish to "destroy Minds", it is easy to see that they are an extremely intolerant, aggressive minority.

Libertarian position

Finally a word about the endless claims that libertarians should defend freedom of speech for any and all content without regard to context.

The ideal of classical liberalism / libertarianism is a free world where people's individual rights are maximized and harm is minimized.

Calls for violence, promotion of terrorism, threats, doxing, the organization of crimes or material that was obtained through criminal means - unless it exposes other crimes - should absolutely be banned. Material that is based on the exploitation of children or that encourages such exploitation, material for grooming of children etc. is in that category as well. 

Any such "speech" can only lead to a reduction in liberty.

Just as we must never tolerate censorship of speech in defense of liberty under the false pretense of "private businesses can do what they want" - we've seen what that lead  to - we must not mindlessly tolerate the distribution of material that will be used to suppress liberty and that may cause physical or mental harm on platforms that are supposed to advance liberty.

Title picture

I wasn't going to publish a Lolicon to illustrate the debate now, was I? The fighting monkeys from the Simpsons seemed like a much better illustration for the level of the debate at this point... I'm trying to move this out of the gutter of the debating pyramid.
 

Credits

 Calbeck (@Calbeck) provided the legal references.