MySpace + Phony Categories = Fearmongering

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We have to stop traffic problems like double-parking and drunk driving, wouldn’t you agree? And resolve America’s financial issues, like unpaid fines for overdue library books and corporate embezzlement.

Something wrong here? Of course. While everyone’s in favor of reducing traffic accidents and financial problems, most us don’t see double-parking and drunk driving as comparable risks. Similarly, no one worries about library fines and embezzlement quite the same way.

It’s a common strategy in public policy discussions—creating a category that lumps two dissimilar things together, and decrying the more serious of the two. We’re all in favor of preventing hangnails and heart attacks, aren’t we? We MUST do something about that!

Public discussions of sex suffer dramatically from this treatment. Morality groups, the media, and politicians often complain about the ‘serious problem of x & y.’ Even worse, they’ll say ‘the rate of x & y is increasing,’ without admitting how much of each is involved.

This is sloppy thinking and manipulative fear-mongering. Popular examples of phony categories are:
* “porn and child porn”
* “prostitution and trafficking”
* S/M and violence”

This week’s example involves social networking sites. MySpace has agreed it has some problems, and it’s enhancing safety features for its young members. That’s not a bad thing, but its narrative contributes to the current hysteria about online danger. Here are excerpts from a recent article in one of America’s most liberal, tech-savvy, high-quality newspapers:

* These sites are too easily exploited by sexual predators and cyberbullies
* Investigators posed as 12-14 girls and soon received sexual advances
* Facebook agreed to better investigate complaints of nudity, porn, or unwanted advances
* Young people can be exposed to abuse, pornography and bullying online
* There are reports of teens being assaulted, exploited and abused by adults they met on MySpace.

Notice how scary this all sounds—without telling us exactly what’s going on. Words like “abuse,” “exploitation,” “advances,” and “bullying” drive the public’s fear, morality groups’ demands, and politicians’ posturing.

“Bullies” and “predators” in the same category? Only in a no-thinking zone. And most of the “sexual advances” kids receive online are from other kids—but you’d never know it from reports like this. And so society has another set of reasons to fear and repress everyone’s sexuality.

The desire to protect children is not the same as thinking. It’s certainly not the same as actually protecting them. Once again, the multi-billion dollar Sexual Disaster Industry is way more interested in parents’ fear than in childrens’ safety.

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