Feb 2, 2010

A media of re-affirmation

The internet changed child pornography. Not by making it more available, though there was that. Nor primarily by giving more child pornographers more access to more images of more children in sexually explicit poses. Nor even by putting more children in harm's way, (for, actually, children have been vulnerable as long as there've been children, and most abusers are family members and trusted friends, not people lurking in ugly corners of the internet). Instead, the foremost effect of the internet on child pornography has been in the creation of communities of child pornographers.

These are re-affirmative associations. So where it used to be that everyone a particular child pornographer knew thought child pornography and what a child pornographer might want to do was evil, sick and wrong, now all of the child pornographer's closest associations and all his conversations are and can be with people who affirm and encourage, endorse and legitimize. The media or form of media enabled the creation of what is essentially a society of affirmative feed-back loops. Shame was gone, with the internet. The need for secrecy, gone. There was a decrease in the internalization of critiques, which was one of the functions of society replaced by communities built around fantasies, and thus the child pornographers were loosed, in a way, allowed to escape, in their own minds, some social restraints.

The people I talked to about child pornography (a U.S. Attorney and his office, FBI agents and experts, and officers from a number of local departments involved in the controversial practice of basically baiting people into incriminating, online conversations), said the internet changed child pornographers so that what used to be cravings and impulses were, in a way, calcified into confirmed opinions and beliefs.

Of course, the internet has done this to all of us. This is the reality of the new media age. This is what happens when mass media is fractured, and communities are organized by self-selection. We occupy worlds built around ideas, our fantasies. There is a direct relationship between the multitude of media and each individuals' isolation from any information that would disagree with what one believes. The function, here, is not to broaden or educate but to re-affirm. We all live now in these loops of re-affirming feed-back, enabling us not to question ourselves, insulating us from critique, protecting us with cult-like repetitions of affirmations of our rightness. My media choices comfort me with sermons that praise me for my choices, for being chosen, for being right, always encouraging me to join and repeat again the prayer, I'm so glad I'm not like them.