Ignorance of facts and best practices drive comments about “pedophilia”

By Sandy . . . In a recent broadcast of Tucker Carlson, Fox news exhibits, and allows Carlson to exhibit, that ignorance. Fox, in bold headlines, announces, “TUCKER CARLSON: No healthy society can tolerate pedophilia,” with a sub-heading of “Tucker speaks out against child sexual abuse.” The connection is made: Pedophilia and child sexual abuse are interchangeable terms.

In another video, Carlson bemoans the fact that California is “Putting thousands of pedophiles back on the street.” He is speaking of individuals who have been convicted of child sexual abuse, have completed the court-ordered incarceration period, and are released under community supervision for the remainder of the sentence. Once again, the connection between the word and the crime is inescapable.

That connection, that inference, is WRONG. And in so making it, Fox and Carlson do what they accuse the “academics” of doing: They manipulate language in order to elicit a desired response that serves their own interests.

These are the facts about pedophilia. It is a medical term, not a legal one. There are no laws or statutes criminalizing pedophilia. Depression might cause a person to shoplift, but the criminal act is shoplifting, not having depression. Not everyone who shoplifts has depression, and not all with depression shoplift.

The same is true with pedophilia. Not everyone who molests a child has pedophilia – in fact, research suggests the percentage is low – and not everyone with pedophilia has engaged in any criminal conduct, including molesting a child.

Carlson and Fox News ignore these facts and do everything possible to cement the connection in their viewers’ minds.

Carlson takes the “academics” further to task for introducing the term “minor-attracted person” in place of “pedophile.” This is not, as Carlson claims, to create a climate accepting of sexual abuse of children but rather to create a climate in which society and, most importantly, those who have committed a crime, see themselves as a person first, a person who has committed a crime, a person capable of repenting and being rehabilitated.

Why does this matter?

Person-first language recognizes that people are not their crimes, but rather that people commit crimes. And above all, it gives those who have committed crimes, are repentant, and have changed or want to change a way of looking at and feeling about themselves that is correlated with a reduction in criminal behavior.

A reduction in criminal behavior is for the benefit of public safety as a whole. So while Fox and Tucker Carlson claim he is “speaking out” against child sexual abuse, what they are doing in reality is criticizing and vilifying those who are actually working to reduce it.

Until now, the use of the word “pedophile” has not been found in American, mainstream news outlets or publications. It has occasionally been found in “fringe” British media. In crossing the Atlantic, it seems to have found a home with Fox.

There is one solution. If this type of language manipulation is not consistent with best practices, if promoting false connections and beliefs is not consistent with what best serves public safety, let Fox News know.