Pedophilia and the media

Published 1/11/23 at Crime Report

By Sandy . . . Which of these would you favor as a husband for your beloved daughter?

The slick fella, too handsome for his own good, whose shifty eyes furtively appraised the family silver or the well-dressed, good-looking young man whose frank curiosity about the family heirlooms showed an appreciation for life’s finer things.

Why?

Word choice makes all the difference. Some words are so emotionally laden with either positive or negative connotations that just using them automatically produces the corresponding emotion in the reader or hearer. Producers of media know this and often choose emotionally loaded language to sway the readers to their way of thinking. This is fine for editorials and opinion pieces, but the purveyors of news pieces bear the responsibility of using neutral language, of presenting the facts, the “plain, unvarnished truth,” and allowing readers to form their own conclusions.

These are the facts about the term 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. And certainly, not all registrants are pedophiles. Sexual convictions run the gamut from public exposure to violent rape.

Recently a series of news stories were published in Joliet, Illinois, by Joliet’s Patch Publications.  The situation is one where the mayor is doing his best – or worst — to close down an apartment building designed as reentry housing for men with sexual crime convictions. After losing round one by way of a federal ruling, Mayor Bob O’Dekirk launched round two: the city bought a lot with a vacant house a block away from the NewDay Apartments, the home of the registrants and one of NARSOL’s many partners in implementing fact-driven policies that advance meaningful criminal justice reform.

The mayor’s plan, unanimously approved by city council without a grandfather clause, is to demolish the home and create a park/playground there. Projected to be functional by June 2023, the park would place the residents of the apartment building out of compliance with state law and effectually, the mayor hopes, put the apartments out of business. Called a “pocket park,” Joliet is not the first city to resort to this strategy in order to make areas uninhabitable for registered individuals.

Joliet Patch, the local news homepage for the town on Patch.com has published four articles about the situation in Joliet, three since city hall got involved. Those three all scream, in huge headers, about the “Pedophile Palace” that the mayor has sworn to shut down.

Of all words in our language designed to evoke a strong, visceral, negative reaction, that one ranks right at the top. Seldom fully understood, almost always misused, and often misspelled, pedophilia requires a qualified physician’s diagnosis before one can accurately be labeled a pedophile.

Patch is not the only media outlet to choose and misuse that word to steer readers and listeners toward a specific reaction. Some weeks prior to the most recent article in Joliet, in a recent broadcast of Tucker Carlson, Fox News, in bold headlines, announced, “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 a sexual crime, 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, and now not only is child sexual abuse the same as pedophilia, but also everyone on the registry for any sexual crime is a pedophile.

But it is a false connection.

Carlson and Fox News ignore the facts and do everything possible to cement the false connection and establish a belief in the viewers’ minds that precludes any reasonable and factual discussion about sexual offending.

Throughout the Joliet pieces, other pejorative language is used. The apartment dwellers are “sexual predators” at every possible occasion, not “men,” not “tenants,” but “sexual predators.”

Tucker continues to use “pedophile/pedophilia” as often as possible, but at least his rhetoric is labeled “opinion.”

I reached out to Joliet Patch and to Tucker Carlson’s team while working on this piece but have not heard back.

Words shape our beliefs, opinions, and actions. They also shape the beliefs, opinions and actions of our lawmakers, and inaccurate words and words whose meanings have been twisted will lead to laws and policies that are inaccurate and twisted. Laws that are based on falsehoods and incorrect beliefs do not advance public safety.

Legislation grounded in empirical evidence and arrived at in the cold, impassionate light of accurate and connotation-free verbiage has the very best chance of providing society with laws that are fair, just, and work as they should.

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19 Thoughts to “Pedophilia and the media”

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  1. w

    Could be that the subject matter is easy enough to cause an immediate disassociation. Neither left nor right wants anything to do with it, and the slightest hint of backing down from a harsh stance makes it easy for the other side to call foul. No one is Rational about these things, they just want to secure their jobs.

    But besides reason, logic, and politics there are also morals. It would certainly help if people thought of people in decent and humanitarian ways. But the truth is the tide rises and the tide falls. This world became heartless, driven to hatred by any and all means.

  2. CJB

    Thank You Sandy!

    Your last two paragraphs are so true and written so eloquently!

    The rest of the stuff above we know…I have personally contacted Tucker and we will be having a Zoom conference (perhaps you can be invited which would be PERFECT) soon as his behavior has been deplorable…..I will get him to Redact what he has said…..it is pending on his producers go-ahead!…UGH!…I will get them to relent

  3. Jeremy from Indiana

    This connection is not lost on many people. The fear of “normal” society though is that by eliminating the negative connotation of the words used, it not only appears that society is getting soft on sex offenders, but that it will allow some slippery slope of acceptance.

    Take the “MAP” argument for instance. This is a term used for people who self diagnose themselves as pedophiles, but “MAP” sounds much less negative, at least to the people pushing and using that term.

    Now let’s go back to the slippery slope. The fear is that if we take away the negative, the horrific, the immoral, the disgusting; we’re left with a mental illness no different than depression as you described. The difference is that people with depression and other mental illnesses are allowed to exist, whereas pedophiles or “MAPS” are not. The slippery slope so many are scared of is that this mental illness (much like quite a few other mental illnesses) will force society not only to accept this illness, but feed it and approve of it as a natural sexual orientation. It is not. Without getting too political, this is exactly what the trans community is doing as we speak.

    I don’t consider myself a pedophile, but I am a partial hebephile (self diagnosed). With that said, I don’t want to see this slippery slope happen. We should never allow them to call our affliction, nor our crimes “normal”; nor should they [the affliction and the crimes] ever be accepted in civilized society. People attracted to children (even adolescents) are generally attracted to that because of the power difference, whether that be actual power or the power of knowledge.

    Let’s please focus on the main mission of getting rid of the registry, not trying to gain acceptance for our mental illnesses, our crimes, and our deviancy. It’s never going to happen and if it did, it would only embolden those intent on acting out these deviancies.

    1. Sandy

      Jeremy, thank you for your analysis and response. I am curious, however, as to how you arrived at the conclusion that my piece or its message is intended “to gain acceptance for our mental illnesses, our crimes, and our deviancy.” By the time I post or submit a piece, I have read it at least 30 times, and then after posting, another five or ten. And I just read it again. I totally fail to see anything that supports your conclusion. The primary message is to the media to use language accurately and not resort to manipulating it in presenting information. The subtext is dismay that media outlets are blatantly doing that. Yes, our main mission is eliminating the registry, which is made almost impossible due to the support of the public for the registry, which is largely shaped by what they receive from media. That public support influences legislation, usually in the direction of tougher laws because that is what the public wants because they are convinced by media that the registry and its laws are all that is keeping them safe. I’ve come full circle now, and nowhere in that circle is acceptance for criminal acts or behavior.

    2. Charlie

      Jeremy, first of all, you are generalizing your opinion of what is a mental illness to all registered persons. Second, while peodphillia is a diagnosis that can be real, it is arbitrarily assigned by arm chair judges without appropriate data or understanding, and third you have not stated in your reply that you are a qualified mental health professional. For the record I am. I find your comments to be specious at best.

      1. CJB

        Thank You Charlie for this clear explanation……and thank you about the ‘arm’ chair judges because there are so many of them!

        Hopefully others will read your explanation…..like all of Sandy’s ones!

    3. A Mistake They Made

      Jeremy,

      MAP = Minor Attracted Person = Attracted to Anyone below 18 years of age.
      Pedophile = People who are attracted to prepubescent children.

      These are not the same thing.

  4. Rena Ellis

    Thank you Sandy for your diligence !
    There is so much misinformation spread through media.

  5. Svejk

    The world, and this nation are falling apart. “Pedophiles,” the label used as a blanket reference to any and all sex offenders, make for easy targets; low hanging fruit, if you will. You can see memes all over social networks calling for “pedophiles” to be executed via a wood chipper; to be shot, hung or otherwise executed. This bit of nastiness, along with journalists such as Tucker Carlson (who I greatly enjoy, BTW), goes virtually unchallenged or unpunished. After all, who will stand up for these people, either face-to-face with a journalist or even in the social networks? The posters of this garbage know this, and they know no social network will boot them off or risk being labeled as in favor of pedophilia. The journalists hide behind “opinion” and “investigation.” Law enforcement and politicians operate, unimpeded, with open hatred and maliciousness against “pedophiles.” How do we stop it? Our funds are limited, but the opponents’ funds are not. Every time the sun starts to shine, these knuckleheads make it rain. I’ve about had it with it all, but I see no end.

  6. Matt

    I have pointed out some of these facts before when the term pedo is thrown around on social media. The response is almost always something like, “Imagine defending pedophilia…” People don’t often want to admit they are wrong, so they will double-down on their stance to continue feeling like they are right. Unfortunately, this has the effect of not only hurting people who have already served their sentences for what they did — or were falsely accused of doing — but also their families, including children. Fact: misusing the term pedophile harms children. Meanwhile, these same people are throwing around the hashtag #SaveOurChildren as if that is actually doing something beneficial. But they don’t care about ALL children; they only care about children who aren’t related to registered citizens. Otherwise, they would acknowledge the harm these words, and the registry itself, do to those children.

  7. Lori Hamilton

    Absolutely a fantastic article! Fighting the misconceptions promoted by individuals who intentionally deceive through repetitious and incorrect communications is an additional part of the battle we fight.

  8. Pam Scott

    I think there is so much shame and secrecy around all things sex that it takes a real weird turn toward titillation and breathless excitement when the whole messy pile lands in the “justice” system. I began explaining my sex offense in plain terms, accepting the limits of my culpability in a reasonable tone, while pointing out that while accountability is imperative, there is no place in restorative justice for shame. I think we are the most broken sexual beings, dragged out into the light so that our loudest detractors can compare their inner demons to ours.

  9. Max Freeman

    From the beginning of radio and television, the Government and military know very well the power of media and its influence on the world’s population. This is the very reason it was and is dangerous to allow full unadulterated freedom of the press to those that influence the public population, ( The Masses ). Setting back and observing it is easy to see how this is all affecting the world as we know it. Military, Political, Law, education, Advertizing. It’s all becoming very deceptive. It is not to often that we see publications that are true to the point and compassionate in nature as we see in your articles. We need a lot more people like you that have the knowledge wisdom and power to bring about a better understanding, balance and structure to so many subject matters in this world, before it gets so out of balance that it implodes to a point of no recovery. We need to say No to freedom to print untruthful media that influences the masses.

  10. Jill

    Thank you so much for writing this article. And, yes words do matter. I appreciate you and your determination to be heard, and assist all who need more understanding on the subject.
    I went to a seminar regarding flipping and renting properties a few years back and I shut down in receiving the rest of the information after the female speaker said that she would rent to anyone, except sex offenders and pedophiles. My son was on probation at the time and his crime was called Lewd and lascivious behavior with minor . . . & he was a minor himself. That opened my eyes to the cruel world of words at that moment.
    I thought, this woman needs some schooling, yet I didn’t have the courage at that time to educate her.
    Thanks again, this article hit the nail on the head.

  11. Robert A

    We live in a world that is sexualized. It’s in everything we see and hear everyday but no one wants to talk about it. These outdated laws (mostly from the 90’s during the get tough on crime era) nobody wants to even speak of overhauling them. That would be the equivalent of commiting political suicide. If our leaders knew someone or has themselves been through the S.O.R ringer, they’d know what a crock of crap all this is. Maybe they do and don’t care. Who knows. After all, people get elected off it.

  12. Robyn Liburdi

    Hi, my thoughts about pedophilia and the media are as is, I feel there should be a Hefty fine, to any newspaper, magazines, media outlet or person who chooses and misuses words to steer listeners and readers to specific reaction. It can change our opinions and beliefs and fears which will make us want our laws and policies to change for all the wrong and unfair reasons. How then can we say we are a truly just system if we continue to allow this to happen without any repercussions. After all they are now the offenders. Maybe they should go to Jail.

  13. Robert

    The word pedophilia comes from the Greek παῖς, παιδός (paîs, paidós), meaning “child”, and φιλία (philía), “friendly love” or “friendship”. Pedophilia is used for individuals with a primary or exclusive sexual interest in prepubescent children aged 13 or younger.
    As one who claims to be a pedophile, I do not see this term inaccurately describing my mental illness. The article was correct in saying not all pedophiles commit crimes. I just want to point out that the true meaning of pedophilia does not connotate a terrible person. If we as a society can see this as a mental illness and treat those who suffer from it with dignity, it would go a long way to ensure the safety of our children.

  14. H n H

    It can be confirmed right now that Joe Rogan has a short clip on the tube of You on the channel @hulkroganclips387 that starts out saying “once you find out that f**k Island was real, that pedophile island was real…..”

    Epstien was never a pedophile, and neither were any of the people who went to his stupid island. The youngest “victim” was 14, and a lot of these girls I’ve read went on to live normal successful lives.

    Yes, words matter and this is one shining perfect example of the media influenceers gas lighting the word pedophilia to make any underage sexual activity automatically fall into the catagory of being committed by predatory “pedophiles”. Noone likes child molesters, so now 14-16 yr olds are now helpless prepubescent children. I challenge anyone to head over to your local high school and ask all the students who identifies as a prepubescent child.

  15. Jeff

    As a registered gay man with hebephilia and ephebephilia (attraction to adolescents, in my case, males) I know what it’s like to be shunned, even banned, socially. California is not this restrictive, but I remain cautious in social interactions. Many of us, registrants and non-, have parts of ourselves tucked away, parts that may or may not be sexually related. When the media hammers out words that trigger a part, we retreat in fear. May our media more carefully and compassionately choose words.