Northern light – Iceland to attack the porn plague

Has the penny dropped at a last? Are we all about to wake up to the fact that our tolerance of the porn industry – or at best, our inept efforts to deal with it – is the greatest and most devastating cooperation in the evil of child abuse that the world has ever seen. Are we at last ready to accept that if a blatant act of showing pornographic images to a child is a form of child abuse, then so also is the broadcast of such images through film, TV, or over the Internet – at any hour of the day – also effectively the destruction of innocence.

Last week police in Australia gave a stark warning to parents to wake up to this. Now the government of Iceland is drafting legislation in an attempt to confront the plague. It is probably a bonus that it is liberal-minded Iceland doing this. Were it some Catholic country attempting to lead the way the cries of “censorship” and moans about “conservative reactionaries” would have been the inevitable result. With Iceland taking the vanguard position the project stands a much better chance of success.

The current issue of The Week reports that Iceland could become the first Western democracy to attempt to ban internet porn under radical new proposals announced last week. It already has laws forbidding the printing and distribution of porn (and bans lap dancing and strip clubs) but these laws have not been updated to cover the internet. Under the legislation being drafted by Interior Minister Ögmundur Jónasson, Iceland would introduce internet filters and firewalls similar to those used by China. It is also looking at other ways to enforce the proposed law, such as making it illegal to use Icelandic credit cards to access pay-per-view sex sites. The rationale for the ban is the damaging effects internet porn is held to have on children and on attitudes towards women.

Inevitably sceptics – and those with other agendas – argue that it would be impossible to enforce. Bravo for Iceland for at least trying.

Meanwhile, as though providing a preliminary statement for the prosecution of pornographers, a member of Australia’s Online Child Exploitation Squad (OCES), Detective Senior Sergeant Lindsay Garratt, said in an interview following the recent arrests of a sports coach and teacher whom police believe had been operating as online predators: “It wasn’t too many years ago that we were talking about stranger danger, the offender down at the playground” but now the internet “has brought the offenders into the house without parents being aware of it.

“Parents need to be aware of the enormity of the issues and do what they can to protect their own children. Parents need to take a lead role and educate kids.”

Advances in technology, he said, had expanded the dimensions of this problem enormously.

“We’re now in an environment where child exploitation material is really rife,” he said.

“In the early ’90s we were talking in megabytes and now we’re talking in gigabytes and terabytes and it won’t be long before we’re talking petabytes (one million gigabytes).”

He said that despite several warnings, “sexting” continued to be a major issue among teenagers and he was aware of cases involving children as young as 10 and 11. “As soon as a child is given access to a computer, the internet or a mobile phone, they really need to have a clear understanding of the risks,” he said.

Threatened but Never Vanquished

In some ways it is hard to know what to think about the Irish Times survey, Sex, Sin and Society, the details of which were landed on our breakfast tables last week. The one thing that it is not hard to do is to suspect the choice of week in which to publish it – coinciding with the visit of Pope Benedict to Britain. On the surface it represents nothing less than a slap in the face to the Pope and anyone who might be hoping for a society of the future which might be prepared to re-embrace the values of Judaeo-Christian civilization.

If it is a true reflection of the state of public opinion in Ireland on sexual morality – and there have been good letters to Madam Editor questioning the credentials of the survey – it has revealed in all its stark reality the abysmal desert of moral relativism of which Pope Benedict spoke to us on the eve of his pontificate in 2005 and which he has reminded us of again this week. If this is the new norm of morality then we really have gone a long way down the road to a neo-pagan society.

It is shocking to some of us but clearly not to the majority – if, again, the survey can be taken as an accurate reading of what the majority of Irish people now think sin and sex are all about. The process by which this has happened – is happening – was outlined by Peter Hitchens in his column in the Daily Mail on Monday  (13/08/10) when he reminded us that shock always fades into numb acceptance. He was writing in the context of the reception being accorded to the Pope in Britain but what he said can apply equally to this island. “Much of what is normal now would have been deeply shocking to British people 50 years ago. We got used to it. How will we know where to stop? Or will we just carry on forever? As the condom-wavers and value-free sex-educators advance into our primary schools, and the pornography seeps like slurry from millions of teenage bedroom computers, it seems clear to me that shock, by itself, is no defence against this endless, sordid dismantling of moral barriers till there is nothing left at all.”

What is the defence? Teaching should be the defence, but when has any of your readers last heard a teacher, clerical or otherwise, comprehensively explain the unadulterated moral teaching of Christ on the sixth commandment of the Decalogue? Milton’s words seem as relevant today as they were in the 17th century:

The hungry Sheep look up, and are not fed,

But swoln with wind, and the rank mist they draw,

Rot inwardly, and foul contagion spread…

There is no doubt but that there is a great deal of rank mist in the air. The Irish Times misread the Pope again today headlining its front page story, “The Pope Fears for the Future of Christianity”. He does not. He believes Christ two thousand year-old promise that He would be with us for all time, even to the end of the world. What he does fear for is mankind cut adrift from Christianity and he spelt out in no uncertain terms what things that can lead to. That is what we must all fear.

But we must also hope. Remembering that in a certain sense and at a certain point in human history, Christendom was reduced to three people standing around the foot of a Cross, we surely have grounds for hope. Despite all the negativity and rank mist we have witnessed over the past weeks, months and year, the demonstration of Christian faith, liturgical splendour and ecumenical good will we have witnessed in Britain over the past few days, show us that what was happening at the foot of that Cross is happening still and all the ugly demonstrations of bad will – or just plain blameless ignorance –  which seem to threaten it will never vanquish it.