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Author Topic: the aclu and nambla
thelorax
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okay so I dont no if this is the right place to put this, but its been bothering me:

So I recently heard about how the ACLU defended NAMBLA (North American Man Boy Love Association) in a court case--and I was a bit disgusted. NAMBLA is an organization that believes that sexual relationships (basically child molestation) between adult males and male children is okay, it also seeks to lower the age of consent.

Basically the case was about a boy, Jeffrey Curley, who was murdered and raped by two men who had been on the NAMBLA website, apparently they had read a NAMBLA manual explaining how to get away with molesting a child. Curley's parents decided to sue NAMBLA in hopes of shutting them down and preventing more crimes against children. The ACLU actually DEFENDED NAMBLA on the grounds of free speech.

Now, I'm all for free speech, but this just seems insane, and it makes me sort of angry, too. Has anyone else heard about this?

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Heather
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You know, my lawyer at the ACLU is a Jewish man who had to defend the KKK's right to march.

Imagine, if you will, how he felt with that.

But the ACLU's job is to protect civil liberties and to protect freedom of speech. The toughest part of that is cases like these, where that means protecting the right of groups to speak who are saying terrible, awful things.

But the crux you hit is that the way freedom of speech is constructed, we can't be selective in who gets it, only selective per what it is applied to, in terms of what it does and doesn't include. If we deny freedom of speech on the grounds that speech is offensive, only, or even dangerous, it is unconstitutional, and it does set a precedent that any group can take away anyone's rights to freedom of speech.

I don't know the details of this particular case, but I'm pretty well-versed in how the ACLU argues cases like this, and I can very much assure you that I've no doubt if you dug up the transcripts of the case (you can find most transcripts of cases right at the ACLU's website), that the lawyers arguing the case likely made very clear that abuses to children aren't anything they endorse or want to enable, and they would certainly not defend any child abuser per abusing a child.

But things like this? Unfortunately are never ever esay or simple, and it's one of the big issues with freedom of speech, per what it is worth to us as a nation. Is it so valuable or not, that we really DO want everyone to have it as it is defined? And is it worth trying to remove that right from some groups or individuals, knowing that that could very well mean any one of us losing that right? Always a very tough question.

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bluefreak44
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But what about the Miller test?

"Developed in 1973 in the case Miller v. California, the Supreme Court determined that the following types of works are not protected by the First Amendment and, therefore, can be prohibited. If the average person finds that when viewed as a whole, a work: Appeals to the "prurient" interest (i.e., an unhealthy and degrading interest in sex); Depicts or describes sexual conduct in a patently offensive way; and
Lacks serious literary, artistic, political or scientific value.

All three parts of the Miller Test must be met before a material can be found to be obscene under the law."

To most people I know, the stuff on NAMBLA's website would meet those conditions. I think "the average person" would find works describing how to get away with molesting a child "an unhealthy interest in sex." I don't think many people would be able to find much redeeming value in it either. The only thing I wouldn't be sure of is whether information on the site described sexual conduct in a "patently offensive way."

Oh, and the info I quoted was from http://www.legalzoom.com/articles/article_content/article14778.html. I would have typed up some stuff from a Comm Law class I had recently, but I can't afford to buy books so I rent them at school, so I don't have the text book anymore.

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Heather
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However, the NAMBLA case wasn't ultimately about placing the responsibility for a child murder not on the actual murderer, but on that organization: http://www.aclu.org/freespeech/protest/11289prs20000831.html

Which, suffice it to say, is precarious, and again, pretty darn tricky. If we could do that with NAMBLA, then you or I should also be able to say, hold MTV and Penthouse, half the men in the world talking in pool halls and locker rooms and misogynist speech of anyone responsible for every woman raped, hold every meat-eater at these boards responsible for talking about how tasty it all is for the profound cruelty of factory farming, and half the churches in the world responsible for the suicides or assaults of queer people. Or heck, for that matter, we here at Scarleteen could feasibly by those standards be held responsible for teens who have sex under the age of consent simply because we knowingly give minors sex information, despite encouraging them to have sex within the bounds of the law.

Like I said, tricky.

(Perhaps of interest, when I was in college, a young male student was assaulted by four other men, but cheered on by a larger group, and in the self-goverened body that was the way my college worked, I tried to argue very hard for holding everyone who cheered not JUST as responsible, but responsible to some degree for their cheering. No way I could have won -- nor, IMO, should I have -- that fight per them getting EQUAL punishment, but I didn't even win per anything happening to the cheerers.... which was actually one reason I left my school not shortly thereafter. So, from a personal standpoint, none of this is certainly black and white for me, either.)

In the more general way, what is actual child pornography, or found to speech that is threat, etc. is NOT protected by the first amendment.

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Heather Corinna, Executive Director & Founder, Scarleteen
About Me Get our book!
Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has. - Margaret Mead

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thelorax
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well I think the organization played a part in this boy's murder, at least a small part. I'm not a psychologist...but I think that websites such as NAMBLA make sick perverted men feel as though their bizarre sexual interest in boys is...I don't know, legitimate? I mean the rest of the world treats pedophiles as outcasts---(as they should be treated), but NAMBLA gives them a safe, encouraging place to feel as though their desire is *normal* and *sane* as opposed to sick. I could be wrong, but thats just how it seems to me.

also I feel like theres a difference between a manual on how to rape children and rap lyrics or mysoginistic speech that encourages rape...somehow the manual seems more, I dunno, literal. Both are awful of course, and I absolutely think NAMBLA should have lost the case and been shut down.I think that a line has to be drawn somewhere, I'm not in favor of, you know something like what goes on in communist china where everything is censored to some ridiculous extent, but in the interest of protecting children, I think a little censorship is a good thing.

The whole issue is tricky though, because censorship could be a slippery slope, but if it could have prevented this kid from dying...I dunno it just seems worth it to me

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Heather
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Not a lot of time right now, but have you seen the document you're referring to? Because I'd be interested in seeing it if you do, and seeing if it really is more literal than the ungodly number of songs, magazine articles, websites, porn sites that do quite literally talk about how to dismiss female consent, quite literally talk about women being receptacles, etc.

Still not sure I can sign unto the idea that NOT having something like this would keep someone who is going to rape and murder from doing so, mind you, but I would be curious in seeing what's being referenced here, since I don't see any reference to a given document in the case here: http://www.thecpac.com/Curleys-v-NAMBLA.html

[ 04-08-2007, 04:53 PM: Message edited by: Heather ]

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Heather Corinna, Executive Director & Founder, Scarleteen
About Me Get our book!
Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has. - Margaret Mead

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-Lauren-
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I'd just like to touch quickly on what thelorax mentioned about sites like NAMBLA and how they strive to make members feel empowered and unashamed of their desires/actions. This article by the New York Times is pretty well-written and provides a pretty balanced view about the trickiness of verifying intentions through online communication, and also goes into the self-proclaimed civil rights movements these groups are rallying for:

Here it is.

[ 04-09-2007, 01:40 AM: Message edited by: Miss Lauren ]

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-Lauren-
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(And on a related note, Heather, I do have a link to a manual distrubuted by NAMBLA marketed as a sexuality guide for boys in which it DOES blame shaming of male sexuality on "a little movement called feminism", but I don't know if it's okay to post here, since it contains other, much more harmful misinformation.)

[ 04-09-2007, 02:03 AM: Message edited by: Miss Lauren ]

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Heather
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Oh, I've no doubt, Lauren. Pretty much as a rule, child-attracted men are very freaked out by, and very angry with adults, period, particularly adult women.

Make no mistake: in discussing this issue, I'm hardly defending NAMBLA, not in the least. I'm also well aware of the sorts of conversations that ensue on pedophile and ehebephile sites, as I did a load of research into their attitudes some years back.

But objections I (or anyone else) may have to things like this don't cloud the larger issue for me, in terms of legal precedents set about what is, to some degree, thought-crime, and to criminalizing speech vs. action, or holding speech responsible for action (and particularly when we're talking about sexual desires, where from a sexology perspectiove, repression of expression really hasn't been shown to inhibit anyone's actions OR spur anyone UNto action directly). If this case had been constructed differently, I've no doubt we'd be looking at a different result, and you'd not have had the ACLU defending them -- in many ways, this is incredibly similar to the KKK case.

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Heather Corinna, Executive Director & Founder, Scarleteen
About Me Get our book!
Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has. - Margaret Mead

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-Lauren-
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Ah, okay. I thought by that document you meant one in which there was blatant anti-woman attitudes, and that was the first one that popped into my mind. [Smile]

I never meant to suggest at all that you support such groups. I wholeheartedly agree that this is such a tricky issue, especially what suppression of freedom of speech for one group, no matter how harmful those words may seem, means for the rest of society.

I've read up on it myself, and the only thing that does worry me is the neutralization that people visiting these places experience, which, while it can't be proven that it causes increased crime in real life, it certainly creates a sort of alternate reality in which these thoughts and feelings are okay, natural, and even celebrated.

But, I realize the repercussions that losing a case like this can bring, so I do my best sometimes just to block out hateful/awful groups. Their cause is lost if nobody will listen, even without the meddling of the courts. [Smile]

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Heather
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Well, I also think that cases like this are a very good example of how selective people are in terms of what they have concerns about, and how arbitrary things really can be when it comes to freedom of speech.

WAY more women are raped and killed every year than children are molested and murdered by molestors: astronomically more. And we have WAY more speech out there that supports those crimes against women.

But lo: we don't see things like this come up in terms of that, and why not? Because in most cases the same people who find it horrific to speak this way about children don't feel the same way about women or ARE speaking that way about women and feel it's somehow justified. Becuase people are in no way objective or often even reasonable in who they villify, so putting civil rights in the hands of groups or individuals is pretty darn scary.

The bigger issues about hate speech towards women, children or any group aside, when we're talking about the first amendment, where the slippery slope really lies is that if we start to let it be selectively applied -- giving one group that freedom, but not another -- than all of this becomes at the whim of this group or that one, which is an incredibly dangerous game when we're dealing with constitutional rights everyone is supposed to have. Look back at the history of this country in the 50's - the early 70's in terns of the "red scare" if you want to see how screwed up en masse hysteria can get and how many people it can seriously harm.

That last ACLU case I was a part of was an eye-opener for me in a lot of ways, but reading the results and seeing the judge say very clearly that he -- as a judge, no less, knowing the law, knowing how these things tend to go -- could easily see Scarleteen at risk for losing our right of freedom of speech specifically because of where the cultural tide is right now, specifically because by plenty, it would be seen as speech unworthy of being protected...well, that hit home. I felt that already, but I have to say that being accused of being paranoid about that feeling over the years, while in some ways insulting, in other words was a comfort, because I'd always kind of hoped I WAS just being paranoid or overy worried.

One big thing with America as a culture specifically, post-colonization, is that we're very fond of bogeymen. We have a long, long history of feeling more inclined to put blame on bogeymen (whether we're talking about witches in Salem, communists amoung us, Iraqis or child molestors), then on the actual folks who are truly responsible, and most directly responsible, for the worst of the worst, and that has harmed SO many people over the centuries, it's really terrifying when you realize how much harn it's done, and how little people are willing to look at that. I mean, heck, right now, we have killed thousands and thousands of Iraqi civilians because of 9/11. Yet, Timothy McVeigh did just as much damage with his terrorism, and you sure didn't see the US -- as a government or a general citizenship -- saying "You know, there is seriously something WRONG with white people, let's go get'em." Look at what happened in the 80's with daycare child sexual abuse hysteria, and how many innocent teachers wound up in jail or on trial while the actual abusers sat safe, warm and in no danger of punishment because they didn't meet the cultural idea/hysteria of what an abuser looked like, worked, etc. Look at what the children in many of those cases were put through.

That's a Cliff's Notes, to say the least. But with something like the NAMBLA case, even if freedom of speech were NOT on the line, looking everywhere but at where this stuff really lives -- most children are molested in their HOMES, by people known to them and their families, often by members of their families -- not only doesn't protect anyone, it does very direct harm and keeps children in harm. But it's a whole lot easier to look at anonymous, faceless men than at the man who sites at your dinner table every night.

[ 04-09-2007, 01:12 PM: Message edited by: Heather ]

--------------------
Heather Corinna, Executive Director & Founder, Scarleteen
About Me Get our book!
Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has. - Margaret Mead

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