David Marr and Josephine Tovey
June 7, 2008
NOT everyone has thrown in the towel. NSW police admitted yesterday afternoon that Bill Henson could not be charged. “But we’re not going to let it go,” declared the campaigner Hetty Johnston. “If the law is so pathetic it can’t protect our children it needs to change.”
Hetty Johnston has patently unwisely decided to tread the path of ‘a ped under every bed.’ Johnston makes it quite clear that she thinks Bill Henson is a child pornographer. Fairly obviously, anyone who disagrees with her could not be anything other than a paedophile, a sympathiser or is plainly lost in the delusion that graphical depictions of nudity could be anything other than porn.
Rather similar arguments were last trotted out by US Senator Joe McCarthy back in the early 1950s with regard to communism in America. Beginning in 1946, for the purpose of being elected to office and perpetuating his position, McCarthy both fed and exploited a climate of fear and ignorance, where there was no way even reasonable people could register disagreement without finding themselves accused of being in league with the enemy.
However, now that there’s an official ruling on the non-pornographic nature of the questioned Henson images, Johnston skates on some very thin legal ice. Should she continue down the road of demonising artists and/or their supporters as paedophiles or child pornographers, Johnston not only risks total destruction of her credibility as a child protection advocate (if she’s not accomplished that already), but seriously exposes herself and her organisation to charges of criminal defamation.
Ms Johnston warned her child protection organisation, Bravehearts, would now be lobbying for legislative change. “It’s an absolute disgrace,” she said. “I think we’ve become the laughing stock around the globe.”
Quite so. That’s the first thing Johnston has gotten right all week. She and Bravehearts have indeed become a global laughingstock. However, Johnston has not just trashed her own reputation and credibility. By implication, she’s singlehandedly cast Australia in international media as a dark backwater full of uncultured, uneducated vigilante dimwits who can’t tell the difference between art and porn- or worse, can tell the difference but choose to gee-up the media anyway. Thanks Hetty, love your work.
There’s clearly a need for child protection advocates as regards child sexual exploitation, but when self-styled advocates cry “WOLF!!!” at the top of their lungs and further accuse critics of complicity with the carnivores, such advocates do irreversible damage to their own cause. They’ve then become lawless vigilantes and conspiracy theorists, committing a much greater sin than paedophilia itself via levelling false and unsubstantiable claims of paedophila against innocents. Considering the treatment modern society affords those who sexually exploit children, with or without benefit of charge and trial, making false accusations of child sexual exploitation is infinitely worse than the exploitation itself.
Won’t somebody think of the CHILDREN? Hetty Johnston isn’t. She’s far more concerned with scoring face-time in the media.
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