Fiddle about
January 11, 2003 4:50 PM   Subscribe

Pete Townshend is denying any link to paedophilia, but some may find themselves looking at those Tommy lyrics with narrowed eyes...
posted by apocalypse miaow (57 comments total)
here's a link to the statement in full, including:

"I spoke informally to a friend who was a lawyer and reported what I'd seen.

I hope you will be able to see that I am sincerely disturbed by the sexual abuse of children, and I am very active trying to help individuals who have suffered, and to prevent further abuse.

It strikes me as a pretty detailed, pre-emptive, no bullshit statement which will hopefully diffuse what looks like a media freak-out getting ready to roll. I'm interested to see what comes out of this.
posted by jessamyn at 5:00 PM on January 11, 2003

"Pete Townshend, guitarist with legendary band The Who, has admitted paying to view Internet child pornography..."

Sorry, Pete. That's illegal. If it was any old Joe (say for instance, me) he'd be in jail, regardless of how creative his excuse is.
posted by mr_crash_davis at 5:02 PM on January 11, 2003

Pete Townshend was one of my earliest rock and roll heros, so I hope he's telling the truth.
posted by jonmc at 5:03 PM on January 11, 2003

crash: he also says he contacted the police to let them know what he'd be doing before he did it, and they never got back to him.
posted by biscotti at 5:07 PM on January 11, 2003

it's not only illegal, but he willingly supported it by paying for it.
posted by angry modem at 5:08 PM on January 11, 2003

biscotti: where has he said he contacted the police about this? Thanks
posted by davebushe at 5:19 PM on January 11, 2003

Let's hope this gets cleared up before Phil Collins organizes a mom to burn down his house.
posted by Space Coyote at 5:23 PM on January 11, 2003

D'oh, I mean mob, obviously.
posted by Space Coyote at 5:24 PM on January 11, 2003

davebushe: here. But I may have misread it now that I reread it, it's hard to tell, he says ""I've been in touch with Scotland Yard to tell them what I was doing." and "I have contacted them but no police officers have contacted me. ", but whether this was before or after the story broke isn't clear.
posted by biscotti at 5:29 PM on January 11, 2003

he also said he thought he might have been sexually abused himself as a kid but his memories are vague. and he said that he was part of an anti-pedophilia group a while back. based on these two comments i'm inclined to believe his claim that he's not into molesting the kiddies.
posted by twentynine at 5:36 PM on January 11, 2003

Of course, once the words "denies [s]he is a pedophile" is attached to your name, most of the damage has already been done...
posted by gottabefunky at 5:53 PM on January 11, 2003

Twentynine, actually, based on his claim that he may have been abused, that would statistically make him more likely to be a pedophile.

Not that I'm coming down on this one on one side or the other....

Okay, fine, I will. I mean, come on, who gives a credit card number to a pedophile site? Pedophiles, that's who.
posted by jonson at 5:56 PM on January 11, 2003

I think it's way too early to tell. I'd be interested in knowing just what "level" this site was at that Pete supposedly entered just once, with a credit card. I may be wrong about this (and I'm certainly no expert on the subject), but I had been under the impression that getting the real child pornography (as opposed to the ersatz and nearly-porn stuff) involves more than one visit and one payment. Rather, it takes some time and involvement to get to the level of "trust" necessary to have the goods delivered. Which makes me think that just maybe, Pete is 'fessing up to something he may feel very guilty about indeed, but which he wasn't really under investigation for.

If I am wrong in my assumptions, please feel free to disabuse me of my naivete.
posted by yhbc at 6:02 PM on January 11, 2003

"Pete is 'fessing up to something he may feel very guilty about indeed, but which he wasn't really under investigation for."

Commish, my assumption was the same as yours, but I was trying to say that if you or I [maybe especially me, since you're a politician with connections :)] accessed a site with any child porn we wouldn't be able to offer up such an excuse.
posted by mr_crash_davis at 6:08 PM on January 11, 2003

"I have felt for a long time that it is part of my duty, knowing what I know, to act as a vigilante to help support up a powerful and well-informed voice to speak loudly about the millions of dollars being made by American banks and credit card companies for the pornography industry."

What a cheap shot! You didn't have to click it, man, or pay by credit card! America didn't do it Pete, you did.

I'm with m_c_d on this. Joe Shmoe would be regretting this from the other side of the bars.
posted by hama7 at 6:18 PM on January 11, 2003

So can I deny that Robby Williams is a pedo and have it ruin his career?
posted by Space Coyote at 6:30 PM on January 11, 2003

"...can I deny that Robby Williams is a pedo and have it ruin his career?"

I don't know. Are you he?
posted by mr_crash_davis at 6:34 PM on January 11, 2003

On the one hand, I want to believe him, this "preemptive strike" on his part certainly seems candid, and he seems sincere.

On the other hand, as someone who worked with anti-child porn organizations, I find it hard to believe that the site he signed up for didn't contain hardcore child pornography--e.g., proof of illegal content--on its index page (many of the patently illegal sites do), which would have made the whole point of his "research" sort of moot.

The fact that Townshend may have contacted the police first makes me wonder if he knows more about anti-child pornography efforts than is apparent; the first thing anti-child porn organizations like tell their volunteers to do is call the FBI and their ISP to let them know what they're doing, so the volunteers themselves don't become the subjects of investigations.

In fact, the FBI agent I talked to told me explicitly that people working to report child pornography "don't get in trouble," whatever that means. It makes me now wonder what kind of records they keep (a lot of the other organizations don't tell their volunteers to contact the FBI).

There are a staggering number of child porn web sites, many of them hosted on servers in the US, and Pete has to be right about the money that must be involved in this "industry."

Every site I ever ran across (I stress: as an anti-child porn volunteer) had online credit card processing, and child pornography has the same sort of link exchange sites and thumbnail gallery post sites that regular adult porn sites have, all designed and intended to generate traffic, complete with cgi backends tracking referenced links, clickthroughs, etc. It's shocking.

Not only are there end-producers of this shit making money, there are sites that exist solely as traffic funnels making money, too, and (most troubling to me) there are banks--credit card merchant account providers, etc.--making money on this stuff as well.

The only thing volunteer organizations can do is report the existence of "clearly illegal" material to the appropriate LEAs (FBI, Customs, the US Secret Service most of the time), and it's up to those LEAs to do whatever it is they do about child pornography websites. I was often tempted to just call the web hosts and tell them "hey, you've got child porn on one of your servers, I'm reporting it to the FBI," but we were told not to do that in case it would hamper investigations.

I finally decided to quit for a variety of reasons, chief among them the fact that none of the current efforts by these organizations is having any noticeable effect on the amount of child porn available on the internet and I was sick of dealing with this really awful, evil shit to no avail.

The line is getting progressively blurred between legitimate adult porn and child pornography, too, as is evinced by the widespread use of "lolita" and associated keywords on non-child porn sites.

That, the fact that there's more and more of this shit showing up all the time (they're even starting to send "lolita" and "incest" spam email), and the fact that famous people are getting busted on child pornography charges is starting to make me wonder if there aren't just a hell of a lot more pedophiles in the world or if the availability of child pornography is creating pedophiles.
posted by KiloHeavy at 6:44 PM on January 11, 2003

Well, thanks KiloHeavy. Consider me disabused.

I still hope Pete's story pans out, though.
posted by yhbc at 6:52 PM on January 11, 2003

You know, it did just occur to me that there could be a perfectly valid reason for him to use a credit card on one of these sites--to get the identity of the bank that processed the charge.

I bet all you'd have to do is publish a list of bank names known to process payments for child porn websites, and the revenue path for the child pornographers would get a lot more complex.

Wish I had Batman-style resources.
posted by KiloHeavy at 6:59 PM on January 11, 2003

Wait - so are some people claiming that the banks that process payments are somehow complicit in the illegal activity? How far should a bank go in verifying that the activities of their clients are legal? What about the grocery stores that sell food to pedo peddlers thus allowing them to continue living and plying their trade? Are they also complicit in the crime?
posted by willnot at 7:30 PM on January 11, 2003

I wish I had Batman-style resources too, KiloHeavy. I've always looked up to Pete as a guitarist, even though I know his personal life wasn't anything to emulate. But this particular incident doesn't lend it self to over-looking. I sincerely hope everything is as he says it is.
posted by tommasz at 7:39 PM on January 11, 2003

if the availability of child pornography is creating pedophiles

I've always felt that the hyper-sexualizing of younger and younger celebrities, rock stars and just about anyone underage is complicating the kiddie porn issue [all links SFW]. There's a big difference between sniggering websites waiting for Natalie Portman to turn 18 and porn indistry sites trafficking in obscene pictures of children. However, in the US at least, you'd think they were all equalkly vile. It becomes a weird semiotics issue where people have to talk about the issue without any first hand experience of what is out there, or in many cases what the details on specific cases are. The lack of tech-savvy among the media can make this worse. Thanks KiloHeavy for your candor about what you were involved in.
posted by jessamyn at 8:33 PM on January 11, 2003

Townsend: "To fight against paedophilia, you have to know what's out there..."

Um...does he mean that prior to looking at this site, he didn't know exactly what "it" is? Strange.
posted by davidmsc at 8:47 PM on January 11, 2003

willnot - questionable comparison, between the cc processor and the grocery market. I mean, there's a direct channel of money between the pedo & the bank. It's not hard (in fact, it's surprising the banks aren't currently doing it) to verify what your customer is using your services for, if you're a credit card verification service. However, my local grocery store would have a significantly more difficult time verifying what I do for work. Also, when I get paid at work, my local grocery store doesn't take a cut of that payment, but if I'm a pedo site, when I get paid the cc processor DOES take a cut.

So, in short , yes, people ARE claiming that the banks are complicit in their clients activities.

Also, for the record, I too wish I had Batman style resources, and not just to fight against child porn, but for hundreds of reasons. Bruce Wayne was, after all, a billionaire.
posted by jonson at 9:05 PM on January 11, 2003

I believe that in one of Pete Townshend's online diary entries, the one from Oct. 21st titled "A Different Bomb - revisited," there was a link to a PDF file containing a lengthy essay by Townshend about the sexual exploitation of children, and specifically (as I recall) online pornography. However, that entry seems to have expired from the site. The essay itself may still be there, but I can't find the URL...
posted by staggernation at 10:15 PM on January 11, 2003

What does everyone here think of the "brazilian wax" style?

For women, the style nowadays is to shave *everything*. To look, basically, prepubescent. No pubic hair, no underarm hair, everything is waxed.

All the popular girls are skinny anorexics, flat chests, etc...

Basically, the Look nowadays is of a 12 year old girl.

Does this mean something? What do you think?
posted by stavrogin at 10:23 PM on January 11, 2003

Addendum: dear lord, I love pubic hair. I want a mess of pubic hair on a girl. And underarm hair on a girl is cute to me. Yet, natural pubescent hair growth on girls is considered... dirty or a sign of poor grooming. All girls grow hair in places after they surpass puberty, but, for some reason in the western world, this natural hirsuteness is taboo.

Why? What am I not getting?

Pubic hair, underarm hair, leg hair... these are equitable to hips and breasts to me. Signs of proper fucking age and fertility.

Any shaved girls want to give a reason why they shave?
posted by stavrogin at 10:38 PM on January 11, 2003

You can't buy child porn "for research purposes" any more than you can buy crack cocaine "for research purposes."

A few years ago, an NPR reporter tried to use the same excuse.
posted by hyperizer at 10:42 PM on January 11, 2003

Obligatory links to Pee Wee Herman (aka Paul Reubens) and Jeffrey Jones (Ferris Bueller's Day Off, Ravenous, etc), who have been hit w/ similar charges...

Free Pee Wee, again!
Free Winona, now!
Free James Brown! (okay, they did.)
Coming soon: Free Pete!

But DON'T Free Martha!
posted by Shane at 10:46 PM on January 11, 2003

(Oops, I meant to link to Jones's court case, not his filmography...)
posted by Shane at 10:50 PM on January 11, 2003

Child porn and crack cocaine aren't even parallel.

Drugs do not by nature require other people to be hurt in their production. (OK, there is a strong case to be made that prohibition causes all sorts of collateral damage in the drug supply chain, but that's a different story). On the other hand, child porn absolutely requires causing severe harm to children in order to produce it. This is after all the chief reason for prosecuting its possessors along with its producers.

On a different note, I don't believe that there's any increase in "ambient" pedophila at all. A few high-profile celebrity busts prove nothing, except perhaps that the The Auhorities are getting smarter. Neither does nasty spam, unless it's that porn sites are more desperate for custom.

Jessamyn, I totally agree. I have a 7 year old girl. I look at the bump and grind dancing aimed at her, the slutty clothes available in her size, and I feel pretty despondent.

On the other hand, talking to her, she just thinks they're pretty and that Britney (or her successors) are cool. The sexuality isn't even there for her, just for me. So maybe it will all work out ok. Perhaps we'll raise a generation like Margaret Mead's mythical Samoans, freed from a load of unnecessary sex-angst, for whom nakedness and sexplay are inconsequential.

Where did you get those drugs from, by the way? They're rather good.

posted by i_am_joe's_spleen at 11:01 PM on January 11, 2003

Maybe he is, maybe he ain't. Dunno. I can say that if he only did it "one time", he's extraordinarly unlucky to have that "one time" get caught up in some sort of sting. Could go either way I guess...
posted by ehintz at 11:16 PM on January 11, 2003

Hope I die before I get busted buying child porn.
posted by kirkaracha at 11:24 PM on January 11, 2003

Forgive him.
posted by hama7 at 12:02 AM on January 12, 2003

Wish I had Batman-style resources.

I can't do much - but if you've got a paypal link or a Amazon Donate page I'd be glad to donate.
posted by DragonBoy at 12:09 AM on January 12, 2003

For the record, the FPP included a link to the lyrics of "Fiddle About"... which was actually written by John Entwistle (at Townshend's request). The overall point is still valid, of course; Townshend himself pointed out the disturbing themes in some of his work.

For now, I give Pete the benefit of the doubt. I hope I'm proven right in that.
posted by pmurray63 at 9:34 AM on January 12, 2003

Principal Skinner:

"I was only there to get directions on how to get away from there!"
posted by Mayor Curley at 9:52 AM on January 12, 2003

"Any shaved girls want to give a reason why they shave?

This question is soley for reasearch purposes, right?
posted by sharksandwich at 4:17 PM on January 12, 2003

Perhaps I should "research" my spelling...
posted by sharksandwich at 4:38 PM on January 12, 2003

This isn't the first time by any means that Pete has said or done something to make you scratch your head in wonder. Does anyone else remember when he was quoted saying I know what it's like to be a woman, because I am a woman?

And on a slightly different note, even though pedophilia is a sickening, self-perpetuating disease, ill-informed anti pedophile hysteria has reached fever pitch in the UK.
posted by Officeslacker at 5:34 PM on January 12, 2003


Yeah, I know. I actually watched the brass eye special, and thought it was hilarious.

For those of you who don't know, there were anti-pedo RIOTS in England a while ago, and some pediatricians were physically assaulted, just because of their job-title. It's really surreal.

Anyway, about kiddy porn: I think there's a big difference between 'lolita' porn of girls standing around looking young, and the type of stuff that's obviously little kids being raped or whatever. In my mind, unless there was some real harm caused in producing the images we shouldn't be throwing people in jail for looking at it. Some pics of pre-teen girls on a nude beach or whatever won't kill anyone.
posted by delmoi at 12:49 AM on January 13, 2003

hmmm, no one mentioned Ryder's failed reasoning re her shoplifting arrest ("I was researching a role"). This seems a similar reasoning.
posted by DBAPaul at 7:44 AM on January 13, 2003

Officeslacker: That's a great article. I had no idea things were so nuts over there.

But there were moments of inspiration. For example, Morris as the newscaster who is upset by the pedophile -- restrained in stocks, naturally -- who admits that he just doesn't fancy his son. Or the grainy, undercover, black and white footage of a sinister building, with the whispered voice-over, "this clever pedophile has disguised himself as a ... school."

And I wish there was some way I could catch that show (Kazaa? Anyone?)
posted by gottabefunky at 10:05 AM on January 13, 2003

For what it's worth Townsend has been arrested, apparently the charges include, downloading, making and distributing child porn. Being arrested doesn't mean he's guilty of course, but those last 2 charges alter the landscape somewhat. The police had spent all day searching his house before arresting him, suggesting they have found something and also suggesting his visit to the site in question was not a one off.
posted by Fat Buddha at 12:07 PM on January 13, 2003

the charges include, downloading, making and distributing

was he making and distributing that stuff for "research" reasons as well?
posted by matteo at 2:17 PM on January 13, 2003

I have to wonder if the "making and distributing" could be less sinister than it seems (as in related to file sharing or something like that that someone could do perhaps without being fully aware of it). I just don't (want to) think he's guilty.
posted by biscotti at 2:21 PM on January 13, 2003

The BBC says "He has been detained on suspicion of possessing and making indecent images of children and of incitement to distribute such images". "Incitement to distribute" just sounds like downloading to me, but I don't know enough about the UK legal system to know what any of the above actually imply.
posted by biscotti at 2:33 PM on January 13, 2003

The NPR reporter that hyperizer referred to was convicted in part because the FBI retrieved photos from his hard drive he had 'deleted'. Is there any way to truely delete data so that it can not be retrieved without reformating your entire hard drive?
posted by JohnR at 4:36 PM on January 13, 2003

Distasteful as it is to think about, perhaps his "research" involved exposing himself to images of things that may have happened to him, to gague his own reaction. People who suspect they may have been abused find it hard to know what to think of their memories.

I'm also disturbed by the possibility that this Scotland Yard operation took full advantage of his fame to make a great example of him. Kind of a sad way to profile someone: for maximum publicity.
posted by scarabic at 4:36 PM on January 13, 2003

Lots of speculations here, people. Won't the computer records and credit card records be extremely clear in how much material he viewed or downloaded, how much $ he spent, how many links he clicked, etc.?
posted by trigfunctions at 6:21 PM on January 13, 2003

Is there any way to truely delete data so that it can not be retrieved without reformating your entire hard drive?

Reformatting your hard drive won't help either. However, cutting it up into small pieces with a blowtorch will probably do the trick.

No, I'm definitely not joking.
posted by kindall at 9:30 PM on January 13, 2003

Fox News has found the "A Different Bomb" piece by Townshend that I was talking about.
posted by staggernation at 2:02 PM on January 14, 2003

Is there any way to truely delete data so that it can not be retrieved without reformating your entire hard drive?

Only to keep out casual hackers. Mostly they involve repeatedly writing zeroes or ones over "blank" areas of the hard drive to mostly-obliterate the erased data on the disk. But that only works for casual hackers, like keeping your mom from finding that you've been looking at pr0n.

Cops and other assorted snoopers will have the tech to take your hard drive apart and physically examine the platters for residual magnetic traces of the data, which will likely be there.

To stop *them,* you have to physically destroy the platters. ISTR that the military thermites them to make them into itty bitty pieces and the lift the platters above their curie temperatures (where they demagnetize).
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 2:33 PM on January 14, 2003

The village voice has an interesting piece on Pee-Wee's predicament this week. I think the point the author makes about heightened awareness of child sex cases making us all think like pedophiles is pretty astute. 30 years ago, families used to swim naked together without thinking about it; is that still okay or does inter-family nudity - once by definition innocent except from the perspective of a few perverts - raise eyebrows these days?
posted by mdn at 9:25 AM on January 15, 2003

Retreiving deleted files for evidence is tricky, because it's totally possible for unintended content to wind up on your screen for a moment or two here and there. Anyone who's ever opened a spam email by mistake probably has child porn somewhere in their browser cache. Aren't all 8 million AOL subscribers prosecutable by that standard?

I hope that when they prosecute people for this kind of thing, they look for a concerted pattern.
posted by scarabic at 11:02 AM on January 15, 2003

The "Smoking Gun" has the full "Different Bomb" text .
posted by talos at 6:49 AM on January 16, 2003

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