In the public interest or irresponsible journalism?
July 24, 2000 5:49 AM   Subscribe

In the public interest or irresponsible journalism? One of our infamous tabloid newspapers published the names, locations and pictures of convicted paedophiles yesterday, the police have condemned what they did, the paper claims it is in the public interest and that the police don't do enough to protect us.....[more inside]
posted by Markb (7 comments total)
I'm certainly not condoning paedophilia, but isn't this an incitement to violence? There are very strong feelings in Britain at the moment due to the abduction and murder of an eight year old girl 3 weeks ago. Does this work in the US? Will it simply drive those exposed 'underground' (we have a sex-offender's register which anyone who has been convicted for a sexual offence must register with in order for the police to keep track of them). Thoughts?
posted by Markb at 6:10 AM on July 24, 2000

There was an incident after "Megan's Law", in the US where an angry mob smashed in the windows of a pedophile's house.

That was plain wrong (And this comes from a father of five). No purpose is being served by publicly humiliating an ex-convict. If parents are that concerned, they can visit the police station and get the list of any local offenders.
posted by CyberPal at 11:37 AM on July 24, 2000

Another problem resulted here: in Manchester, an innocent man was attacked, and his family harrassed, as a group of vigilantes mistook him for a convicted paedophile whose picture was printed in the aforementioned newspaper. Thankfully, this man is relatively unhurt, but it's still a dangerous precedent...
posted by kitschbitch at 3:23 PM on July 24, 2000

Tommy Jefferson used to write about inalienable rights. At the time he was perhaps referring specifically to the citizens of the colonies, but he was also speaking about the entire human race. We all have the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, provided one doesn't use his or her freedom to ruin the freedom of others. If one does that, he or she should forfeit their own rights. At least in a perfect world.

The News of the World made it very clear they were not condoning vigilantism but they can't be held responsible for what others do with the information, and anyone who responds to the situation violently should be dealt as swift and fair judgement and punishment as pedophiles should get. "Outbursts of uncontrolled anger will solve nothing." The point is obviously to educate the public so they know what's out there. So they can protect and defend themselves and work within the law to improve the situation for all concerned.

I think using "Does a monster live near you?" for a subheader was a bit over the top, but their heart is in the right place. Granted, one sex offender per square mile is nothing compared to the States. Since 1996 though, it's started changing for the better. For example, things are handled a little differently in Redding, California.
posted by ZachsMind at 7:50 PM on July 24, 2000

I was listening to the BBC and they had some guy from an organisation which tries to reintegrate offenders in society. He basically said the publishing of the photos was stupid because the sex offenders would go to ground and/or change their names. So once they are no longer on the register it is difficult to know where they are. This would not mean that they cannot have counselling and would not have access to programs to control their urges. The guy said that it was just lead to more offences as the police wouldn't where sex offenders were. You may say, "what about the victim?".Isn't is better that you keep the sickos in the system and try and rehabilitate them or would you prefer that they be on the loose with no control?
posted by jay at 7:57 PM on July 24, 2000

Oliver James made the point elsewhere that more children suffer abuse at the hands of their parents and relatives than strangers. But that's been lost in the lurid search for headlines.

Zach, if you think that the News of the World wasn't peddling to vigilantism, you've naive to the sensationalism of the British tabloids. I've got friends who work at those papers, and they're unashamedly honest in their cynicism. This isn't a campaign driven by morality: it's an implicit appeal to mob justice, motivated by a perverse voyeurism towards the "otherness" of paedophilia.

And I really hope that Private Eye lists the previous convictions and peccadilloes of the NotW's editorial desk in its next edition.
posted by holgate at 10:15 PM on July 24, 2000

Holgate, I share their cynicism. I do not condone vigilantism per se, but am also painfully aware that nature abhors a vacuum. If the thin blue line is not enough to serve and protect the people, something will replace it, whether it be controlled by the powers that be or not. News of the World is not saying the present gov't should be abolished. It's saying, "if you'd do your job and we wouldn't have to print this dreck."
posted by ZachsMind at 12:40 PM on July 25, 2000

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