To a calm and rational observer, the statement "viewing child pornography is victimless" is true. To an emotional person prone to sensationalism, for writing that first line, I should be reported to the RCMP.
On Wednesday night Tom Flanagan, a former adviser to Stephen Harper, spoke to a small crowd in Lethbridge, Alberta, where he was recorded making controversial statements regarding child pornography. Much of what he said was completely misunderstood, not helped by the CBC which has inaccurately reported the story.
The unedited video of the event begins with a speaker in the audience asking a series of pointed questions and cites a quote Flanagan made in 2009 about child pornography being "just pictures". It is interesting to note, though completely understandable due to time constraints, that all television media failed to include how this excited (or rude, depending on your perspective) audience member ended his long tirade with a question of whether Tom Flanagan was the father of the Ikea monkey.
Tom Flanagan responded first to the question on child pornography, saying he had doubts about jail sentences for the mere act of viewing it. He stated, "I certainly have no sympathy for child molesters, but I do have some grave doubts about putting people in jail because of their taste in pictures." Flanagan added, while still referring only to those twisted individuals who view child porn, "It’s a real issue of personal liberty and to what extent we put people in jail for doing something in which they do not harm another person.”
To reiterate Tom Flanagan said he opposed child molesters and he never said he supported the making of child pornography, the buying and selling of it, or that viewers of child pornography should not be punished with probation or mental health treatment. He only said, and he said it clearly, that he had doubts on whether viewers of child pornography should get jail time.
The CBC has reported that Flanagan stated all child pornography, and by implication even its production, is victimless (CBC Video between 1:03 and 1:25) but the former adviser made no such claim, this is clear in the raw original video and in the transcript of his response (See below). The only time Tom Flanagan brought up how there was no harm done was in regards to the act of solely viewing pictures, not in the act of making them or buying and selling them as the CBC's reporting so inaccurately suggests.
It should be made clear that child pornography is wrong and every person involved in its production, commercialization, and consumption should be punished to the fullest extent of the law, but our disgust of the vile material should not make us lose our rationality. Yet this is exactly what has happened, with far worse repercussions to progressives.
Conservatives used to be the only ones who thought jail was the answer to everything, but many on the Left are now joining them. Perhaps eager for a partisan win against a former Conservative strategist but more than likely just lost in that same momentary populism that had them ditch their principles and support the war in Afghanistan (which polling now shows a majority regrets).
This is not to say those who view child porn should not go to jail, but jail is not the answer to every case and every circumstance. Even the most cynical or partisan observer would have to admit there could be situations where an offender should be instead institutionalized in a mental health facility or that monitored probation is preferred for more uncertain court cases. But if even one of those exceptions can be granted then the statements Tom Flanagan made just a few days ago aren't deserving of the criticism leveled against them and he most certainly should not have been forced out of his various employments.
But this is a defence of Tom Flanagan that won't matter, because though the populist masses love justice, they seldom seek it when they are the ones who violate it. If anyone doubts that Canadians do that, they should ask an Afghan.
Tom Flanagan's full response, as transcribed from the unedited original video:
"On the child pornography issue, since that was brought up, you know a lot of people on my side of the spectrum, on the conservative side of the spectrum have been on a kind of jihad against pornography, child pornography in particular. And I certainly have no sympathy for child molesters, but I do have some grave doubts about putting people in jail because of their taste in pictures.
"I don't look at these pictures, but if a person ever... The most I've ever come to it... At one point in my career, it's a long story, but I got put on a mailing list of the National Man Boy Love Association and I started to get their mailings for a couple of years, so that's about as close I've came to child pornography. It’s a real issue of personal liberty and to what extent we put people in jail for doing something in which they do not harm another person.”