Mark Schieldrop: press hostility to Azov accuracy
This article was originally posted to BoyChat on February 14, 2014. The views expressed are solely those of the authors and not necessarily those of BoyWiki or Free Spirits and is presented here to provide further insight into the Azov Films Prosecutions and Operation Spade. All rights reserved.
Mark Schieldrop: press hostility to Azov accuracy:
By Bernie Najarian
One member of our informal working group of law-abiding BLs has maintained a Twitter account for some time and helps to get the word out about our concerns.
Recently, he had an interesting interaction with Mark Schieldrop, the editor of an independent newspaper in Rhode Island called The Patch. Schieldrop tweeted about the case of Azov Films arrestee Gerald Silva. Recent developments in this case have already been posted by Affan at https://passport.ivan.net/messages/1381344.htm (http://www.boychat.org/messages/1381344.htm)
Azov Films customers were the dupes of a U.S. law that permitted possession of non-sexualised nude images provided that they were not 'lascivious' (Dost criteria - see wikipedia). This mass arrest was unlike any other child pornography arrest series because the defendants were reasonably certain that the website's statements that the films were not illegal was correct. Indeed, one Azov/Spade defendant, Douglas Randolph Collins of Van Nuys, California, had his charges reduced to a misdemeanor because the material was not considered child-pornographic http://www.signalscv.com/archives/102004/ Full background, see http://www.godlikeproductions.com/forum1/message2481242/pg1 and links therein
This small vignette shows the intrinsic problem with the mainstream press's approach to Azov Films. The problem begins with police press releases that describe the nude sports shown in Azov Films with heavily spin-doctored terminology coming as close as possible to insinuating that there were sexual acts involved. Then it is amplified by journalists who are so hyper-indignant on behalf of sexually exploited children that they gladly simplify the police weasel-words into unambiguous accusations of conventional child pornography. As you can see here, Schieldrop had a firm vision in his mind that Silva had ordered DVDs showing boys engaged in sexual acts, and in the midst of discussion, he realized that this was a completely unsupported idea. His response, though, was merely to drop his indignation down into the revised reality, and make a stand against watching child nudity. That's by no means uncommon as a moral position in a country where naturism is exotic, but the shift brushed aside the legal changes involved in the Azov prosecutions - basically, that these prosecutions, in the absence of any revision of the wording of the law, transformed this moral injunction against watching child nudism into a novel interpretation of 18 U.S.C. § 2256(2)(A).
Most people wouldn't think Schieldrop was being incautious as a vendor of truth when he represented Silva as a purchaser of child pornography, especially given the conviction that showed that a jury had accepted that idea. Yet the problem with his blithe assumption that the Azov Films contained sexualized child pornography can be seen in the first comment. 'Mad Hatter,' the comment poster, is amazed that Silva could have been so stupid as to repeatedly buy illegal materials with his credit card. Silva was certainly incautious, but he appeared to have the wording of 18 U.S.C. § 2256(2)(A) on his side when he made the purchases, in that there was nothing in prior law to suggest that nude sports would be accepted as 'lascivious.' Schieldrop, like essentially all the other mainstream journalists involved in reporting the Azov affair, mirrored and propagated public confusion with his failure to delve into the realities of the case. Are people really 'dumb as door knobs' to rely on the wording of American legislation? Perhaps they are, and yet, many would argue that this ought not to be so. Some would say US law should be reasonably unambiguous and not fluctuate radically in interpretation according to shifts in popular outrage topics. That is idealistic, but it's an idealism shared with many who attempted to set up the United States of America as a land of hope for the rule of law. In practice, the track record of the US in according rights to disfavored social groups is notably poor, but the original hopes for a state ruled by impartial justice still remain. I freely admit that they remain as a tiny kernel blown around by the perpetual hurricanes of popular outrage that rule our world.
There are negative consequences attached to the mote of extra indignation that distorted Schieldrop's view of Silva's case. The Patch has produced the kind of article whose typical commenter calls for the life-long imprisonment of a man who had no intention whatsoever of breaking the law. What sense does that make? I have the impression that many of my fellow journalists today actually feel that they, as professionals, have to share in community outrage. This responsibility towards outrage must be allowed to melt away moderate amounts of inconvenient reality about members of groups who are popularly disliked. The mainstream press dragged its ass for over 25 years before it could finally normalize its coverage of gay issues. Often, as in the New York Times, even the matter of printing the word 'gay' as a reference to homosexuals caused years of increasingly ridiculous conservatism, culminating in an appearance of cultural senility. Finally the dam burst and gays were allowed to be people. Now it is suddenly horrible if one tries to compare the situation of the minor-attracted to that of the holy same-sex consenting adults.
I write this article in the hope - though you may think it naive - that reality, in journalism, can someday prevail over the professional adoption of the distortions that occur in public outrage. 'Truth is the first casualty of war' is a quote that's often used about wartime news coverage - but in our societies, there is always a war. Segregation, McCarthyism, anti-feminism, homophobia - the war changes its face but proceeds on steadily as an ongoing panic against whatever can be perceived as heterodoxy - scheming, narcissistic, anti-social heterodoxy. Right now, we are involved in that war.
And Schieldrop, in his subtle, almost reasonable way, has shot the truth.
- Azov Films
- Azov Films Prosecutions
- Azov Films Prosecutions - Canada
- Azov Films Prosecutions - United Kingdom
- Mark Schieldrop: press hostility to Azov accuracy by Bernie Najarian (original post to BoyChat)
- The Azov films - Police secretly redefine the law