Friday, December 24, 2010

The pedophile's book is free speech

Do not think there is any support in this blog post for the disgusting pedophile this post is about. But sometimes, our most important freedoms in a community are articulated in the defense of someone who has done something terribly wrong.

By now, many may be aware that Philip Greaves II has written a book called, “The Pedophile’s Guide to Love and Pleasure: a Child-lover’s Code of Conduct.” The book has been called an instruction manual for abusing children. He claims it is a book meant to help men “avoid taking action that would cause them to be arrested.” In the book, he says, it discusses how men “can go about to improve their own lives.” But, apparently, it isn’t how to stop abusing minors, to seek help or to turn themselves in if they have had sex with a minor. It is how to keep their action legal. News articles state that he has sold 14 books.

Greaves, responding to a request from the sheriff department of Polk County in central Florida portraying themselves to be an interested person, sent a copy of his book from his Colorado home. Apparently in Colorado there aren’t any laws that would allow Greaves to be arrested. But, in Florida, the obscenity laws make it a crime to distribute material of an obscene nature depicting minors engaged in conduct that is harmful to them. In the book, Greaves writes about two encounters, real or not, about sex between a man and a 9 and 13 year old boy.

The author claims that it is a freedom of speech issue through his lawyer. Although, news articles about the arrest, Greaves himself has never taken that stand. Perhaps he will now. At Greaves’ arraignment, his lawyer claimed that the book is just words, not action. The prosecutor in the case, says that not only are the scenes in the book obscene, but that words can turn into action.

This case is certainly a speech issue. No right is absolute, so when action harms someone else, it needs to limited. In this case, the words in the book themselves do not harm anyone. The sheriff’s claims that the scenes depicted in the book are obscene is not enough to warrant arrest.

But, the sheriff’s claims that words can turn into action does have some merit. This is especially true because the words are about an illegal activity that is particularly repulsive to the culture. If someone using the book as a guide turn the words into action, it could do great harm to a minor, his family and the community.

It will be a tough case to find a path between protected speech and the sensibilities of the community. As an example, it is well understood that we do have freedom of speech unless we incite a riot. At that point, the speaker can be held accountable for the actions of the rioters.

But, what of a radio talk show hosts that may say someone needs to take action against a politician? Conservative talk radio hosts have been vilified by the liberals over the risk that their words will incite someone to attack a disliked politician. In their defense, conservatives have said that words are just words and the action of someone is their own responsibility. But, the sheriff of Polk County, a republican and a supporter of conservative causes, says that words have the chance to cause action and Greaves should be held responsible even before the action happens.

The subject of Greaves book is disgusting. It is not fiction which could be brushed aside. It is not a research paper that reports on how to treat pedophiles. It isn’t a legal advice book written by a lawyer to help people resolve their legal issues. It is a book, as even the title states, that guides pedophiles in their love relationships with minor children.

This book needs to be stopped. But, finding the very thin line between free speech and this view on the subject matter is difficult to impossible at best. Better to error on the side of free speech than censorship. At the very least, the community now has a better understanding of the issue because of this book. This knowledge can now be used to help prevent a very repugnant crime.

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