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Beyond Tolerance


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Jenkins looks at the first amendment and how it should be applied to child pornography on the internet.

About the Author

Philip Jenkins is Distinguished Professor of History and Religious Studies at Pennsylvania State University. He is the author of numerous books including Mystics and Messiahs: Cults and New Religions in America and Synthetic Panics: The Symbolic Politics of Designer Drugs, available from NYU Press.


Politicians, media and law enforcement have "massively over-responded" to "quite innocuous" adult sexual material on the Internet, argues historian Jenkins, while doing far too little to stamp out pernicious and prevalent child porn, such as pictures of four- and five-year-old girls sexually servicing men. Even anti-porn activists who target specific pedophilic Web sites are wrongheaded; the problem is international, Jenkins charges in this important wake-up call, with pictures posted on short-lived sites known only to a computer-savvy subculture that sidesteps the strictures of countries that condemn the material. Thus, while Jenkins (Synthetic Panics) has spent his career arguing that social menaces (e.g., serial killers) are overblown, here he aims to increase public concern. Given that simply looking at child pornography is illegal, Jenkins was constrained in his research. His ingenious solution was to access the news groups and "pedo boards" where regular users communicated, drawing on their descriptions of the material they consumed, and using a feature on his computer that prevented images from downloading. His reading of the various online discourses suggests that child porn users like some other deviant subgroups share a conventional morality, which suggests that many might be deterred by more effective law enforcement. Currently, policing focuses on child porn users, whom Jenkins likens to drug addicts, without striking against the suppliers at the core of the subculture. Thus, he calls not for increased punishment for users but for a prohibition of newsgroups and bulletin boards. And to increase awareness of the issue, he suggests a journalistic exemption to child porn laws. (Sept.) Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.

Jenkins (history and religious studies, Pennsylvania State Univ.) offers a well-documented follow-up to Moral Panic (LJ 9/01/98), his history of child abuse and molestation over the past century. This new volume is a disturbing, thought-provoking study of the extent to which the distribution of hardcore child pornography "obscene or indecent images of underaged subjects" is available for illegal viewing and downloading from web-based bulletin boards, chat rooms, and newsgroups. Jenkins, who for research purposes limited his access to verbal and textual content, discusses attempts to regulate postings on the Internet, privacy and censorship issues, the trouble with identifying core content perpetrators, the inadequacies of traditional law enforcement techniques to control the international scope and sophistication of the web and its users, recent independent "vigilante" approaches by private anti-pedophile groups, and hackers who bypass legal and official strictures. This penetrating work is highly recommended for all concerned with this high-tech trafficking in the exploitation of children. Suzanne W. Wood, SUNY Coll. of Technology at Alfred Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.

"There is much of value in Jenkins' work. He manages to discuss CP calmly, while at the same time making clear his personal revulsion, an achievement in itself in an area characterized by so much hysteria." -- The Journal of Sex Research "Magnificently readable social science on a widely misunderstood subject." --Booklist "A useful introduction to the methods that the kiddie-porn community uses to hide its activities...a smart history of the child-porn industry" --The Washington Monthly, Nov. 2001 "This is a troubling book that exposes how child pornography has found a safe haven on the Internet. Philip Jenkins's innovative research methods let him explore and map the secret electronic networks that link individuals whose deviance seems not just outrageous, but incomprehensible. Jenkins shows how culture and social structure emerge in a virtual--and decidedly not virtuous--world. This book raises profound questions about the nature of deviance in an electronic future." --Joel Best, University of Delaware "A disturbing, thought-provoking study" --Library Journal "A detailed yet engaging account ... Engrossing" --Liberty, Jan. 2002

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