The first thing you need to know is that my ass is broken. At some point over the last week, some essential and load-bearing component of my derriere has given out, thereby condemning me to spend the latter part of yesterday shuffling decrepitly to the cornershop and back, a varied roster of geriatrics zooming past me all the while, wielding their walking sticks menacingly. My plight drew their pitying glances – the sorts of glances reserved solely for a man who appears to have shat himself.
The world’s problems seem, as they often do, more multitudinous than ever; moreover, a great many of them seem worthy of commentary. And yet I cannot bring myself to seriously consider any topic but the crippling agony emanating from my prematurely-enfeebled butt-cheeks. What a clichéd Gen-Y narcissist I am.
I note that last week a lot of you expressed displeasure at my view of dogs. Well, this week I’m going to steer this boat toward less controversial waters. Yes, I’m sure you’d like to know what I think of Channel 4’s The Paedophile Hunter.
Stinson Hunter, as he probably wasn’t christened, shot to fame last week after Channel 4 documented his nonce-finding exploits in exquisite, excruciating detail. And what compelling viewing it was. It provoked a largely positive reaction on social media; indeed, he has now raised nearly £30,000 for his Kickstarter project – which I suspect will consist of a well-funded version of the same sort of thing. My personal hope is that it will be a little less like ‘To Catch a Predator’ and a little more like ‘Turok: Dinosaur Hunter’; maybe then I’ll have a long blog debating the rights and wrongs of chasing paedophiles down the street and shooting them in the head with a cerebral bore. Or maybe he’ll use the money to retrospectively alter his back-catalogue. Perhaps he’ll employ CGI to render an army of shambling paedo-demons into the outdoor scenes, thereby rendering the Tamworth skyline more recognisably Tamworthian. Thinking about it, that was probably always his intention.
I feel the need to make a distinction before proceeding. A paedophile, as I understand the word, is someone who harbours sexual desires toward children. A child-molester is a paedophile who then acts on that desire. You can condemn someone for the latter, as there is a choice involved. For the former, I’m not so sure. Tricking someone into migrating between the two categories strikes me as creating a problem, rather than solving one. But that is pretty much what Stinson Hunter does: He finds paedophiles and encourages them to become child-molesters.
The leading argument in support of Mr Hunter is that his actions prevent people who might otherwise harm children from doing so. Who could object to that, right? To object to that would make me pro-paedophile. Perhaps in the same way all my objections to Guantanamo Bay make me pro-terrorist. This is one area of modern discourse where it’s quite acceptable – nay, appropriate – to judge someone for what they are rather than what they do. Humiliating paedophiles on the internet is now fine and dandy, since we’re now too civilised to use the stocks. We characterise unpleasant people as inhuman monsters, rather than fallible human beings. I guess that makes things easier to cope with.
Ron Ball, the police and crime commissioner for Warwickshire, has reprimanded the program in writing:
“Extreme emotions and justice make very poor bed fellows. What is apparent from the programme was that the humiliation and rabble-rousing are essential drivers for Hunter, but neither has a place in the pursuit of justice.”
Here’s where you’re wrong, Rob. No-one cares about justice. Justice is for academics and pompous Guardian-reading tossers. It requires the reading of a great many books, and a lot of furtive chin-scratching over very boring distinctions. Its discussion often demands the use a lot of fussy Latinate terms like habeus corpus and modus operandi. Ain’t nobody got time for that!
Paedophile hunting, on the other hand, is like any other form of hunting: it’s visceral. It’s (dare I say it?) thrilling. The reason ‘The Paedophile Hunter’ is so compelling is because it’s like a game show, with stakes, where one party outsmarts another. That’s gold – especially when the audience is encouraged to view one party as a subhuman monster and the other as a tortured anti-hero. It’s as close as we get to a real life Batman.
So let’s call this what it is – entertainment. It’s entertaining. But it has precisely nothing to do with protecting children. The relationship between this show and child-protection is as incidental as the relationship between Cowboy Builders and the construction industry.
The subject is evidently personal for Mr Hunter. He refers to himself in every other sentence. (“I must do this”, “I was not a nice person”, “This is important to me,” etc.) He is driven by hatred of paedophiles, rather than a desire to merely prevent paedophiles from operating. This guy fucking despises paedophiles, and wants to see them suffer. Not an uncommon sentiment.
The problem will not be solved in this way. Even if we were to take the extreme step of rounding up every paedophile in England (and everyone who looks like a paedophile, for good measure) and shoot them in the head, we would still have a paedophile problem in a few years’ time, there’s another paedophile born every minute. To many, this is probably an acceptable solution, since it allows the venting of a great deal of pent-up bloodlust.
Not so acceptable is the idea that paedophiles might be offered help in controlling their sinister urges. I’ve never had to control such an urge, and I very much doubt that anyone reading this has, either. It is strange, then, that we all behave as though doing so is obvious and straightforward. I’ve yet to see anyone pipe up on Facebook with the whole “I really, really, have a thing for school-age girls but you don’t see me trying to molest them!”
In conclusion, I’d prefer if television programmes were more concerned with solving society’s problems rather than turning them into hideous, tawdry freak-shows. But if that were the case I probably wouldn’t watch them, because I, like most people – enjoy a good freak show.
Until next week, when I will hopefully be a great deal more mobile