Editorial from the September 2000 issue of the Socialist Standard
UK Civilisation, 2000—An ugly, wretched mob spews its anger towards the waiting cameras: “HANG PAEDOPHILES” say their scrawled banners. They scream for vengeance and teach their kids to cry out for the bogey men to be driven from their houses and then hanged.
Meanwhile, the putrid News of the World, where scantily-clad teenagers are paid to get 'em off for Murdoch's semi-literate customers, runs a campaign to Name and Shame sex offenders. The President of the US, who exploited the pathetic loyalty of an intern young enough to be his daughter and then lied about it for a year, is not mentioned. Neither is the dinosaur Pope who bullies his followers into fearing birth control and runs an organisation which requires young men and women to live as sexually repressed priests and nuns. Named and shamed are sick people who will be driven by the publicity to pursue their perverse sexual desires in shadowy secrecy.
The aim of the terror tactics against alleged sex offenders (several of whom have proved to be quite innocent of any crimes or even allegations) is to drive them away. It is a remedy with all the sensitivity of a pogrom. The truth is that anti-social behaviour cannot simply be cast out or exorcised, but will only disappear when its cause is treated. So, let's look at causes.
The overwhelming majority of cases of sexual abuse occur inside families, where children fall victim to more powerful relatives from whom they cannot easily escape. Very few offences are committed by strangers.
Most convicted sexual abusers were themselves abused as children. They are continuing a pattern of abuse and unless the cycle is broken this can carry on through several generations.
The kind of therapy needed to treat sex abusers is very expensive. It is cheaper to either leave such problems unattended or to lock offenders up in special wings of prisons. As ever under capitalism, money is the issue. It costs far less to spread scare stories about wicked men in dirty macs than to start the patient process of helping offenders to see their sexuality differently.
Money stands in the way of a proper response to sex offences. And it is the direct cause of other kinds of abuse of children. What about kids who have to work ten or twelve hours a day in Third World sweat shops producing cheap imports for multinational companies? What about kids who are forced on to the streets of Bangkok and many other cities to provide purchasable sex for visiting businessmen? What about kids who are pushed into armies and slaughtered for someone else's profits? What about kids who are allowed to perish for lack of food—millions of them every year—while food is dumped into the sea to preserve profit levels? When will the News of the World name and shame those responsible for such disgusting crimes against children? A conspicuous silence from the Murdoch lie factory is drowned out by its self-righteous shrieking in favour of vigilante justice.
Anarchist advocates of spontaneous "people's justice" should watch the scenes of recent weeks and recognise the danger of uneducated mobs trying to sort out the problems of capitalism. The people involved in these sordid protests are running on frustration and aggression fuelled by poverty and tabloid bigotry. Only an educated working class can solve its own problems, not chanting rednecks with a taste for vengeance.