Last week the US Department of Justice published a press release about an appalling feature of American society. This was its first paragraph:
The Department of Justice today announced the arrest of more than 2,300 suspected online child sex offenders during a three-month, nationwide, operation conducted by Internet Crimes Against Children (ICAC) task forces. The task forces identified 195 offenders who either produced child pornography or committed child sexual abuse, and 383 children who suffered recent, ongoing, or historical sexual abuse or production of child pornography.
The numbers are dismaying. In the course of three months agents caught 195 people who had allegedly produced child pornography or abused children. They uncovered 383 children who had been used to produce pornographic material or who were abused. More than 2,000 people had broken the law by accessing internet pornography, grooming children online, trafficking children or travelled across state lines or to foreign countries to sexually abuse children. In just three months.
The United States is a big place – 325 million people – but the fact of 2,300 arrests for paedophilia is not a drop in the bucket. It is an ugly boil erupting on the body of a sick society.
It must have been front-page news, right?
Nope, sorry. Not a single major media outlet covered it. Not the New York Times. Not the Washington Post. Not CBS. Not CNN. Not ABC. Not NBC. Not PBS.
A few regional TV stations reported that local men had been arrested. And that was that. Almost nothing about one of the most abominable crimes of the age. I only stumbled across it because a friend noticed the press release on Twitter.
What explains the silence?
On Twitter there were rumblings insinuating a dark conspiracy to protect paedophiles. This is absurd. Scandals about celebrities accused of paedophilia are red meat for the media. When scandal broke over Jerry Sandusky, a Pennsylvania State University football coach, and his paedophile past, there was saturation coverage.
The Department of Justice did itself no favours by issuing a bland document which raised more questions than it answered. The crime of paedophilia covers a range of offences, from the loathsome abuse of infants to having sex with boys and girls over the age of consent, but the press release gave no details. How many offenders were men and how many women? The press release did not say. Their ages? Ditto. Their state? Ditto.
But this should have given the media opportunities for scoops and in-depth reporting, just as the release of bland statistics from the Department of Homeland Security provoked a fire storm of controversy about family separation of illegal immigrants.
Perhaps the media couldn’t bear to highlight a “good news” story initiated by the Trump Administration. But, to be fair, this isn’t the case either. The Department of Justice has been conducting these raids for years – and those have been largely ignored, too.
Unhappily, the real reason seems to be that paedophilia has become just another feature of the social landscape — a hideous, stinking heap of moral excrement, but something we have become so accustomed to that we walk around it without breaking stride. For the media, it is just another shrink-wrapped set of dismal statistics packaged in the cardboard words of the Federal bureaucracy.
This is a crime far worse than the #MeToo abuses, bad as they are. Most of the women wronged by powerful men were adults who could fight back. The very existence of the movement shows that they can defend themselves. The 383 people who “suffered recent, ongoing, or historical sexual abuse or production of child pornography” are children. They can’t. And maybe that’s why they have been ignored. They’re anonymous; they’re helpless; they can’t even create their own hashtag.
The American media has failed these kids. It has to ask itself why.
Michael Cook is editor of MercatorNet.