To live in the US is to live in a nation of fears — most of them, irrational. The Department of Homeland Security — the eerily nationalistic-sounding phoenix that rose from the ashes of the World Trade Center — has done all it can to turn Americans into government informants, where they’re encouraged to turn in complete strangers for suspicious activities like not packing enough clothes orpurchasing cookware.
The DHS fears nothing more than a person armed with a camera. If any citizen aims a lens at public transportation, infrastructure, certain manufacturing plants or government buildings, they’re assumed to be practicing the dark art of terrorism.
Terrorism is only one of the nation’s collective fears: one so seldom realized that the amount of attention paid to it by a vast number of government bodies is almost laughable.
Another fear that is almost inversely proportional to the amount of attention paid to it is child victimization, especially kidnapping and pedophilia. From a young age, parents and educators drill into kids’ heads that all strangers are inherently dangerous. This is somehow supposed to protect children from abusers despite the fact that nearly 90% of abuse is committed by someone the child knows and trusts — family members, child care providers, neighbors, close relatives, family friends, etc.
This hysteria over child sexual abuse has reached the point that being an unaccompanied adult (especially male) in an area frequented by children is considered inherently suspicious. Toronto’s Legoland exhibit turned away a 63-year-old Lego fan simply because he wasn’t accompanied by a child. The stated reason for this bizarre policy? To “protect the children.” Likewise UK’s Puxton Park, which turned away a 53-year-old man for the same reason. The explanation given by the park’s director for its stupid policy is equally stupid:
He added: ‘There is a lot in the headlines about paedophiles and things that are going on with children.’
Perfect. The media says child molestation is happening pretty much nonstop and so it must be. Therefore, no single adults allowed. The perception is the reality. But as Dan Le Sac and Scroobius Pip pointed out in “Thou Shalt Always Kill:”
Thou shalt not think any male over the age of 30 that plays with a child that is not their own is a paedophile/Some people are just nice.
Combine cameras, overwrought pedophile fears, insular communities and former homeless MTV VJ Jesse Camp, stir vigorously and you end up with the sort of mob “justice” rarely seen outside of horror movies set in remote, backwoodsy locations.
“I received a call that there was a suspicious vehicle, a light brown Volvo station wagon, Massachusetts plate, and there was a male and female in the Raysal area taking pictures of some children,” says Chief Deputy, Roger Deel.
Jennifer Adkins, the mother of three kids, and a resident of Raysal, is the one who contacted Chief Deputy Deel. She also confronted the photographers, with a group of others.
Audio recording captured the encounter. You hear a McDowell resident say, “And there are no pictures of any children on there?”
“No. And you can check it, not of your kids. I can show you. Jesus Christ. We didn’t stop and approach like, yeah; you guys are making us out to be like crazy pedophiles. You guys are making us out to be people that we are not,” says Marisha and Jesse Camp.
“Have you looked at yourself in the mirror? You all don’t look like upstanding citizens,” says Jennifer Adkins.
The audio recording of the confrontation can be heard at WVVA’s website. According to Marisha, another person threatened to “beat them and their cameras into the ground.” Whatever violence might have resulted from this confrontation was prevented when a state trooper arrived and escorted the couple out of town. But the angry crowd already had all the justification it needed for harassing, threatening and detaining the couple — and it’s every bit as eloquent as the Puxton Park director’s defense of his “no single adults allowed” policy.
A man says, “There’s just too much going on with kids getting hurt and Y’all might be cool, I’m not saying you’re not.”
That’s what irrational fear gets us: irrational behavior. Not every adult with a camera is a security threat or a pedophile. Strangers may be unknown quantities, but they are not inherently dangerous simply because they’re unknown. No combination of these factors should be considered untrustworthy by default.
But that’s where we’re at. And these irrational fears are stoked by some of the most trusted members of the community: law enforcement officials, educators and the media. Two of those three directly profit from permanently-heightened fears. The other — educators — parrot the skewed information delivered by the other two. The perception becomes the reality. And that “reality” manifests itself as the ugliness detailed above.