Free to Be a Pedophile

Orthodox free-speech advocates must be cringing, certain that donations to their nonprofit organizations will slow to a trickle and, eventually, dry up like an extinct lake. What critics have been saying about groups like the American Civil Liberties Union is true: they stick up for the rights of the worst kinds of people, anti-social crackpots who don’t know when to keep their damn mouths shut. 

Bad enough those free speech folks defend neo-Nazis parading through Jewish neighborhoods and un-American traitors criticizing the President and his Patriot Act. But the latest outrage to make the news will surely prove what reasonable people have been saying all along: the First Amendment isn’t for everyone.

The apocalypse has come, and his name is Jack McClellan.

He has no arrest or conviction record — not in the United States, anyway — but this 45-year-old transient has inspired fear and outrage everywhere he’s gone. Especially among concerned parents. McClellan is a pedophile. He would like very much to have sex with little girls, and almost certainly would if it were legal. But it’s not, so he doesn’t. Instead, he talks about his fantasies and trades information with others who share his sexual obsession. As he did in Seattle, where he lived before migrating to southern California, McLellan built a Website to post ratings of parks, carnivals, and other places that he has visited to gawk at young girls. As millions of amateur critics and journalists have shown, the Internet is a great place to broadcast your opinions and prejudices, evaluations and judgments, stories and fantasies. If you’re lucky, you get to spout off on television talk shows and “news” programs. McLellan’s done that, too.

The Santa Monica police department recently confronted the self-proclaimed pedophile after a nervous mother spotted him in the children’s section of the city’s library. McLellan graciously allowed himself to be interviewed and photographed. Now two attorneys, who are also parents, are attempting to get a restraining order against poor Jack, to keep him out of their community, which, they claim he considers a prime viewing destination. Alas, the Sheriff’s Department can’t find anything on the books to run the scourge out of town. “His activities are suspicious, but nothing that leads us to believe he’s involved in criminal activity,” said Captain Joe Guttierrez of the Special Victims Bureau. (Who or what is special, the victims or the bureau, remains unclear.) Being sexually interested in children is not illegal. Just ask the respectable businesspeople who market sexualized teenagers to American consumers.

One Santa Monica-based “child safety advocate” — as if anyone wouldn’t advocate child safety — told the Times, “I think he enjoys the fact that he can mock parents and mock law enforcement by saying, ‘Look what I’m doing, and you can’t do anything about it.'”

But what, in fact, is McLellan doing? He’s exercising his constitutional right to free speech. There are countless individuals walking around Los Angeles (and everyplace else) harboring extremely distasteful thoughts, many of them revolving around sexual fantasies. Most of these folks don’t reveal their ideas because of the censure (or worse) the revelation would bring. And most don’t act on their fantasies. We have laws to punish unwanted behavior, and they usually deter miscreants; violators get punished. Parents, husbands, pet owners — everyone must be vigilant in not allowing their loved ones to be hurt. But, for the time being anyway, we still live in a society where revolting thoughts — and revolting pronouncements — are not subject to prosceution.

If McLellan is not, in fact, a pedophile but a radical provocateur conducting an extreme test of our First Amendment rights, I applaud him. If he’s just a guy who would like to have sex with young girls and isn’t afraid to say so, I respectfully reserve my First Amendment right to tell him what I think of his proclivities. And I remain proud to live in a country where the “worst” kinds of people enjoy the same protections as the “best.”

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