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Ernest Miller Ernest Miller pursues research and writing on cyberlaw, intellectual property, and First Amendment issues. Mr. Miller attended the U.S. Naval Academy before attending Yale Law School, where he was president and co-founder of the Law and Technology Society, and founded the technology law and policy news site LawMeme. He is a fellow of the Information Society Project at Yale Law School. Ernest Miller's blog postings can also be found @
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May 30, 2005

Hopefully the Last Post on the Star Trek/Pedophilia Connection

Posted by Ernest Miller

Back at the end of April, I was skeptical of a claim in the LA Times (Shifting Clues to an Unsmiling Girl) that "all but one" of the more than one hundred people arrested by the Child Exploitation Section of the Toronto Sex Crimes Unit over the past four years was a "hard-core Trekkie" (LA Times Claim About Pedophiles Wrong). I called the unit and spoke to a detective who told me that the claim was exaggerated, but that a substantial number of those arrested were Star Trek fans. The LA Times stood by its "all but one" claim, but I remained skeptical (Star Trek and Pedophilia Claim Followup).

Last week venerable Canadian publication Maclean's published a story that had as its hook the Star Trek/Pedophilia connection found by the Toronto Sex Crimes Unit (The Star Trek Connection). And what a connection it is:

The first thing detectives from the Toronto police sex crimes unit saw when they entered Roderick Cowan's apartment was an autographed picture of William Shatner. Along with the photos on the computer of Scott Faichnie, also busted for possessing child porn, they found a snapshot of the pediatric nurse and Boy Scout leader wearing a dress "Federation" uniform. Another suspect had a TV remote control shaped like a phaser. Yet another had a Star Trek credit card in his wallet. One was using "Picard" as his screen name. In the 3 1/2 years since police in Canada's biggest city established a special unit to tackle child pornography, investigators have been through so many dwellings packed with sci-fi books, DVDs, toys and collectibles like Klingon swords and sashes that it's become a dark squadroom joke. "We always say there are two types of pedophiles: Star Trek and Star Wars," says Det. Ian Lamond, the unit's second-in-command. "But it's mostly Star Trek."

It's the type of oddball coincidence that's difficult to ignore. Even more so when you realize there's virtually nothing else, beyond their shared perversion, that links the new generation of child sex offenders.

However, the article did not repeat the "all but one" claim, so I emailed the author of the article to ask if he could confirm it.

Here is his response:

Lamond told me what he told you, that "all but one" was a bit of hyperbole. However, the cops do stick by their claim that the vast majority of people that they bust seem to have an obsession with sci-fi. And that most of them seem to really like Star Trek. Whether that's the original series, TNG or Deep Space 9, remains open to debate.
As I stated in my original piece on this story, "A weird factoid. Nevertheless, it is not correct that 'all but one ... in the last four years' was a hard core Star Trek fan."

Comments (9) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Blogging and Journalism


COMMENTS

1. Seth Finkelstein on May 30, 2005 01:01 PM writes...

Looks to me like a classic example of how to do "confirmation bias" - take all the elements of a person's life. Find a single *one* - a halloween costume picture, a gadget, a screen name, a DVD set - related to Star Trek - and proclaim the "link" confirmed.

Permalink to Comment

2. Paul Paz y Mino on May 31, 2005 01:40 AM writes...

Here's my recent exchange with the author:

Dear Mr. Gatehouse,
While there may be information that some child sex abusers are also Star Trek fans, there is NOTHING in Star Trek that can be interpreted as an influence toward such behavior. In fact, it is much more likely that these obviously mentally ill people are reaching out for “something better” of which to be a part. Star Trek’s message of tolerance and respect for ALL life is central to its importance and the reason it has continued for so many years with the strong dedication of so many millions around the globe. I believe I speak for the vast majority of Star Trek fans when I say that the connections are completely irrelevant. No one asked how many spouse abusers are also football fans, but if someone were to conduct the research they might discover that many are. While I think such an argument would also be absurd, at least there is SOME connection to violent behavior making such a study at least minutely relevant. This Star Trek to pedophile connection is not relevant. As someone who has dedicated himself to the advancement of human rights party because of the influence of Star Trek in my life, I would appreciate if your article made this strong point.
Sincerely,
Paul Paz y Mino

REPLY:
Mr. Paz y Mino,

Sorry, but if the police suggest that only thing these people have in common is Star Trek, then it is relevant. As the piece points out, we know so little about what makes pedophiles tick that any clue is worth looking into.

Regards,

Jonathon Gatehouse
Maclean’s

MY REPLY:
Mr. Gatehouse,

While I continue to disagree with your absurd argument, clearly there’s no point in continuing this debate. However, I would like to point out that at a minimum, if you would like to present some modicum of ethical journalism, it would be appropriate to explain (or offer information from an informed person) what the ethics, morality and message of Star Trek actually are. Since you are presenting the show in such an extreme context, many people who are unaware of it may make assumptions, and you fail in your responsibility as a journalist if you do not offer information about the show itself. In addition, just in terms of scale, even if there WERE a connection, your argument would be the same as pointing out that several criminals with a strong belief in “RELIGION A” have all committed heinous crimes. Even though millions of other followers of this religion may be very peaceful and good citizens, you will build an unwarranted fear and resentment of that religion based on a miniscule fraction of its population. I am NOT equating Star Trek with a religion, but I feel that this is a perfect example of patterns in our society today and where the media continues to fail in its responsibility. I trust you agree and look forward to your updated story.
Sincerely,
Paul Paz y Miño

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3. Nugget on May 31, 2005 06:06 AM writes...

It is important to note that the alleged connection is between Star Trek and those being investigated for child porn offenses and NOT actual child abuse.

The same article in Macleans mentions a study that contrary to popular belief, there appears to be little connection between those who possess CP and those who go on to molest kids.

"In a first-of-its-kind study published this month in the journal Sexual Abuse, Michael Seto, a University of Toronto psychologist, and Angela Eke, who works for the Ontario Provincial Police's behavioural sciences section, tracked the records of 201 adult male child-porn offenders over a three-year period. The study found 34 (17 per cent) had reoffended. Among them, the biggest proportion were those with a prior record for molesting. Of the nine new "contact sex offences," just one was committed by a man who had been known only to look at porn in the past. "Our finding does contradict the assumption that all child pornography offenders are at very high risk to commit contact sexual offences involving children," the pair wrote."
http://www.macleans.ca/topstories/justice/article.jsp?content=20050530_106573_106573

It is also not at all clear that those who possess CP are in fact paedophiles, in the sense of having a preferential sexual attraction to children.

We seem able to separate fantasy from desire and desire from action in every other area of human activity but we seem determined to stick to the unwarranted notion that anyone so much as peeking at this material is a dangerous, uncontrollable sexual psychopath.

I doubt very much if there is any link between Star Trak and child abuse. However, there are a number of possible correlates between young, male Sc-fi fans and the aquisition of child porn - Age, computer literacy, enjoyment of (and lack of fear of) fantasy, happy to test and break taboo. I suspect there would be an equal correlation between CP busts and 'edgy' video game posession e.g. Grand Theft Auto

Repeated research shows that 25% of college age male students are sexually aroused by child ponography. It should not be a surprise that a fair proportion have a peek around the internet and some will be caught.

I suspect a more critical analysis of the "Star Trek" connection would simply confirm that these men are no different from most of their peers.

Conflicting Interests:
2 Star Wars figurines + Lord of the Rings Tat sitting on nearby bookshelf!!

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4. Farrell J. McGovern on May 31, 2005 11:09 AM writes...

"There are three kinds of lies: lies, damn lies, and statistics."
- Benjamin Disraeli

This is obviously a case of "statistics".

Fact 1:
I am sure the police will agree that there is a link between the use of computers, and pedophiles. And since they are doing something wrong, so they try and use the best technology they can to cover their tracks..which means they are probalby fairly literate computer users.

Fact 2:
Anyone in the computer industry will tell you, there are a very high number of Star Trek fans in the computer field. Thus there are a large number of highly computer literate people who are Star Trek fans.

So, it is easy to see that you will get a connection between Star Trek Fans, and Pedophiles. But this does *not* show a cause/effect relationship.

Now a bit of "full disclosure" here...I've been involved with Star Trek and Science Fiction fandom since 1977. I've run Science Fiction Conferences, and attended dozens of them. And, for the most party, the only real "ugly underside" I have seen there has been the so-called "Slash" fiction, that is, fantasized Kirk/Spock homosexual relationship. And that is not really all that "ugly", unless you are talking about the quality of writing.

Before people clamor about a "gay conspiricy", please not that virtally all of the "Slash" fiction is written by, and read by female Star Trek fans.

ttyl
Farrell J. McGovern

Permalink to Comment

5. John on May 31, 2005 11:55 AM writes...

I'm suprised at the defensiveness of Star Trek fans over this...the Toronto cops did not imply a causal relationship or a direct link in the slightest. They just pointed out, logically, that maybe pedophiles could tend to gravitate to fantasy-science fiction scenarios, and in general other-worldly settings where the "normal" rules of society get suspended. This doesn't reflect badly on Star Trek fans, it just says something interesting about pedophiles. Understanding why they are into Star Trek or other sci-fi fantansy could help discover what drives them and ultimately help save kids from harm.

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6. Leroy on May 31, 2005 01:28 PM writes...

And let's also not forget the marginalized status of sci-fi nerds in our society -- lots of kids who are a little too into their Star Trek and so on are ostracized by their peers and don't really get a chance to mature emotionally and sexually in the same way as socially active kids will. It's easy to understand that these people may remain sexually attracted to children into their adulthood, having had their most powerful and formative sexual responses frustrated in childhood. Yep, I'm a fantasy and sci-fi nerd too.. I'm trying to be realistic here and not to judge harshly. I believe that the 90s and 00s are a much nicer climate for nerdy kids to grow up in and that with so much of what we love becoming more mainstream, maybe more nerdy kids today will have some social opportunities that we older nerds often lacked. Maybe the social terrors inflicted on the nerds of my generation are beginning to show their effects. Will we see a decline in the number of future Star Trek fan child porn viewers in the future because of the new acceptability of sci-fi and fantasy?

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7. Seth Finkelstein on May 31, 2005 03:07 PM writes...

John: Why are you surprised at objections to misinformation that fuels a stereotype? Of course fans are concerned about such stereotypes, the next comment shows why.

Look, WE DON'T KNOW IF THIS IS EVEN TRUE, in a non-trivial sense (ie. it's not a confirmation bias) - yet the speculation is unleashed.

Permalink to Comment

8. Ood on June 1, 2005 02:05 AM writes...

Journos are such idiots - or maybe I mean their readers. All those arrested people doubtless had two legs as well. Strangely they never ran the identically valid "Paedophilia linked to leg count" version of the story, maybe the logic flaws were just too obvious.

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9. J-dog on June 3, 2005 02:15 PM writes...

Well the simple thing is that having two legs is the norm for humanity. If say they all had one leg, that would be worth noting. You guys are generalizing way to much, the star trek connection is sort of niche. Its like if the majority of pedophiles favourite food was tacos, its not saying the tacos cause pedophiles, it says pedophiles like tacos.

As for the GTA comment, thats different as the majority of murderers don't play GTA. In this case it would be like saying that 2 pedophiles liked star trek.

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