Tuesday, 4 May 2010

The Daily Mail, Chatroulette and Transvestites

Once in a while … well quite often really … I look at the headlines in Google News. Sometimes I even read the entire article. This one here (Last updated at 12:48 AM on 27th April 2010) caught my eye … the headline being:

Chatroulette: Is new teenage website the most disturbing internet craze yet?

I have a bias here … several biases in fact.

The first of my biases is that I’ve never really been impressed by the Daily Mail’s ability to report news in an impartial and unbiased way.

So here goes on my analysis of what Olivia Lichtenstein says about Chatroulette.

First – the headline.

Chatroulette isn’t a teenage website. It’s a web site. It’s no more a teenage website than the Daily Mail is a teen newspaper.

Maybe Olivia didn’t write the headline … but whoever did was putting an immediate misconception into the mind of the reader.

The article says:

When writer OLIVIA LICHTENSTEIN's daughter told her about a 'cool' new teen website, she decided to investigate. What she found was the most worrying internet craze to date.

A selection of the criticisms levelled at Chatroulette are:

  • What may have started as the innocent game of a Moscow schoolboy has quickly become a potential tailor-made portal for perverts and paedophiles - proving once again that the internet is putting the lives of our vulnerable teenagers in jeopardy
  • The latest Frankenstein monster spawned by the internet is, as with so much web-based activity, impossible to monitor, restrict or control.
  • The ease with which I was able to access it was terrifying.
  • Within seconds you find yourself jettisoned into a stranger's bedroom, living room, or, all too often, trousers.
  • At least one out of every five of the strangers I was connected to was a man with the camera pointed directly at his private parts. Within the first few seconds of using the site, I was asked: ' Do you show boobs?'
  • The ability to parachute into the lives of strangers is simultaneously addictive and repellent. Just like pornography, it leaves the user feeling dirty and ashamed.
  • The fact that my daughter and her friends are not shocked by the site is shocking in itself - it's a further indication that such aberrant behaviour has been normalised.
  • Thanks to the internet - such sexualised behaviour is pervading all generations.
  • I fear for what is going to happen next. For, when you think back to the creation of mobile phones, what started as a useful way of communicating quickly turned into sexting (sending explicit text messages).
  • Now, we face the worrying prospect that a growing number of men find it acceptable to expose themselves to strangers online - and the young girls watching them not only think it's normal, but some even agree to perform sex acts on themselves in return.
  • While users of other social networking sites are urged to check the identities of those they talk to, Chatroulette aficionados socially enter into conversation with random strangers who remain entirely anonymous.
  • The site is little more than a haven for exhibitionists and voyeurs.
  • It's not a game, it's porn, and pornography is addictive, corrosive and promotes unhealthy sexual stereotypes and behaviour for girls and boys. It undermines dignity and respect for others by making sexual intimacy into little more than a spectator sport without love, commitment or responsibility.
  • I discovered during my short venture into that world, it's yet another example of the pernicious sexual culture that threatens to corrupt the fibre of our children's innocence.
  • Just think of the way that Ashley Cole threw away his marriage to Cheryl Cole by texting naked photos of himself to a stranger, before embarking on an alleged affair with her. 17-year-old Ashleigh Hall was raped and murdered by 26-year-old Peter Chapman, a man who had met and groomed her on Facebook.

The things I find difficult about a lot of the above is the way that it’s written in a clear-cut black fashion. And it doesn’t add up.

There are quite a lot of comments from various people. Not many of the comments show much agreement with the author.

People can rate the comments. The two comment that are rated worst are:

The first chapter of Romans 21-25 sums up the situation....
"For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened.
Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like mortal man and birds and animals and reptiles.
Therefore God gave them over in the sinful desires of their hearts to sexual impurity for the degrading of their bodies with one another.
They exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshipped and served created things rather than the Creator-who is forever praised. Amen."
Just another sign of our times..


There is no option this site must be taken down!!!
There are no effective controls at all and even if teenagers are not too shocked, this has to be made a no-go zone or there will be more tragedy down the line!!!

The most positively rated comments are:

I'd be wary of letting anyone use a computer who's thick enough to install that Canon toolbar.


If parents don't want their teenagers using sites such as these (a sentiment I largely agree with) then parents must restrict their teenagers access to them.
Why are there always calls for the Government to ban such sites? Do you really want politicians deciding what is and what is not good or bad for your children? Why can't we as parents take control? We would all go to great lengths to protect our kids from sexual deviants in any other sphere of life so why not with the internet and mobile phones (for mobile internet access)?

Some of my thoughts:

  • Chatroulette doesn’t seem like the kind of place that anyone would use if they were trying to groom anyone. The webcam has got to make any pretence at being someone else more difficult.
  • 80% of the people that Olivia communicated with did not have their genitals on display. So is it fair to say that it is “little more than a haven for exhibitionists and voyeurs”
  • It is not true that pornography always leaves every user feeling dirty and ashamed.
  • Some aspects of the Internet may be putting the lives of vulnerable teenagers in jeopardy. But so does the production of clothing, coffee and tea by organisations that use child labour. So does the arms trade. So do parents. So have some Catholic priests.
  • It is not true that it is impossible to monitor, restrict or control children’s access to the Internet. In a similar way that we put child-proof gadgets on cupboard containing bleach and drawers full of kitchen knives – it’s possible to manage access to the Internet. It would be irresponsible of adults not to.
  • Times change – a lot what once was viewed as aberrant behaviour has been normalised. Is that a bad thing? It depends on a persons biases and perspectives. To be gay was once aberrant. To be transgendered was one aberrant. To be a member of a racial minority group was aberrant. To be female was aberrant. I admit that the normalisation of instant displays of genitalia isn’t quite in the same category as these other things. But one person’s “aberrant” is another persons “normal”. No one that I know of is forced to use Chatroulette.
  • I’ve never receive 
  • Pornography may result in unhealthy stereotypes … but this isn’t by any means  inevitable. And … stereotypes of any kind are usually not a good thing. Children need to know this.

As I said … the thing that I find offensive about the article is that there is no room for discussion. No room for doubt. No real question-asking. It seems to include as much misinformation as information. It’s a series of assertions of apparent absolute truths.

My biased view of the Daily Mail’s reporting has also been partly fuelled by an article which was published a while ago.

There’s some information about it here. A few words from the beginning of this:

A national newspaper article which described Liphook as "a country town invaded by transvestites" is at the centre of a storm of controversy.

A feature in the Daily Mail reported how a social group for transvestites, called Fabuliss, has been hiring a room in the Millennium Hall for social events.
But the article has inspired scores of messages of support for the group on Liphook's community website.

I know people that go to Fabuliss. The article that appeared in the Daily Mail was a fabrication that bore no resemblance to reality.  It was biased and full of misinformation. The Daily Mail article no longer appears online … it used to be here. There seems to be way too much of an attitude that says something like … “if they are different from us they must be evil perverts.”

It would be satisfying to say “I’ll never buy the Daily Mail again.”

It would also be inaccurate since I never have bought a copy of it before.

There may, however, be a sense in which such obviously biased and inaccurate misinformation ends up having the exact opposite effect from the one that was intended. Perhaps that’s why the article was eventually withdrawn?

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