Florida Criminalizes Arts & Crafts

Remember playing with photos and scissors as a young teen? You’d make collages: your scrawny face on a caveman’s body, your friend’s body with the head of a dog, you and a movie star on a beach in Hawaii. Silly adolescent stuff, harmless.

Now what about putting your head on a movie star’s nude body? Or your neighbor kid’s face on your body? Still harmless, right?

When does this kind of stuff become illegal?

John Stelmack of Lakeland, FL found out the hard way. He allegedly cut out a Xerox copy of a girl’s head, taped it to a printout of an adult female’s body, and Xeroxed it again. According to one of his attorneys, “It was a very poor job, and anyone could tell this was not really a picture of the minor.” When this was accidentally discovered, he was arrested and convicted for creating and possessing child pornography. Remember, these are cut-and-paste productions, not actual photos, and not even computer morphs—of a couple of girls’ heads, and a few nude women’s bodies. His case is now being appealed.

OK, full disclosure: the guy is (or rather, was) an elementary school principle. Yes, this increases the yuck factor, but legally, it shouldn’t matter. He hasn’t been accused of inappropriate touching, suggesting, or even looking. He doesn’t have any history of creating problems or being a problem.

The problem with witches (17th century), Jews (18th & 19th century), and Communists (20th century) was, according to those who claimed to know, that they 1) were everywhere and 2) looked like “normal” people so they couldn’t be easily spotted. Thus the strategies, historically: drown a bunch of women and see if any non-witches survive; burn down Jews’ homes and force them to convert; defame and destroy a bunch of people and see who admits they’re a Red.

Today’s witches, Jews, and Communists are those a little too interested in childhood sexuality. Since it’s hard to tell the dangerous from the curious (or pathetic) in a single glance, many Americans say it’s safer to just arrest everyone who’s questionable. What’s John Stelmack’s life worth, if by sacrificing it we can save even one child from being molested?

According to Stelmack and his family, plenty. It should be worth its weight in gold to anyone concerned about matters such as freedom of speech, the presumption of innocence, and the influence of moral panics on the integrity of the judicial system.

If Stelmack’s conviction is affirmed, some logical questions follow:

* What if the person doing the cutting and pasting were the girl herself? Would she be busted the way teens who “sext” are being busted?
* What if the person doing the cutting and pasting was one of her parents?
* What if the body being morphed with the girl’s face was a nude adult man? Or a clothed but really sexy woman?
* Now that lewd cartoon characters of minors can be criminalized as child porn, what about morphing a girl’s face onto a sexy or nude cartoon body—illegal?

Photoshop is the new arts and crafts. Any adult interacting with kids is the new witch, Jew, Communist. Imprisoning those who play with digital scissors and glue doesn’t make any of us safer. It just pads the resume of some D.A. who doesn’t even consider Stelmack a human being, or our Constitutional system precious.

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