Won’t someone think of the children?

The past few days, the local media (and hence my news feeds) have been inundated with stories about Jean-François Harrisson. If you don’t know the story by now, you’re clearly out of the loop.

Harrisson is a star on VRAK.TV, a Quebec franco youth cable channel. He was arrested this week and charged with possession and distribution of child pornography, as well as drug possession. As you can imagine, being a children’s television star not only makes this ironic but puts the channel in an awkward position.

On Friday VRAK.TV reacted by saying it would pull all programming that features Harrisson until further notice. Similarly, Radio-Canada had to spike an episode of Pyramide with him and a youth employment centre said it would ask schools not to show an educational video for students that features him.

Though I think these decisions are more about good PR and silencing outraged parents than they are about protecting children, it’s their decisions to make. This kind of thing is always arbitrary and tends to have more to do with a cost-benefit analysis than morality (banning Chris Brown’s music is simple after he beat up his girlfriend, but I don’t recall cable channels cutting Seinfeld reruns and Lethal Weapon movies when everyone found out that Michael Richards and Mel Gibson were racists).

But child porn is a pretty serious charge, above most celebrity DUI/assault/drug charges but below O.J.ing your wife. So go ahead and throw the baby out with the bathwater, banning countless hours of television footage because one guy did something bad when he was off the set.

Keep in mind, of course, that he hasn’t been convicted of anything yet. A press conference is scheduled for Monday so his agent can present a public response ot the charges. UPDATE: The press conference was cancelled at the last minute after the agent realized there’s an ongoing criminal investigation and commenting on it is a bad idea.

Let’s talk about kiddie porn, kids!

The measure taken that really gets me is opening up a discussion forum on VRAK.TV about this issue so the children themselves can talk about it. The forum has the rather vague title “Derniers événements” and the introductory text doesn’t mention Harrisson by name or give any clue what it’s talking about.

Maybe I’m missing something here. I understand the need to talk to children when bad grown-up things happen. But how does an anonymous web forum devoted to the discussion of a guy charged with child pornography help children in any way?

Am I the only one that finds it ironic that they consider his face taboo and will pull all scenes with it from the airwaves but seem perfectly content to invite children to comment on a web forum about the child pornography charges he’s facing?

Discussion of things like this online by children is inevitable. If they didn’t have a dedicated forum, the discussion would happen on other forums, or on Facebook or somewhere else. But having an adult explain the issue to them and answer their questions in a heavily moderated forum would make a heck of a lot more sense than this online chat free-for-all, no?

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