Workers Vanguard No. 886

16 February 2007


Amid World Anti-Porn Witchhunt

Teacher Convicted in Connecticut Computer Porn Case

On January 5, a substitute teacher in Norwich, Connecticut, was convicted of four counts of “risk of injury to a minor” and faces a maximum of 40 years in prison—all because of porn ads that accidentally popped up on a classroom computer. The 40-year-old teacher, Julie Amero, faces sentencing on March 2. This grotesque case, an instance of the anti-sex hysteria pushed by both the Democrats and Republicans at all levels of government, should be thrown out of court with all charges dropped!

There was no crime. There was no injury. There were only a few seventh graders possibly managing a peek at some images of human sexual activity. It’s today’s equivalent of 20 years ago finding a Playboy in your dad’s sock drawer. For pubescent youth, we need hardly point out, the search for such basic and vital information is hardly restricted to classroom accidents. Still, the incident was enough to unleash the guard dogs of state repression against the unfortunate teacher.

Julie Amero is being victimized by an anti-porn, anti-sex campaign that is being expanded by capitalist governments internationally. Reactionary legislation in the U.S. has already branded hundreds of men and women “sex offenders” for engaging in consensual activity. Pilloried via public Internet listings, their lives already have been ruined, and some have even been murdered. Two men on such a registry were killed in Washington state in 2005, and two more the next year in Maine. Now hundreds more face state repression. A massive hunt was just initiated worldwide for over 2,000 individuals from 77 countries who supposedly tried to access “child pornography” on a computer in Austria. The New York Times (8 February) reports that “the F.B.I. is looking for as many as 600 suspects in the United States…. Germany has been given about 400 names and France close to 100.”

Now Senator John McCain has introduced a bill to set up a database of “illegal images” and to force Internet service providers and Web sites “to alert the government to any illegal images of real or ‘cartoon’ minors,” while another bill “would require all Internet service providers to track their customers’ online activities to aid police in future investigations” (New York Times, 9 February).

After interviewing Julie Amero, journalist Brian Krebs wrote in his January 25 “Security Fix” blog on the Washington Post Web site: “Amero described herself as the kind of person who can hardly find the power button on a computer, saying she often relies on written instructions from her husband explaining how to access e-mail.” She said that when she reported for work to a seventh grade classroom at Kelly Middle School on 19 October 2004, she saw two students looking at an innocuous-seeming hairstyling site, but then pop-ups appeared and, she said, “They wouldn’t go away. I mean, some of the sites stayed on there no matter how many times I clicked the red X, and others would just pop back up.” Then, Krebs reported, “Amero said she panicked and ran down the hall to the teacher’s lounge to ask for help. ‘I dared not turn the computer off. The teacher had asked me not to sign him out’ of the computer, she recalled.” No one would help. After some students told their parents, the school told her not to come back. Shortly after, the police arrested her.

Krebs’ “Security Fix” blog describes what happened in great detail, understandable to those familiar with computer viruses, Trojan-horse programs, spyware, firewalls and so on. The school network had outdated software and lacked porn and other pop-up blockers. But at her trial, Amero’s defense was not allowed to give a demonstration proving that the pop-ups were accidental, as well as offer other evidence. While the major news media have all but ignored this story, computer experts, including from PC World, a main industry magazine, and others have voiced outrage at her conviction.

Looking at porn on the computer, or in books or films, should be no crime, for anybody. We pointed out in a leaflet opposing last fall’s California “sex dragnet” Proposition 83 (see WV No. 880, 10 November 2006): “The witchhunters want to equate looking at pornography with violent crimes such as rape, sexual assault and even murder, singling out child pornography as especially pernicious. Like all pornography, it is simply words and images designed for pleasure.” The Spartacist League opposes the outrageous intrusion of the government into private life and demands an end to all laws against “crimes without victims,” such as prostitution, drug use and pornography.

In the U.S. and elsewhere, the attitude of the capitalist state when it comes to the explosive intersection of youth and sex is, literally, “God forbid somebody might learn something.” A Texas art teacher, a 28-year classroom veteran, was suspended and told her contract would not be renewed for taking her pupils to the Dallas Museum of Art last April, where they glimpsed—oh the horror!—nude statues. And last month in Yonkers, New York, a seventh-grade teacher was barred from classes after asking students in a health class to draw accurate male anatomy. More generally, “abstinence-only” programs have been promoted in the schools over the past decade, pushing ignorance and fear about sex. As for research into sexuality, about the same time that Amero was arrested, a scientist at San Francisco State University said, “I have been in this field for 30 years, and the level of fear and intimidation is higher now than I can ever remember” (New York Times, 9 November 2004).

As we concluded our article on California’s Prop. 83:

“At bottom, the anti-sex witchhunt serves to bolster the capitalist order through propping up its three key supports: the state, organized religion, and the institution of the family, the central source of women’s oppression. It will take a socialist revolution to sweep away the capitalist system and replace the family with socialized childcare and housework, freeing women to play a full role in social and political life. For women’s liberation through socialist revolution!”