"a fish, a barrel, and a smoking gun"
for 16 September 1996. Updated every WEEKDAY.

Childhood's End



Hello, world.


While politicians refused to stop

debating if it takes a village

or a family to bring up boys and

girls, a different kind of

child-rearing seized the public

imagination. The back-to-school

season lost its innocence as the

media started muckracking

pedophiles like so many piles of

autumn leaves.



Police in Palo Alto, California,

charged a child-molesting MD

with trafficking in kiddie-porn

JPEGs and illicit prescriptions.

Across the Atlantic, Belgian

authorities continued to unearth

the dirty work of a more

enterprising pederast. A grim

combination of bedroom and

barnyard, the various properties

of Marc Dutroux turned up

hundreds of filthy videos and a

handful of slaughtered innocents

ranging in age from eight to 19,

some of whom had been starved to

death in trenchlike holding




Meanwhile, Scandinavia became the

antismut hot spot. In Helsinki,

Johan "Unlucky Pierre"

Helsingius - sandwiched between

The Observer's

circulation-boosting "campaign

to clean up the Internet" and

the Church of Scientology's

religio-economic crusade to

protect its copyrights - finally

unplugged anon.penet.fi. In

nearby Stockholm, earnest

citizens and functionaries from

the far reaches of the globe

banged their heads against the

intractable problems of child

prostitution and pornography.

The conference's perversely apt

name: World Congress Against

Commercial Sexual Exploitation

of Children.



Displaying appropriate

sensitivity, President Clinton

rolled out a political

prophylactic with an expansive,

inexpensive info-age tip: a

national database to track the

migrations of convicted sex

criminals. Others pressed

forward a sterner proposal - cut

to the root of the problem and

remove those uncontrollable

urges with "chemical

castration." Predictably, the

drive-dampening drugs left some

members of the liberal lobby

squirming in their seats. Said

one concerned sexpert: "Not

everybody does this just because

they have a high sex drive."



As Macaulay Culkin's mother and

father fight for sloppy seconds

from their son's flagging fame,

the biological and professional

parents of Tiger Woods are

engaging in a convoluted act of

corporate copulation. Indeed, as

impressive as the youngster's

power from the tee is his

meticulously crafted image.

Tiger Woods - the three-time

amateur champion who left

Stanford early to sign a

contract worth $40 million - is

a postmarketer's wet dream,

penetrating new markets by

promoting social progress. And

boy, do Nike and the PGA push it

to the hilt.


[Tiger Putting]

An under-21

African-Asian-American golfer,

Tiger couples underdeveloped

demographics for both the shoe

company and the sport; he

further embodies a contradiction

of class-straddling projections,

an unnatural union of Colin

Powell and Dinesh D'Souza, part

Shaq, part Soon-Yi. At his

introductory press conference,

Tiger greeted childhood's end

gamely: "Hello, world" -

coincidentally the tag line of

his commercial debut, a

harbinger of the colorblindness

promised to ride in his wake.


Now, television has long played

grab-ass with the pictures

inside our heads, short-selling

dreams with a steady supply of

product propaganda. The lowest

common denominator means content

providers can keep one hand on

the mass market's bottom line

while gently slipping the other

into the nether regions on the




Gentle persuasion, of course, has

been replaced by hard science.

The success of networked media

rests on the knowledge that

these tantalizing glimpses of

virgin territory keep the

audience in a perpetual state of

nympholepsy. As BellSouth

reaches its fiber-optic tendrils

into classrooms and Nintendo

tempts the nation's little

fingers to discover the

pleasures of 64 bits, their

convergence reflects the

insatiable industry appetite for

young flesh. The monster beneath

the bed has become the monster

in a box.


You get what you pay for.

courtesy of Bartleby