The Justin Berry Story: Webcam Porn
With all the news about Bush and illegal spying, this front-and-center Pulitzer bid by the NYT, published on Monday, has gotten lost in the mix.
Basically, the reporter stumbles upon a repentant longtime teen webcam porn star and turns him into a de facto undercover super sting operative. It’s an amazing turn of events. Thanks to the intrepid NYT, the feds now have a series of sex predators in their snares, including the boy’s father. It’s a righteous and riveting story….but….
There’s something weird about the story. I can’t quite put my finger on it.
First from a reporting standpoint. There are a couple of oddities: The story never fully explains how the financial mechanics of the boy’s business worked. That is, how he actually managed all the money. (For example, how was he avoiding paying taxes on such a lucrative business?). Also, his mom’s absenteeism is curious. The kid purchases loads of tech equipment and rents an apartment near his house, and the mom is oblivious.
Intellectually, the story also raises more questions than it answers.
For a great deal of the time, the teen didn’t have a pimp type adult forcing him into this life. So, it’s not exactly clear to me what the grave issue is. Yes, it’s legally child pornography (so, that’s obviously a problem), but it raises a thorny issue around moral judgment: Who’s the victim? Adults shouldn’t be paying a 17-year-old to jerk off on-line, but, again, it was his own business, and he was quite savvy and proactive about luring people onto him. (He even uses cutthroat tactics to put a competitor out of business.)
Eventually, his estranged father enters the picture and starts procuring prostitutes for him, so he can have on-line sex, and yes, at that point in the story, there’s definitely some fucked up, illegal shit going on. The teen also has adult fans who fly him out for trips to Vegas and abuse him…and that’s fucked up child abuse.
But the on-line stuff is still a bit gray to me. I know that adults have money and power to lure the kid, and the article addresses that, but it also raises some (unintentional, I believe) questions about civil liberties on-line.
Did anyone read this story?