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Tom Flanagan calls child porn question “a trap”

Calgary professor explains his recent remarks


 

A former high-level political strategist criticized for his comments on child pornography says he was led into a trap.

Tom Flanagan, a political science professor at the University of Calgary, says in a guest column in the National Post that the question that prompted his controversial remarks came out of left field and had nothing to do with the native issues forum where he was speaking.

“In 45 years of university teaching, I have tried to deal with every question my students have asked, so I forged ahead here, unaware that this was a trap, not a bona fide question — a dumb mistake for someone of my age and experience,” Flanagan wrote Monday in the column.

He said he was unaware that his remarks were being recorded on video. That video was uploaded to the Internet last Wednesday, prompting every group Flanagan was publicly associated with to sever any real or perceived ties with him.

“I certainly have no sympathy for child molesters, but I do have some grave doubts about putting people in jail because of their taste in pictures,” Flanagan tells the crowd in the cellphone footage.

Flanagan apologized Thursday after the footage from the forum in Lethbridge, Alta., went viral, and did so again in the column.

“The last thing I would want to do is to inflict more hurt on people who’ve already suffered too much,” he wrote.

“It still bothers me that I did this, and I can’t say how sorry I am about it. I apologize again, though I know that’s not enough.”

Flanagan is a former senior adviser to Prime Minister Stephen Harper and at one time advised Reform party leader Preston Manning. Flanagan headed up the federal Conservative campaign in 2004 and ran the Alberta Wildrose party’s election campaign a year ago.

Harper’s office and Wildrose Leader Danielle Smith immediately denounced his remarks. They said that looking at child pornography perpetuates the criminal exploitation of children.

CBC-TV also announced it would no longer use Flanagan as a commentator on its “Power and Politics” show.

In the column, Flanagan said his “taste in pictures” comment was a “callous phrase.” He said he used it because, as a professor, he is trained to get students to think, which sometimes means challenging them with unconventional questions to prompt them to look at issues in different ways.

“It is the default mode to which I recur automatically, as I did in Lethbridge when I was asked about child pornography.”

He acknowledged he made similar comments at the University of Manitoba in 2009.

Flanagan went on to write that the nuance of his message got lost in the heckles of the Lethbridge crowd.

He further wrote that he doesn’t endorse viewing child pornography, but wonders if jailing violators is the best way to rehabilitate them.

“Might a regime of counselling and therapy be better, both for them and for society at large?” he asks in the column.

Smith said Flanagan’s editorial explanation “changes nothing for me.”

“The comments that he made last week were completely unacceptable and appalling, and I don’t think there’s any way you can talk your way into having Albertans believe anything that was said was reasonable.”

Flanagan, who is in his late 60s, remains on research leave at the University of Calgary. He announced in January that he would be retiring as a professor in June.

—Dean Bennett


 

Tom Flanagan calls child porn question “a trap”

  1. The question may or may not have been a trap. But his extemporaneous answer to the question is a true reflection of his
    thinking or belief about the issue. Should he be given a pass just because he is a professor? No way!

    • Does anyone know the student’s or students names credited with trapping Professor Flanagan? I woud like to nominate the student(s) for the Order of Canada or some such meritorius Canadian recognition. Brilliant!

  2. he should have his hard drives investigated…various media reports he was also a member of NAMBLA for 2 years…

  3. The bit that’s getting lost here is that he actually has a point. He is by no means the first person to question these laws, which are without precedent.

    Looking at pictures of a theft is not a crime. Watching a film of a murder taking place is not a crime. Watching a film of the rape or torture of an adult is not a crime. Seeing people sell, take or make drugs is not a crime. In fact, in all the possible crimes, only ONE has criminal penalties for viewing pictures of it.

    Now take a step back and consider that for a second. Is someone having sex with a 16 year old worse than the most heinous of all tortured deaths? Is a photo of the breast of a 15 year old worse than the entirety of the Luca Magnotta film? Not by any objective standard. And yet, it carries a – mandatory – criminal penalty. What’s going on here?

    Proponents of the laws would cry that these films exploit children, that they cause more child rapes. But there is no evidence that this is the case. And there is no reason given why this one crime, out of ALL the other crimes, would be so different in being the ONLY ONE where so much crime results from viewing the image, that it justifies summarily imprisoning anyone who sees it.

    Whether you like it or not the fact remains: there is no evidence that viewing child porn leads to an increased risk of sex with children. And there is no credence to the idea that a picture downloaded free from a newsgroup or shady Internet site, can “fund” child pornography. None. Zero. And as mentioned, nobody believes that this same argument applies to any of the other types of crime, sexual or otherwise. It’s a load of baloney.

    So Flanagan is entirely correct in his observation that these laws are completely out of step with not only what we know about crime, but that the reasons used to justify it are almost wholly false. It is a hard pill for people to swallow but to shoot the messenger doesn’t make it any less true.

  4. Ah ha, the Aboriginal student who asked the unrelated question played the crow, a trickster who caught the loquacious professor in a net of public opprobrium for something said off-the-cuff.

    Thing is Crow’s tricks usually backfire. Let’s see where all this leads.

  5. “Tom Flanagan calls child porn question “a trap””

    Whine, whine, whine – Flanagan will use any excuse trying to explain away his evil comments.
    His apology for his comments is totally unacceptable as there was absolutely no sane reason for making them in the first place – especially when he likes to consider himself an intelligent human.
    The only excuse that I can come up with is that he is suffering from a pervert’s dementia.

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