Thursday, October 06, 2005

Hype and Hysteria

Ok, now this is ridiculous. Here is Oprah's list of offender characteristics of child molesters--included on the list are adults who know too much about children's fads or music. I know many people who would fit this bill--I guess they should turn themselves in. But wait--states such as Alabama are tightening up on laws against child molesters--and Oprah promotes one sexual offense and life in prison, so it would probably be too risky. And the courts have very little in the way of restitution if a person is accused unfairly (see this article). In fact, you get more punishment for being cruel to a chicken in Arizona than you do for falsely accusing someone of being a child molester.

The emotionally driven laws and the media hype on child molesters could actually backfire--and some of the victims of its aftermath are children. For every list of "offender characteristics of child predators" that includes normal adult behavior, there are thousands of adults who will decide that the risk of mentoring children, talking to children or caring for children is too high. The child who is in need of a hug will get a shrug instead, the kid who is depressed will get a dismissal and the boy who needs a male mentor will get a cold shoulder.

I am not saying that child molesters should not be put behind bars--they absolutely should--but making laws and promoting social policy driven purely by emotions have a way of backfiring and hurting those they were most meant to help.
Girls Rule, Guys Drool?

I am practicing shooting video with my Canon GL2 Digital Camcordertoday which has been sitting dormant since I revised my last video, Six. The filmmakers who helped me make the documentary used a Canon XL1. In the new version, I used the GL2 to shoot some scenes in Kentucky under a bit of duress--I was standing in a field behind a dairy bar with mosquitoes eating my legs and on a very short time schedule. To my surprise, the video I shot of some relatives of a convicted murderer came out precisely the way I had imagined (actually better). The quality of the picture was excellent and I thought, better than the XL1.

My current project is getting together some web video on how boys feel about the current anti-male climate. I do think all this "girls rule, guys drool" (like the poster for a girls' fashion store above) affects guys in a negative way--more than they let on. If anyone has any suggestions for what they would like to see in a short web video--email me or post a comment.

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

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Queen Oprah

So yesterday I'm watching Oprah's show on child molesters featuring the Idaho case of Shasta Groene. This gruesome case is enough to get anyone up in arms, yet Oprah goes over the top at times. Her solution to keep child molesters off the street---put all molesters in jail for life the first time they molest a child. At first glance, this sounds like a good way to handle the monsters who are out there stalking children. But wait a second--what happens to the defendants who are accused of molesting a child but are innocent? How would the courts handle that?

I think what we really learn from Oprah's anger is that she will get back at anyone she does not like without thought to the repurcussions it could have on other people. For all the people out there who would vote for Oprah for president (which I find preposterous) ask yourself if you would want to incur her wrath. Just look at the poor Hermes president groveling on Oprah's show for not giving her a personal shopping day in a closed store. Oprah stated that this episode was not about shopping for a purse--but from the looks of it--it was about shopping for a purse and people not realizing how famous she is. Look how angry she gets when Katrina hits Louisiana. For Oprah, if the world doesn't go the way she wants, her tendency is to lash out. If Oprah isn't happy, someone is going to pay. Is that the kind of president you would want?

Monday, October 03, 2005

Telling Lies

Some of what forensic psychologists are asked to do is try to determine if people are lying (or malingering) about symptoms or information. How often do psychologists or psychiatrists figure out if people are lying? Not often. In a study of Secret Service agents, psychiatrists (both forensic and non-forensic), and college students, only the Secret Service agents excelled at catching liars. Paul Elkman, a professor of psychology who conducted this study, uses facial expressions and body language to catch liars.

I think that one reason for the poorer ability of psychiatrists to catch lies on video tape is that psychiatrists and forensic psychologists rely more on cognitive clues than on facial expressions to determine if a person is misleading them. I usually figure out if someone is lying by comparing their words to the the data I have before me; for example, if a kid tells me he shot a friend by accident and then I see a story he has written in school about a desire to kill his friend prior to the murder, it is probably a tip-off that something is not right.

I do find it interesting to try and determine who is lying (excuse me, I mean exaggerating) when looking at politicians' behavior on tv--take for example, Mayor of New Orleans Ray Nagin, when descibing all the babies being raped at the Superdome on Oprah. You have to ask yourself why someone would bring that up at all.

Telling Lies: Clues to Deceit in the Marketplace, Politics, and Marriageis a good read if you would like to understand more about how to spot a liar. It seems to me that all citizens could benefit from this training--given the misinformation and downright lying that appears more often then we would wish on tv and in the media.