Wednesday, February 12, 2020

Noted elderly French author Gabriel Matzeneff now to be prosecuted for promoting underage sex in some of his books

Norimitsu Onishi reports on the criminal prosecution and upcoming trial of a noted French author, Gabriel Matzeneff (now 83, hiding out in Italy), apparently for “promoting pedophilia” in his books.  This New York Times story follows another one January 8 (linked).
The author had been “renowned” although his books had stopped selling. The trouble is that some of them, as far back as 1974, had described sexual activity with girls (15 is the legal floor in France) and some books circulated in the Philippines had included boys.
Nevertheless, the issue did not come to light until recently when one of his victims, Vanessa Springora, had a book called “Consent” (“Le Consentement”) about her experience with him, published in 2019.  The whole narrative fits into the “Me Too” movement, the prosecution of Harvey Weinstein and Ronan Farrow’s “Catch and Kill” (2019, Little Brown, 448 pages), which I am reading now (as well as the film “Scandalous”).
The New York Times article notes that the French “aristocracy” had gotten away with behavior not normally considered acceptable.  But it’s rather puzzling that establishment trade publishers (as opposed to porn publishers) would have accepted these books and bookstores would have sold them for so long.
The books, if they contained only words and not photos (drawings would be on the legal edge) would not have been illegal in the United States.
Again, this bizarre story related to printed books, not to websites and social media, where usually terms of service violations would get this content taken down or drive it to the dark web.
On the other hand, the French prosecutors are blaming the author for his influence on impressionable young men who then, perhaps lacking impulse control, go out and commit crimes.  This is a similar moral dilemma that we have on the Internet with radicalization (especially on the Right). People are to be held responsible for the acts of others if they are in able to function as a public influencer, perhaps. 

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