Guest Post: “Can We At Least Agree On This?”

by

Paul Petersen, guest blogger

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[This is Paul Petersen’s second guest blogger appearance on Ethics Alarms. Based on his own experiences as a child actor on “The Donna Reed Show” and what he observed in the treatment of his less fortunate colleagues in the field, Paul  created the profession of child performer advocate and activist, educating the public and assisting individual  performers. (His Facebook friend list is a Who’s Who of former child actors.) Although Paul is officially retired, he continues to speak out about conditions, legal and otherwise, that place child performers in financial, physical, and social peril. The number of child stars, current or grown, who are indebted to him and his organization A Minor Consideration are beyond counting. A true Ethics Hero, his work and statements have been referenced here many times.–Jack]

Can we at least agree on this? Children are a special class of humankind. They are uniquely unformed, utterly dependent, and slaves to the adults who brought them into this world and the society into which they were born.

We all know how children are created, right? They did not ask for this. They are, in a word, innocent. Biologically mature adults are responsible. Of that there is no doubt. Children are a special charge. The rules, for kids, are different…or at least they used to be.

When did they become sexual objects? Since when are they merely background players, mere props? Who decreed that a child immersed in a working environment in which all the contributory adults are compensated for their labor, could somehow NOT be themselves working? Continue reading

Seven Ethics Observations On The Josh Duggar Child Molestation Revelations

19 kids

Yes, this is an Ethics Train Wreck.

First, some background:

“19 Kids and Counting” is another reality show featuring the exploitation of children for their parents fame and profit broadcast by the  cable channel TLC, the same shameless bunch that bought us “Jon and Kate Plus 8” and the trashy Honey Boo-Boo Bunch.It began as “17 Kids and Counting,” became “18 Kids and Counting,” and but for this emerging fiasco, might have kept adding numbers, and little unpaid performers,  ad infinitum.  The show featured the godly, conservative, fertile Jim Bob and Michelle Duggar and their nine girls and ten boys, all of whose names begin with the letter “J.” Since the show began, three of the children have been married and several grandchildren have been born. The series began on September 29, 2008.  February 17, 2015 marked Season 10.

In response to emerging reports that oldest son Dugger son Josh, now 27, was once accused of molesting five underage girls as a teen, Josh Duggar, his wife Anna, and his parents Jim Bob and Michelle jointly explained the circumstances, which had not been revealed outside the family until now. “Twelve years ago, as a young teenager, I acted inexcusably for which I am extremely sorry and deeply regret. I hurt others, including my family and close friends,” Josh said  in a statement. “I confessed this to my parents who took several steps to help me address the situation. We spoke with the authorities where I confessed my wrongdoing, and my parents arranged for me and those affected by my actions to receive counseling. I understood that if I continued down this wrong road that I would end up ruining my life.”

Josh then resigned from his position at the Family Research Council.

Jim Bob and Michelle Duggar had this to say about their son:

“Back 12 years ago our family went through one of the most difficult times of our lives. When Josh was a young teenager, he made some very bad mistakes, and we were shocked. We had tried to teach him right from wrong. That dark and difficult time caused us to seek God like never before. Even though we would never choose to go through something so terrible, each one of our family members drew closer to God. We pray that as people watch our lives they see that we are not a perfect family. We have challenges and struggles every day. It is one of the reasons we treasure our faith so much because God’s kindness and goodness and forgiveness are extended to us – even though we are so undeserving. We hope somehow the story of our journey – the good times and the difficult times – cause you to see the kindness of God and learn that He can bring you through anything.”

TLC cancelled the show. It said, on its Facebook page,

“Effective immediately, TLC has pulled all episodes of 19 Kids and Counting currently from the air. We are deeply saddened and troubled by this heartbreaking situation, and our thoughts and prayers are with the family and victims at this difficult time”

Then GOP presidential candidate Mike Huckabee issued his own Facebook statement in support of Josh and the family:

“Janet and I want to affirm our support for the Duggar family. Josh’s actions when he was an underage teen are as he described them himself, ‘inexcusable,’ but that doesn’t mean ‘unforgivable.’ He and his family dealt with it and were honest and open about it with the victims and the authorities. No purpose whatsoever is served by those who are now trying to discredit Josh or his family by sensationalizing the story. Good people make mistakes and do regrettable and even disgusting things. The reason that the law protects disclosure of many actions on the part of a minor is that the society has traditionally understood something that today’s blood-thirsty media does not understand—that being a minor means that one’s judgement is not mature. No one needs to defend Josh’s actions as a teenager, but the fact that he confessed his sins to those he harmed, sought help, and has gone forward to live a responsible and circumspect life as an adult is testament to his family’s authenticity and humility. Those who have enjoyed revealing this long ago sins in order to discredit the Duggar family have actually revealed their own insensitive bloodthirst, for there was no consideration of the fact that the victims wanted this to be left in the past and ultimately a judge had the information on file destroyed—not to protect Josh, but the innocent victims. Janet and I love Jim Bob and Michelle and their entire family. They are no more perfect a family than any family, but their Christian witness is not marred in our eyes because following Christ is not a declaration of our perfection, but of HIS perfection. It is precisely because we are all sinners that we need His grace and His forgiveness. We have been blessed to receive God’s love and we would do no less than to extend our love and support for our friends. In fact, it is such times as this, when real friends show up and stand up. Today, Janet and I want to show up and stand up for our friends. Let others run from them. We will run to them with our support.”

Observations: Continue reading

Caring Letter From A Child Star

Sarah and the Baron.

Sarah and the Baron.

This remarkable letter is old—2005—but I just became aware of it, and it is an important document in the ongoing problem of the mistreatment of child performers.

I am a fan of film director (and Monty Python member) Terry Gilliam, and a great admirer of Canadian actress/director/political activist Sarah Polley. So naturally I love “The Adventures Baron Munchausen,” Gilliam’s epic fantasy that starred Polley when she was the tender age of 9, and gave one of the most impressive performances of any juvenile actress, ever. In 2005, Gilliam was filming another movie with a young star, and 17 years after working with him, Polley felt obligated to write this letter, which speaks for itself, and eloquently too:

Hi there, Terry.

Continue reading

Petersen Was Right: “Jon & Kate” Exploited Their Kids

Back when everyone was buzzing about TLC’s reality show “Jon & Kate Plus 8,” long before the dark side of the show began to emerge, before the messy divorce of the couple, before Kate was revealed as a castrating control freak and Jon showed himself to have the maturity of a 12-year-old, and long, long before Kate demonstrated that she may be the least watchable dancer ever to appear in televised dance show, child performer advocate Paul Petersen was sounding the alarm that the show violated child labor laws. Reality show producers sneak in through loop-holes in the laws regulating scripted shows, and Petersen, to  nasty derision from some quarters, kept making the point that what the Gosselins were doing with their eight children was against the law, harmful to them, and wrong.

Now that the show is off the air, Pennsylvania, where it was filmed, has finally gotten around to looking into Petersen’s allegations, and guess what? He was right all the time. Continue reading

Isolating Corey Haim: Child Star Deceit and Disinformation in the Media

It is clear that the news media, and especially the entertainment and pop culture media, don’t want to lose their cuddly child performers. Thus when a former kid star like Corey Haim perishes at a young age, the victim of a dysfunctional childhood turned fatal by addictions to fame and drugs, the sad story is usually told as a cautionary tale about how one young actor’s early promise and talent turned to dust and destruction because of his own weaknesses and missteps. A responsible media would use such events to examine the larger, serious, and mostly ignored problem of child abuse and exploitation in the entertainment business, and its terrible toll of casualties.The media is not responsible on this topic, however, and in the case of Haim, seemed to go out of its way to falsely represent his fate as the exception, rather than the rule. Continue reading

Ethics Dunces: The Learning Channel, and Us

Remember “Jon and Kate Plus 8,” the late, unlamented TLC cable hit that managed to  destroy the Gosselin family, turn a mother of eight young children into a single mom, and raise troubling questions about child labor and the exploitation of kids by the entertainment industry? Apparently the only thing the Learning Channel remembers about it is all the money the channel made from the show, because it has recruited yet another family to exploit and destroy. Continue reading