Architects of Oppression: Hoover and the FBI

Part 1 [Hoover]

Passing the Victorian-Puritan Torch

The inveterate communist-hunter J. Edgar Hoover is well known to have kept tabs on political activists, gays, so-called "obscene" material of all kinds, and even sex researcher Alfred Kinsey -- not to mention the special files he kept on those in the media who spoke ill of the FBI, and on any dirt that could be used to get an advantage against politicians and other public figures.

What is less well remembered is that from the 1930s to the 1960s, he personally led repeated publicity campaigns on the subject that came to be known as "stranger danger." Hoover also reportedly was an admirer of Anthony Comstock, studied his tactics, and even went to visit him in his twilight years.

In 1919, at age 24, Hoover was made the head of "a new division of the Justice Department's Bureau of Investigation, the General Intelligence Division. It would investigate the programs of radical groups and identify their members."

From the beginning and throughout his career, a large part of Hoover's daily work involved spying on and disrupting the efforts of political activists. Later that same year, 1919, Hoover took part in the infamous "Palmer Raids."

The Palmer Raids were attempts by the United States Department of Justice to arrest and deport radical leftists, especially anarchists, from the United States. The raids and arrests occurred in November 1919 and January 1920 under the leadership of Attorney General A. Mitchell Palmer.


Palmer, in his journal article The Case Against the Reds (1920), included in a list of those he opposed as "reds": the International Workers of the World, "the most radical socialists, the misguided anarchists, the agitators who oppose the limitations of unionism, the moral perverts and the hysterical neurasthenic women who abound in communism."

Following the lead of Palmer, Hoover would become well known for associating homosexuality, or "sexual deviance," with left-wing tendencies.

Hoover was systematic in his work. Within just two years at the General Intelligence Division, Hoover had compiled an index of over 400,000 names of political activists. His efforts did not go unrewarded.

In May 1924, he was named acting director of the Bureau of Investigation. In December the appointment was made permanent. Much has been made of Hoover's sweeping reorganization of the Bureau immediately upon taking office as director.

One noteworthy change: In 1925, the Bureau began to systematically monitor "obscene or indecent" materials -- eventually amassing what was reputedly the world's largest porn collection.

  • (humorous aside: In the FBI files on the Kinsey Institute it is revealed that during the same period when the FBI was investigating the Institute in relation to a shipment of porn from overseas that had been addressed to them, the Institute was writing letters to the FBI seeking access to their vast porn collection for research purposes. Hoover's answer was "no way.")

Defender of Threatened Childhood

In the 1930s, there was a nationwide wave of concern about "sexual deviants" which included sensational stories about sex crimes against children and women, as well as police crackdowns against gays, and increased policing of public sexual expression in the form of the Motion Picture Code as well as new laws regulating homosocial activity in bars (prohibiting holding hands or dancing with the same sex, for example).

Hoover and the FBI cannot be credited with instigating this wave of sex-panic. However, Hoover "Played an important role in fueling the national hysteria and channeling it into support for stronger law enforcement."

In joining the panic, Hoover fully employed his media savy and his well-honed skills in sensationalism. In a high profile article called "War on the Sex Criminal" (September 26, 1937), published in newspapers nationwide, Hoover announced:

  • "The sex fiend, most loathsome of all the vast army of crime, has become a sinister threat to the safety of American childhood and womanhood."

See page 206 of "Uncontrolled Desires": The Response to the Sexual Psychopath, 1920-1960, by Estelle B. Freedman; in Passion and Power: Sexuality in History, ed. Kathy Peiss et. al. (Temple University Press, 1989)

Advocate of "Cure" through "Persistant Investigation"

Hoover took sex-panic a step beyond mere fear-mongering. In a speech in December of 1937, Hoover drew upon the work of the medical community, and particularly forensic medicine, to endorse a new approach to crime:

. . . many of these crimes are those of degeneracy, often committed by persons afflicted with diseases which only recently have been discussed in public. . . . To my mind, crime is as malignant as any cancer, and it is as distinct a subject of health as tuberculosis. . . . The surprising increase of sex crimes within the last few years revealed an urgent necessity for corrective action by every public-minded body. . . . There should be given to the cure of degeneracy the same thought, the same eager perseverance, the same persistent investigation, that has resulted in the lessening of many other dangerous diseases.

Background of Hoover's Thought

The medical concept of sexual degeneracy dates to the 18th century, when a Swiss physician named Tissot developed a theory that loss of semen would lead to a general breakdown of the human organism (having no semen, of course women were broken down, in a manner of speaking, by definition).

The theory had been endorsed by leading physicians of the Victorian era in Europe and the US, including the top US surgeon and inventor of Corn Flakes, John Harvey Kellogg. These doctors believed that masturbation and all other activities leading to orgasm were devastating to both physical and mental health (and yes, they were very religious men, especially Kellogg).

Like Hoover's role fomenting child-sex-panic, this profoundly influential medical theory of sexual degeneracy is almost unmentioned on the internet

  • (although there are numerous mentions of Kellogg's anti-sexual obsessions -- which led, for example, to the invention of corn flakes as a food that, it was presumed, would not excite sexual passions).

Two excellent books on the subject, both by John Money, are available:

In the late 19th century, this erroneous medical theory (used to convert all the sexual practices proscribed by St. Paul and the Puritans into a catalog of newly named diseases) had been transformed into a sort of criminological theory by the European creators of the new field of criminology, including Cessare Lombroso (these doctors and early criminologists are on my to-do list of "Architects").

Now in 1937, top G-Man and anti-Communist crusader J. Edgar Hoover was endorsing the pseudo-scientific concept of "degeneracy" -- already discredited in medicine -- as a basis to expand both government and private surveillance and intervention in the sexual life of the nation. And Hoover backed his words with actions.

Expanding Sexual Surveillance

According to historian Aaron J. Stockham: "Beginning in 1937 and continuing until 1977, the FBI investigated gays as potential security risks who could be blackmailed. Numerous men and women were removed from their government and non-government positions because of the information Hoover's bureau dug up. Only Communists were more systematically investigated by the FBI.

In 1951, Hoover took yet another step and created a "Sex Deviates program, which sought to identify gays and lesbians working in government. This function was expanded in 1953 after a presidential order by Dwight Eisenhower made federal employment of homosexuals illegal." The program targeted "alleged homosexuals from any position in the federal government, from the lowliest clerk to the more powerful position of White house aide."

It has been suggested that Hoover's extreme vigilance regarding the actions and publications of "homosexuals" was related to the frequent rumors that circulated about his own sexuality and his close relationship with assistant Clyde Tolson. An especially good article on this is here:

He and his agents went to extreme measures to monitor and actively suppress all such rumors, with agents in several cases visiting the alleged source of the rumor to threaten or intimidate them -- for example, in one case, two "senior FBI officials" visited the operator of a beauty parlor to interrogate her regarding reports that she had told one of her customers that Hoover was "queer." These rumors and innuendo began appearing in the print media as early as 1926 and were especially prevalent in the early days of his directorship -- before he developed the power and strategies he would later use to intimidate the speakers into silence. A number of the highest-profile online articles cite critics of these rumors and suggest that they are based on one or two non-credible sources. However, the outhistory link above cites a much broader range of sources, most of which are not addressed by these criticisms.

It is also worth noting that most of Hoover's sex-related policing was targeted at pornography (including mere nudity) and homosexuality, not specifically sex offenses involving minors. But it must be pointed out that before 1960, the line between "homosexual" and other forms of "sex deviant" or "sex pervert" was very blurry. Speakers were loath to be specific as it was so "dirty" to even mention any aspect of the subject. And sexual contacts between a man and a boy over 11 were often labeled with the same terminology applied to sexual contacts between two men over 30. Today, the broader terms deviant and pervert are frequently treated as if they were merely euphemisms for homosexuality. But the fact is they were catch-all terms applied in relation to a wide range of behaviors including homosexual contacts involving minors, as well as numerous variants of heterosexual conduct.

Shaping the Myth

I am sorry to say that Hoover's repeated media campaigns specifically on the subject of sex crimes against children, well documented in a book I read long ago and the title of which I cannot remember, is just barely mentioned on the internet. My recollection is that, based upon the numerous campaigns quoted at length in the book, Hoover can be considered personally responsible for cementing in the public mind the idea of the dangerous stranger lying in wait for an unsupervised child, having literally created the original "stranger danger" media campaign. I have been able to locate two further references to this role.

Amidst another wave of sex panic in 1947, fanned by sensationalist media reports of sex crimes against children, Hoover wrote another of his hyperbolic editorials. In the article, titled "How Safe is Your Daughter?" he declared

  • "the most rapidly increasing type of crime is that perpetrated by degenerate sex offenders. . . . Should wild beasts break out of circus cages, the whole city would be mobilized instantly. But depraved human beings, more savage than beasts, are permitted to rove America almost at will."

Perhaps the most telling reference is from former FBI Special Agent Kenneth Lanning, specialist in crimes against children -- whom the old timers here will remember as a frequent source of quotes to the media about "child molesters" during the witch-hunts of the 1980s.

Especially during the 1950s and 1960s the primary focus in the limited literature and discussions of the sexual victimization of children was on “stranger danger” — the dirty old man in the wrinkled raincoat approaching an innocent child at play. . . .

During this time the FBI distributed a poster epitomizing this attitude. It showed a man, with his hat pulled down, lurking behind a tree with a bag of candy in his hands. He was waiting for a sweet little girl walking home from school alone. At the top it read, “Boys and Girls, color the page, memorize the rules.” At the bottom it read, “For your protection, remember to turn down gifts from strangers, and refuse rides offered by strangers.” The poster clearly contrasts the evil of the offender with the goodness of the child victim. When confronted with such an offender the advice to the child is simple and clear — say no, yell, and tell.

Tracing Hoover's Legacy, Ideas and Support

Hoover was not a significant theorist responsible for developing new ideas and rationalizations behind the oppression of man-boy love. His ideas came from pre-existing sources, in interaction with the developing cultural discourse of his time. But Hoover occupied a unique position of moral authority as the nation's "top" law enforcement officer. As such, he had considerable influence over a large network of journalists, broadcasters, movie studios, and authors -- extending over half a century.

The specific set of ideas that he chose to promote --

  • "sex fiend,"
  •  "degenerate sex offenders,"
  • "depraved human beings, more savage than beasts,"
  • "sinister threat to the safety of American childhood and womanhood"

-- these ideas would become seared into the consciousness of 20th century America's parents and children. His "stranger danger" campaigns -- campaigns that he would certainly have known were based upon false assumptions -- would haunt American culture for decades beyond his death, maybe for decades beyond all of ours.

He was influenced by the Puritan traditions of Comstock and the dominant WASP social groups, as well as the more modern pseudo-scientific medical theories -- whose roots also trace back to St. Augustine and St. Paul. His supporters, among both the nation's power elites and the general public, were influenced by these same traditions, and by and large, they readily accepted his vision of the dreaded sex fiend. 

But Hoover's vision was not unopposed. A few years after Hoover died, in 1977, the files on homosexuals were destroyed. Two decades of organizing and activism by gays and liberals had radically changed the public discourse. Alfred Kinsey, Wardell Pomeroy and their associates at the Kinsey Institute had raised important questions about the social benefits of the laws regulating sex and the mythical status of sex offenders -- of all kinds. During the 1970s, gay activists, following the enlightenment-inspired feminist argument that a person should have control over their own body, challenged age-of-consent laws -- which at the time were enforced primarily against gay men involved with teenaged boys.

Times had changed and gays were stepping out of their role as scapegoats and into a new role within the realm of "legitimate" political discourse. Organized activism forced the FBI to release their grip on homosexuals. But the FBI did not let go of their concept of the "sex fiend." They continued to stay deeply involved in fueling moral panics. Stoking the flames of witch-hunts has been their stock in trade since 1919. J. Edgar Hoover's "sex fiend" would live on in the form of the "child molester."

Part 2 [Lanning]

I'm including this second section on the FBI under the rubric of Hoover, because I want the historical development of the agency and its evolving role in the public discourse to be clear.

This section focuses mostly on the work of Kenneth Lanning. As with each of my subjects, Lanning's career and writings (as well as those of the FBI more broadly) deserve a closer look and a deeper analysis than I can give him in this brief sketch. But my aim is to highlight key points that should not be overlooked.

Post-Hoover: A New Era for the FBI

In 1981, Kenneth Lanning joined the Behavioral Science Unit at the FBI Academy in Quantico, Virginia. In Quantico, Lanning "specialized in studying all aspects of the sexual victimization of children."

The FBI Behavioral Science Unit provides assistance to criminal justice professionals in the United States and foreign countries. It attempts to develop practical applications of the behavioral sciences to the criminal justice system. As a result of training and research conducted by the Unit and its successes in analyzing violent crime, many professionals contact the Behavioral Science Unit for assistance and guidance in dealing with violent crime, especially those cases considered different, unusual, or bizarre. This service is provided at no cost and is not limited to crimes under the investigative jurisdiction of the FBI.

(Re)Defining the Demon

For several years, Lanning was the key mouthpiece of the FBI on the subject of "sexual victimization of children." As such, he was often called upon by the media for quotes with which they could pepper their articles on the sensational subject.

A near-classic example would be this quote from the LA Times, in a 1988 story on efforts by youth sports groups to avoid occurances of sexual abuse

  • (actually, this journalist quotes from "the book," which Lanning wrote on the subject -- as in, "he wrote the book on that." If I had more time and a good library on hand, I would regale you with numerous earlier newspaper and magazine quotes directly from Lanning):

According to an FBI study published by the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children in Washington, pedophiles seek out youth organizations as a place to meet children.

"Pedophiles are frequently 'nice guys' in the neighborhood who like to entertain the children after school or take them on day or weekend trips," said the FBI's Kenneth V. Lanning in his report, "Child Molesters: A Behavioral Analysis." Pedophiles often take jobs dealing with children and "may often become a Scout leader, Big Brother, foster parent (or) Little League coach," he said in his 58-page report.

"Some pedophiles can watch a group of children for a brief period of time and then select a potential target," Lanning said. "More often than not, the selected child turns out to be from a broken home or the victim of emotional or physical neglect. This skill is developed through practice and experience."

Notice the social role that this agent of the FBI is playing -- telling us what "pedophiles" are like, defining, for public consumption, this new form of demon. By this point, the FBI has shifted it's rhetorical approach away from Comstock's language of puritan judgement, and toward Krafft-Ebing's science-inspired medico-legal jargon

  • (but still founded on the same set of moral values, translated into medical terms and subdivided into the taxonomy of perversion -- the 20th-century demonology).

The document quoted in the LA Times article above is worthy of special mention. It is titled "Child Molesters: A Behavioral Analysis For Professionals Investigating the Sexual Exploitation of Children."

It was written for the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children, a private agency that works in close cooperation with the FBI and receives large grants from the Department of Justice (the FBI is a bureau within the Department of Justice). I will focus more on the NCMEC later. Lanning's "Behavioral Analysis" has been through five editions, with the latest published in 2010. It is widely cited and widely available on the internet. I haven't taken the time (yet) to compare the various editions, but I suspect it would be an interesting exercise. Here are links to the third and fifth editions:

Strict and Unflinching Application of the Law

Lanning is a somewhat enigmantic figure. Despite working for an organization renowned for its use of sensational publicity, and despite specializing in the most sensational subject one could choose, he takes a very different approach from J. Edgar Hoover, in that he seems to eschew sensationalism. A stickler for unflinching accuracy, Lanning highlights facts that many in his field find too uncomfortable to mention, such as the fact that it is possible "for a 5-year-old child to be sexually promiscuous." 

Indeed, Lanning "wrote the book" on this subject as well (also in multiple editions, each one funded by DOJ grants funneled through the NCMEC) -- he called such children "compliant victims."

In this discussion, the term compliant will be used to describe those children who cooperate in or “consent” to their sexual victimization. Because children cannot legally consent to having sex with adults, this compliance should not in any way alter the fact that they are victims of serious crimes.

Some have suggested using terms such as statutory, complicit, consensual, voluntary, cooperating, or participatory to refer to such victims. Each of these terms may have perceptual advantages and disadvantages. The term compliant is being used, however, because at this time I cannot think of a better one. The term used is not as important as recognizing and understanding the reality of the behavioral dynamics involved. For the sake of child victims and professional interveners, it is important to bring out into the open possible reasons for and the complexity and significance of this compliance. [. . .]

Society seems to have a problem dealing with any sexual-victimization case in which the adult offender is not completely "bad" or the child victim is not completely "good." The idea that child victims could simply behave like human beings and respond to the attention and affection of offenders by voluntarily and repeatedly returning to an offender's home is a troubling one. For example, it confuses us to see the victims in child pornography giggling or laughing. [. . .]

Most acquaintance-exploitation cases, including those involving computers, involve these seduced or compliant victims. Although applicable statutes and investigative or prosecutive priorities may vary, individuals investigating sexual-exploitation cases must generally start from the premise that the sexual activity is not the fault of the victim even if the child:

  • Did not say "no"
  • Did not fight
  • Actively cooperated
  • Initiated the contact
  • Did not tell
  • Accepted gifts or money
  • Enjoyed the sexual activity

Since retiring from the FBI, Lanning has made quite a career out of speaking on the subject. It appears some of his presentations may be available online:

In his quest for accuracy, Lanning went so far as to call into question the satanic panic of the late 1980s and 90s. He was even interviewed about it by CBS News' 48 Hours.

Many here will appreciate Lanning's frankness in discussing the "needs, wants, and desires" of children and teens, his recognition that children are no innocent angels, and that 16 yo adolescents are more like 26 yo adults than 6 yo children.

But his point in highlighting these things is to ensure that "interveners" are prepared, so they won't allow them to affect the prosecution of a criminal case. Lanning insists that even though children do in fact "consent" to sex,

  • "their frequent cooperation in their victimization must be viewed as an understandable human characteristic that should have little or no criminal-justice significance."

In this sense, he still has much in common with Puritans, who were not shy about noting the "willfulness" of children, and who would not allow the "needs, wants, and desires" of children to affect their moral condemnation of proscribed behaviors and the punishments they meted out.

Another thing that Lanning does not say much about is the notion of "harm" from sexual experience. What is important to Lanning is the law

  • (concerns about harm may -- or may not -- have motivated the passage of the law, but once the law is passed, the presence or absence of harm in any given case is irrelevant to the prosecution).

This is another thing that he and the "community" of law enforcers that he represents have in common with Puritans. In their case it is God's law, in his case it is man's law. But I suspect he fully understands the historical influence of the one upon the other.

[Part 3:] Architects of Oppression: Ernie Allen and the NCMEC

I've bitten off a big chunk here, and I've had to be a bit hasty with the research and writing. Unlike Comstock and Hoover, I can't draw upon my recollections of a well-written book that nicely summarizes the subject. Indeed, there is very little critical writing on this particular subject, and most of what there is comes from a perspective lacking in understanding or recognition of sexual politics (see the last section on "critics"). But I think I've got most of the main points in here.


Meet Ernie Allen

Sept. 15, 2004


Mr. McCONNELL: Mr. President, I rise today to pay tribute to a friend of over 40 years-a fellow Kentuckian who has had a national impact. It is an honor and a privilege to congratulate my good friend, Ernie Allen, on winning the Henry Clay Distinguished Kentuckian Award from the Kentucky Society of Washington. Ernie's work as President and CEO of the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children makes him a most worthy recipient. As I mentioned, I've known Ernie for over 40 years, dating back to our days at Manual High School in Louisville. On the same day I won election as president of the high school, Ernie was elected president of the junior high school. We both went on to attend the University of Louisville, and were fraternity brothers.

Knowing Ernie so well, I can assure you that his dedication to rescuing missing children runs deep. Over twenty years ago, when I was the Jefferson County Judge-Executive, Ernie was the Director of the Louisville/Jefferson County Crime Commission. That Commission was the first of its kind to bring police officers and social workers together on behalf of kids. Just one innovation Ernie came up with back then was to make a fingerprint card for as many Kentucky kids as possible, and send that card home to the child's parents to hang on to in the awful event their child ever went missing. A young man on my staff today still has his card, two decades later.

Ernie's work in Kentucky established him as a national leader for his cause as early as 1981. At that time, no nationwide organization existed to share and distribute information on missing children. If a child was abducted and taken over a State line, or even a county line, the chances that law enforcement in the new jurisdiction had all the information necessary to save that child were small.

Ernie led the effort to lobby Congress to establish laws so that police could talk to each other across boundaries about missing kids. His work and patience bore fruit in 1984, when President Ronald Reagan signed the bill creating the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children as a public-private partnership.

Under Ernie's leadership, the Center has created the CyberTipline, an online reporting service that former Vice President Al Gore has called "the 911 for the Internet." They created the AMBER Alert System, notifying citizens statewide when a child has been kidnapped. They've worked on over 98,000 cases, and have been involved in the successful recovery of over 83,000 kids. Last year they had an astonishing success rate of 95 percent.

Ernie Allen describes the creation of the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC) in a podcast of the FBI:

  • "In 1984, we proposed the creation of a kind of national resource center; a place that would tie together, create a national response to these kinds of cases [cases like the highly sensationalized Adam Walsh case]. My vision, candidly, was that it should be a wing of the FBI, and it was the president of the United States, Ronald Reagan, who said if this going to work it needs to be a private organization working in partnership with government. So on June 13, 1984, the president of the United States officially announced the opening of a new national center for missing and exploited children."

1984: Orwell Saw it Coming, but Not Quite Like This!

The Spring of 1984 would prove to be a pivotal period in the dedication of national resources toward "protecting children." The hyper-sensational movie "Adam" about the Adam Walsh case was televised for a second time on NBC in April, and in May his father John Walsh went on a "media blitz" armed with an array of vastly inflated false statistics about the multi-headed problem of "missing children."

In June, the NCMEC was created by an act of Congress (with a budget of 10 million dollars - back when you could buy a nice house for $ 50,000), publicized by Ronald Reagan in a special White House signing ceremony. But the Reagan administration was in such a hurry to get it going that they provided 1.5 million in startup funds through the federal Office of Juvenile Justice even before the law was passed.

What did all this money buy? Well, for one thing, Reagan requested that John Walsh be hired by the Center as a special consultant -- simultaneously giving Walsh a tap off the federal trough and credibility as a media spokesperson on the issue -- thereby funding his 1984 media blitz and laying the groundwork for his illustrious career.

The NCMEC would go on to play a key role in the chapter of national and international history which followed its founding. The agency helped make "missing children" a household term, and a governmental priority. They are the ones who partnered with private advertising agency Advo to send millions of direct-mail flyers of missing children into every home, encouraging people to call their 1-800 tip line. Similar campaigns were waged on milk cartons and pizza boxes, and later through public service announcements on TV. The effect on the popular culture was profound.

The NCMEC Shell Game

The "problem" of "missing children" was an ingenious new construct. It included a range of vastly disparate phenomenon under one umbrella term. This allowed a huge amount of room to manipulate statistics and anecdotes to describe a problem of vast proportions and terribly heart-wrenching and enraging.

The vast proportions were obtained by including run-away/thrown-away teens in the figures. Various sources credit run-aways/thrown-aways (plus mistaken cases of family miscommunication) as anywhere from 80% to 99% of the total cases of "missing children."

The heartwrenching and enraging part comes from cases of children who are abducted and murdered, often involving some kind of sexual aspect. These amount to a few dozen each year, in a nation of 300 million people. In between these two extremes there is a middle group of cases which are basically custodial disputes between parents. These account for somewhere between 1% to 20% of the total missing children cases.

Clear and accurate numbers are hard to come by, since the child-saving agencies rely on as much obfuscation as possible and the federal government takes care not to deflate their rhetoric. The Uniform Crime Reports of the Department of Justice, accessible online and in many libraries, do not include kidnapping in their statistics on crime in the US. Presumably this is because, in the context of the other types of crime tracked by the Uniform Crime Reports, the numbers for kidnapping would seem vanishingly small. The numbers that are available come from the NCIC database used by law enforcement.

It is worth noting that over time, mistaken cases came to be a major phenomenon -- and are actually included in the "alarming" statistics (typically 800,000 to 850,000 per year) that the NCMEC cites of children "reported missing." This little detail is buried in the final paragraph of a DOJ study co-authored by David Finkelhor titled "Runaway/Thrownaway Children: National Estimates and Characteristics"

  • "Run-aways/thrown-aways constitute the largest component of children reported missing to authorities. They make up almost half (45 percent) of all children reported missing and greatly dwarf the numbers who are reported missing because of family or nonfamily abduction or who are lost or injured.
    • (The other large segment of children reported missing — sometimes confused with run-aways/thrown-aways — are the 43 percent who are reported missing for benign reasons, such as miscommunications between family members about who was to be where at what time.)

The founders of the NCMEC took their ingenuity one step further by adding "exploited" to the mix.

  • Do they mean teens who are paid token wages to slop grease at McDonalds -- exploited for profit like any other natural resource? No.
  • Do they mean children bombarded with advertising on Saturday morning TV, much of it for life-shortening sugar-filled poisons marketed as food? No.

These ubiquitous forms of exploitation are of no concern. What is this "exploitation?" It consists solely of one thing: Sex. In effect, the agency is the National Center on Run-aways (and Thrown-aways), Parental Abductions, and the Sexual Experiences of Minors.

The NCMEC drew upon the numbers of run-away teens and parental abductions to get figures like "850,000 cases per year," to justify large amounts of federal spending on the problem. Then they funneled the money into a range of programs whose purpose was to "raise awareness" about "child sexual abuse." These programs, in turn, helped develop a range of inflated statistics to describe sexual abuse as a huge national problem requiring even more resources.

Defining National Priorities

An interesting thing about these three topics. The phenomenon of "run-away" children and teens -- who leave their parents without permission -- is by far the largest, affecting the greatest number of people. It has by far the most serious health implications for children and teens. The problem of so-called parental abductions is also large.

But the NCMEC seems to devote no resources to preventing these things from happening. They publicize the names of children in both groups and provide some assistance "to law enforcement" and the family to help locate the missing child. And they take credit when the children are re-united with their families or custodial parent. For children and teens who have left or been thrown out by their families, the NCMEC website offers nothing but a couple of links to other organizations. "Not my problem," they seem to say to kids who find their families unbearable.

There seems to be no systematic effort by the NCMEC to analyze the reasons why children leave their families or to ameliorate these causes in any way. And the same is true for "parental abductions." Indeed, the problem of run-aways/thrown-aways, which contributes something like 90% of their statistics for both "missing" and "recovered" "children," is almost unmentioned by the NCMEC in their promotional materials. 

On the other hand, the agency devotes a tremendous amount of resources to publicizing dangers to children from outside the family home. Their main focus seems to be on the imminent dangers of sexual experiences of every imaginable variety, for both children and teens -- but with a decided emphasis on sexual experiences that occur outside the family setting.

They also direct a great deal of attention to the rare problem of child abduction, through their "Child ID" program which encourages families to keep fingerprints, dental x-rays and DNA samples of their children.

Statistically, your time would be four times better spent installing lightning rods (about 400 people are struck by lightning each year, compared to about 100 stranger abductions of children). Of course, the Child ID can also be relevant in the investigation of a parental abduction or a run-away -- but imagine the mindset it would take to approach it from either of those perspectives. (Johnny, let's get you fingerprinted, so I can have you brought back if you try to escape).

Ernie Allen's Global Conquest

Ernie Allen is a master of the Big Lie. It is possible that no single person has had a bigger impact on the events affecting man-boy lovers around the world than him -- although there are plenty of competitors in his field.

Allen co-founded both the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, and the International Center for Missing and Exploited Children. "Lady" Catherine Meyer, CBE ("Treasurer of the Conservative Party"), founder of the British-American propaganda agency Parents & Abducted Children Together and Bud Cramer (Alabama former prosecutor and Congressman), founder of the American-based National Children's Advocacy Center propaganda franchise chain, cite Ernie Allen as their inspiration and close colleague. Allen is listed as a "patron" of PACT.

The NCMEC even provides resources for assistance to entrepreneurs seeking to follow Ernie Allen's footsteps and get into the "non-profit" child-saving business.

Stoking the Global Witch-Hunt Mentality

PACT plays a unique and active role in helping to shape the policies that better protect vulnerable children. While we cannot quantify the exact number of missing children who have benefited from our work, we believe that long-term PACT will have a significant impact because our focus is on the cause, not the symptom. Few charities in our field employ the same mix of advocacy, action and research. No charity of our size has done more to raise public awareness about missing children or to prompt changes in legislation and practice.

  • [Note: there is no other reference on their web site to the "causes" of parental abduction or run-away/thrown-away teens or any other social problem.]

I use the term propaganda advisedly. A primary function of all of these agencies is the development of a set of talking points and "official" sounding statistics used by those who advocate, and lobby governments, for the following:

  • Harsher punitive measures focused on sex offenses involving minors.
  • Greater attention to these offenses.
  • Generally high levels of vigilance and surveillance around all aspects of childhood sexual experience.

But most of all, their talking points and statistics are used to direct the public discourse on what is the nature of these experiences -- literally to define the sexual experiences of minors for society.

They communicate their message to the public through a range of advertising and public relations campaigns, including TV and radio appearances, a high profile internet presence, billboards and posters and other more traditional advertising. They develop their message by commissioning "expert" authors such as Kenneth Lanning and David Finkelhor to write scholarly treatises on various manifestations of the sexual experiences of minors, from the appropriate "perspective."

  • (Lanning writes quite openly from a law enforcement perspective.
  • Finkelhor writes from a modified Christian conservative perspective disguised as a sociological/criminological/medical perspective.)

Following the Money

This influential group of organizations are well funded, through a combination of government and corporate sponsorship and through solicited donations. The NCMEC, which is the grandparent organization of the group, was founded with a sizeable commitment of federal funds by the Reagan administration and the US Congress.

Among the early congressional champions was Paula Hawkins, a religious conservative Republican senator from Florida who chaired a seminal Senate hearing on the "missing children" problem in 1981. Joining her in the crusade was Claiborne Pell, Democrat from Rhode Island. Other co-sponsors of their bill which led to the founding of the NCMEC were senators Strom Thurmond, Arlen Specter, and Jeremiah Denton.

The National Children's Advocacy Center, founded in 1985 by future (now former) Alabama Blue-Dog-Democrat congressman Bud Cramer in the wake of the founding of the NCMEC, funnels federal money directly into sex-panic promotion.

In addition to government funding, all of these organizations also have private funding and strong support from corporate sponsors and individual donors and volunteers. While government agencies, and especially the Reagan administration, played key roles in the founding and the continued subsidizing of the sex-panic industry, private entrepreneurs have been involved from the start, and many businesses happily sponsor these organizations and their witch-hunts. The Reagan administration advisers working with Ernie Allen took care to make sure the NCMEC was set up as a "public private partnership" - thereby insulating it to some degree from the traditional political bickering over the merits of public versus private involvement in social issues.


The degree to which the NCMEC is devoted to stoking the flames of sex panic has a pervasive effect on how they handle all the other tasks they set for themselves. This is especially true in the case of run-away/thrown-away teens, for whom the agency is essentially useless (unless somebody's penis pops out of their pants). But it is also true in the case of parental abductions. And unlike run-away/thrown-away cases, cases revolving around custody disputes often involve adults with the time, resources and inclination to make a public stink. Some of these folks have organized and taken their grievances public.

Here are a couple of their web sites. I have not dug into them deeply enough to say much about them, except it is apparent that the NCMEC and Ernie Allen have pissed some people off.