Fenton Bailey writes:
Camwhore. That’s the buzz word. Kids willingly selling themselves via webcams to predatory pedophiles on the net. On Monday in the New York Times, in “Through His Webcam, a Boy Joins a Sordid Online World,” a sure-to-be pulitzer prize shoe-in, Kurt Eichenwald laid bare what seems to be a subculture that has – until now – flourished beneath the media radar. The star of this show – and it is a show (the New York Times does TV too) – is Justin Berry.
In any other context, Justin’s story would be a model example of a young apprentice grabbing his piece of the American dream. But we are told that Justin’s entrepreneurial instincts were merely the results of evil pedo-puppeteers who came swarming like locusts within minutes of his posting his first webcam image. We are also told that Justin was quick to cash in: a shirt off for $50, a hand job for $500, and a personal visit for $1,000-plus.
“Tempting as it may be for some in society to hold the adolescent webcam operators responsible,” says the piece, “experts in the field say that is misguided, because it fails to recognize the control that adults exercise over highly impressionable minors.” Quite right. And as is the case with all potentially award-winning journalism, the reporter doesn’t just report, he intervenes: “In a series of meetings, the Times persuaded Justin to abandon his business and, to protect other children at risk, assisted him in contacting the Justice Department.”
The series of pictures illustrating the article ends with one of Justin being rebaptised. He is welcomed back into the Christian fold. Salvation assured. Perhaps. But maybe Justin’s biggest problem is that he is an attention junkie. Right now, he’s probably enjoying an all-time high, revelling in his high-profile role as convert and informant. It’s probably a much more satisfying kind of attention than turning web tricks. Maybe he’ll even make Oprah.
But then what? What will happen when the media honeymoon is over and he can’t even get booked on Surreal Life? It’ll be cold turkey for Justin. I can’t help thinking that maybe this is just the beginning of his problems.
– Fenton Bailey