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THE CHILD MOLESTER AS CELEBRITY

The next-worst thing to hearing of yet another child abducted by a known molester is yet another tutorial by the newest media darling -- pedophile pundit Jake Goldenflame, whose Dickensian name seems more suited to porn credits than serious commentary.

Goldenflame is nearly as ubiquitous as porn these days, recently inescapable as television news producers leave no rock unturned to find fresh voices to opine on current events. When the day's breaking story is a disappeared child, who else to call but a registered sex offender?

Thus has Goldenflame become the Talking Head du Jour. A self-described "recovering pedophile," the convicted child molester -- whose victims have included his own 3-year-old daughter and numerous boys -- is also an author and therefore, we must infer from his unctuous omnipresence, an "authority."

Just as the cannibalistic Hannibal Lecter ("The Silence of the Lambs") became a source of insight into the perverse mind of a murderer who skinned his victims to sew a new skin for himself, so we turn to Goldenflame for advice about how to handle those baffling deviants who prey on children.

Simply put, I don't care what Goldenflame thinks. About anything. I don't want to know his name (unless he moves next door), much less invite him into my living room. Yet here he is chatting it up with our friends at Fox and Joe Scarborough on MSNBC. Even Oprah invited him over, as though Goldenflame were just another hail-fellow-well-met with some intriguing angles on quirky behavior.

His marketing niche is that he, unlike most in his disturbed tribe, supports Megan's Law, which requires convicted sex offenders to register with the states they live in so people can find out when a molester moves into the neighborhood. The law was passed after Megan Kanka, a 7-year-old New Jersey girl, was raped and killed in 1994 by a convicted child molester/neighbor.

It's not so much what Goldenflame says that's objectionable. What he says, in fact, is true -- that sex offenders can't be cured and must be carefully monitored. No, what causes that creepy feeling is that Goldenflame is invited to the discussion at all. Why is a sex offender given an audience? Why are we participants in this moral farce?

We long ago became inured to the blurring of news and entertainment. Now we've moved to a new level of cognitive dissonance in which the vilest form of humanity is granted polite entry into the public parlor. Without our notice, the perverse and the sublime commingle in the unconscious American psyche until, insidiously, the abnormal becomes normal, the bizarre ordinary, and Evil has an agent.

I don't begrudge Goldenflame his rehabilitation, but I'd rather he do it on his own time. His self-outing is a form of therapeutic confession that purges his own demons while imposing them on the rest of us. He feels better, and we need a bath.

When Oprah asked Goldenflame in 2003, "It's been 12 years since you've been out of prison. Have you had the urge to molest?" and he says, "Yes -- I'll see a young teenage boy that turns me on," suddenly, we're all in the game. Implicit is a wink and a nod and the sense that we're all essentially the same, just folks.

So goes American celebrity in the 21st century. It matters not what you do or what you are, only that you can look a camera in the eye without blinking. In such a world, Jake Goldenflame isn't your worst nightmare. He's a magician. And we -- dozing under the somnambulant spell of moral relativism -- are his unflinching fools.