Media Matters Slams Heritage for Being Soft on Crime


Yes, you read that correctly. The liberal website Media Matters has posted a sleazy attack on the conservative Heritage Foundation that, frankly, reads like a press release from some law and order senator's office.

For background, Heritage has started a website called Overciminalized.com which documents and advocates against the mass criminalization of American society, from too many laws, to the over-federalization of law (which in most cases ought to be a local issue), to the arbitrary enforcement of the law and the overly broad powers given to prosecutors.

I think it's great that an organization like Heritage is giving these issues attention. You'd think a liberal organization like Media Matters would, too. Apparently not. The site today takes a cheap shot at Heritage for listing a series of bills related to child pornography and child sex trafficking under its "Legislative Watch" section. I don't know anything about Chris Harris, the author of the posts. But he owes a debt to the likes of Bill Bennett and James Q. Wilson, because he's stealing their shtick.

A sampling of what the Heritage Foundation views as the "rampant overcriminalization" of "trivial conduct" is truly striking and shows why conservative politicians should think twice before embracing the views held by the conservative think tank.

As you can see below, the folks at Heritage oppose legislation tackling child sex slavery, child sex trafficking, child pornography and violence against children…

Media Matters launched a similar attack on Heritage back in August:

Members of Congress should debate this bill on its merits, weighing the pros and cons of such legislation.  But by implying stricter penalties on child sex offenders is an example of Big Government overreaching its authority in order to punish "trivial conduct," the Heritage Foundation reveals just how much the conservative movement has lost touch with American families.

This is incredibly trashy. For starters, it isn't clear that the Overcriminalization project actually takes a position one way or the other on these particular bills. The "Legislative Watch" section seems to be more of a clearinghouse list of pending legislation that would be of interest to people who have subscribed to the project's update list. Yes, the general position of the project is that there are too many laws. But there's no specific commentary on these bills, or any of the bills listed on that particular section of the website. In fact, that section also lists bills the project would presumably support, such as a bill by Sen. Arlen Specter (D-Penn.) that would strengthen attorney-client privilege.

But even assuming Heritage did list those bills as examples of government overreach to be opposed, it's certainly possible to oppose a federal bill that broadens police and prosecutor powers—or that makes it more difficult for paroled sex offenders to try to rehabilitate themselves and live somewhat normal lives—without being objectively pro-child porn or pro-sex trafficking, trivializing either crime, or having "lost touch with American families," whatever the hell that means.

This is the kind of crap conservatives have been pulling on law and order issues for years: If you don't support mandatory minimums, you're defending rapists, murderers, and drug dealers! If you don't support the latest law named after a murdered child, you clearly are fine with that child having been murdered. Buckets of shame on Media Matters for adopting the same sleazy tactics just to take a cheap shot at a conservative think tank.

Thanks to Walter Olson for the tip.