I am a huge fan of Sword and Scale and obviously if I am listening to the premium “Plus” episodes, I am a paying and supportive listener. They may have built a bridge too far for me to travel, though, in the episode "Plus 29 - The Cannibal Cop".
I ultimately could never stray from what I believe to be the preeminent show in all of the true crime genre, so I will instead take to this article below and air my concerns with the hopes of stirring a healthy and constructive debate amongst my fellow and rabid true crime enthusiast brethren. - Tim Rodgers
Sword and Scale
"Plus 29 - The Cannibal Cop”
What constitutes a thought crime? Not having the correct political point of view? Voting for the wrong party? What about a social media post or tweet?
What is the difference between an unpopular opinion and a vulgar opinion? Is it something that is simply offensive or does it need to rival a flat out hate crime? Who decides which is what and where do we draw lines?
These are certainly salient questions in the politically charged atmospheres of Facebook and Twitter in this current decade. When it comes to politics, on many issues we can roughly divide the populous in half for aligning on either side of the debate.
For highly unpopular and controversial matters such as communism or white supremacy, you can still usually find an unfortunate yet significant number of people identified as supportive of those concepts and causes.
What about thoughts and words that are so disturbing that people have to access the deepest corners of the dark web to share these ideas and fantasies? Stuff so vulgar, offensive, and abhorrent that probably 99% of the population can agree that there is no place for it in society?
Similar Stories Different Treatment
Do free speech and free thought protect what Gilberto Valle was thinking and saying when he wrote in detail online about kidnapping, torturing, raping, killing, cooking, and eating women? That is the million dollar question that Mike Boudet and Sword and Scale pose in Episode 29 of Sword and Scale Plus.
Had Mike Boudet considered the parallels between this episode and episode 20- Ronald William Brown? It is virtually an identical case with the mere exception that Ronald William Brown was referring to killing, raping, and eating children, not women. I guess that is a distinction but other than that it is pretty much identical scenarios, however, Brown got sentenced to jail.
I think that everyone can agree that Ronald William Brown was one of the lowest, filthiest forms of human scum that ever graced the earth. Even though all of Brown’s AOL Chats could have been fantasy role play, as investigators were never able to convict him of harming of another human, I think that most of us would agree that he needed to be behind bars, without question.
Free Speech Or Criminal Behavior?
I am not sure it was ethically warranted to dedicate an entire episode to the cannibal cop Gilberto Valle, which provided a platform for his point of view to be expressed and sympathized with as his free speech rights.
I have to wonder if he agreed to tell his side of the story if in return he had some say and control over what was told in the episode. In my opinion, Sword and Scale went too far out of its way to portray Gilberto Valle as a sympathetic figure and to excuse what he did as merely indulging in harmless fantasy. Why not do the same for Ronald William Brown then?
I am not one of these individuals that wants to stifle free speech. Lately, there seems to be a growing movement within society that wants to suppress anything they consider to be an offensive form of speech. I am not one of those people.
I think that most speech should be allowed in order to expose and marginalize the potentially harmful perpetrators within our society as has been done throughout the 20th century. By creating “safe spaces” and banning speech you are actually bolstering and supplying credibility to those individuals and groups with the toxic belief systems. It seems to have an opposite effect from what is intended.
So what should we do with the Ronald William Browns and Gilberto Valles of the world? Should there be a place in the shadows and outskirts of the web to allow paraphiliacs an opportunity to play out sick and twisted fantasies?
In my opinion, I think where Gilberto Valle crossed the line from fantasy free speech to criminal behavior is when he shared actual photos and names of real people. At that point, Valle violated their privacy and put those individuals at risk by exposing them to some of the sickest perverted minds the web has to offer. He should have been sent to prison at that moment.
Tolerance is not always a good thing. There comes a certain point when a community needs to band together and stand against certain behaviors. Perhaps Mike Boudet and Sword and Scale had their hands tied a little bit by giving Gilberto Valle a platform to tell his side of the story in order to get him to cooperate, but they walked a fine line in doing so if that was the case.
I am not sure it was socially responsible to give this guy a platform. Maybe they did us a service by bringing him out of the shadows to expose him but we as a society need to make it clear that certain behaviors are unacceptable. We need to protect our children, family, and friends from any potential predators.
I could imagine that many of these psychopaths start indulging their deepest urges by visiting these type of sites on the dark web, prior to devolving further into depravity. Or perhaps these sites serve as an outlet for these criminally deviant types to stifle their urges and get “it out of their system” so they do not take the next step of acting out their fantasies in reality.
Regardless, I think giving Gilberto Valle and his ilk a platform is playing with fire and we have to be careful with how much leeway and exposure we give these individuals. I do applaud Sword and Scale at the same time, though, for taking on these dark and highly uncomfortable topics because this type of depravity does indeed exist within society.
Where do you stand? What is the line between investigating and staring, eyes wide open, into a horrific segment of society versus unnecessarily giving a platform to someone and potentially excusing their harmful behavior? Do you feel their behavior, if strictly relegated to role-playing online, is still potentially harmful?
Please leave a comment. We want to hear from you.