You act out your fantasies and I'll act out mine.

McLaughlin gives the people he encounters on the internet the opportunity to be someone different than their "normal" selves. As such, I suppose that it shouldn't seem strange to us that when these other selves take shape they draw upon fantasies that are ordinarily considered beyond the pale. I have no doubt that there are many more people who harbor fantasies of this sort yet don't act on them than there are who do. Perhaps what's most interesting about the internet is that, at least for a short period of time, it seemed to be an arena in which people could play more freely with their fantasies - and playing freely with them didn't necessarily mean acting them out. Again, that doesn't mean that there aren't dangerous people out there, and that we shouldn't thank James McLaughlin for catching them. On the other hand, it does suggest that many of the people who ultimately were caught by McLaughlin weren't really dangerous.

In what seems like numerous internet generations ago, it was generally accepted that a large percentage of people who presented themselves as women on the net were actually frat boys playing around (or researchers who turned out to be researching each other). And since this was pretty much common knowledge, it was hard to think of this misrepresentation of self as deception. People expected it, and played with, or along with, it. Could this also have been the case with some of McLaughlin's victims? Could they have been playing along, well aware of the possibility that they weren't really dealing with a fourteen year old, but instead with an adult pretending to be a fourteen year old? To my mind this is a real possibility, and could even represent a viable line of defense.

Go to: Mother Night on the web.