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.
When some sicko decides to drop a human being into a plastic shredder, might we expect to see members of Saddam Hussein's fedayeen death squads interviewed for their unique insights into the mind of a torturer?
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 the candy man moves into their 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 and 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. So true that it's commonly known among experts, who have managed to become authorities without committing crimes.
Goldenflame's own technique for avoiding re-offending for the past 14 years is to avoid temptation. In the same way that alcoholics steer clear of circumstances that would tempt them to drink, molesters like Goldenflame try not to be around children. Megan's Law is one more layer of defense in a world populated by millions of delectable innocents.
No, what causes that creepy feeling, putting one in mind of rough loofahs and gritty soaps, is that Goldenflame is invited to the discussion at all. Why is a sex offender given an audience? Why are we willing participants in this moral farce?
We've long ago become 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. Our passive complicity constitutes, if not tacit approval, a least a level of involuntary involvement that is both voyeuristic and prurient.
When Oprah asks 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 talking about this 'n' that.
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 - his unflinching fools.
Kathleen Parker, an Orlando Sentinel columnist, welcomes comments via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org. Her column appears on Friday.