A word about Sheriff Arpaio’s bestiality sting

At first, it looks like a step in the right direction. And it probably would be, if it didn’t stink of being little more than a half-assed publicity stunt.

The gist of it: Arizona police posted ads on Craigslist posing as someone offering their dog up for sex. Two men responded to the ads and arranged to meet an undercover officer at a local hotel with the intent of having sex with the dog. They were arrested upon arrival at the hotel, and now face charges of conspiring to commit animal cruelty.

But why Craigslist? Granted, setting up a sting on the site is a pretty simple matter. Only the dumbest of the dumb bother to put up personal ads for illegal activities there. Last year, there were widespread concerns over illegal activity taking place over the Craigslist personals section. It’s fairly difficult to keep under complete control – a search for the right keywords in the Personals section will usually get you something unsavory. New bad ads appear as fast as they get flagged, so it’s sort of a game of internet whack-a-mole trying to clean them off.

In this case, using the keyword “k9″ will usually net at least one advertisement for someone either offering their dog for sex or looking to have sex with someone’s dog. An example:

Thing is, only the dumber zoophiles use Craigslist – there are a number of zoophile-oriented forums that feature fairly active sections for personal ads. They are all hosted offshore, and law enforcement has yet to pay very much attention to them. They were certainly not the subject of this investigation. For this reason, it looks like this operation focused less on foiling animal sex exploitation and more on finding more reasons to rag on Craigslist and the supposed inadequacies of it’s community-driven moderation system.

What this whole “sting” looks like is more of an attempt by Arpaio to hop on the popular bandwagon of criticizing Craigslist for not policing it’s personals section as tightly as it possibly could. Indeed, he used the sting to send the president of Craigslist an open letter, criticising him for “providing a mechanism to facilitate obvious criminal activity”.

Notice that the operation had an extremely narrow focus, and ran for only a few months. In the end, it netted only two people. If this operation targeted any other form of criminal activity it would probably be labeled a farce. There is no word on continuing the operation, and even if there was a follow-up it would be completely compromised thanks to the whole affair making the national news.

So why all the posturing? One reason may be the department’s current image crisis. Arpaio is seen by many as something of a racist monster. He is connected with right-wing extremist groups and has been using his department to push a deeply anti-immigrant agenda. Occasionally he will pull off a PR stunt to try and polish his image. This is one of them.

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