Tulsa media erroneously reports San Diego Comic Con Pedobear was 'registered sex offender'

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Sunday, September 19, 2010

The original Pedobear.
Image: 4chan.

A miscommunication between the Tulsa Police Department in Oklahoma, US and a Tulsa TV reporter has led to a man dressed as "Pedobear" at the San Diego Comic Con being erroneously labeled as a "registered sex offender."

A recent story about police departments warning parents to beware of an Internet joke called "Pedobear" took a dark turn on Tuesday, when a Tulsa television station alerted the public that a "registered sex offender" was dressing up as the mascot, and handing out candy to children at family-friendly events. "A registered sex offender was spotted dressed as a Japanese cartoon character called 'Pedobear'," reported the FOX 23 news broadcast that evening. "That happened in San Diego at a comics conference, at an event that attracts plenty of families."

However, the report was incorrect, and the man escorted out of the San Diego Comic Con in July was not a registered sex offender at all. "I did say it to the reporter," admitted Tulsa Police Sgt. John Adams. "It was bad information, a miscommunication."

Adams added, "We have the Tulsa State Fair coming up, and we wanted to let parents know about potential dangers."

This report gave credence to the rapidly-spreading story of the menacing Pedobear, a satirical cartoon bear that has come to represent paedophilia on the Internet. According to some law enforcement agencies, Pedobear is being used by paedophiles to indicate their sexual interests to one another. They also assert that paedophiles may be dressing up as cute mascots, as a way to get close to children.

These assertions have been widely ridiculed on the Internet. The Huffington Post wrote, "He isn't, in any way, a mascot or supporter for pedophilia." The Internet meme originated on the website 4chan, where it was used to mock overly sexualized images of children. Often, an image of Pedobear was added to the offending posting, with the message, "Pedobear approves of this post."

From there, the meme moved out onto the wider Internet, where it has been repeatedly used as a shorthand way of saying that people were being inappropriate about children. During the Roman Catholic Church's sex scandal, Pedobear was often used to mock the church. A Polish newspaper mistakenly ran an image of Pedobear alongside the 2010 Vancouver Olympics mascots, much to the delight of Internet jokesters.

Police in California misunderstood the meaning of Pedobear, and the San Luis Obispo Sheriff's Department began warning parents in public information fliers that Pedobear was an indication of paedophiles nearby. The story has become an Internet-wide sensation over the past few days, as in-the-know bloggers and reporters began to mercilessly ridicule the police department's actions in the name of protecting children.

It "made them the laughing stock of the internet," reported UK tabloid The Daily Mail on Monday.

Despite the overwhelming scorn heaped on the California law enforcement agencies on the Internet, the Tulsa, Oklahoma police department took the warning seriously, reissuing the public information warning, and mistakenly telling reporters that San Diego Comic Con Pedobear costume was being worn by a convicted "sex offender."

The Tulsa Police Department and FOX News 23 have since issued retractions, but the warnings to watch out for Pedobear continue on other Tulsa-area media outlets.


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