Tuesday, August 19, 2014

UK porn laws ban some comics

The death of Sir John Mortimer, barrister and writer, best known for writing the Rumpole of the Bailey radio play and subsequent television series, brought memories about his great fight for freedom of speech. His battles were many, the album "Never Mind the Bollocks" wouldn't have the word "bollocks" if he hadn't defended Virgin Records in court against accusations of obscenity. Mortimer famously engaged in a debate with well known moral evangelist Mary Whitehouse, and John Howard (then future leader of the Conservative Party) on free speech, citing how basically those who call for censorship think those who censor wont be harmed, but they are protecting the mass of the population, who are considered imbeciles.

However, the UK doesn't learn. As two pieces of legislation have taken it further.

The Criminal Justice and Immigration Act has make it illegal to possess "extreme pornography". What is that then? It is extreme images which were produced solely or principally for the purpose of sexual arousal.

Que Horreur! Sexual arousal? How dare THAT happen - not in BRITAIN.


Ah but what is an extreme image? Well it includes any depiction (so there need not be a photo) which a reasonable person would think grossly offensive and disgusting, and also includes being sexually injured (no spankings that make bums red) necrophilia and bestiality.

What comic book enthusiasts in the UK are saying is that this includes being kicked in the balls, and would mean many "action heroes" get banned because their violence includes ... sexual violence, in a drawing. Ah, but it isn't to sexually arouse right? So it's ok to depict someone being sexually injured as long as you don't want to turn them on.

Funny how people get turned on whether or not you want them to. In fact every day millions of people turn on many others unintentionally - because either they are hot or some people have kinks.  It's a kneejerk reaction to something that isn't an issue at all, unless you want to control how other people engage their private lives, or you believe that violent crime is caused by other people seeing fictional depictions of it.  The former should be ignored, and the latter has implications for vast amounts of entertainment.

However, the Coroners and Justice Bill takes things further. It bans images involving sexual activity and a child - nothing to be concerned about presumably, except of course they are currently illegal!

What IS concerning is the definition is a child is "the impression conveyed that the person shown is a child". So this includes drawings and cartoons, including those that have circulated that make fun of cartoon characters.  It also includes young adults dressed or roleplaying being underage, the classic examples being young women dressed in school uniforms or the like.  What is that law trying to capture?  Is it because images of young women dressed in school uniforms encourages child abuse (in which case should it be illegal for anyone to wear a school uniform unless they are going to school)?  Is it because sexually explicit drawings encourage child abuse? Or is it a kneejerk reaction by politicians who want to be seen to be doing "something" because everyone finds child abuse offensive and vile?

The real point is that both laws are just political driven exercises in control because what some people like producing and viewing offends some other people.  It will do nothing to reduce the real crimes of rape and child abuse that appall most people because they are not caused by such media anymore than depictions of punches and shootings on TV do so.  It will create new criminals and look like a moral crusade, and few MPs have the courage to say it should be legal to draw whatever you like - it is a drawing.  It should be legal to record legal extreme sexual acts between consenting adults - because it is legal to perform the acts.

It is time for a wholesale review of censorship laws, in detail, to restrict them to prohibiting recordings of actual crimes, not fictional depictions of crimes nor drawings of them.  For they are all quite different.

As a footnote, it is worth noting that in the United States the Constitution protects drawings and fictional depictions, as free speech.  It's particularly worth noting that David Cunliffe verbally abused and ridiculed me when I pointed this out in a Select Committee submission over a decade ago, as my point was that it was absurd to have laws on internet censorship that were tighter than the country where the bulk of content was produced,  i.e. for New Zealanders to be prosecuted for seeing material hosted on US websites that was legal for Americans to view.  Cunliffe didn't think America mattered and proceeded to suggest I shouldn't have bothered turning up for having such ridiculous views.

I had already heard the Silent T moniker, his actions proved it.

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