Failure to liberate


When I started applying Australia's film classification standards to stories I read I was a bit curious and a bit hoping to highlight some absurdity in the system. More than one of my favourite stories, it turns out, would be illegal to sell in this country if they were film rather than print, at least by my reading of the standards. Not, as many reading this will know, that that's hugely difficult to achieve. But now it looks like something similar is being seriously proposed - potentially to require art in Australia to be rated by a board and, if deemed unsuitable, according to a potentially contracting standard of suitability, to declare it unfit to be shown.

Hopefully this has no chance of being recommended by the actual review later this year, nor of going into effect. Hopefully this is only the news take an opportunity to stir up a flurry of panic and protest, but Australia already has a bad history of restrictive censorship.

The best word I have to describe the Australian government's position on matters of rating and access is infantilising. Really, what else would you call a proposal to censor the nation's internet of anything more risque than a 15-year-old can legally see in a movie theatre? Refusing classification to any film depicting full-frontal nudity would be another step to really, truly banning all Australians from any media conservative Christians think is unsuited for children.

I am rather fed up with people seeking authority to 'protect' everyone else from what they deem immoral. If it's a matter of religion, then that's down to the individual. If someone believes my soul is imperilled by nudity or violence or images of people enjoying sex, then that is between me and your fictitious god. If you think society overall is endangered by access to such material, then you need to first show compelling evidence that its availability prohibits the free and safe daily life of the people. Otherwise we've no business banning media unless mayhaps it was produced by the actual abuse of or harm to actual living persons[1].

[1] Hint: BDSM is not necessarily abuse.

["But the chief of staff of the Australian Christian Lobby, Lyle Gavin, said there were dangers to children everywhere because of the failure of the classification scheme. ''Arguments against tighter classification measures and using technology will be mounted from the extreme left and the extreme right of politics,'' he told the inquiry. ''On the right, the nanny state argument will be applied against tougher measures and the use of filtering technology. On the left, it will be argued that adults should be able to see whatever they want, even claiming photos of naked children have artistic merit.''"

Hint 2: predicting your opponents' responses does not actually constitute a refutation of them]