Wednesday, 18 June 2008

A sledgehammer to crack a walnut

Well, the government are at it again, imposing unenforceable, draconian laws in order to be “seen” to be doing some good. However, it’s not terrorists or immigrants who are being targeted this time, but rather that other 21st century bogeyman, paedophiles. In an article on Justice Minister Maria Eagle (literally a legal eagle!) has announced that the government intends to update the already unworkable The Obscene Publications Act by outlawing drawings of child abuse. This would mean anyone who drew a picture of child abuse (in whatever context) and showed it to another person, both could then be prosecuted. Now, most right thinking people have no problem making photographs of child abuse illegal and the whole concept angers, appalls and saddens me, but this plan to outlaw what people can create out of their own minds and with their own hands – with no external contact with children whatsoever – is setting a very dangerous precedent. This is the thin end of the wedge that potentially could see the government outlawing any creative act that they don’t like.

Restaurant critic, AA Gill brilliantly, and bizarrely, managed to squeeze in an attack on this proposal in a restaurant review in the
Sunday Times on 8 June 2008:

“The government, or someone close to the government, has announced it is going to make paedophile artwork illegal, with a possible three-year prison sentence, so if you do a drawing that a social worker, copper or one of the few consultant paediatricians who haven’t been struck off thinks is a bit underage, then they can bang you up and ruin your life. I imagine that, as we speak, the crack kiddie-fiddle squad is visiting the Chapman brothers, putting a coat over their heads for their conception of life-sized, genitalia-faced prepubescents in sneakers.

“The law against paedophile photographs is there to protect the children who are being abused in them. It is not some sort of moral censorship of images. This is ridiculous, craven, bread-and-circuses, lowest-impulse, least-effort, crowd-pleasing legislation. Why stop at pictures? Why not the words that make pictures? Arrest anybody reading Nabokov. Raid the RSC for performing Romeo and Juliet in front of schoolchildren: she’s only 13. And, by the way, Madame Butterfly is 15. This is a law that does nothing to protect children, just demeans and infantilises a society that ought to behave like sophisticated and moral grown-ups. If you’re going to start eradicating stuff, wouldn’t a really civilised society begin with any paeodophobic images, the real, careless, out-in-the-open cruelty to children? Get rid of photos of starving African bairns, the street kids of South America and our own neglected and terrified youths in bus shelters? Difficult to know where to start with paedophobia.”

couldn’t have put it better.

This is another classic example of the British Labour Government trying to control the thoughts and minds of the general populace using the fear factor. Of course, anyone who stands up against this Bill change is going to instantly be labeled a
paedophile protector, in the same way that anyone who resists ID cards and 42 day detentions without charge are labeled “soft on terrorists.”

Apparently Ms Eagle stated, that the Bill proposal is "not about criminalising art or pornographic cartoons more generally, but about targeting obscene, and often very realistic, images of child sexual abuse which have no place in our society." This, I feel, is a bald-faced lie, from a government we have seen lie repeatedly to its constituents constantly and blatantly. They are slowly chipping away at civil liberties, in the hope that they general public will gladly give their freedoms away to “protect” their children.

How this effects comics was pointed out by Rich Johnston on his excellent
Lying in the Gutters column where he noted that anyone who had read Alan Moore and Melinda Gebbie’s excellent Lost Girls, could, under the new proposals, be potentially be prosecuted for having bought or read “child pornography.” I recommend that everyone highlight to their MP how poorly drafted this Bill Addendum is, and how it threatens freedom of expression to the very core.

In general there have been some very worrying changes in sex laws that have been proposed recently and I’ll be addressing these in later posts.

"Fuck you, I won't do what you tell me." - Rage Against the Machine

1 comment:

Paine said...

It's quite an achievement for our 'tough-on-crime' Government - upping the prison population at a stroke by packing our already overcrowded jails with people who have never harmed another human being and would never do so, just for reading. This is one giant step backwards for a group whose mantra was "education, education, education", but the reality of "repress, deprive, criminalise" probably works better for the focus groups right now.

On the other hand, maybe this is Government being clever. Our Great Leader and his Darling have done the sums for improving education in prisons (currently pathetically under-resourced, considering it's one of the most effective ways to limit re-offending) and decided that the best way to improve educational standards inside is to get more clever people in there, thus pushing up the averages. It makes sense, in the unhinged world that is Government thinking.

Perhaps it'll turn out to be like all those other NuLabour initiatives and get quietly forgotten once the media launch is over, but if not, at least we'll have some good company inside.