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A brief history of moral panics - click opera — LiveJournal
February 2010
Wed, Dec. 24th, 2008 12:00 am
A brief history of moral panics


this is not your sawtooth wave
Wed, Dec. 24th, 2008 12:06 am (UTC)
Australia and censorship

Australia, having inherited the administrative institutions and traditions of a penal colony/military outpost of the British Empire (as opposed to the Mother Country herself), is a lot more censorious than Europe or the US (at least in terms of government censorship). There, any video games not suitable for children are illegal, and games aren't banned merely for sex or violence (they recently banned a war game because of "drug references", i.e., because wounded soldiers could use morphine as a painkiller, and banned Marc Ecko's Getting Up, a graffiti-oriented game, because it represented illegal activity; Grand Theft Auto is available but has been cut somewhat). A lot of films are banned, though these are mostly arthouse/foreign films (as that helps the government get right-wing populist culture-war points by beating up on the weirdos who want to watch films full of sex and subtitles). And now the government (who are, ostensibly, centrists, or at least to the left of the right-wingers who got kicked out last year) is trying to push through an internet firewall which will block all illegal content for everyone (which, in Australia, includes material on euthanasia or drugs, and can be extended to include whatever else the pressure groups the government of the day is courting want banned), and all material unsuitable for children for anyone who doesn't opt out. Some say that the government are deliberately pushing the firewall so hard that it falls apart along the way, winning them points with minority religious parties in the Senate for trying without actually bending to their will, though with the Australian public's level of apathy, all sorts of bad laws tend to get passed over there, so I'm still concerned.

I heard a while ago that the novel Fanny Hill is still banned in Australia, because no-one ever got around to unbanning it. Though I've heard of people who saw it in bookshops, so I'm not sure whether the ban is fictitious or just widely ignored.

Wed, Dec. 24th, 2008 12:13 am (UTC)
Re: Australia and censorship

I heard a while ago that the novel Fanny Hill is still banned in Australia

The reductio ad absurdum of my argument here would say that this meant that Fanny Hill -- or the 18th century epistolatory novel -- was still hot and sexy in Australia, even if it was quaint and neglected elsewhere. But this

because no-one ever got around to unbanning it

suggests it's more of a silly anomaly than a "hot political potato" or football or... fanny.

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this is not your sawtooth wave
Wed, Dec. 24th, 2008 12:31 am (UTC)
Australia, larrikinism and wowserism

Or, possibly, that the average Australian is so apathetic about both erotic novels and the censorship thereof that the only people the government listens to are the crazies in socks and sandals who get very agitated about such things. (Hence the utterly unworkable internet censorship proposal being pushed, which nobody else—not child protection groups or mainstream social conservatives—wants.)

IMHO, in Australia, the equilibrium of civil society isn't as mature as it is in Europe or the US. One phenomenon that has been commented on is the seesaw between "wowsers" — i.e., puritanical prohibitionists, usually not too dissimilar from the Daily Mail-reading British curtain-twitcher, only hardened somewhat by distance from the rest of the world and its discourse — and the peculiar Australian national trait of "larrikinism", i.e., a borderline contempt for authority, lauding for anyone who gets one over the government, and so on. (Witness the way in which Ned Kelly, an armed robber, became a defacto national hero, or how "Waltzing Matilda", a folk song about a sheep rustler, almost became the national anthem; alas, Australia chose the somewhat more turgid "Advance Australia Fair".) This probably also dates back to the penal colony days, of harsh, arbitrary authority which was near-universally reviled (the fact that the authorities represented the Crown and a lot of the convicts were either Irish or from severely economically disadvantaged strata of society probably contributed, as did Irish culture's celebration of the trickster; I suspect this may not be the whole story, though; it's well known that Australia got its inner-urban cafe/drinking culture from the wave of Italian/Greek immigration in the 1950s; I'm wondering whether the national attitudes there to, say, taxes influenced the construction of the Australian "larrikin", but I digress).

Thus a lot of the time, Australians have just ignored unfair laws, which couldn't be enforced universally (and often the police were complicit in such things, only busting those they considered to be "troublemakers"). The fact that things like internet filtering mean that the laws will be, in theory, enforced universally, could end up wiping this unwritten cultural bargain away.

ReplyThread Parent
Thomas Scott
Wed, Dec. 24th, 2008 11:11 am (UTC)
Re: Australia and censorship

It's worth noting that Australia's proposed internet censorship is being instigated not by the Christian right but by an illiberal, PC-obsessed left.


"...because no-one ever got around to unbanning it..."
There is a sense here, of a nation whose political elite needs to grow up and read something other than the Sunday funnies.

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