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

43CommentReply

kineticfactory
kineticfactory
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.


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