Recently someone finally got around to asking Julia Gillard, Australia’s new prime minister, what she was going to do about the mandatory internet censorship filter. Proving herself to perhaps be more a Thought Dictator In Waiting, Julia trotted out the same old tripe, according to the ABC, about “protecting the children”. Indeed, moving on to a more comprehensive SMH Article, “Julia Gillard: Web Filter to Stay”, Julia dumped a feculent argument worthy of the Grand Conroy himself:
In Julia Gillard’s first comments on the filter since becoming Prime Minister, she told ABC radio in Darwin that the proposal was an effort to control the ”dark side” of communications technology.
”Images of child abuse, child pornography – they are not legal in our cinemas,” she said yesterday. ”Why should you be able to see them on the internet? I think that that’s the kind of moral, ethical question at the heart of this.”
This government is absolutely determined to drag the net censorship argument down into a puerile one about child sexual abuse, yet when the preliminary/test set of internet sites to be banned was leaked last year, researchers found that very little on the banned list had anything to do with child sexual abuse. Instead, generic sex sites, sites with information about euthanasia, the site for a canteen lady and a dentist were all on the black list.
It’s all a bit too Oz in Oz for my liking at the moment. There’s a booming voice talking about child abuse that’s hoping we don’t go looking behind the curtain.
Arguing that the internet filter is about child pornography is a polarising view aimed squarely at getting the votes from the religious right, lazy parents and bogans:
- Religious right – It’s aimed at the sort of people who think that any form of pornography is bad, and who therefore hope that any “ban” on child pornography (here’s a hint: it is already banned, and rightly so) would lead to a ban on all other forms of pornography, than all forms of sex save the sort that would happen once every 9 months between exactly one man and exactly one woman in exactly one unpleasurable position for the sake of creating more resource drains on this planet.
- Lazy parents – Lazy parents who think that it shouldn’t be their responsibility to keep an eye on their kids online. Lazy parents who think that the “I don’t know computers well” statement is a Shield of Solid Stupidity that allows them to inflict their lazy views on the rest of the country.
- Bogans – The A Current Affair crowd / Today Tonight. You know it, I know it, the entire argument is aimed at people who think investigative journalism comes down to harassing electrical repair people until they commit suicide.
Queue of course the quote from the religious groups from the Sydney Morning Herald Article:
But Ms Gillard won backing from the Christian group FamilyVoice Australia, whose spokeswoman, Ros Phillips, said she was ”delighted” the government’s position was being maintained.
”The underlying principle, you can’t dispute – why should you treat the internet differently from any form of communications like films and books and so on.”
Again the failing of this attitude is seeing the internet as media rather than a medium. In particular, the internet should not be compared to films or books, but rather to telephones or postal services. The government does not actively filter/censor either of these other two communications mediums. They don’t intercept all mail looking for child pornography – well, not without a warrant. They don’t tap phones without a warrant.
This process is about warrantless interception, monitoring and control of all content. Child pornography is just the wedge that they use to polarise the community and hope that enough gullible people will fall for it. In the meantime, they commence secret processes to record 10 years worth of internet browsing history and email exchanges for all people in the country. (Govt wants ISPs to record browsing history – ZDNet.)
What frustrates me the most about this – what makes me want to scream and shout and beat my head against a wall in disgust is that this tripe, this censorship and totalitarian monitoring is being proposed and spearheaded by a party which has previously distanced itself by the other major party in Australia by giving a shit about human rights. This supposedly a left-wing government. This was the government that apologised to the stolen generations.
It leads me to the inevitable conclusion: democracy is dying in Australia. It’s being killed by the 30 second sound bite and the boganisation of politics. It’s about appealing to the lowest common denominator – the stupid – rather than the best parts of our humanity. There was a time that I imagined that politics was about people who were prepared to lead, to inspire and to pull the ethos and the morality of a country forward. I dreamed a dream, and all that.
If the mandatory internet censorship system were just about keeping child pornography out of Australia, and if the government hadn’t slipped up and shown its hand (or briefly opened the curtain, so to speak) regarding record retention of browsing and email, then maybe I’d have supported it. Anything to do with child abuse is loathsome, after all.
Anything at all.
Including using it as an excuse for something dark and morally reprehensible.