Australia

Salo banned again

Pasolinis Salo has been outlawed in Australia again, with the Office of Film and Literature Classification voting to ban it last week.

The film was released in 1975 and immediately banned until 1993. Four years later it was banned again. Melbourne based music and DVD distributor, Shock Entertainment, acquired the rights to the film and re-submitted it for classification by the offices classification board, which last week voted to refuse classification.

Made by the Italian director Pier Paolo Pasolini, Salo, or 120 Days in Sodom, was viewed by 13 board members who voted 7-6 in favour of the ban, with the minority stating that the film could warrant an R18+ rating.

The minority felt that the age of the film and the careful construction of the narrative serve to mitigate against a higher impact, Ms Bowdler said.

A freedom of speech body, Watch on Censorship, disagrees. A committee member, the film critic Margaret Pomeranz, decried the ban as yet another attack on artistic expression.

Salo is a film by a significant filmmaker, but there are some confronting scenes in it, she said.

Blasphemy down under

A 16 year old boy in Australia has been charged (via) with offensive behaviour under the Summary Offences Act 2005 for public nuisance for wearing a t-shirt. The shirt in question (pictured) is for English metal band, Cradle of Filth and claims Jesus is a Cunt.

Police have also conducted inquiries at Australia Fair shopping centre, where the teen said he bought the shirt, to find any shops selling it.

The incident has parked debate about Australias lack of a Bill of Rights. Lawyer, Bill Potts has pointed out:

One of the great problems with our country is that we talk about rights such as privacy and freedom of speech and the like but they are not enshrined or protected in any way as they are in America.

While there are always limits on freedom of speech, you cant incite violence or anything like that, it seems to be now more than ever that our rights to freedom of speech and freedom of expression should be protected.

A Bill of Rights which enshrines that protection is long overdue in this country.

And in New Zealand, the Chief Censor’s Office has permanently banned (via) the t-shirt. The ruling (inaccurately) claims:

A fair interpretation of the messages conveyed by this T-shirt is that Christians should be vilified for their religious beliefs, and that women, including chaste and celibate women, cannot stop themselves engaging in sexual activity.

Australian censor bans Fallout 3

The Australian censor has effectively banned the Fallout 3 video game by refusing to grant it a certificate. At issue is that the censor believes the game rewards drug taking.

The chemical in question is morphine, which the player can inject during the game to reduce the impact of damage taken during the violent post-apocalypse shoot-em-up.

The [Classification Board] is of the opinion that the use of morphine in the game has the positive effect of enabling the character to ignore limb pain. This ability to progress through the game more easily is the incentive to take the drug while the reward is in the characters abilities.

The Board might have granted Fallout 3 a higher rating, but Australias game certification system tops out at MA15+ - MA stands for Mature Adult. According to a Sydney Morning Herald report, any title that contains more violence, sex or drug use than that category permits doesnt receive a certificate and so cant be sold in Australia.

Australian gamers are protesting the decision, pointing out that the censors have already passed other games, such as Grand Theft Auto IV, that feature stronger drug use. More to the point is that morphine is a first-aid drug which makes its comparison to hard drugs rather foolish.

Outrageous learning

Australias National Centre of Excellence for Islamic Studies (NCEIS) was set up last year, with federal government funds, to advance knowledge and understanding of Islam and to play a leadership role in public debate on contemporary Islam.

Naturally, this has led to outrage (via).

At issue is the Women in Arabic and Islamic Literature course which, according to the Australian National Imams Council, gives a negative view of women in Islam. Not content with complaining, the Imams have circulated a petition recording its deep concern with regards to the course structure and content, claiming it involved repeated and unjustified attacks upon Islam.

Another group, Muslims for Peace, has also tried to get in on the act by branding the centre as evil and demanding lecturer Samar Habib be dismissed and the course abolished.

University of Western Sydney executive dean of the College of Arts, Wayne McKenna said that, although the university has not received a direct complaint, it was examining the content of the course.

Men in frocks news

Just a quick post to highlight a few stories that emerged over the weekend. I dont have anything to add, but theyre worth a read.

First up, check out Mediawatchwatch on the news Robert Forsyth, Bishop of South Sydney is getting his cassock in a twist over Corpus Christi. And in the US, Catholic bishops are relocating a seminar because the venue will also be hosting - a month and a half later - a production of The Vagina Monologues.

Then head over to Quaequam Blog! to watch James Graham (from who I stole the picture for this post) pull apart Rowan Williams rather silly views on religious hatred laws.

Limiting academic freedom

Two Australian academics have been suspended without pay after criticising a PhD thesis called Laughing At The Disabled.

Creative industries faculty senior lecturers John Hookham and Gary MacLennan criticised the thesis in a newspaper article in April.

Late Friday afternoon they were suspended, had their work emails disconnected and were barred from the university premises. Six months salary effectively amounts to a fine of $35,000 to $40,000 each.

QUT vice-chancellor Professor Peter Coaldrake, said that he was responsible for the penalty after a committee, chaired by the appropriately named Barry Nutter, unanimously upheld complaints made against the two men. The complaints had come from the author of the thesis and two other people.

Professor Coaldrake said controversial research needed to be balanced with legal obligations and ethics. Academic freedom is a great privilege and it should not be used to denigrate or ridicule people with vastly different ideas, he said.

In other words, academic freedom is all well and good as long as you dont actually try to exercise it.

The two academics objected to a film part of the thesis, which put two disabled men in social situations in which they could only appear as inept. UQ disability expert Lisa Bridle also criticised the thesis.

Fear of freedom

Ive mentioned the attempts by the Australian government to tighten the countrys already strict censorship laws several times over the past couple of months. So rather than rattle on further, can I instead point you in the direction of this discussion of the problems with the proposed ban from Tony Coady.

The document uses a problematic definition of terrorism and its recommendations resort to dangerously vague categories such as tone. Accepting its clumsy proposals would represent yet more government erosion of civil rights, and would have a serious effect on freedom of academic inquiry.

As someone who researches terrorism in his academic work and who receives Australian Research Council support on the topic, I find the proposal thoroughly disturbing.

Taken together, these make terrorists of the Jewish armed resisters to Nazi troops in the Warsaw ghetto or French resisters attacking German military facilities, and rule out as terrorist any acts committed by Russian troops in Chechnya or Serbian troops in Kosovo. It also means that the American revolution of independence consisted wholly of terrorist acts.

Read the whole thing, as they say.

Hating liberty

Last month I remarked on the way that Australias Attorney-General, Philip Ruddock appeared to be trying to provoke a moral panic in order to tighten up the countrys already strict censorship laws.

It looks like he got away with it.

Inciting censorship

Earlier this month, the Australian government announced plans to tighten the countrys already strict censorship rules by banning books and films deemed to “glorify terrorism.”

After state and territory attorneys-general blocked the attempt, the Federal Attorney-General, Philip Ruddock expressed outrage at at DVD he hadnt seen, provoking a convenient outrage in the Australian media.

And now - surprise, surprise - the Federal Government has just released (via) a discussion paper outlining another set of tough new censorship proposals, expanding the definition of material that can be banned in the country. The proposals also tighten the already stringent film and literature classifications.

Victorian Attorney-General Rob Hulls warned that it was important that any changes were clearly defined so as not to inadvertently catch materials that simply expressed different points of view.

Lazy journalism and media manipulation

Now heres an interesting story. At the end of last week, the Australian government was finding itself being criticised for wanting to extend the countrys already strict censorship laws and books and films deemed to “glorify terrorism”.

And then, over the weekend, stories started popping up all over the place expressing outrage that a film that purportedly preached jihad had been given a PG rating by the Office of Film and Literature Classification (OFLC), which means that it is not recommended for viewing by persons under 15 without guidance from parents or guardians.

The various reports all quote the same person - Attorney-General, Philip Ruddock - who was quite keen on extending his powers before this furore broke. And the reports are all very similar - so similar, in fact, that I cant help but wonder how many of these news organisations are simply parroting the same press release without bothering to do even the most basic research.

Maybe Im being unfair, but it does strike me as odd that, while Philip Ruddock - who hasnt seen the film - is being quoted all over the place, the opinions of OFLC Director Des Clark are being distinctly under reported. In fact, the only people who appear to have spoken to Mr Clarke are Sky News. Inconveniently for Mr Ruddock, Des Clark told Sky News he has seen the film and it contains absolutely no incitement, which would explain the rating.

This all looks very much like a moral panic in the making - and one that is very conveniently timed given that the Australian government is - yet again - seeking to tighten their already censorship rules.

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