Monday, January 26, 2009

Jim Wallace, Christians, the Intertubes, Censorship, and the binding briars

There are fools and there are fundamentalists, but it's fair to say that while not all fools are fundamentalists, all fundamentalists are certainly fools.

So we come to the strange case of Jim Wallace, the managing director of the Australian Christian Lobby (whatever that might be) and his piece for the Sydney Morning Herald coyly entitled Filtering filth will not tangle the net.

My usual experience of Christians is when they congregate on a road around the corner each Saturday or so to picket an abortion facility, and hector young women seeking an abortion (as well as savage the staff). It must place a constant strain on the people going there for whatever reason, to see these crow-like loons and their placards stationed outside, abusing them for doing what they do.

Some probably attend as a side-benefit from a Christian sex education (well benefit is hardly the right word), and the behavior of the placard bearing Christians is about as un-Christian as Christ could imagine, but being loons, they somehow think that savaging young women is good for the world. (Whenever anyone talks about what a fine job George Bush and his team did in Africa, I think about the chastity-driven, anti-condom, anti-sex education loonacy of it all).

The stupidity of Jim Wallace's piece is on a different plane, but his willingness to interfere in the rights and activities of others comes from the same repressive heart as all fundamentalists.

The technological stupidity of his piece is neatly encapsulated in the title Filtering filth will not tangle the net.

His is the usual rant about how 93% of parents of 12 to 17 year olds want filtering, how tests show it won't block an unacceptable level of legal material, and how any filtering won't degrade performance (saying that the activist group GetUp! has mounted an alarmist fear campaign).

He should have said that filtering works so well in North Korea and China and certain middle East countries that Australia would be well to be in such exemplary human rights company.

Yet there's not one word about how he and his Government intends to reduce the Internet to a vehicle which can be safely navigable by five year olds (presuming that even a five year old knows how to click on a mouse and access the most awful depravity).

As usual, it wouldn't be a Christian piece without a dash of Christian humbuggery and Pecksniffian hypocrisy. "The internet is a fabulous resource for everyone, including our young people, but it has the potential to cause great harm if reasonable safeguards are not put in place. The real story here is not the dreadful repercussions of having internet filtering, but the dreadful repercussions of not having it".

Essence of argument: won't someone think of the children. Wallace, the Reverend Timothy Lovejoy and his charming wife Helen are as one.

What Wallace doesn't seem to know is that the mechanisms for defeating the proposed filtering are already in place, though they are irritating to use. They are best known by 12 to 17 year olds who are already expert in defeating all kinds of filters put in place in schools and other public locations. 

Does he really think he's going to be able to stop porn when no one has been able to stop music and video piracy? Does he really think he and his minions can do better than China, where the net is now porous and the holes growing wider by the day? Does he wonder why Telstra has refused to take a place in the current round of trials? ( and no it's not just because Telstra hates Conroy and the government, though that might be part of it, and suddenly I don't hate Telstra so much). 

Does he really imagine that any filtering system will help catch the most active and problematic kind of pornography - namely child pornography - when the internet offers all kinds of systems and encryptions to help keep them safe?

Does he really think binding up the world's desires in his five thousand year old briars (call it a morality system) is the way forward? 

Does he understand that the best way to police the internet is to ... actually police the internet ... you know, with skilled police who can catch and charge child pornographers, and patrol and catch the actual molesters who stalk the youth boards for prey? And that using a filter as an alternative is like using a giant club to swat a fly which just so happens to have gone elsewhere when the club lands on the actual cow pat?

Does he understand that as soon as the filtration system is introduced, a whole bevvy of bright young things will immediately work out fresh new ways to subvert it quickly and easily, because that's the way it is these days? Has he ever followed the trajectory of the movie studios as they watched first dvd, then hddvd, then the jewel in the crown, blu ray encryption reverse engineered, hacked and overthrown by nerds so bright I get blinded by the light? (Cut loose like a deuce another runner in the night).

Does he understand all he and Conroy will do is create more levels of grey and dark space on the internet where people can troll at their leisure?

Well actually no, and of course for one reason if not many others: he's a Christian and thereby believes in talking snakes (and if not talking snakes, then virgin births, burning bushes, water into wine, the rapture, the imminent end of the world, the presence of dinosaurs on Noah's Ark, and the redemptive joy of eating flesh and drinking blood).

Wallace and Conroy might think a new age of infantilism is the way forward, but if either of them think this will stop the growing rage amongst adults in this country, they should do a double reverse back flip think. What we don't need to do is end up back in the days of scandals and stupidities of the kind Christians like Wallace produced over Joyce's Ulysses, Lawrence's Lady Chatterly's Lover, and Philip Roth's Portnoy's Complaint.

Okay that's the high brow end of the argument, but I also don't mind a bit of pornography either. And I don't see why I should be deprived of it, because these Christian parents are unable to keep a tight reign on their children (well we know they can't, even the daughter of the Governor of Alaska likes to fornicate out of wedlock before a shotgun wedding sets everything aright). And here I'm not talking about professionals, since the stuff they peddle is usually awful, but cheerful amateurs enjoying sex. That's right, enjoying sex (ssshh, don't tell the children. They might get the idea they can enjoy sex too).

Will nothing rid us of these meddlesome, meddling priests?

I went to the Garden of Love,
And saw what I never had seen;
A Chapel was built in the midst,
Where I used to play on the green.

And the gates of this Chapel were shut
And "Thou shalt not," writ over the door;
So I turned to the Garden of Love
That so many sweet flowers bore.

And I saw it was filled with graves,
And tombstones where flowers should be;
And priests in black gowns were walking their rounds
And binding with briars my joys and desires.

One man's filth is another man's pleasure, one woman's joy is Helen Lovejoy's eternal damnation. Why Wallace thinks he can rule my life by pleading for the children of others is just the start of our fight. And as always with Christians it's supposed to be for my good and the good of the community. Sadly Islamic fundamentalists around the world would agree with him about the decadence of the west. But rather than bomb it from the outside, Wallace wants to go around fucking over its technological crowning glory from the inside. Talk about irony.

So long as Conroy keeps doing what he's doing, federal Labor will not get my vote, but they will get my active, elephant-memoried hostility.

Now go in peace, sanctity and utter boredom on this magical Australia Day and spread the word (and remember it was only an invasion up to the point they gave you a gong and a wonderful title). 

Save the children and let adults return to their old, abandoned Penthouses gathering dust under the bed.

Mama always told me not to look into the sights of the sun
Oh but mama that's where the fun is.

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