Thursday, March 26, 2009

Stephen Conroy, plenty of questions, no decent answers, Grass Mud Horses, and New Zealand looking good

(Above: Song of the Grass-Mud Horse, which a Chinese-speaking friend assures me uses both offensive language and offensive democratic metaphors about censorship and freedom of speech, has apparently caused a stir in China as it tries to maintain its long running bamboo curtain (or is it net) over the intertubes. Not speaking the language, it doesn't do much for me - how many times can you look at furry animals before turning into a New Zealander - but we thought we'd seize the moment to dedicate this clip to Senator Stephen Conroy, the man most like the Chinese government in spirit and behavior. Yep, not even the Ruddster can match him. You can catch more variations of the song, some with subtitles explaining the filth, on You Tube. Thank the lord this site has no Chinese readers and therefore won't be banned).

Oops, sorry, have to apologise to New Zealanders for that cheap shot. Guess what:

Joyce: Internet filtering off the agenda in NZ

Chris Keall | Friday March 20 2009 - 03:31pm

Those nervously watching the chaos across the Tasman can breathe a sigh of relief.

"We have been following the internet filtering debate in Australia but have no plans to introduce something similar here," says Communications and IT minister Steven Joyce.

"The technology for internet filtering causes delays for all internet users. And unfortunately those who are determined to get around any filter will find a way to do so. Our view is that educating kids and parents about being safe on the internet is the best way of tackling the problem."

Damn you Kiwis, damn you to hell for your sensible policies and your sweet green countryside and for Peter Jackson and Heavenly Creatures. What about this - we allow the All Blacks to win for a decade, and you can have Conroy and we can have Joyce? What's that? The All Blacks are going to win anyway? Damn you, damn you all to hell.

It turns out, of course, that the leaked ACMA list was indeed the ACMA list, despite Conroy's stupid denials, and it was a farcical list with the usual contradictions and follies of this kind of list, as prepared by hapless, hopeless bureaucrats. For evidence, see Blacklist snares Bill Henson fan site. See also Two thirds of ACMA blacklist out of date.

But the real farce is that Conroy doesn't realize how farcical he and his policies have become, in his bid to take Australia back to the nineteen fifties. 

Given the current perturbations of the Rudd government - the Defence Minister looks particularly wobbly - what's the bet that there'll be a cabinet re-shuffle by the end of the year, in a bid to get the government into shape for an election. If I were Conroy, I'd be worried about this, but he's such a clown, he's painted himself into a corner. He desperately needs the industry service providers to advise him that the current policy isn't workable, and he should opt for optional filtering in the home, and facilitate it as much as possible.

There's a meme going around that Conroy is in fact a member of Opus Dei, but apart from idle speculation on Jack the Insider and Wikipedia, which reports that he's "said" to be a member, I'll settle for the notion that he's just a dumb conservative Catholic unaware that much of rest of the world has moved on from the Pope as an infallible spiritual or technological advisor. (Anyhoo, as Opus Dei, rather like the Klu Klux Klan, doesn't publish membership lists, it'll have to remain idle speculation). 

In any case, Conroy and his partner having a daughter conceived with the aid of an egg donor and a surrogate mother (traveling to Victoria to circumvent NSW legislation) suggests he's not hard core on every issue, even if he did vote against RU486 in a conscience vote.

No, there's no need for a conspiracy theory here. It's just that Conroy is peculiarly ill-suited to the requirements of a top notch Minister for Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy, an area ill served by both conservative and so-called liberal politicians.

In recent times John Howard had as little understanding or care as John McCain, though perhaps he wasn't quite as inept in the area of email, while Labor's bungling of new technologies goes right back to the arrival of pay TV and the two lots of cables we still see festooned around the streets of the major cities (oh how I pine for the days of two electricity connections, two water supplies, and several multilayered sewers out in the back lane).

The current festering mess which is digital radio - fostered by Coonan and her comrades - has achieved no greater clarity under Conroy, and shows just how much successive governments have been interested in protecting current media interests, as opposed to promoting the interests of consumers anxious to join the rest of the world in exploring new technology.

The intertubes filtering crisis is just more of the same. And the more Conroy carries on about calling in the cops, the more he threatens prosecution and legal action, the more he'll dig himself in so deep that only Rudd will be able to bail him out, by sacking him. And that'll produce an eruption in the factions that will be ever so much fun to watch. Even roosters have to watch their back.

As expected on Q & A, the ABC's attempt at civilized chit chat (and a waste of Tony Jones), Conroy copped a lot of the questions for the first half hour and most of the indignation.

Conroy talked of "technical errors" by ACMA and the "Russian mob" infiltrating Queensland dentists, and people being mischievously misleading. There was a joke about banning Andrew Bolt - suddenly the blacklist seems like a really good idea -  and talk about the way the blacklist has been in existence for the past nine years (and Labor's added nothing to it), but not once did Conroy tackle in any effective or meaningful way, the stupidity of attempting a universal filter applicable to all Australians as a way of regulating the intertubes.

As usual, Conroy led with all kinds of nonsense about the worst sites on the intertubes, as if that kind of Humpty Dumpty talk over-ruled everything, and blathered on reassuringly about how the blacklist wouldn't be political (despite the fact that it already has been political, in relation to anti-abortionists and euthanasia supporters).

The government already has the legal capacity to act against those sites and netizens which break the law in relation to child pornography, and devising a black list (executed by way of a universal filter) cobbled together by bureaucrats in response to public complaints is a form of censorship loonacy of the first water. 

At one glorious moment, Conroy spluttered that publishing the black list would defeat the purpose of having the list (a pity then that lists have already been published, and will go on being published, as a service to people interested in using anonymizers to access the lists). 

George Orwell come on down. Luckily the audience laughed when Conroy came out with his double dutch logic. The absurdity of what he was saying struck a chord, and trying to blame the Liberals for the black list existing sounded like pathetic dissembling.

"It's possible to support a black list and to believe in free speech," said Conroy, as a corollary to his musings about Moore's Law and the wondrous advances in filtering technology.

Yeah, a black list you can't know about, because to know about it would defeat the purpose of having it. The man is an absurdist clown. Kafka could learn a lot from him.

Typically Andrew Bolt joined in on his side. You'd have to think Conroy might see this as some sort of warning - an extremist right wing loon cheering him on in his work, not to mention Susan Carland, the Islamic sociologist on the panel, who was shocked to find she agreed with Bolt. (Happily Bolt and Carland got back into the crusades later in the show).

Well I guess we're all a little shocked. Conroy, Andrew Bolt and morally concerned Islamics all at one in the march towards freedom. A nice assembly of China, fundie Islamic states and North Korea on Conroy's side. 

I guess that leaves embittered perverts, decadent geeks, foolish libertarians, and old fashioned free speech advocates out in the cold on the other side. Off to the Domain with the lot of you.

Meantime, Kiwis how about we let the All Blacks win for two decades, and you give us Joyce? What? They'll do that anyway? Damn you, damn you all to hell. Ah well, if I come to NZ, can I bring my alpacas with me?

(Below: Conroy smirking his way through Q and A, on the ABC, a time wasting, unsatisfying show with a format which should have stayed on SBS or Channel 9).

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