Tuesday, 9 December 2008

Won’t Someone Think of the Cartoons?

There comes a time in every moral panic when common sense completely takes a holiday.

Case in point: the ludicrous ruling by NSW Supreme Court Justice Michael Adams that pornographic cartoons of Simpsons characters constitute genuine child pornography.

Now, tell me: when did the crusade against child pornography stop being about protecting children?

Because that has most definitely stopped. At some point it become all about political point-scoring, puritanical moral grandstanding and theocratic thought-policing.

And that’s where we are now.

If our judges can consider stupid pictures of cartoons having sex as anywhere near equivalent to actual child pornography, then quite frankly we’ve entered the Twilight Zone.

It would be funny if it wasn’t so sinister.

What’s next? Well, The Simpsons Movie will obviously have to be banned, because we got a glimpse of Bart’s cartoon willy.

Then we’ll have to ban all TV shows and films that feature crime of any sort. It doesn’t matter that it isn’t real . . . because it might encourage someone to really do it!

Then we’ll have to ban any books that describe crimes. It won’t leave us with much in the way of literature, just a selection of Dr. Seuss books (although obviously not The Cat in the Hat . . . he’s a bad influence on children) and Miffy by Dick Bruna.

And how many otherwise-abused children will be protected by all this nonsense? Precisely none.

But of course, that’s not the point is it? This isn’t about protecting children anymore. It’s about policing morals, even when those morals affect no-one except the individual.

And when the judiciary starts deciding they have the right to do that, then we’re all in a lot of trouble.


Anonymous said...

I thought you were working. . .Mr super busy happy man x

Rob said...


I have been looking at the actual transcript of this case today. I work with a guy who is studying to be a lawyer, and I brought it up with him as a ludicrous case. Being the lawyery type that he is, he seemed quite happy to defend the legal position.
So a few legal things out of the way: To be fair it was the magistrate's court that made the ruling, and the Supreme court who rejected the appeal. According to Toady (my lawyer friend, whose name has been changed to protect the judicial) tells me that, in a case, certain facts are presented, and then the law is interpreted to reach a judgement. When an appeal is made, that appeal is made based solely on the law part of that, not on the facts. So the supreme court can't look at the facts of the case per se, just the law that was applied to them. This means that if the facts were in some way wrong, that doesn't come up in an appeal.

It seems the entirety of this appeal, and its rejection, hinged on whether a drawing which represents a person is considered a person.

So then we looked at the act, when talking about child porn, and what it's about, and it's quite scary if you start applying it to fictional characters.

So according to the relevant NSW act: “child pornography means material that depicts or describes, in a manner that would in all the circumstances cause offence to reasonable persons, a person under (or apparently under) the age of 16 years:
(a) engaged in sexual activity, or
(b) in a sexual context, or
(c) as the victim of torture, cruelty or physical abuse (whether or not in a sexual context).”

So most of what you talk about in regards to films which feature crime is something of a slippery slope argument and is not entirely relevant, in that it is not necessarily illegal to have pictures of actual people performing actual illegal acts. (If I took a photo at a public place where someone did something illegal it is probably not illegal to own that photo.)
But it is entirely relevant when we talk about any form of fiction which involves a character having under-age sex (I immediately thought of Trainspotting. Renton and wassername having sex is just as bad, and probably a bucket load more tittilating than Simpsons characters). So I believe, under this ruling, by owning a copy of trainspotting I have performed exactly the same crime as this guy.

So there.

Rob said...

oh and here's the link to the case, if you're interested

Matt said...

Thanks for that, Rob. Most in-depth.
And it looks like I'm in trouble too, because apparently all you need is a description of under-age sex.
So I'm guilty of possessing the books of both Trainspotting and Lolita.

Rob said...

This is not my first foray into looking at these things, as I really like to argue with Toady.
So we look at bits of the various acts every now and then. What gets me is the amount of times "a reasonable person" gets a mention in the law. So it's only porn if its depictions or descriptions are "in a manner that would in all the circumstances cause offence to reasonable persons".

It's on the back of vagueness like this that lawyers make their money.