Culture wars and Stephen Conroy

March 27, 2009 — 10 Comments

Australian Minister for Censorship Stephen Conroy appeared on the ABC’s Q&A Thursday night. Transcript and video here (I’m not sure if the video is available outside of Australia).

I won’t rehash it all, but some interesting takeaways:

Political Content

STEPHEN CONROY: But that is not what is being proposed. I mean we believe that there is a compelling argument to block refused classification. We’ve not suggested, and I repeat, it would go against the fundamental tenet of the Labor party to suggest you would block political content, which is the China line and the Saudi Arabia line. I couldn’t be more clear or simple or straightforward on that. So no one is suggesting – no one – that we would go down that path.

The problem here is that refused classification has already been used to block political content, namingly the now infamous abortion site that included images of allegedly aborted fetuses.

Now we can argue whether those images are offensive or not (most people would say that they are), but like them or not, they demonstrate the effects of a legal procedure and were being used in a political context. You can show dead bodies on the 6pm news, but you can’t show abortion pictures online?

The call can only be political, even when the context isn’t taken into account, which is what ACMA claimed in Senate estimates.

So under the Labor Government, they won’t ban political websites for being political, they’ll just decree that the content on some political sites is refused classification on another ground and block them anyway.

And I nearly forgot, it was Conroy who previously described the filter as blocking “unwanted” content. For Conroy to now argue that the push as always been RC contradicts himself…until he changes his mind again…flip…flop….

Welcome to Nazi Germany.

Recourse/ errors

TONY JONES: Now, can I just interrupt once again, because there’s a story in the Sydney Morning Herald website today saying that a link containing a series of photographs of young boys by Bill Henson is actually on this blacklist. Bill Henson: back in the media for reasons of censorship. Is he on the list?

STEPHEN CONROY: The classification board looked at this website and actually said it’s PG and a technical error inside ACMA, I’m advised – literally a technical error – included it, but it was actually cleared by the classification board, so it shouldn’t have been on the list. Now, I’ve asked ACMA in the last few hours to go through their entire list again to see if there’s any other examples of this and at this stage – and they’re piling their way through it overnight – they found this one site that falls into this category where it’s been misclassified, not by the classification board but by the ACMA technology that they’ve been doing.

So the list, which is secret so there’s no way of telling what’s on it (until it gets leaked that is), contains “technical errors.” The list currently has 1100 sites on it, but under the new scheme could expand to include millions. How many “technical errors” are acceptable?

Guilty for the actions of others

STEPHEN CONROY: Now, I’d like to talk about the dentist, because that’s been a good bit of fun this week. Here’s what happened. The Russian mob targeted Queensland small businesses last year and what they did was they identified websites that had blank pages underneath the main page and what they would do is they would put some material that would be refused classification on that site, on that one page within that site.

So site owners who have done nothing wrong get banned because someone hacked their site and put RC material on it.

If someone broke into my home and committed a crime, would I be charged for the crime they committed?

Zig Heil.

STEPHEN CONROY: So the dentist that people say, well, how could you possibly block a dentist: because the Russian mob hacked his site. Well, not his site directly, but they actually entered into using his web address, so I don’t actually have a problem with wanting to try and combat the Russian mob putting – I’m not exaggerating – putting material that would be refused classification and then trying to publicise it worldwide

Because striking the innocent in a quest to target the guilty is a reasonable tactic? So someone at the back of my house is a terrorist, and the army is out the front wanting to get to the terrorists. Under Conroy’s logic it would be ok for the army to run their tanks over my house with me inside of it, because it’s justified in getting the bad guys.


STEPHEN CONROY: This is the existing standards by which current newspapers, current TV shows, current radio shows, are judged.

Actually, that’s also not true. News programs get a free pass of things like dead bodies in war zones as long as it’s deemed “news.” The picture of Saddam Hussein hanging was shown on TV. Dead body in a noose.

And now to the truth

STEPHEN CONROY: I believe in a civil society and a civil society does not have a wild west laissez faire culture.

So this is actually a culture war as opposed to cracking down on kiddie porn Senator Conroy?

Note that in context of Government policy, laissez faire is to “minimize or eliminate government intervention in most or all aspects of society.” So if this policy is the opposite of laissez faire, then it must be one of increasing Government intervention in culture. Culture is not child pornography or other illegal material, culture is (from Wikipedia) an integrated pattern of human knowledge, belief, and behavior that depends upon the capacity for symbolic thought and social learning. Sounds more and more like Nazi Germany, doesn’t it.