Archive for May, 2005

Bush’s butt kicked off internet

bush bum
Istanbul-based British satirist Michael Dickinson had his Lycos/Tripod website shut down for allegedly violating of their Terms of Service after he published this photoshopped picture of George W Bush taking down his shreddies. His website, Carnival of Chaos, had been publishing similar material since 2002 – including nude shots of Ariel Sharon, Condoleeza Rice, and Laura Bush – but George W’s arse was obviously a step too far for the American internet company.

Index on Censorship has Michael’s story, and also the full-sized picture entitled Tyrant’s Pants.

Self-contradictory messages on Ofcom code

The Daily Mail responded predictably to the new Ofcom Broadcasting Code with an article entitled “TV free-for-all as sex and violence curbs are ditched”. Equally predictably, “Massah” John Beyer is wheeled out to provide a few choice quotes on the matter. Branding the new code as “a recipe for ever-declining standards” he says,

We had hoped Ofcom would be more in favour of the rights of viewers and listeners not to be offended by what is on. Instead, they’ve given the broadcasters what they want – they can show whatever offensive material they like as long as they warn audiences about it.

Tsk, giving adults the information necessary to make their own choices? Bad Ofcom.

Beyer also expresses concern that the prohibition of programmes that “offended good taste and decency” is replaced by guidelines on “harm and offence”:

There is no real definition of ‘harmful content’. It is very vague and elastic and will confuse the general public.

he projects.

However, the official Mediawatch-UK press release gives a wholly positive reaction to the new code:

The new Code will end some of the uncertainty and speculation about the regulation of Television and Radio. We particularly welcome Ofcom’s snub to the pornography industry by its maintenance of the prohibition on ‘R18’ material, which has just been reinforced in the High Court, and the requirement that broadcasters should not include material that condones or glamorises violent or seriously anti-social behaviour

“After taking into account the context”, he pointedly did not add.

The onus is now very much on broadcasters to comply with the Code and stop screening violent and pornographic programmes. In the interests of media literacy Ofcom must make the terms of the Code widely known to the viewing and listening public.

So the one hand we have outright condemnation, and on the other a rather desperate attempt to put an upbeat pro-censorship spin on what is essentially a pro-freedom of expression document.

Anyone else think this double-talk has a negative impact on Mediawatch-UK’s reputation for providing “independent and principled opinion”?

UPDATE When I asked Beyer to clarify Mediawatch-UK’s position, he replied that the Mail “did not report my remarks in their entirety”. However, this does not address the blatant contradiction (ie, the new code is a licence for a free-for-all v. the new code prohibits the screening of violent and pornographic shows) . If anyone has better luck getting a straight answer out of him (his email address is on his website), please let me know.
UPDATE Beyer has now apparently “synthesised” the two statements, and will publish a new press release soon.

Force of Reason not strong in Italy

Italian journalist and author Oriana Fallaci is being sued for causing “outrage to religion”. Her latest book, The Force of Reason (not yet available in English), contains strong criticism of Islam.

Adel Smith, president of the Muslim Union of Italy, has brought the charges, and the hearing will be held in a court in the northern town of Bergamo. (Bartholomew has more on the zany Mr Smith.)

The judge who allowed the case has highlighted 18 sentences in the book which he considered offensive. Among them are

  • “to believe that a good Islam and a bad Islam exist goes against all reason”
  • Islam is “a pool… that never purifies”
  • Islam “sows hatred in the place of love and slavery in the place of freedom”

The Minister of Equal Opportunities is disquieted.

Similar trials would occur in the UK if the proposed Incitement to Religious Hatred laws are passed.

Other links: ABC news, BBC

UPDATE: Those 18 sentences, along with some sensible commentary by CM Newman, can be found at Dagger in Hand.

Ofcom’s new Broadcasting Code enshrines freedom of expression

Ofcom today release their new Broadcasting Code (.pdf and HTML versions available on site), which comes into effect on 25 July. It deals a heavy blow to would-be censors such as Mediawatch-UK and the CCTV by focusing on “informed choice” and the importance of “context”.

From the press release:

The Code allows broadcasters more creative freedom. It also allows audiences greater scope to exercise informed choice through the provision of information about what is to be broadcast. For the first time in a broadcasting code, the meaning of “context” is given and its importance highlighted.

The Code provides for broadcasters to transmit challenging material, even that which may be considered offensive by some, provided it is editorially justified and the audience given appropriate information. The freedom to broadcast this material is, of course, limited at times when children may particularly be expected to be listening or viewing – in television terms, pre-watershed.

The code does put greater emphasis on the protection of under 18s (eg no more hard-core on subscription as kids can access PIN numbers), but that is unlikely to appease campaign groups who think the entire population should be treated as if they have not yet reached the age of adulthood.

Pushing the wrong buttons

News that Microsoft’s new Xbox 360 includes a parental control function which will allow parents to stop their children playing violent games has failed to impress “Massah” John Beyer.

To have mum and dad pressing buttons here and there just isn’t the way that most families deal with these things. I think it is unrealistic of the games people to expect parents to have total control.

One suspects if Mediawatch-UK and its supporters could only master the concept of “pressing buttons here and there” all their problems would be solved. Unfortunately, even the buttons on their remote controls seem to be beyond them.

If only the state would take control of the media, making it decent and Christian, then all this confusing button-pressing would no longer be necessary.


Ofcom further cemented its reputation as a voice of reason today when it found Channel 4 “not in breach” for showing Lars Von Trier’s The Idiots (see 13 March article). The report, available as a .pdf download on Ofcom’s website, must come as a massive disappointment to the seven complainants who stayed up after midnight especially to be offended by the unpixelated penetrative sex scene (or at least pretended to stay up).

Under the circumstances: the serious contextualisation of the film within a season examining the censorship of film and television, its artistic purpose, the channel which transmitted it, the strong warnings before the film and prior to the scene in question and the scheduling after midnight, we consider this broadcast of the film on Channel 4 did not breach the Code. These circumstances all served to prepare potential viewers for the extreme content.

An important consideration was the artistic intention of the film in its style and narrative. The documentary approach, along with the brevity of the scene and its pivotal role in breaking up the group, further distanced the film from those of the ‘adult market’.

Mediawatch-UK has eight members on its committee. Which one is not pulling their weight?

Sikhs go mad in Delhi

Jo Bole So Nihal is a Bollywood film which has been causing ructions in India for its allegedly “disrespectful” portrayal of Sikhs. The film’s title is apparently made up of words which hold special magical significance in Sikhism (it’s a battle cry), and there is a scene in which a Sikh man is chased by some scantily clad ladies. Last week the Panthic Weekly had reported rumblings of protest.

Last night a bomb rocked two cinemas in Delhi, killing one and injuring 49. An open letter to the Chair of the Indian Censor Board said,

I would like to inform you that this film will incite the Sikhs to react violently when the movie is released anywhere in India or anywhere in the world for that matter. The Sikhs may be small in numbers but they are a proud people and any interference or jugglery of their religious sentiments by any person, by word or movie, will not tolerated. We love and respect our religion and any misrepresentation of the same is sacrilegious and will be dealt with as such.

(Full text available at The Melon Farmers)

As the saying goes, the Sikhs have made a stand, will the Christians do the same?

Answer: no – not the Irish Catholic ones anyway. The Times reports the reaction of a few religious figures to a new Simpsons episode, where Catholic heaven is portrayed as an Irish theme bar featuring heavy drinking and fighting. The Protestant version is more staid: people spend eternity playing croquet and badminton. An uncharacteristically reasonable former archdeacon of Dublin is quoted:

It is wrong for anyone to set out intentionally to cause offence, especially in religious matters, but sometimes religious people take themselves far too seriously and take offence too easily. We have survived screen and strife for over 2,000 years, so we’re not going to get upset about a cartoon.

Theatres unite against intolerance

Yesterday’s Independent has an interesting article on how intolerance and religious zealotry is “stifling the stage”.

Speaking in the wake of the violent protests that closed the play Bezhti at the Birmingham Repertory Theatre last year, managers across the country yesterday reported increasing problems in presenting controversial work.

The problem started when the Birmingham Rep consulted with local Sikhs, giving them the mistaken impression that they might influence the content of Behzti. Intriguingly, the Rep’s director mentions a local party-political influence in the affair.

Mr Church’s executive director, Stuart Rogers [of the Birmingham Rep], said what had become clear during the controversy was there were some people who had no concept of theatre, no understanding of the concept of fiction and who were naturally against freedom of speech. “There is a section of society who don’t want a dialogue,” Mr Rogers said.

It was the Behztiriots which sparked the whole anti- Jerry Springer: The Opera fiasco, and the infamous monkey-see-monkey-do “The Sikhs have made a stand – but will Christians?” email circular.

Tipped from Gagwatch.


down there ads
Charity-blackmailing fantasist Stephen Green has demonstrated his profound disgust at anything remotely sexual by complaining to icWales about an advertising campaign by Keep Britain Tidy.

The anti-litter campaign, aimed at the 18-24 age bracket, includes beer mats and posters. The national posters are shown above. The posters specific to Wales have a more retro feel to them, and feature innuendo such as “If you think my bin’s big, you should see the size of our Fanny’s“, “I’ve had more time to trim my bush since he stopped dropping rubbish“, and “My cock is huge since I stopped dropping rubbish“.

When you have recovered sufficiently to read on, here is what the manliest Christian in Wales had to say:

We are living in a society that has got no shame at all. These ads are cheap, tacky and horrible – it is all the things society should not be.

This is not just scantily-clad women but cheap and nasty sexual innuendo.

I am disgusted by it.

Better include something about it the next Queen’s speech then.

Sin City director is no monkey

Frank Miller, co-director of the Palme d’Or contender, Sin City, has fought back against critics who complain about the film’s ultra-violence.

From the BBC:

Violence is a real catchy buzzword these days. Considering most drama since The Iliad and before is extremely violent – because that’s how people work problems out – it’s a bit ridiculous.

I don’t believe in the “monkey see, monkey do” theory of entertainment.

The Japanese have the most violent fiction and movies in the world and they have among the lowest crime rate.


Thanks to Andrew.