Archive for August, 2005

Porn laws

Home Office minister Paul Goggins has announced the government’s intention to crack down on those who download violent pornographic images. This follows directly from a three-year campaign by the grieving mother of Jane Longhurst, and has little to do with any evidence linking violent porn with violent acts (obviously, because nothing conclusive has been published).

The news aroused John Beyer to put out a “news release“, highlights of which include:

There is plenty of research evidence concluding that the widespread availability of pornography is harmful to society because it presents a false view of human sexuality.

The annually rising rate of violent sexual crime is a good indicator of the harmful influence of pornography.

The murder of Miss Longhurst is the tip of a very large iceberg.

Amazing how he knows these things.

We hope that the legislation announced today will lead to a wide ranging review of the pornography industry and result is a long overdue strengthening of the criminal law.

UPDATE: Spiked has a well-argued piece by Brendan O’Neill about this proposed law – the gist being that it is more about political posturing than responsible, evidence-based legislation.

ACE half-heartedly lobbies government on Religious Hatred Bill

The Arts Council England, keen to re-establish its liberal credentials after press accusations that it gave in to Christian pressure groups over the funding of the JS:TO tour, has entered into talks with the Home Office about the proposed Religious Hatred Bill.

David McNeill, ACE head of public affairs:

This is legislation which at face value could be seen to restrict freedom of expression, and we are seeing a growing ability of the religious right in this country to campaign effectively on issues, which is a cause for concern.

There is a genuine background for this anxiety, but actually the arts has nothing to fear but fear itself. It is important the arts retains confidence in its ability to deal with challenging and provocative issues.

Hmm. The Incitement to Religious Hatred Bill “at face value could be seen…”, “the arts has nothing to fear but fear itself”? Sounds like Mr McNeill is already toeing the government line on this issue.

George Galloway

In a debate on TV and religion in Edinburgh, George Galloway, MP for Bethnal Green and Bow, somewhat unwisely went toe-to-toe with Salman Rushdie. He said TV executives had to be “very sensitive about people’s religion” otherwise they “had to deal with the consequences”.

Rushdie responded,

Is that a threat?

and went on to describe Galloway as “craven”.

The simple fact is that any system of ideas that decides you have to ringfence it, that you cannot discuss it in fundamental terms, that you can’t say that this bit of it is junk, or that bit is oppressive … we are supposed to respect that?


And on 14 September “Gorgeous” George is debating Christopher Hitchens in New York. More balls than brains, obviously.

Catching up

Slow blogging here at MWW owing to the holiday season and a dial-up connection. Here’s a quick roundup of a few stories we’ve missed in the past few days.

Pornstar outshines Beyer.

Cristina Odone does a U-turn, and mocks those who care, upsetting Beyer who must have thought he had a friend in the media elite.

They moan, they wail, they write green-inked letters to Channel 4 or Ofcom and accuse video-game manufacturers of nothing short of murder…

Stephen Green has a whinge at the Edinburgh TV festival about people who “know something is going to be offensive but then just go ahead and show it.”

Unlike our Stephen, who would never dream of offending anyone.

Writers’ Guild revives Anti-Censorship committee

The combined outrages of the JS:TO furore, the Behzti cancellation and the upcoming Incitement to Religious Hatred Bill have provoked The Writers’ Guild to revive its Anti-Censorship committee.

Chairman Graham Lester-George explains:

The Writers’ Guild started an Anti-Censorship Committee in the 1960s but when politicians stopped setting themselves up as our moral guardians, it was deemed surperfluous and wound up. It is to our great regret that we find ourselves compelled to reopen it.

The WG has been in talks with Equity and Bectu and intends to bring up the Religious Hatred Bill at the next TUC conference.

(From The Stage)

MCB demand apology

We’ve taken our eye off the Muslim Council of Britain for a while here at MWW, so we missed the BBC Panorama programme, A Question of Leadership, which focused on them and whether or not they were in denial about extremism in Britain.

Now the MCB has demanded an apology from the BBC. A spokesman said:

Last night’s programme was a complete travesty, which deliberately used selective quotes. The central theme of the programme, that the Muslim Council of Britain was in a state of denial about extremism, was presented in a deeply dishonest manner.
It was dishonestly presented and mischievously edited to present a pre-conceived view. We are absolutely disgusted with the clearly Islamophobic agenda of this programme.

The BBC has defended its programme:

The BBC has every confidence that the programme was fair and impartial and a timely contribution to the present debate taking place within the Muslim community. We were reporting on the debate, which continue.

Sir Iqbal Sacranie, the general secretary of the MCB, had tried to prevent the screening. During the show, he was asked if the government should have put pressure on the publishers of The Satanic Verses to withdraw it. He replied:

We respect the freedom of expression but we expect freedom of expression to be exercised with responsibility

Which, as Ophelia Benson points out, actually means “we feel obliged to say we respect the freedom of expression but in reality we’re dead against it.”

The best resource for information, links, and analysis of the whole affair is Bartholomew’s Notes. Go there to learn more.


The BBC is braced for complaints about its its latest drama series, which cost £60m to make. Rome, which features full frontal nudity and violent sex scenes, has been described by Newsweek magazine as “I Claudius on steroids and Viagra.” The joint venture with American broadcaster HBO will be shown on BBC2 in November.

John Beyer of Mediawatch-UK:

It seems to me that in terms of listening to what the people want, the BBC is falling on deaf ears. I feel it is simply not good enough, indeed HBO has a reputation for pushing back the boundaries of taste and decency. It beggars ones belief, however the public need to be protected from bad language and pornography of this sort.

Actually, he didn’t say any of that. Sounded like him though, didn’t it?

Jerry Springer, onanistic Janus

Stewart Lee and Richard Thomas have spoken out against Jerry Springer, branding him a “two-faced wanker” for withdrawing his support for the musical JS:TO.

Springer was originally full of praise for the show, as Lee pointed out during the talk entitled How to Write an Opera About Jerry Springer:

Springer came to the opening night and said it was so good he wished he’d written it. Two-faced wanker. He somewhat shifted his opinion after the controversy.

He called me a neo-nazi apologist. Only his change of mind happened behind closed doors, so no one knew about it – until now.

Thomas added,

We think he was trying to restart his political career at that point.

JS:TO DVD released in November

At their Edinburgh talk Steward Lee and Richard Thomas announced that a DVD of Jerry Springer: The Opera will be released in November.

Will Christian Voice be picketing video shops we wonder? Could be Heart of the Beholder all over again.

Lee and Thomas are also working on another opera, The Ha-Ha Hole, which will be ready in about 18 months.

ACE reconsiders JS:TO funding decision

According to The Stage, the Arts Council England are in talks with an unnamed third party to help fund the national tour of Jerry Springer: The Opera.

ACE theatre director appeared nonplussed at the delayed furore over the June decision not to back the show:

I’m not clear why all this has blown up. The tour hasn’t been cancelled, at least the venues don’t think it has been cancelled. It’s also unusual for ACE to fund commercial shows. We only do it when the level of risk taken by the producer is exceptional.

However, producer John Thoday, and writers Stewart Lee and Richard Thomas in their JS:TO talk yesterday, insist that the future of the tour remains uncertain.