Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose
The Australian government in 2006 is now, more than ever, making monkeys of us all. See no evil, speak no evil, hear no evil, particularly if it is sex-related! Never mind the ultimate pornography of war and violence - after all men love both, don't they? (and sex of course, but don't let our religious institutions find out!)
Censorship around the world during the last 200 years and more continues to bedevil people everywhere. This section will include censorship issues from this and other countries which indicate how the governments around the world continue believing in mind control, yet in the end there are ways and means---------------!
This letter attacked these rights as follows:
Jonathan Wilkinson claims that if same-sex marriage is legalized the sky “will not fall here” (Same love, same sex. Why not same deal?”, Opinion, 3/1). Really? What does he mean? I doubt if even the most strident of moralists believes that the sun will not rise the next day.
But fast-forward a generation or two and pay the price of a massive increase in social instability as roles and understandings of sexuality become even more confused.
The traditional family unit is one of the cornerstones of every strong, mature civilization. Erode it and the inevitable collapse may not be tomorrow, or be dramatic – but it will fall.
Mark Rabich, Mount Evelyn
I sent the reply below to The Age on 4 January 2006, and The Age chose, as ever, not to publish a letter which contradicted their world view on such ideas of human rights for all as equal partnership rights. After all, John Howard and Kim Beazley (Assistant Prime Minister) have said that marriage is between a man and a woman, and no laws shall tear that asunder!
More censorship by that so-called newspaper The Age!
Mannie De Saxe, Lesbian and Gay Solidarity, Melbourne,2/12 Murphy Grove,Preston,Vic 3072
Phone: (03)9471 4878email: josken_at_zipworld_com_au
Mark Rabich (04/01/06) asserts that "The traditional family unit is one ofthe cornerstones of every strong, mature civilisation". This requiresproof because Rabich's homophobic letter suggests that eroding this unitwill lead to civilisation's inevitable collapse.
The traditional family unit is already in a state of collapse due to thechanging nature of our societies, and has nothing to do with homosexualsdemanding marriage rights, so that statistically at least one in three ofthese heterosexual units disintegrates after a few years.
Perhaps Rabich supports the Iranian government's state sanctioned murdersof homosexuals, and the western world's unsanctioned murders ofhomosexuals. Discrimination continues against gays, lesbians, transgendersand people living with HIV/AIDS and it is time this was stopped.
Until such time as we are given equal rights with other citizens, we willcontinue to demand them, and as marriage is a religious construct, civilunions recognised by law and giving superannuation and other rights takenfor granted by heterosexuals will serve just as well.
Homosexuals have been around for as long as heterosexuals and are entitledto the same human rights.
Mannie De Saxe, for Lesbian and Gay Solidarity, Melbourne
Now, let’s look at Mark Rabich’s credentials. He is a supporter of creationism, so god is on his side. What more needs to be said!
The latest infringement of our rights as citizens of Australia has come from the Federal government in the form of the new “Criminal Code Amendment (Suicide Related Material Offences) Act, which became law on 6 January 2006.
According to Marshall Perron, who was chief minister of the Northern Territory, leading a Country Liberal Party government, between 1988 and 1995, and whose “Rights of the Terminally Ill Act was overturned in 1997 by the private member’s bill introduced by Workplace Relations Minister Kevin Andrews, Australia has gone backward in this area.
During the period 1985 to 1998 many people in Australia had watched friends, relatives, lovers with AIDS and AIDS-related diseases suffer unbelievably from some of these, due to the nature of the illnesses they caused. Some of the people with these distressing and painful illnesses decided they could not go through what they had seen other people suffering and decided to end their days by euthanasia. There was not a great deal of pain management available for many of these conditions, some of which, like cytomegalovirus, caused blindness in addition to other painful diseases, and, with limited financial resources and also limited availability of care, both in hospitals and at home, it was easier to commit suicide.
There may be some statistics available of the numbers who suicided, although this is doubtful, but it has to be acknowledged that many of these suicides were assisted, by friends, partners, doctors, nurses and others who knew that the patients were going through unbearable suffering and wished to live no longer.
Fortunately, by the late 1990s, new drugs had come onto the market which, to a certain extent, has made HIV/AIDS manageable, so that many people were able to return to work and to live lives more or less normally, within the limitations of the side effects many of the drugs caused. So the suicide situation for people living with HIV/AIDS is no longer as it was in those earlier grim and unhappy times.
Back to 2006, where we have a federal government which is eroding the civil liberties of all its citizens as it increases controls over every aspect of our lives. How could one equate censorship with suicide? By passing legislation which determines that people may no longer talk about suicide, write about suicide, have any items about suicide on web sites, and will, according to Marshall Perron “prohibit free and open dialogue between Australian citizens in a fundamental way. It will make it a crime to use a telephone, fax, email or internet carriage service to discuss the practicalities of end-of-life options. Passed by the Federal Parliament in July (2005) with only the Greens and the Democrats voting against it, the law is a devastating blow to the rights of the terminally ill and to the many elderly people who support voluntary euthanasia.”
It should be noted by the federal government and all those working in the field of youth suicide, whose new law it seems is aimed at preventing young people from gaining access to any items discussing suicide, that the numbers of young males, even more than young females, committing, or attempting, suicide, are more often than not, young people from rural and regional areas where help is not available and where the issue is very often a depth of despair about the person’s developing sexuality awareness.
Rather than addressing the problems, the government thinks it can legislate the suicides out of the public’s consciousness. This will only exacerbate an already criminal situation in which governments around Australia all share the blame in allowing this horrendous situation to continue without attempting to remedy it.
We now have sedition laws which means that we can be arrested for criticising the government. If the government carries out its threats on this basis it is going to have very full prisons if people agree to go to jail rather than recant their “sins”!
Police state is on its way, Howard has shown himself unwilling to accept any challenge to his ways of thinking, and he is showing marked signs of megalomania. This is dangerous for us all, because when it is time for the next election in 2007, some situation can be manufactured which will ensure that the government, through the governor general, can declare a state of emergency and state we are under threat of terrorism and need to “protect our country”. The biggest threat to our democracy comes, not so much from the Howard control as from the fact that there is no opposition in Australia. Howard has been lucky to have a compliant branch of his party called the Alternative Liberal Party (ALP) which supports everything he has done – children overboard, Tampa, asylum seekers, sedition laws – the list is endless – and now includes censorship of discussions about suicide and everything else.
A report in The Age newspaper of 26 January 2006 by Jonathan Watts in the UK’s Guardian tells the sordid story of Google on the make in the world’s fastest growing industrial giant.
“Google will join Microsoft and Yahoo! in helping China, the world’s biggest censor, in blocking access to websites containing politically sensitive material.”
This in a country which has one of the worst records on human rights and where the death penalty is one of the largest in the world. Google used to have as its mission statement: to make all possible information available to everyone who has a computer or mobile phone.
Is this a case of Mephistophelian selling of their soul to the devil so that they can become even richer, and their shareholders, since they went public, reap more dividends on their investments?
The end result is that those of us who still have some semblance of belief in the possibility of human rights around the world will no longer be able to support, or use the services of, a company so in breach of any human decency that they forfeit the right to that support.
“After a year of soul-searching, Google executive have grudgingly accepted that this is the price they have to pay to base servers in China. The move will improve the speed – and attractiveness – of the service in a country where Google faces strong competition from the leading Mandarin search engine, Baidu.
But Google faces a backlash from free speech advocates, internet activists and politicians, some of whom are already asking how the company’s policy in China accords with its mission statement.”
Google will thus be required to abide by the rules of the world’s most restricted internet environment. China is thought to have 30,000 online police monitoring blogs, chat rooms and portals. The scale of censorship in China is likely to dwarf anything Google has done before.
“Sophisticated filters have been developed to block or limit access to ‘unhealthy information’, which includes human rights websites, foreign news outlets and pornography. Of the 64 internet dissidents in prison worldwide, 54 are from China.
Google has remained outside this system until now. But its search results are still filtered and delayed by the giant banks of government servers, known as the great firewall of China. Now, Google will actively assist the government to limit content. There are technical precedents. In Germany, Google follows government orders by restricting references to sites that deny the Holocaust. In France, it obeys local rules prohibiting sites that stir up racial hatred. And in the US, it assists the authorities’ crackdown on copyright infringements.
Google acknowledged the move was contrary to its corporate ethics, but said a greater good was being served.”
Greater good for whom? Google’s shareholders? China’s citizens, who are already suppressed and repressed as far as political dissent is concerned, already live in a society where capitalism is rearing its US type ugly head with the economic growth of the country, but with this increasing wealth to a limited number of its citizens, freedom of thought is now to be censored even further with the help of a compliant Google!!
The Age newspaper carried an article on 22 January 2006 by Gabriella Coslovich under the headline:
Spare parts too hot for car showroom impressionism
The above photos of two nude paintings by Robert Mendham, a Canberra artist, were part of a Midsumma art exhibition at Melbourne City Lexus.
Coslovich reports as follows:
“Michelangelo’s David has one. So does Lucien Freud’s $7.4 million painting After Cezanne which hangs in Canberra’s National Gallery.
Lucien Freud himself has one, as, no doubt, did Michelangelo.
A penis, that is. After all, it is a common enough, um, feature among men.
But the male member has been banished from a place where one might imagine it would comfortably belong – that bastion of masculinity, the car showroom.
It appears the penis is an offending article, even when it’s a mere representation, in paint, on canvas, carefully exhibited on a wall.
Melbourne City Lexus has taken exception to several paintings by Canberra artist Robert Mendham, whose show, Ambiguities, is on at the car dealer’s showroom in Elizabeth Street – minus the five offending paintings of male nudes, which have been exiled to a remote upstairs space out of sight of potential car buyers. The art dealer Judith Pugh has exhibited work in the Lexus showroom for a year, without so much as a spot of bother.
She expected nothing but the usual cordial relationship this time, too. Melbourne City Lexus’ managing director, Greg Glyndwr, had been shown one of Mendham’s works, and did not appear perturbed y it. But some sensitivity emerged when Pugh sent out invitations to the show’s opening night featuring one of Mendham’s nude males.
Pugh also registered the show in the Midsumma festival, which celebrates the work of gay and lesbian artists. The show was launched on Thursday evening (19 January 2006) and, after the opening night festivities, the five paintings featuring penises were removed.
‘The general manager of Melbourne City Lexus took the view when he saw the exhibition that it would offend some of his clientele,’ Pugh told The Sunday Age yesterday.
‘And so we reached a compromise in order to make sure that Robert’s show would be seen that evening. We agreed we would put the pictures up, and at the end of the opening take down the five out of the 14 pictures with penises in them.’
Mendham’s paintings pay homage to Henri Matisse and his highly decorative, vibrantly coloured backgrounds, but where the French impressionist would have used a femalenude, Mendham substitutes a male.
The paintings also evoke the work of British painter Lucien Freud and his languid, listless and, dare we say, rather limp male nudes.
Many a joke has been told with a nudge and wink about the inverse correspondence between the size of a man’s automobile and the size of his, well, physique. This may explain the reticence to confront clients with Mendham’s work.
Or, perhaps, it was the exhibition’s association with the Midsumma festival.
As far as Mendham is concerned, the resulting censorship is ‘a 19th-century attitude for 21st-century cars.’
Melbourne City Lexus was unavailable for comment last night (21 January 2006).”
The Melbourne gay paper, MCV featured this astounding censorship on the front page of its 26 January 2006 issue under the headline:
The article followed much the same lines as the Sunday Age article, but included what the artist, Robert Mendham, had to say about the censorship:
“If it comes down to an issue of content, I find that ridiculous. The paintings feature a male nude. Does that mean Michelangelo’s David would be removed from view if featured on display at the Melbourne City Lexus showroom?”
Midsumma was also shocked at the censorship decision.
“Robert Mendham is a respected artist and we are very pleased to have his exhibition Ambiguities as aprt of the Midsumma program,” said Midsumma Festival Manager Sheah Sutton. “I understand that the nudity is not gratuitous and it’s a shame that in this day and age, there is still a reticence in displaying the male human form within art,” she said.
I suppose it would be funny if it wasn’t so tragic, but it is a reflection of the society we are living in in Australia 2006 that the following incident should be worthy of having to be reported. In the same edition of The Age newspaper in which this article by David Marr appeared, 30 January 2006, a letter about the same topic was printed.
First the article, then the letter:
“Victoria Police may have illegally seized a ragged Australian flag that was hung outside a Melbourne art gallery.
The artwork was removed in a surprise raid several days ago, though police remain unsure if its display outside the Trocadero Art Space in Footscray was breaking any laws.
The National Association for the Visual Arts, together with the Australian Lawyers for Human Rights, said the removal of the flag was an act of censorship.
The president of the lawyers’ association, Simeon Beckett, said defacing the flag was not a federal offence.
‘It is extraordinary and potentially unlawful that the police have seized an artwork before they have determined whether an offence has been committed,’ he said.
For several months, the Trocadero has hung works on a billboard outside its first-floor window on Hopkins Street. The burnt flag, by socialist artist Azlan McLennan, was titled Proudly UnAustralian and first appeared on January 18.
Parody posters by McLennan put up at tram stops as part of a public art program and urging ethnic minorities not to take public transport were removed this month on the orders of acting Transport Minister Bob Cameron, who said they were offensive.
The gallery’s director, Michael Brenner, said he had received no complaints about the ragged flag.
But two days later, when the gallery was unattended, Senior Constable Jay McDonald, of Footscray Police, climbed out of the window of the India Impex café next door and removed the flag. Next day Mr Brenner contacted Constable McDonald, who had left his card behind. ‘He informed me he had removed the flag due to numerous complaints within the community,’ Mr Brenner said.
‘I asked him whether any laws had been broken. And he told me he would like to conduct some further research into the matter to see whether any federal offence had occurred in relation to defacing the Australian flag.’
‘An investigation is currently being conducted into the circumstances surrounding the display of the flag and to establish if any offence has been committed,’ a statement issued on Friday by Inspector Craig Walsh, of the Victoria Police media unit, said.
Prime Minister John Howard last week said flag burning should not be made a criminal offence.”
The letter, from Marcus Neofitou, Daylesford, was given the following heading by The Age:
T’was the night before this year’s Australia Day when Footscray police saw fit to remove an artwork by controversial artist Azlan McLennan from the front of Melbourne art gallery, Trocadero.
The exhibited piece, entitled Proudly UnAustralian, was an image of a burning flag. The artist intended it to be a reflection on free speech and a protest against the unsavoury actions of our Government.
The police who removed the work claimed to be acting on a ‘public complaint’ and are apparently considering laying charges!
This outrageous censorship is a sad demonstration of our disappearing freedoms in this age of sedition laws, paranoia and blind patriotism.”
Hopefully one day we will be able to look back on this age of censorship by the present federal government as a bad dream from which we have woken, as from a nightmare, but at this stage, don’t hold your breath!! At least it happened ultimately in South Africa when the apartheid regime came to an end in 1994 after nearly 50 years of police state rule, but we are now entering our 10th year of this government, and with no opposition likely in the immediate future, and therefore no challenge, the forecast is very bleak indeed!
And now an update on the above story from The Age, 10 February 2006
The Age newspaper reported on 1 March 2006 that Azlan McLennan had rehung his artwork, as shown below.
Here is the report:
Defiant artist flies his 'UnAustralian' flag again
by Adam Morton
"A controversial artist has challenged police to charge him by rehanging a burnt and torn Australian flag outside a Footscray art gallery.
Azlan McLennan yesterday hung his flag - titled Proudly UnAustralian - on the same billboard outside the Trocadero Art Space that police seized it from on Januray 20, when a policeman climbed through a neighbouring cafe window to remove it.
A police investigation continues into a possible charge of offensive behaviour, but McLennan said prominent solicitor Rob Stary had advised him that he had not broken the law. "As the Prime Minister has said and as I've said, it's not a criminal offence to burn the flag," McLennan said.
Mr Stary said it was ridiculous to suggest the artist could be prosecuted. "They wouldn't have returned the flag to him if there was any remote prospect of him being charged," he said.
McLennan has had five works censored in the past two years.
McLennan said police had threatened to take down the flag if he rehung it.
"So we'll see what happens," he said.
Maribynong district police Inspector Bob Stork said a decision whether to remove the flag a second time would be an operational division."
The following item was in the news from the ABC and is yet ANOTHER aspect of this government's ongoing chicanery - it seems NOTHING will stop them from censoring vital information and keeping the citizens of Australia in mushroom condition - keeping us in the dark and feeding us bullshit!:
A free-to-air television watchdog has prevented a commercial involving aprominent South Australian scientist from being screened, sparking claimsof political interference.
The advertisement for the Solar Shop in Adelaide featured Dr Tim Flannery.
In the ad he described climate change as "the greatest threat facinghumanity" - a statement which was rejected by the Commercials Adviceregulatory body.
Dr Flannery says the move reflects an ignorance of the issue rather than awider conspiracy to suppress information.
"I was surprised actually," he said.
"But then on reflection I thought 'Well perhaps a lot of people don'tunderstand the full implications of what we're facing with climatechange'.
"And if they don't recognise it as the most severe threat, then reallythat's a matter for some more education perhaps."
The Solar Shop's managing director, Adrian Ferraretto, says he believes anindirect reference in the commercial to Australia's rejection of the KyotoProtocol may have triggered the ban.
"At the end of the commercial we have a tag which says we're doing Kyotoanyway, and I think that may have had something to do with the banning ofthe ad," he said.
An article which appeared in The Age newspaper on 10 March 2006, by Julian Lee with Sasha Shtargot, AAP. is headed
"Bloody hell! Sensitive Poms rein in our larrikin ads
The article criticises the British for censoring an advertisement which they found offensive, but nowhere in the article does it give a "right of reply" by any spokespeople from the UK - typical hypocrisy from The Age and the Australians who 'invented' the advertisement!
Quietly forgotten is The Age's ongoing self-censorship of items with which it disagrees or which may rouse political controversy which The Age cannot handle.The cartoon below, by Michael Leuning, was not published in The Age by then editor Michael Gawenda, a Jew who had previously been an editor of the Australian Jewish News (aka Israeli Zionist Times). He found it offensive in the extreme to holocaust survivors, and it appeared in publication in an ABC Media Watch programme around 11 November 2002.
The cartoon came to light again in the last few weeks when a very misguided "comedian" in Australia sent it to the Iranians who were seeking cartoons 'mocking' religions other than Islam because of the international furore over the Danish publication mocking the prophet Mohamed.
Since the outcry over the cartoon's appearance in Iran, Michael Leunig has disappeared, just when we need him to satirize the poitical scene as he has been doing for so many years.
The censorship debate is sickening enough with the federal government’s attempts to silence dissent in all forms of media communication which it finds unpalatable in an increasingly authoritarian regime, so it really shouldn’t come as a surprise when the assistant prime minister Kim Beazley enters the censorship arena!
Beazley’s latest foray into the world of fantasy comes in this article which appeared in The Age of 22 March 2006:
Labor moves to block internet porn and violence
By Nassim Khadem, Canberra
"Internet service providers would be forced to block violent and pornographic material from reaching home computers under a Labor government.
Opposition Leader Kim Beazley yesterday unveiled Labor’s plan to protect children from internet pornography. Under the plan, internet service providers (ISPs) would have to offer a filtered “clean feed” system where users would be unable to access international websites containing child pornography, violent material or sites rated R or higher, which are banned by the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA).
The service would be provided to all households, schools and other public internet points accessible by children, but parents would be able to “opt out” if they wanted to.
Mr Beazley said that under current law banned content can be removed from the internet if it is based in Australia, but about 83 per cent of prohibited content, including child pornography, came from overseas websites. He said the system requiring ISPs to offer subscribers cheap or free filter software was not working because few parents used them.
“The reality is that cost and poor computer literacy mean almost two-thirds of parents don’t have internet filters on their family computers,” he said. “This is not good enough when research suggests the exposure of children and others in the community to this sickening content can lead to aggression towards women and child abuse.”
Mr Beazley said overseas telecommunications companies such as British Telecom and Telenor in Norway and Sweden, used the system. Introducing filtering would impose costs on providers, but Labor would work with the industry to ensure the cost would not be passed on to users, he said.
However, Internet Industry Association chief executive Peter Coroneos said the cost would be enormous and would have to be passed on if the plan was implemented. He said Australia already had the best filter systems in the world and more parents would need to be educated about availability, rather than changing the entire scheme.
“We admire Labor’s initiative but we just think it has come too late and is inferior to what we have,” he said. “We have filters that not only block material that is banned by ACMA but tens of thousands of other sites that ACMA does not know about, including international websites related to gambling or containing racist material.”
Family First senator Steve Fielding said Labor had delivered the same policy as his party. He said he had raised the issue with Prime Minister John Howard numerous times but no action had been taken. “We know we have to let our kids roam the internet for study, yet we can’t be watching over their shoulders all the time,” he said.
Federal Communications Minister Helen Coonan said it would cost $45 million to implement such a system and there would be continuing costs of $33 million per year.
But a Labor spokesman said major telecommunication providers overseas would not be providing filters if they dramatically slowed internet access."
Censorship is worrying many members of the community, as the following two letters to newspapers show.
The first letter was in the Sunday Age on 12 March 2006, under the heading:
SBS’s slip is showing
Coke Tomyn argues that most people agree with Pater Costello, that those who want to impose Islamic law on Australia should go somewhere else (Letters 5/3).
I agree, but neither he nor Peter Costello goes far enough. Many of us born-and-bred Aussies do not want to live under catholic law either.
With barely a whimper of protest from anyone, SBS has deferred an episode of South Park that apparently makes fun of the Catholic religion. Its reason, when I called SBS, was that it was due to public sensitivity.
Regardless of the quality of the show, this type of censorship is outrageous, particularly as SBS has aired South Park episodes lampooning other religions, including Islam, Mormonism, and, most recently, Scientology.
Australians should be wary of any religion imposing its doctrine on our democracy, and should be equally wary of our media censoring itself to cater for the perceived views of special-interest groups.
VICKY VLADIC, Box Hill North
The second letter was in The Age on 13 March 2006, under the heading:
Let the book burnings begin
If Brendan Nelson doesn’t want “pejorative views” about the military being put to young people (The Age, 10/3), then he better start the book banning and burning now. A quick skim of the VCE English/literature text lists for 2006 reveal the following seditious inclusions: Camus, Albert, The Plague; Greene, Graham, The Quiet American; Harrison, Charles Yale, Generals Die in Bed; Levi, Primo, If this is a Man; Hosseini, Khaled, The Kite Runner; O’Brien, Tim, In the Lake of the Woods; Pax, Salem, The Baghdad Blog; Xinran, Sky Burial; Grave of the Fireflies (animation); Conrad, Joseph, Heart of Darkness. The 2007 list seems to be equally rife with anti-war and anti-establishment literature.
Given the Howard government’s continuing blitzkrieg on Australian civil rights, I expect Nelson’s banning and burning to start any day.
Don Swanson, Warrnambool
If this is but a small sample of the thinking in the community at the current time, and let’s face it, the Fairfax media is not the most forward thinking organization in the country in 2006, then many in the community are deeply worried at the direction this government and its loyal opposition are taking. Back to the 19th and early 20th century periods reflecting the suppression of the rights of citizens in increasingly narrowing aspects of democracy, the future, from 2005, when Howard got his parliamentary wish of ruling both houses of parliament, is one of darkness and fear, and the shape of things to come.
They don’t get any gloomier than what is happening to censor our thoughts, and the loyal opposition, the Alternative Liberal Party (ALP) led by the man of straw, Kim Beazley, offers little hope of change.
South Africa from 1948 to 1994, Australia from 1996 to when???
The news during the last week that Richard Neville's satire on the Prime Minister had a web site shut down is another example of the determination by the Howard government to silence any criticism in any way possible. So censorship in extremis!
The following is a news report from the World Socialist Web Site:World Socialist Web Site
By Richard Phillips,23 March 2006
One week before the third anniversary of the criminal invasion and occupation of Iraq, the Australian government forced the closure of a satirical web site that powerfully exposed several key lies told by Prime Minister John Howard to justify participation in the US-led war.
Authored by Richard Neville, former editor of Oz magazine—a well-known satirical publication that challenged British censorship laws in the 1960s—the site—johnhowardpm.org—was suspended after a high-level intervention by the prime minister’s department and the federal police.
The web site consisted of an “apology speech” from Howard in which the prime minister announces that he is reversing his support for the invasion of Iraq. It cites several Howard speeches, including an address to the Institute of Public Affairs in May 2004 when he claimed that hospitals, electricity, water, sewerage and other basic services were being restored to ordinary Iraqis. In the “speech”, the prime minister claims that he is now “a troubled citizen” and that all US-led forces should withdraw as soon as possible so that the Iraqi people can “regain control of their future”. Although the site remains blocked, the speech is now available as a pdf at “John Howard’s apology: reflections of the situation in Iraq”
Posted on March 13, the site received over 10,500 hits in a little over 24 hours before it encountered unexplained “technical difficulties”. Neville contacted Yahoo!, which maintained for several days that it was looking into “technical problems”. On March 16 he phoned Melbourne IT and one of its representatives admitted that Greg Williams from the People, Resources and Communication Division of the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet had ordered the site’s domain name be suspended, effectively shutting down the site.
Williams falsely claimed that the site looked like the prime minister’s own web site and therefore violated its property rights. Melbourne IT also admitted that the company had received three phone calls from the Australian Federal Police, including from the AFP’s Australian Hi-Tech Crime Centre.
Not surprisingly, Yahoo! has not objected to this violation of the right to free speech. Last year it provided the Chinese government with information that led to a 10-year jail term for a Chinese journalist who provided information to western news services about growing inequality in China. The multi-billion dollar corporation responded to protests over this action by declaring that it regularly responded to requests from police agencies for information, not just in China but in other countries as well. Yahoo! also has a long-standing agreement to censor Chinese language search engine and other services, in line with Beijing’s dictates.
Bruce Tonkin, Melbourne IT’s chief technology officer, later told the media that johnhowardpm.org looked like “a phishing site”—a bogus web site used to “fish” for Internet users’ financial information and passwords and therefore had to be taken down.
These claims are, of course, totally bogus. The site, which follows a long tradition of political satire and was registered in Neville’s name, was blocked not because it was “phishing” or violating intellectual property rights, but because it constituted an effective and politically embarrassing exposure of the Howard government and its lies.
No one from the police or government, the web hosting company Yahoo! or the domain name registration body Melbourne IT, bothered to contact Neville before his site was censored. Nor has he been provided with any written notification or explanation.
There appears to be no immediate or clear legal framework through which Neville can appeal against what has occurred—an Australian government bureaucrat can simply phone the domain name registration body and demand that the domain name be cancelled, thereby dismantling the site.
What has happened to Neville sets a dangerous precedent for the future. Using these police-state methods any political cartoonist, filmmaker, artist, writer or actor satirising a government politician can now be accused of copyright infringements and censored and/or prosecuted.
Government interference to take down the “Howard apology” site is the latest in an escalating assault on basis democratic rights. The government is acutely sensitive to any exposure of its political record and is attempting to suppress and marginalise all opposition to its participation in the illegal occupation of Iraq.
Over the past few years, with tactical support from the Labor Party, it has introduced a range of repressive measures, including the 1999 Online Services Act to control Internet content and last year’s repressive anti-terror and sedition legislation.
Under the new sedition laws any Internet site, film, broadcast or publication expressing sympathy or support for anyone opposing or resisting Australian military interventions overseas can be banned and its authors jailed for up to seven years. Organisations can also be outlawed and their members jailed for “urging disaffection” with the government. While Neville has not yet been charged with sedition, the government could move to do so at any time.
* * *Richard Neville told the World Socialist Web Site yesterday that he was deeply shocked by the suppression of his site. “It was like being struck on the head with a hammer when Melbourne IT told me that the site was taken down after phone calls from the prime minister’s department,” he said.
“For a prime minister’s secretary to be involved in this sort of thing is bizarre. What are they so paranoid about? In fact, I didn’t believe it and my first reaction was that I wanted it in writing. They told me they would do this but it still hasn’t happened.
“To suggest that I was trying to violate the property rights of the prime minister’s web site is ridiculous. Every link in the speech takes the reader to information contradicting everything Howard had said and still says about Iraq.
“This is a complete violation of my basic rights and if it can happen to me it can happen to anyone. Anybody who believes this action was taken solely because of the similarity between the two sites may as well believe in fairies.”
Neville pointed to the Howard government’s repressive new sedition laws and said that Melbourne IT had obviously been placed under political pressure.
“I can’t pretend to know how this all works but the atmosphere these people are now operating in is one of paranoia. What would have happened to them if they had left the site up? After a phone call from the PM’s department and from three federal police I guess they got the message,” he said.
Now consider this report from 2004 and think about the situation described above - won't be long before we are back to the Lord Chamberlain days of the last two centuries!
This article was in the Sydney Morning Herald newspaper on 26 November 2004, but it adds considerably to the censorship issues in Australia in 2006, so here, readers, is a snippet of where we are heading in John Howard’s new Australia – back to the future???!!! The report was via Reuters:
Censorship put plays through a difficult stage
Paul Majendie in London
“Never show Jesus or refer to royalty. Do not blaspheme or mention homosexuality.
Anyone harming friendly relations with a foreign power is in trouble. Anything likely to cause a breach of the peace could bring the curtain down.
It is a miracle any plays ever made it to the stage, so strict were the rules laid down by the lord chamberlain, a senior member of the royal household who acted as Britain’s official censor.
Now, for the first time, his records are being published, revealing the judgements of the military officers turned “stage police” hired to read every script.
The 200-year-old office of the lord chamberlain had to check each new play before it was staged in Britain until 1968, when censorship was abolished.
‘The whole thing was a tragi-comedy,’ said Dominic Shellard, a professor of English whose book The Lord Chamberlain Regrets… was published on Wednesday (24 November 2004).
Samuel Beckett’s Waiting for Godot was labeled ‘an interminable verbal labyrinth’ by censors, who demanded he replace one “fart” with a “belch.” Swear words were swiftly excised.
References to pubic hair were cut from John Osborne’s Look Back in Anger, the kitchen sink drama that spelled the end for genteel drawing room comedies.
As for Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, Tennessee Williams was lambasted for ‘vomiting up the recurring theme of his not-too-subconscious where the gentlewoman is debased.’
Serious politics was also at play.
‘In 1938 the Lord Chamberlain didn’t want any plays passed that would insult a friendly power,’ Professor Shellard said.
‘Terence Rattigan wrote a satire on Hitler called Follow Your Leader, but because we liked Hitler in the early part of 1938 it was considered rude to him.
‘By 1939 the censor’s readers decided they had made a terrible mistake and [the play] was a great success.’
No blasphemy was allowed, but that posed problems.
‘You could not mention the deity on stage. That got them into difficulty with the Mystery Plays, which had God in them and Satan on stage,’ he said.
Playwrights could not mention a member of the royal family unless he or she had been dead for 50 years.
Homosexuality was firmly off limits, ‘a bit ironic as the theatre was so hospitable to gay people’, Professor Shellard said.
In 1965 the lord chamberlain sought a prosecution over Edward Bond’s play Saved, in which a baby was battered to death in a pram.
‘The judge ruled the theatre guilty but fined them only two guineas. The government soon decided censorship was untenable,’ he said.”
In 1957 the South African apartheid government published a document:
This was at a time before videos, DVDs, computers and the Internet as we know them today in 2006. The document, just under 300 pages in length, covered as many categories as were current at the time, and some of the items are hair-raising!
Part I is headed “The Nature of the Problem” and Section A has a general analysis, covering The Union and Countries Abroad (The Republic of South Africa was at that time the Union of South Africa and was a British Commonwealth country), The Problem in the Union – Books, Magazines, Newspapers, the Non-European, Advertisements, Circulation Figures, Readers, The Written Word, The Book Trade and the System of Distribution, and The Problem in the Union in General. Section B is headed “Special Reports”.
Part II is headed “Combating the Problem” and Section A is Control Measures.. Section B is Promotive Measures.
Chapter 1 has a general introduction followed by the terms of reference, the methods of enquiry and the compilation of the report.
Let us NEVER, EVER, forget that the people who were used to censor material in the South Africa of the time didn’t know that “Black Beauty” was about a horse, and was censored.
If that was unbelievable in apartheid South Africa in the 1950s to 1990s, imagine what is already happening here in Australia in the 21st century, when we have the benefits of the Internet which governments around the world are trying to control.
In China, where the Chinese dictatorship is trying to suppress Google and others operating in that country by controlling what is and isn’t allowed, the Chinese people are finding ways around this 21st century “Prohibition”.
Living in South Africa during much of the apartheid years, we discovered ways to circumvent the strict censorship operating at the time, and many of us risked fines and imprisonment in order to bring “contraband” into the country.
The Australian government is trying to introduce us to a controlled “thought police” regime which will be able to be stiffened with the new subversion and sedition laws, but in the end, it will all be self-defeating.
It is just very depressing to have to live through a repeat of what I thought had been left behind when we left South Africa in 1978, believing that it “couldn’t happen here in Australia, could it??”
Censorship by the government, self-censorship by the media, thought control as to what news we are or are not able to obtain via the usual media methods – all overcome via the Internet.
For a practical example of Google censorship in China...
1) Go to http://www.google.com
and type "Falun Gong" as a search term.
Here you will find pages regarding Falun Gong.
2) Go to http://www.google.cn
and type "Falun Gong" as a search term. There will be results (lots ofthem) but below is an example of the type of entry that Google Chinaallows:-
"Falun Gong is by no means a religious institution but a hereticalcult which poses a threat to Chinese society and people, ... TheChinese government's ban of the Falun Gong cult according to law hassaved a large number of victims ..."
Now think of some sex related site - perhaps something that would be"censored" under the Beazley plan (if you know of any) and it becomesapparent that such sites aren't entirely blocked from search results.Google's China Problem (and China's Google Problem)
By CLIVE THOMPSON Published: April 23, 2006================================
Yet Google's conduct in China has in recent months seemed considerablyless than idealistic. In January, a few months after Lee opened theBeijing office, the company announced it would be introducing a newversion of its search engine for the Chinese market.
To obey China'scensorship laws, Google's representatives explained, the company hadagreed to purge its search results of any Web sites disapproved of by theChinese government, including Web sites promoting Falun Gong, agovernment-banned spiritual movement; sites promoting free speech inChina; or any mention of the 1989 Tiananmen Square massacre.
If you searchfor "Tibet" or "Falun Gong" most anywhere in the world on google.com,you'll find thousands of blog entries, news items and chat rooms onChinese repression.
Do the same search inside China on google.cn, andmost, if not all, of these links will be gone. Google will have erasedthem completely.
An article in the Sunday Age of 30 April 2006 by Hannah Edwards, details the latest in censorship of children’s books in Australia, and tells more of the alarming growth industry which is a hallmark of the Howard government in 10 years of running/ruining the country.
Here is the article:
by HANNAH EDWARDS
Experts fear censorship of children’s books is rising, with witchcraft themes, swear words and obscenities the main targets.
Associate professor in teacher librarianship at Charles Sturt University, Ken Dillon, who co-wrote a study of the topic, said he had seen more evidence of censorship in the past decade.
“I have been examining the issue for a 15-year period and am constantly surprised about the scope of the problem,” he said.
Children’s literature accounts for 20 per cent of the Australian book market and was worth $194 million last year, Nielsen BookScan figures show.
Censorship can operate at several levels – during talks between authors and publishers, or through parents and teachers.
“The most covert form of censorship is non-selection (by librarians),” Associate Professor Dillon said.
Concerns about perceived occult, satanic and anti-Christian themes drove many incidences of censorship, he said. “That issue is more prominent now than it was 12 years ago,” he said. “We seem to be following a lot of American trends.”
And what might be accepted at one school might be banned at another, regardless of whether the book was an award-winner or was positively reviewed.
Children’s Book Council president Mark McLeod said parents might be trying to protect their children from world issues. “Parents have retreated a bit and look to books as an area they can control,” he said.
“Books are an older technology and they may falsely remember their childhood books as only being sweet and light, books like Winnie the Pooh and Wind in the Willows.”
But with many children aware of issues such as drugs and terrorism, parents had to give them a balanced view and some perspective,” he said.
Many children’s books have been criticized for themes generally considered harmless, including the Harry Potter series. It attracted criticism for supposedly teaching about witchcraft and the supernatural.
Andrew Daddo encountered problems with one of his children’s books, You’re Dropped! which included a story about a girl getting her first bra.
The tale depicted a father and son baking a cake in the shape of a bra that featured candles instead of nipples, and singing happy bra-day.
But the story prompted letters from parents and criticism from teachers. Some librarians chose not to stock the book.
Another author, Susanne Gervay, was asked to tone down a scene in The Cave that depicted violence among teenage boys.
Gervay said she was hoping to portray youth culture realistically and was disappointed with cuts to the scene.
Random House’s head of children’s literature, Linsay Knight, said publishers had a responsibility to children, particularly those under 12. “The power of the word is very strong, very powerful,” she said.
Israel has no intention of listening to such advice, betting on US support for any unilateral moves. Such confidence may be short-lived.
Witness the following worrying trend in even raising alternative views in the US on this vital foreign affairs issue:
Roosevelt University of Chicago, IL has fired a philosophy and religion professor for allowing students in his class to ask questions about Judaism and Islam. The chair of the department, Susan Weininger, fired the professor, Douglas Giles, saying that students should not be allowed to ask whatever questions they want in class. Weininger ordered Giles to censor his curriculum, restrict his students’ questions, and to not respond to controversial questions or comments from students.
Weininger said that free discussion in a world religions could “open up Judaism to criticism.” Any such material, she said, was not permissible to be mentioned in class discussion, textbooks, or examinations. Further, she ordered Giles to forbid any and all discussion of the “Palestinian issue,” any mention of Palestinian rights, the Muslim belief in the holiness of Jerusalem, and Zionism. When Professor Giles refused to censor his students, Weininger fired him.
The Roosevelt Adjunct Faculty Organization (RAFO) filed a grievance on behalf of Giles citing the faculty contract forbidding the university from restricting academic freedom. Roosevelt University Associate Provost Louis Love denied the union’s claim saying that Weininger was entitled, as department chair, to set a professor’s curriculum and that this was not an academic freedom issue, but a “pedagogical issue.” RAFO has appealed the ruling to arbitration, confident that Prof. Giles’ academic freedom was violated and an impartial arbitrator would find this so.
This case is just one example of a growing trend of right-wing attempts to censor the academic freedom of professors and students. Here, a department chair who called all Palestinians “animals” and says college religion courses should teach that only Jews have a legitimate claim to the land of Israel, has fired a professor whose only “sins” were refusing to teach a biased class and allowing open discussion in his classroom. This can NOT be allowed to stand!
Some Jewish academics, however, seem to believe that Jews can’t be expected to speak out against Israeli injustice because their (unjustified) persecution complex is too strong. Maybe if we lived in 1949…
I am Douglas Giles, the adjunct professor who was fired for allowing students to speak openly in a World Religions class. I have taught college philosophy, ethics, and religion since 1998. I believe that students deserve the opportunity to learn divergent viewpoints and make up their own minds. As such, I welcome questions and allow students to share their opinions and experiences as discussion is absolutely crucial to quality education.
Roosevelt University's Chair of the Department of History, Art History and Philosophy, Susan Weininger is an art history professor who has never taught religion or philosophy. Other than the interview in which she hired me in December 2003, she and I had not spoken before a series of phone calls she placed to me at my home in September 2005. In these phone calls, she told me, as department chair, to change my World Religions curriculum to exclude certain opinions and facts:* Students should not be allowed to ask whatever questions they want in class
I replied that those restrictions would lead to a biased class. She then made a series of disparaging comments about Palestinians concluding with the following:W: "I hear you even allowed a Muslim to speak in class."
She then ordered me to never bring up the conversation again to anyone and hung up. I did report the conversations to my union representative. Within a few days, I received a letter from Weininger saying I would no longer be teaching at Roosevelt.
The reason for my job termination is clear. Because I allowed open and respectful discussion of Judaism and Islam in my classes, I am censored from teaching at Roosevelt. My union, RAFO (Roosevelt Adjunct Faculty Organization - http://rafo.org) has consistently supported me in fighting this violation of academic freedom. They filed a formal grievance Nov. 29, 2005. Roosevelt's response has been a succession of disingenuous delaying tactics. Every communication their story changes, yet, Roosevelt has never once denied that Weininger made the statements. Roosevelt's Associate Provost, Louise Love, has even defended Weininger's statements saying that "as chair of the department, Weininger had a right to express her views," that "it is within the University's province to determine its curriculum," and that Weininger's demand that Giles restrict the content of the course "is not an issue of academic freedom but a pedagogical one." Love even characterized Weininger's comments disparaging Palestinians as an "academic discussion" where Weininger was "defending her position passionately."
RAFO's executive council members have gone above and beyond the call and I can't praise them enough. They have risked their own faculty positions to fight for the rights of all faculty and students at Roosevelt. They have been extraordinarily patient and have given Roosevelt every opportunity to resolve this case. In response, Roosevelt has offered four different cover stories to try and shift the argument away from the academic freedom violation. Their cover stories are clearly manufactured, self-contradictory, and at times laughable in how obviously false they are. In essence, Roosevelt has been lying. Roosevelt also has continually refused to consider our evidence, speak with our witnesses, refused to negotiate in good faith, refused to provide requested information, and conducted themselves in such a manner that RAFO has filed two additional grievances over Roosevelt's contract violations. We are currently scheduled for national arbitration and are supported in our academic freedom case by the Illinois Education Association.
I hope that you also find this deeply troubling. This ugly episode impinges on all of us and our freedom to teach and learn without interference. In no way should faculty and staff ever be censored or pressured to discuss subjects from only one biased perspective. If these acts are allowed to stand, then the standards and learning environment of education not only at Roosevelt University but everywhere have been damaged.
Censorship - Part 1
Censorship - Part 2
Censorship - Part 4
Censorship - Part 5
Censorship - Part 6
Mannie De Saxe also has a personal web site, which may be found by clicking on the link: RED JOS: HUMAN RIGHTS ACTIVISM
MannieBlog (from 1 August 2003 to 31 December 2005)
Activist Kicks Backs - Blognow archive re-housed - 2005-2009
RED JOS BLOGSPOT (from January 2009 onwards)
This page updated 29 FEBRUARY 2016 and again on 4 JULY 2021