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Perverts in the shrubbery

Paul Walter is a longtime Webdiarist, self-described as middle-aged, who completed a Bachelor of Arts degree a couple of years ago as a mature age student. He has been masquerading here for the last two days as “Paul Walker” because of some email and password problems, which have now been resolved. However, his style was inimitable, so we knew who he was … Anyway, earlier today Paul made some comments about the brouhaha over Bill Henson’s allegedly pornographic photographs. I invited him to contribute a thread starter, and to my amazed delight he responded very promptly thus:

Don't know about a "small piece", but here are a few thoughts issuing forth at random concerning the time travellers’ return to the dark ages, also inspired by a visit to the Friends of SBS website an hour ago.

So, here it is. I think it's your debut piece for Webdiary, Paul - but whether or not it is, thank you. 

Perverts in the shrubbery
by Paul Walter

We shall dedicate the following to the now-sleeping Roland Barthes of "Mythologies" fame, as his famous tract continues its fifty-ish-ith anniversary.

At SBS, the writer discovered more concerning the perplexing stubborn ongoing refusal of the government to abide by election promises and remove deliberately intrusive advertising from SBS (has any one else been taken aback by the absolute lack of comment concerning ABC and SBS financing and independence over the last few months ... or the severity and rapidity of the decline of Fairfax and Murdoch?). So the theory that Rudd has spoken out of induced ignorance and resulting priggishness is strengthened, although the alternative theory relating to the damping down of a new front just opened by Devine in the Culture Wars on behalf of political allies encircled Stalingrad style still has much appeal. Now, I will add following thoughts.

The ALP is happy to inherit a dumbed down media surviving on prurience as factuality and where real issues are excluded, same as it is happy to inherit Howard's ASIO and weakened corporate law or IR provisions, for example.

For instance, the nerve shattering silence, except in terms of neo liberal boosterism concerning what the privatisation of NSW electricity is really about (Carr, "Vanuatu" Keating consultancies only mentioned in passing, etc ) – just one example. Thank heaven for Ian MacDougall’s exploration of this elsewhere. Richard Tonkin’s posts also constitute a long-term example posts of the forgotten art of broad sheet journalism, dealing with hard issues of equity, power and reality-shaping, ignored like the plague by mainstream press and media controlled by the likes of Ron Walker and Shaun Brown.

One sees Fairfax online following Murdoch subterranean of the gutter, now expending much space to urgent problems like the colour scheme of Myf Warhurst's knickers or the rampaging behaviours of female state school teachers vis à vis their male students.

In this sort of fevered environment, where "morals" are defined in terms of sexual behaviour exclusively, rather than through, say, financial corruption or moral sanctimoniousness, the Mirandas become rails runners for opinion dominance. And faux outrage over dubious artworks is just another obvious mode for distraction from real world issues.


I hear someone claiming that this writer is thus downgrading pedophilia as an issue?

No, just the opposite.

Of course it is not a minor issue. Therefore, it should not be cynically exploited as a culture wars stalking horse for other hidden agendas of political control through its (ab)use in the manipulating of the emotions and the offending the sensibilities of those with genuine concerns or who have been the real victims of abuse.

Look, this antic has provoked some intelligent comment in the op ed pages of the Age and SMH in response; for more involved investigation a visit is commended.

Back here, the Mirandas will have problems of contradiction as to their targets in what otherwise could have been a righteous war against commodification/reification of youth, as well as the separate problem of child sexual exploitation. But Dahvine painstakingly avoided mention of the lucrative field of endeavour in prurience worked intensely and daily throughout the media and press that also employs her, with her focus on a typical isolated soft "out sider" rightist target; the abstracted/abstract artist intellectual who is offside to "our" society by being more interested in examining its values than unthinkingly upholding them. Such an individual likely has intellectual concerns against prurience and such an attack is therefore likely libellous as well as misleading.

The one exception was Devine's helpful attack on Dolly magazine for its unconditional promoting of anal intercourse as a desired (de rigueur, if you like) behaviour option for thirteen year old girls, regardless of the health and pain/discomfort factors for participating fashionistas.

But even here, we ask are we examining an unexamined system and its underlying imperatives, or indulging in de facto legitimisation of that system by creating an impression that Dolly is just an isolated atypical example of component failure rather than the system exemplar?


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Hysteria is turning to slapstick

Marilyn Shepherd: "…dozens of children found living in abject squalor…hospitalised for hypothemia [sic] and semi-starvation…murdered by their father or grandfather."

And what offends you most of all? Why, the most innocent imaginable photo taken by her mother of a well cared-for, happy and and  protected kid, of course. Presumably because she happens to have no clothes on. Published in a magazine you have never heard of. A magazine dedicated to a subject neither you nor your god Kevin would recognise if it jumped up and bit you on the butt.

It would be hilarious, if only it weren't so depressingly sad.

When is Kevin Rudd going to stop offending children?

"THE girl at the centre of the latest controversy over child nudity in art said yesterday that she was "really, really offended" at comments by the Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd, that he "cannot stand" the naked image of her, aged six, on the cover of an art magazine."

Didn't the kids in the Henson pics complain about Kevin doing this, too?

Clearly too young Eliot

Clearly the kid is too young to understand what Rudd was actually saying and meaning. But then she is only eleven so we cannot expect her to understand the broader issue that Rudd was alluding to, can we? She is still just a naive little child  - as she so nicely demonstrates.

Amazing Kathy and Marilyn, how those who seem to think there should be no boundaries where the photographing of naked children is concerned, fail  to inderstand that most thinking adults do believe there should be some boundaries.

Ditto from me Kathy

In the last couple of weeks we have had dozens of children found living in abject squalor, hospitalised for hypothemia and semi-starvation. Children murdered by their father or grandfather.

Mothers murdered by husbands leaving children without parents and the peurile art world think they are brave showing photos of naked little girls as a spit in the eye for Rudd.

In the same week as COAG finally got it together to pull together a national child protection register, they think this is funny and smart and "art".

They disgust me. Because this is blatant and ugly exploitation of a tiny little girl for what they think is political gain.

Good for Rudd. We cannot protect children while these morons think they are so clever.

The Pope touched me down under - t shirt

Now here's a t-shirt that says "The Pope touched me down under" to be worn at World Youth Day events by a group representing victims of sexual abuse by Catholic priests.

Is this offensive? And is it the right of protesters to wear it? Or is it a provocation that will lead to conflict?

Is wearing Australian flags around your shoulders at Cronulla beach offensive and a provocation? What about Aboriginal or Palestinian flags? What about Israeli flags?

Is this provocative? Should flags and message t-shirts likely or intended to offend be banned?

Bravo Kevin Rudd - Now that's what I call guts.

 In this morning's SMH: "I Can't Stand The Stuff."

Prime Minister Kevin Rudd says he can't stand artwork that depicts naked children.

Mr Rudd today said work such as that shown in this month's edition of Art Monthly Australia did the opposite of restoring dignity to the debate over depictions of children in art.

See the rest of the article here.

Catholics should accept abusive t-shirts - Greens Lee Rhiannon

"If somebody exposes themself to a World Youth Day participant they face a fine of $1,100, but if they wear an anti-Catholic t-shirt, the fine could be $5,500," she said.

 - Greens MP Lee Rhiannon 

Ms Rhiannon says the measures are more extreme than the special laws enacted during APEC.

"The new World Youth Day police powers are not about managing public safety," she said.

"This is about shutting down protests and quarantining the Pope and visiting Catholics away from messages the authorities don't approve of."

Hard, I know....but it is a democracy

Scott Dunmore: "... Eliot, but how else do you deal with it? Maybe rip it off his back, tell him not to be so stupid and contact his parents, I suppose, but in this day and age it's hard to find an old time copper."

Well, I have to admit I'm glad he's not my kid.

One way would be to see if his class mates at school might assist, and have one of the Christian kids there to ask him to explain why he did that.

Or maybe his head teacher would give him the opportunity to explain why he did that to a room filled with students of various religious denominations. 

Or maybe have the kid try and explain it to a relative or friend who was Christian.

I'd ask him whether mocking Hindus or Muslims was such a good idea. And whether people should be allowed to do that.

Maybe take him to the Holocaust Museum and show him pictures of Brownshirts mocking Jews during Kristallnacht. Did he think that was a good thing? And what's the difference offending Christians that way?

Also, if he had a girlfriend, maybe ask him to explain to her mum and dad the significance of the image of the nun.

What does his own mum think of that?

If the local minister or parish priest was willing, maybe he could visit a Christian youth group meeting and explain his actions.

Having him arrested will just make a minor hero out of him.

Don't get me wrong, the kid's a dickhead in my opinion. But I thought that of the Danish cartoonists, too.

But if we don't prosecute them, and I don't feel we should, how can we prosecute some stupid kid for doing much the same thing?

babble of filth

Anyway, could anything on any t-shirt be as bad as this? Video commences after ad...

And that kid has almost 250,000 on line subscribers.

Going backwards

I remember the case of the shop in the Kings Road, Chelsea in the early 70's – the one owned by designer Vivienne Westward which sold t-shirts. One featured two "Tom of Finland" (a popular gay comic series) type cowboys with huge phalluses hanging out.

One hapless punk was arrested for wearing one and charged with obscenity. The judge threw the case out.

I thought the Queensland lad's t-shirt said "The Pope is a %$^&", not Jesus? And why is the present Pope called Brenda by those who know him?

...being a former inmate himself

Scott Dunmore: "If you don't find offensiveness in "Jesus is a c*#$t", I do. As a matter of fact, as much as I know of the man now dead two thousand years ago, I have a very high opinion of him."

Oh, it's unquestionably offensive and was doubtless intended by the rock group (and probably the teenager) to be so. But I don't think it warrants arresting the kid!

In fact, doing so plays into the hands of the enemies of democracy.

I can just see Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's press officer penning another media release right now on the "hypocrisy" of Western governments who tolerate cartoons ridiculing Muhommed while arresting a child who blasphemes Jesus.

And fair enough. What can we say?

Bill Avent: "When I was sixteen, I was a bit of a smart-arse, too, and a bit silly. But I would not have been silly enough to go public in a shirt as offensive as that."

Well, exactly. The nun on the front is topless, by the way. Imagine it was instead of a woman wearing a habit, it was a woman wearing hajib?

Mutatis mutandis, wear that through Punchbowl or Auburn and see how long before you get your very own fatwah. About nine seconds, i'd say.

I actually discussed the Cradle of Filth t-shirt with my local Uniting Church minister, and he was staggered that anyone would want to abuse Jesus in those or any other terms.

Incredulously, he looked at the picture of the t-shirt (it's printed in a newspaper here with the images cropped strategically), and just said: "Why would anyone say that about Jesus? He was a great guy."

Exactly. And Jesus wasn't keen on sending people to gaol, I am sure, being a former inmate himself.

witches britches

Are you lot trying to say you didn't go out of your respective ways to be offensive at least once in your teens? What sort of teenagers were you? Bearing in mind that what shocked back then isn't the same as what shocks now. Merely using a four letter word is in itself no sufficient as to shock value. To achieve the same effect the new generation comes up with combining blasphemy with obscenity, to merely match the shock value of a mere swear word a generation ago. Offending older people goes with the territory, from memory; there are always tee shirt artists, pop stars, publishers and journalists waiting in the background waiting to turn a quid by paying attention to youthful noisiness when it would be better ignored.

Like the thing with Girlfriend or Dolly magazine, where they do the big sophisticated bit and embark on supposedly adult sounding discourses where thirteen yo's discuss blow jobs or anal sex, as if they were the wisest, worldliest most world weary women of all. You could laugh at it, accept that is about exploiting youthfulness through a form of inculcated commodification, employing naivety and peer pressure, to achieve a saleable market of consumers to advertisers. Unfortunately there seems a certain amount of behaviour modification involved, but no one seems to wonder if tomorrow's lushes descend from today's starlets.

Over the weekend, Clive Hamilton was on about child "sexualisation", but this is a slippage from the more accurate but less understood of concept of "commodification". If only he had offered a definition of "sexualisation", it could have been so much easier to understand what it was he was trying to say, of course, but journalist types often use a loaded term stripped of meaning in order to allow a readership to jump to its own conclusions and to me that means that not enough brain work was done beforehand in understanding an issue on its merits or use of it for other purposes, regardless of its right to consideration, stand alone.

F Kendall, re Portnoy, I offer the following advice:

"Liver and let Liver".

OK, fair enough ...

... Eliot, but how else do you deal with it? Maybe rip it off his back, tell him not to be so stupid and contact his parents, I suppose, but in this day and age it's hard to find an old time copper.

Free speech, and freedom to react

When I was sixteen, I was a bit of a smart-arse, too, and a bit silly. But I would not have been silly enough to go public in a shirt as offensive as that. I couldn't have walked more than a few hundred metres in it without being punched in the face.

If I passed a policeman, I don't think he would have taken the trouble to arrest me, and prosecute me in court. He would have simply confiscated the shirt on the spot, and told me to wake up to myself. Problem solved.

Too much formality, these days. Too much due process, and not nearly enough practicality.

"You're a girl!"

... sometimes the kids I interact with say to each other.

"He should be so lucky, " is my response.

Eliot Ramsey, of course "Jesus is a woman's genitals" is an offensive comment. How come you have been alive for a while, evidently, and still fail to understand this?

the role of art


Does it have a purpose?  An influence?    Does it reflect lives, challenge them, comment on them, project a better world, or all of the above?

Does it seek to be a part of society, to reflect society, or lead society to new perceptions and truths? 

Or merely make as much money as it can:  best done through controversy.


Little old book smuggler me

F Kendall, I can't be certain that copies of Portnoy's Complaint were seized by police in NSW. I am certain that it was not freely available there in 1970. I carried a copy through customs myself, that year. Everyone had heard of it, and wanted to read it. Copies were not available in bookstores.

As I understand things, each state has its own obscene publications legislation. According to something I read recently from David Marr, sellers of Portnoy's Complaint were prosecuted all over Australia. Wikipedia, on the other hand, says:

In 1969 the book was declared a "prohibited import" in Australia, though the Australian publisher, Penguin Books, resisted and had copies printed up in secret and stored in fleets of moving trucks. Several attempts to prosecute Penguin Books and any bookseller carrying the book failed.


I would be surprised if Portnoy's Complaint had been seized by police, Bill Avent.  Published in the U.S. in  '69, it was certainly freely available here in 1970.

I recall, some years earlier  - 1963 or thereabouts? -the police seizing from newsstands  the issue of the Bulletin with Geoffrey Lehmann's poems "From Abelard to Eloise" and "Eloise to Abelard", (or somesuch), with the acronym of "Down with the Bulletin.  Fuck all editors", (or somesuch).  I had a copy, but mislaid it over the years.

But, as long as Customs had control of censorship, which they did, books simply didn't make it into Australia, let alone bookshops....so, no carting out of crates of books at that time..

I'm not disputing what you say, I am looking for memory refreshers.

Another fallacy?

As it pertains to the Henson saga, one aspect does genuinely confuse me.

It's claimed that there is a life-long suffering by those depicted in photographs like Henson's or even in mild child porn and certainly the most worst in the child porn category – children who are being actually raped and abused.

There is most certainly as case after case shows: authorities and the media have no compunction in confusing the general public about categories of child pornography.

In Australia we don't even classify this material. In the UK there are several categories ranging from class A, the most despicable material than can get the offender the heaviest prison sentence, ranging to milder forms will may result in probationary sentences.

I think it's important to have this system. Others may not think so. But certainly, on hearing in just the past week that magistrates are refusing to look at material (and possibly juries), this leaves a system open to blatant corruption by police. It is simply insane to allow a crime to be "described" by prosecutors without those deciding guilt and punishment – a jury or magistrate viewing the proof.

Certainly a jury member may find material disturbing – that's the nature of jury service and cannot be avoided. Often they have to view images of dreadful murders. For a magistrate or judge to not view is simply astonishing. They should be removed from the bench.

But that brings up the other oft repeated claim – a nonsense at best and at worst a bizarre twist of truth. That is, that each viewing of an illegal image perpetuates the abuse again – each and every time. In that case, even an arresting police officer is perpetuating the crime if they look at material.

Moreover, presumably the material passes through several hands eventually to the prosecutor. Are they all perpetuating the abuse each time by looking at the material? If not, why not? (Maybe that's why a magistrate won't look !)

I've had this argument twice – with one former political reporter from Fairfax and a current crimes reporter from News Ltd. Both are adamant that each viewing is a crime but police must be exempt.

Even worse, during the trial of the infamous "Dolly" Dunn I recall an extremely well known current News Ltd columnist ( and sports journalist) describing in detail in his reporting films that Dunn had made of himself with victims that were shown in court to jury members and the media.

So now the media are also (or were) exempt from "committing" a crime by viewing the material along with a number of authorities. I await the day I run into this writer again (and I see he's a regular on TV chat shows) to ask him to explain how he didn't contribute to the further abuse of Dunn's victims by looking at the material.

Except, of course, as we have seen – even police and a top prosecutor themselves have been arrested, charged, convicted, and jailed for this crime.

It's impossible for me to judge if there is a long term effect upon victims of abuse (except, having been one myself, I can claim there hasn't been for me personally). I do know though that if you tell a child, and continue to tell that child that they will suffer all their life, the chances are your prediction will become self-fulfilling.

And this is where the Hetty Johnsons of the world are dangerous – because they give oxygen to an unproved thesis. The message they send to all child victims is that you must suffer your whole life. The original abuse may have been bad enough, but to have ill-informed self-appointed crusaders and journalists sentencing innocent children to a life of guilt (for that is a common factor) and self-torture is a disgrace.

Think back and look (as I have done) to photos of yourself at various ages from a baby to toddler and early teens. I actually cannot relate to the person in those photos as being me. They are a moment frozen in time of someone who no longer exists. Does anyone really believe that a Henson model by the age of 50 will be consumed by guilt and shame about a snap taken when she was 13?

There are most certainly perverts in the bush – but there are perverts in the police, in the media and sadly, in the majority of cases, usually within the home. And there is another ghastly crime committed – the skewering of the problem by parties for political purposes or their own self-appointed crusades.

Scott: Michael, the most sickening aspect of this, (as recounted by a woman who was institutionally abused,) is that the victims suffer the shame of the abuse.

Cradle of filth

Michael de Angelos: "It's difficult to deduce whether the continued sensationlising of "perverts in the shrubbery" is either a political campaign to frighten the general public into submission-much like the phoney war on terrorism ( those adverts to report "something suspicious " are popping up again even under Rudd)-or just a continuation of a Victorian mentality that all sex is scary and must be controlled under all circumstances/"

Well, despite the Government's continuing military commitment to the war in Iraq, and not withstanding the partial standown involving the couple of hundred Diggers in yesterday's victoy parade in Brisbane, I suspect it's not to do with the war on terror. I mean, that has broad popular support already.

Nope, it's just the regime's do-gooders and God botherers flexing their muscles now that we are officially a one party state.

By the way, has anyone else been following the arrest in Queensland of a teenaged boy for this act of blasphemy?

A GOLD Coast teenager who wore a T-shirt by English extreme metal band Cradle of Filth that reads 'Jesus is a c**t' has been charged with offensive behaviour.

Above the offensive slogan a nun is depicted masturbating.

A 16-year-old was arrested on Monday for wearing the shirt and was charged with offensive behaviour under the Summary Offences Act 2005 for public nuisance.

What sort of person are you?

Eliot, as a card carrying member of "The Atheist Party" and holding the personal view that any religion has the potential to cause friction and violence I am also aware that nobody has any decisional control over their personal beliefs. That is why I'm tolerant of all beliefs no matter what my personal opinion of them is and remain aware of personal sensitivities.

If you don't find offensiveness in "Jesus is a c*#$t", I do. As a matter of fact, as much as I know of the man now dead two thousand years ago, I have a very high opinion of him.

You sure know how to piss people off.

The long and short of it

F Kendall, in short answer to your query when, in the sixties and early seventies. In answer to what, the carrying off of cartons of books from bookshops in Sydney, and no doubt in other cities in Australia, by teams of police. Similar to the recent carrying off from art galleries of crates of photographs. Both shown in TV news broadcasts.

From memory, some of the cartons contained copies of Philip Roth's Portnoy's Complaint. Some contained copies of DH Lawrence's Lady Chatterley's Lover. Later, the book on the British obscenity trial of Lady Chatterley's publisher was also banned in Australia. I seem to remember cartons of Oz magazine being seized by police also.

Moving from the short to the long, and from the unsublime to the amusingly ridiculous, in the 1950's Australian customs officers seized copies of JD Salinger's Catcher in the Rye, a book that went on to be widely studied by high school students. The copies seized were being imported by the US Ambassador, who planned to present them as gifts to the Australian government.

These days, JK Rowling's Harry Potter books have been the subject of calls, sometimes successful, for bans in some jurisdictions, on the grounds that they deal with occult themes which might damage the delicate minds of young readers. God only knows what the Henny-Pennies and Hetty-Petties who try to rule our minds today would do with some of the children's classics of previous, more enlightened, less timid eras.

Book burning has a long, sad, and well documented history. The earliest known deliberate burning I can think of was the final destruction in the 7th Century of the Alexandria Library. The rationale behind that book burning, possibly anecdotal but nonetheless revealing, was that books not in accordance with the teachings of the Koran should not be allowed to exist; and ones which did accord with those teachings were superfluous, and so did not need to be preserved. Therefore all may as well be burned to heat water for the showers. Book burners, clean and dirty alike, have their canon; and their view of Heaven and Earth set in stone. They not only recognise no need to enquire any further; they want also to deny others of their right to strive to broaden their understanding, unlock their minds and consider new ways of seeing things.

So it is with those who would ban particular works of art. According to Henson and his supporters, he is intent on presenting an aspect of the human condition which he finds fascinating and worthy of his and our consideration. He invites viewers of his works to reflect on the confusing vulnerability and strangely connected sense of power experienced by a person no longer a child, but not yet an adult. If someone doesn't want to reflect on that, he or she is perfectly at liberty to decline the invitation. If some are offended by nudity, find it revolting or whatever, as it seems does our prime minister, then let them simply not look at it. If some viewers see no more than superficial prurience in his images — reflecting, I am inclined to suspect, something hidden in their own minds — then that is hardly Henson's fault.

Look through this thread and try to find rational argument in support of the sort of censorship called for. All you will find is reactionary attempts to justify closed minds and preconceived notions. It seems the censorship lobby finds the photographs in question disturbing, does not want to be disturbed, and concludes from that that the photographs should not exist. While acknowledging that nakedness in itself is not pornographic, they continue to equate innocent photographs of a naked adolescent with child pornography. The pro-censorship arguments are all false. Not only are the photographs clearly distinguishable from pornography, they are not even of a child, except in the artificial sense of the word as used in legislation dealing with a specific aspect of law intended to separate the legal status of minors from that of adults.

The only sensible rationale for censorship of anything must surely be that it could cause harm. On what is or is not potentially harmful, we could have a meaningful discussion. Here, we have not had that. Those in favour of censoring art have not engaged, beyond maintaining that the photographs in question may somehow put children in general in danger from perverts. A very long bow indeed, that one. No explanation as to how it could come about has been forthcoming. Nor has any explanation as to how the girl who consented to sit for the photographs could in future suffer some undefined disadvantage as a result of her being photographed. It has just been baldly said, with no attempt to make a case for it. The would-be censors obviously care nothing for the welfare of the girl anyway — the crazy fuss they are intent on stirring up is the only thing that might injure her feelings and endanger her self-confidence.

The girl's parents have come under attack too, on the irrelevant grounds that they, the critics, would not allow their teenagers to sit naked for a photographer. Nor, it seems, would their teenagers consent to sitting naked. How on earth is this supposed to contribute to the argument? No one is saying anyone should be forced to do something they don't want to do. If they were, that would be reprehensible. Just as reprehensible is trying to prevent someone doing something they do want to do. Critics of artists and models: learn to leave people who are doing no harm alone. Stop criticising things you can't be bothered even trying to understand.

Hetty on the rampage

It's difficult to deduce whether the continued sensationalising of "perverts in the shrubbery" is either a political campaign to frighten the general public into submission – much like the phoney war on terrorism (those adverts to report "something suspicious " are popping up again even under Rudd) – or just a continuation of a Victorian mentality that all sex is scary and must be controlled under all circumstances.

Is it driven by the media who have everything to gain financially from continuing sex scandals (like an Iguanagate which in the end is such small beer and not worthy of the trees lopped to continue the boring story) ?.

One really must read Neil Davies superb book (and, more importantly, incredibly well researched with a mass of university studies commissioned) Flat Earth News to see how the modern media distorts the news, prints outright lies and is unaccountable to few except the very rich who can afford to sue for libel. Even then, lawsuits do not deter as the profits made from a lie exceed payouts.

Davies explains the self-perpetuating cycle of events that keeps a story going, even when it's false. Sadly we have produced one person who has accelerated this to an alarming degree – R.Murdoch.

Davies’ careful research shows how the once great UK Times newspaper under the legendary editor Harold Evans broke important stories (against continued threats & intimidation from the government and security services) of how spy Kim Philby was not just the Third Man but the most destructive Russian spy who was responsible for the deaths of dozens of UK operatives. The Time's Insight team continually broke such stories – until Murdoch obtained the title.

What followed was a travesty with a few examples demonstrating his destructive force on news reporting. The fake "Hitler Diaries" fiasco when Murdoch's hired historian finally expressed doubts but Murdoch said "publish them anyway".

The resulting successful increase in sales and the debunking of the diaries never fazed Murdoch who famously said at the time:" we're in the entertainment business". The whole of Fleet Street took its cue and followed ,right down to the left-leaning Observer, favoured by the "intellectual" class but more importantly , Labour Party members and MPs.

Tony Blair's creepy advisor Alisdair Campbell successfully perverted the process of reporting of the Observer’s political editor by bringing him "inside" where he became a mouthpiece for the government. Although one of the smallest UK papers, the Observer was important because it brought on-side dozens of doubting Labour MP's & party critics who opposed most of Blair's policies right up to the most important event-the Iraq War.

One highly regarded journalist describes how over 3 years he submitted a story a dozen times, citing impeccable sources within the CIA debunking the WMD lies. It never saw print.

So are perverts the new terrorists?

It would seem so. Perverts certainly sell newspapers, something Murdoch wouldn't deny. In fact his downmarket Sun and News of The World (which in turn force competitive titles to follow suit) survive on a mixture of tacky show biz and sordid sex stories and the US & Australia media follow suit.

But even worse, then authorities, politicians and police forces jump on the bandwagon. Sex works for them as well as we see from the sensationalising of any arrest with a sex angle. The AFP seem particularly drawn to this (even when overseas police actually do all the hard work and pass on information).

The discredited US Attorney General Alberto Gonzales claimed the child porn business was worth "multi-billions of dollars a year with thousands of web-sites in the USA alone which change service providers weekly". He provided not a scintilla of proof but on the surface, common sense dictates it was an absolute lie. There would need to be tens of thousands of internet providers in the US alone (all ignorant of their customers sites) for such a trade to continue. There just aren't.

The UK investigative reporter Duncan Campbell has uncovered and proved such fallacies in the UK which derived from US sources(the FBI) which saw thousands of men arrested for possession of child porn in the UK, USA and Australia a few years ago with world-wide front page news that lasted weeks.

This sting including a member of one of the UK's most legendary rock band members who was confronted by 50 police and several news crews at his home one morning.(no – not Gary Glitter)Taken to the police station he caved in and pleaded guilty to a minor charge with a caution to get the ordeal over with.

Yet the whole case has been slowly falling apart quietly ever since with Campbell’s assistance and experts proving the dreadful mistakes (either deliberate or not) made by police that has seen dozens of lives ruined and at least 15 suicides. Cases continue to be overturned on appeal.

More recently we saw the same with the great House of Horrors on Jersey at a former children's home where the news swept the world with tales (provided via police press releases) of the buried bodies of perhaps dozens of children on the basis of a skull being unearthed.

The skull turned out to be a piece of coconut shell. The "torture"dungeons with bathtubs and handcuffs turn out to be a common Jersey practice of tethering cattle and slaughtering them.

Small amounts of children's blood and a few milk teeth are found surging the story back to Page One. But then operators of similar homes point out it that it would be bizarre if teeth weren't found considering some kids lived in them for years.

Sniffer dogs are brought in at the beginning while media helicopters circulate. It boosts the story along further. But then we discover the dogs are now privately owned (another great Blair government initiative that will probably catch on here) with the media alerted by the dog's owners.

The same dogs were taken to Portugal to inspect the car hired by the unfortunate McCann family in the famous missing Madeleine McCann tragedy. They found Maddy's blood in the boot and wild accusations abounded in the media of Maddy's parents killing the little girl and disposing her body at sea. Until finally proper DNA analysis proves it isn't even blood the dogs found.

To date, the Jersey House of Horrors has turned up nought (time to have dug up all of Jersey by now) with just one person being charged. Hardly worth the multi-millions of pounds spent but how can the police back down now, having actively promoted so many myths?

Even more meddling by police and media is shown in Richard Webster's The Secret of Bryn Estyn where dozens of social workers and carers in children's homes in Wales found themselves accused of dreadful crimes – some convicted (some suicided), and then gradually the whole thing unravels as people are found innocent or cases are overturned upon appeal.

None of the final results are reported, though, so the general public is left with the lingering thought that there most certainly are thousands of "perverts in the shrubbery".

It would be churlish to suggest police in Australia's child protection units are not genuinely dedicated to their job, but politicians are the ones who call the shots and something is terribly wrong as we can now see – Aussie kids are suffering terribly.


Bill Avent: June10th. "It reminds me of the period when plods were raiding bookshops and carrying off crates full of books they hadn't the intelligence to understand.'

To what /when are you referring here?

Pick a Box?

Michael de Angelos: "But when the authorities are on the rampage and we are fed media lies about the "child porn epidemic" (is it really?) our attention is diverted from the plight of kids our own doorsteps."

I'm deeply concerned about the effect Elvis Presley's pelvis gyrations are having on young Hetty. She's become sex obsessed of late.

She's got Elvis's long-playing micro-groove going flat out on the Pye three-in-one turntable day-in and day-out.

I try to interest her in more edifying entertainments, like Bob and Dolly's 'Pick a Box', but there's little enthusiasm.

Fiona: So exercise your parental authority, Eliot, and turn the Pye OFF. Or move it to the matrimonial bedroom, and don't forget the Mantovani.


"and don't forget the Mantovani"

Ah Fiona,  you would surely have loved "Sweet Leilani" then..

Music to make love to..Sighs..

Pandora's box

Fiona: " ...and don't forget the Mantovani."

Shelled or unshelled, m'lady?

Fiona: Swooning, sir, swooning.

Deliberate Distractions

Yes - it's Third Reich stuff as far as I can see when today we have another magistrate thundering on with Hetty Johnson babbling on ( does she actually do anything except talk ?) because she could not jail one of those busted in the latest child porn for longer or that he would be out in 12 months.

In these news reports it says that many magistrates ( who are often so wrong legally) and judges refuse to look at the material but rely on the prosecutors/ police description of the material.

In other words - they take the word of the cops that an offence has been committed and there is proof - the shoplifter didn't swipe a can of beans but actually held up a bank !.

Yet time and time again in many of these cases on appeal, appeal court judges who have to look at material find there has been great exagerations ! There may have been the worse material but the majority can often be of photos of slightly under-age children ? - or are they young adults ?.

A 16-18 year old is considered a child as far as porn goes but still legal to have sex but by God-he'll feel the full force of the law dare he commit an offence and nothing is spared to bang him / her up in an adult jail.

We saw this with the recent overturning of probation sentences of some Aboriginal youths who committed a rape. Yet some were aged 12 and 14 at the time. Just children themselves and probably with no sense of right and wrong and how could they possibly have any when we completely marginalise them in let them live in squalor. Second class citizens but they can pay a first class price.

Obviously children have to be protected-but we know from recent events of children living in squalor it just isn't happening. The tip of the iceberg.

But when the authorities are on the rampage and we are fed media lies about the "child porn epidemic" ( is it really ?) our attention is diverted from the plight of kids our own doorsteps.

Bratz dolls contribute to children's sexualisation - official

"Parent groups" are upset that a Senate committee report hasn't come down hard enough on the threat posed to children's emotional wellbeing by Bratz Dolls and Miley Cyrus.

The professor of public ethics at Charles Sturt University, Clive Hamilton, said: "The report fails to understand or reflect the level of community concern about the ways in which children are being sexualised by the media and advertisers and has largely ignored the evidence of harm presented to the inquiry by psychologists and other experts working with children."

More than a third of the people who made private submissions to the inquiry identified themselves as parents or grandparents who were concerned that their children and grandchildren were being subject to sexualisation by the media.

I guess they had to whip up hysteria about Bratz dolls, because after all most of the grandparents would have survived Barbie, though she has much bigger breasts.

none of us know finally which side of good faith

Paul Walter says:

"Ultimately we none of us know finally which side of good faith Henson falls on as to his example, apart from himself."

Is that because there's no objective criteria by which to distinguish one "side" from the other, and therefore those who think there is an objective difference to be had there are merely confusing their personal preferences with "facts"?

In fact, that would have some bearing on the old "freedom from" versus "freedom to" (ie positive versus negative freedom) distinction that  Isaiah Berlin talks about.

Being free 'from" other people's personal estimations of what you should or should not do in life, versus their being "free" to tell you what and how to do it?

Shocking news...Dworkin probably correct after all...

Good morning Paul Walterand thanks for your response...I guess that I'm shifting backwards and forwards between the left and the right of the communitarian camp these days in an attempt to find a position that allows sufficient room for movement. 

You are quite right, in my view, to point to Andrea Dworkin and I must say that her Wiki entry is an excellent summary of the controversy surrounding her work as well as the unfair press she received.  I must say that I never accepted Larry Flynt as a freedom fighting bedfellow but that is because I am of the old 'new left' and no libertarian.  I always felt that the libertarians were heading towards neoliberalism and this is exactly what has happened.  Johnny Depp's portrayal of the fate of the Earl of Rochester in The Libertine is educative in my view.  He ends up dying in a pool of his own syphilitic piss and there are a few art reviewers for whom I could wish a similar fate.

Freedom to stick to the facts

a) what is known as the positive concept in which freedom is seen as the absence of restraints on action and being.  In other words ... it is freedom to do.


b) the negative concept of freedom is freedom from ...in particular freedom from hunger, want, coercion and oppression.

Pure sophistry. Freedom from hunger is freedom to do something, namely eat.

No one is trying to restrain anyone's freedom not to look at photographs they don't like. And no one is trying to restrain anyone's freedom not to sit for photographs they don't like.

What did happen is that a handful of people tried to deny someone the right to hang  photographs they don't like in a gallery.

Democracy, competing ideas of freedom and Henson

The comments below from Paul are interesting in their attempt to put the matter of Henson's photgraphy in a wider perspective. 

 In the same spirit...

What fascinated me during last evening's airing of 'Insight' on SBS was the strength of feeling from the community of artists about the matter.  As I said below, even my 17 yo daughter commented that the arts community seems intent, through abuse and vituperative comment, on shutting down a debate rather than opening one up.

So what is going on? 

It is my view that they feel that they are representing a 'defence of democratic freedom' in their demands that artistic expression be unconstrained by law. 

But there is a deep (and crude) misunderstanding in operation here. There are two competing concepts of freedom known in political philosophy:

a) what is known as the positive concept in which freedom is seen as the absence of restraints on action and being.  In other words ... it is freedom to do.


b) the negative concept of freedom is freedom from ...in particular freedom from hunger, want, coercion and oppression.

So, what is at stake here is a contest between those who argue for the supremacy or priority of one form of freedom over another...the child protectionists argue for freedom from adult exploitation as a basic democratic freedom while the libertarians argue for the right of adult artists to freedom of expression.  The latter group argue their case even as they deny even the merest possibility that their right to artistic expressivity depends on not recognising the rights of others (children).

As to the adults who were on last night's program who were child subjects of other photographers ... well, what choice did they have except to say that it was then and still is now all ok with them?  What were they going to do...sit there and denounce mummy and daddy for allowing them to be photographed nude?  And denounce the famous family friend and photographer who took the shots?  I don't think so!

Larry Flynt?

Hullo, Anthony.

At least some else bothered?

Positive and negative freedoms more or less takes in (American in particular) libertarianism and neoliberalism at one pole and left and right wing versions of communitarianism at the other. That showed in the "Shrub" debate where I found myself in the unfamiliar position of being in tune with Eliot in adopting a more libertarian stance, at least as far as Henson was concerned.

Those erring on the side of caution also included a few strange bedfellows.

I feel my position also held a communitarian element, in that I felt censorship in this situation was also a threat to democracy. I also expressed a distaste for certain types of exploitation involving depictions of young people. Anthony and others questioned my ability to hold that stance, on the basis of the "art" factor . Ultimately we none of us know finally which side of good faith Henson falls on as to his example, apart from himself.

What's true is that dictatorships destroy victims and child abuse destroys victims..

Am left wondering therefore if there is ultimately a no-win situation. Does safety first actually represent the sort of threat Eliot, Marr and myself for example, are concerned about, as represented at its extreme conclusion by the Third Reich?

Equally must our survival, for that is what is being implied, be contingent on a permissive reading concerning the social situation which must almost inevitably eventually allow for the destruction of young people?

That is, what must be required to end abuse, prostitution and violence against the young. Banning Henson would be no guarantee, but if the harsh message the banning represents surely could help, should the opposition to its implementation sit easily with us who argued for a more relaxed position?

I suppose at this late stage I can express my surprise that the late iconic activist and victim, the tragic Andrea Dworkin, failed to score a mention in "Shrubs".

Because at its most basic "Shrubs" is a rerun of the famous debates of a generation ago she participated in.

SBS 'Insight' on Henson...

Yes, I watched it as well.  It is available as a podcast here.

I was unimpressed by the imbalance in the audience structure (very few spokespeople for the child protection side) but very impressed by those women who spoke up saying that Henson's work requires much more critical attention in terms of the aesthetic and ethical sensibilities at work.  One was an art historian and the other the director of a regional Victorian art gallery.  Impressive stuff -  they stood their ground in public by insisting that Henson's photgraphs are of dubious artistic and moral merit and they stood their ground in the face of infantile and vituperative attacks from such luminaries of the art world as John (yawn) MacDonald (SMH art reviewer). 

My own (17yo) daughter commented that the arts establishment is using its authority not to feed and fuel discussion but to shut it down. She is right.

Fresh Insights

Any one get to watch the unheralded  SBS "Insight" on Henson last night?

Not interested in reigniting controversy, but had a number of thoughts after Insight, which is a month further down the track than the original firestorm.

Firstly the photos. It seems the only remotely controversial photo in the whole collection was of the girl . I feel I was sort of led into beleiving that "the girl" photo was only the tip of a seething  iceberg of mischeif by the likes  of Miranda Devine.  Fearful horrors awaited  in the form of the rest- actually landscapes and so forth: a narrative!

Secondly, Hetty Johnson (where was Miranda?). Elsewhere some have complained that she was not presented in positive enough a light.

However, It was not Insight's job to present any one in any sort of light-  it was a conversation.

 She was expected to justify her postion in the discourse, just the same as everyone else. Some things she handled well ; others not so well.

 I understand she was on the receiving end of brutal treatment as a kid. If so, she is both an example of recovery- strong personality- and a walking, living breathing example of the damage that thugs can do to little kids and my heart bleeds for her. For I see that she has a blind spot in the fanaticism that her fear, humiliation and anger has likely created in her, that does not allow her to see the other side of this argument and leads her to reactive behaviours against innocent and guilty alike.

But I don't dislike her, I feel profoundly sorry for her and understand she is seeking redemption from a crime for which she is actually a victim; a crime least of all of her own causation. Now that's "damage"!

Finally, David Marr's Foucaultian reading of the Henson controversy as an example of a mechanism by which a society with some underlying fear and hence authoritarian tendencies, seeks to invent or manufacture and open up new categories for surveillance and subjugation.  Its the other side of the argument that the Henson thing is a beat up to create opportunites for more censorship and more laws to intrude upon peoples lives, in cognitive situations/ locations not previously thought of , in an already overgoverned society- a sort of artistic Gitmo or Dr Haneef case, if you like. At least that's how I read it.

In the end you were wondering where the middle ground was that would not have one imperative in conflict with an other, hence some of the lawyers discussing the current legal codes in place. No doubt the issue will be revisited again from time to time.

As for the young models, they seemed bright kids, although one may have been a bit "touchy".Was out making a cuppa and missed some of it.


The Essential Baby - the rot set in in the 1950s

Paul Walter, hello.

Your link to the opinion piece by Tracie Winch (a journo and academic)entitled Let's stop trying to turn girls into probationary sexpots, contains this revealing gem:

"In her book Consuming Innocence: Popular Culture and Our Children, academic Dr Karen Brooks makes the point that "many well-meaning parents purchase these magazines hoping they'll keep the kids occupied and entertained for a few hours."

Here's a quote from Dr Brooks:

"Then, around the 1950s, there was a shift in axis - children were thought to have rights, childhood was considered an important time of learning in its own right, and so on," Brooks says. "But now another subtle shift has occurred where it has gone back to that original way of thinking about children, that they are little adults. However, there's a change.

Treating children as miniature or imperfect adults lends them to all kinds of exploitation. We dress our children like adults again and, through clothing, we are also sexualising them and commodifying them and exploiting them, both as a product and a market ... "

That from something called 'The Essential Baby'.

On the one hand, she acknowledges that contemporary notions of childhood are socially defined. And that these are continually changing. Silly ideas like children having "rights... and so on".

Then she says...

"Brooks says she wrote Consuming Innocence because many parents today were deeply concerned with the speed with which children are "growing up". "

But that "concern", too, is culturally driven. She practically admits as much.

And it's driven by panic merchants like Dr Karen Brooks, capitalising on their own engineered myths of "lost innocence" and babies "growing up too quickly" and propagating these amongst "many parents", though offering no clue as to which parents.

Karen Brooks is a columnist from the Brisbane Courier Mail and  was a professional actress for over 18 years, is a children's playwright and retired Army Officer in the Royal Australian Army Survey Corp before becoming an academic (in "media studies") and, subsequently, an author.

To be frank, I don't think that gives her any particular authority on the intricacies of child sexuality or child development. No more than any other retired actress, journalist or Army officer, quite frankly.

Although, she's a dab hand at public relations....

largely constructive

Yes, thanks Anthony Nolan for the link to New Matilda.

Also good point from Eliot concerning the Nervous Nellies. A constructive post modernist take. Which reminds me, I must get back and finish off that stuff Eliot linked a couple of weeks ago.

As for Jenny's post – what can I say?

so called journalism

Thanks Paul Walter for the reference below...not a bad piece and one I agree with on the depravity of the media magnates who publish that muck.

Speaking of which ... here is an opinion piece on what is wrong with both Miranda Devine and Phillip Adams from New Matilda.

My own view is that decent left of centre reportage thinned out with the disappearance of Tribune.  Remember that?

Good one, Anthony

Thanks, Anthony, for the link to the New Matilda piece. Well worth the read.

Why would they do otherwise

Anthony, I totally agree about the depravity of the muck publishers. But why would the media magnates not exploit the entrenched stupidity of parents? If parents are prepared to buy alcopops for their kids, and Dolly and like magazines for their little girls, then one can hardly blame the grog companies and the media magnates for pushing the boundary as far as parents will allow. Why should it have to be up to censors or the government to rein them in? Silence from parents is complicity in my opinion.

And to that you can add the complicity of parents like those who allowed their daughter to pose in the way they did for Henson.

If parents allow the boundaries to be pushed, and are even complicit in it, then someone will make money out of it. Henson being one, the Dolly publishers and the grog companies just others.

People mock Miranda Devine rather than address the real issue she touches on which is just that - the pushing of boundaries so that children are exploited as sex objects or objects to be sexualised for financial gain.

So no doubt parents will continue to buy alcopops for their kids, and Dolly, and allow them to pose naked on all fours for the Hensons of the world.

I'll bet Dolly is not interested in publishing the latest research that indicates that oral sex is likely implicated in the increasing incidence of throat cancer.

And when we have the Henson supporters screaming wowsers and philistines at those in disagreement with them, all they are doing too is supporting the sexualisation of little girls for financial gain. At least Miranda Devine can see that, which to me makes her a whole lot more concerned about our youth, and a whole lot more intelligent than either them or those stupid parents. 

Spare me the disgust at Dolly type mags. What do you expect? Some boundaries where kids are concerned. Yes? Well Paul Walter et al, spare the tut tutting and outrage about Dolly. A little consistency would be nice around here.

I believer there is a TV program coming up on this whole issue this week. At least some concern is starting to be raised. Maybe the Henson issue prompted that. If so, then maybe his revolting photos have opened the eyes of some of those dumb parents to the way their kids are being exploited.


Hope folk interested in these will take five secs out of their active lives to consider Age article, Mon 23/6, entitled Let's stop trying to turn girls into probationary sexpots, by Tracie Winch, a journo and academic. Deals with smutty rubbish like Dolly and Girlfriend - and far more effectively than Pollyanna Devine and cynical publisher Mia Friedman in polarising SMH last week, although still a bit short through lack of space.

Popular criticism of art...

Jenny, yes, I thought it not an insignificant moment when the population of Eastern bloc states spontaneously began rigging ropes to pull down staues of Lenin et al all the way from coast to coast. I think they had had enough!

I think Di Yerbury bought some leftovers for Macquarie University - see outside the library if ever there!

Richard: aside- Anthony, sorry to be slow in getting back on these. Home Rule I haven't heard of in twenty years, have their LP "Australian Accent." Declan you can discuss with Ian and Jenny also, and Denis and Jacko are icons. Just found a fresh copy of "Rebel Chorus" the other day. Just so you know we come from the same planet. These are people we should be creating lasting testimonals to.. the people who played Australian folk music into the next generations. Sorry to intrude, a reminiscent mood tonight. The people who "pass it on" deserve to be enshrined, IMHO

There's lots of forms of art...

Police quiz artist over decapitation. Christians burn embassies.

Hey, here's a new twist on the 'art versus morality' debate..

"An exhibition by the Australian artist Mike Parr, which includes a film showing a live chicken being decapitated, has prompted a complaint to the RSPCA and a visit from police."

And there's this, too...

"Contemporary art's longstanding ability to arouse controversy will be underlined at this year's Biennale by another exhibit, Western Christian Civilisation by the Argentinian artist Leon Ferrari. Made in 1965 as the United States began to bomb Vietnam, it combines two elements into a large sculpted model of Christ being crucified, not on a cross but on the wings of an American fighter aircraft."

I suppose American Christian fanatics will burn down Australian embassies worlwide, now.

chicken decaptitation

Why not just go to an Alice Cooper or Ozzy Osbourne concert?

For that matter any good ol’ bikie piss-up would having something up and running involving animals or birds – biting off a budgies head, dog fights, cock fights, if these fail there's turps on a cats bum or tie some crackers to its tail , or microwave a mouse. Won't even start on kids.

Thank heaven for civilisation.

Ok, here we go...

The advertising standards committee (NSW) has two members whose work I know...one is Thomas Kennealy and the other is Prof. Catherine Lumby (NSW Uni, I think). I do not know why they are there ... as 'professional experts' or as community representatives. Funny choices if they are there for the latter reason. I presume they are paid some sort of stipend for their quiescence. In other words my view of advertising is that it is a type of degradation. Chance of getting the advertising standards committee to assert some standards? Nil, in my view. Do I think it necessary to use children in any advertising? No, not at all. Fast food advertising during prime time children's TV hours - ban it.

Dolly - inexcusable rubbish and degrading for the readership. I guess Murdoch or some other magnate owns it so ... what chance of regulating the content?

Yeah, ok, children are assaulted on all fronts by many different predatory forces. Maybe Henson doesn't appear so significant to you...but if he is a weak point in the chain of commercial and other exploitation of children ... that is his problem.

Finally, you cannot ignore my argument that 'high art' is a powerful legitimating factor for these other 'low forms' of exploitation and predation on children. It is. that is why Hitler and Mussolini spent a fortune on grandiose public architecture - to validate their power, authority and ideology. Art is significant as an ideological tool and in this case Henson is lending aesthetic credibility to the erotic and commercial exploitation of children.

Over and out (again)

And where it finishes up

......that is why Hitler and Mussolini spent a fortune on grandiose public architecture - to validate their power, authority and ideology.

Not only on architecture, Anthony, and it has been going on for millennia as we know.

Some of the more modern and best of the grandiose are the bronze or whatever they are made of giant figures, a la Saddam Hussein, that once graced Budapest. Giant and powerful figures selling the absolute power, authority and ideology. They would dwarf that one of Saddam that we saw being felled by the mob in Bagdad.

On the outskirts of Budapest one can visit a flea bitten little tourist park and there they all stand, gazing forlornly into the sky. You pay about two dollars to walk around the ill-kept paths to reflect on the once awesome but now lost power of Stalin and his political descendants in the Kremlin over the people of Eastern Europe.

Effectively these so-called works of art have been consigned to a rubbish tip where they belong. A bloke in Budapest got the idea to make some money out of them but it appeared to me that the business was not doing too well. Not too well at all. We were the only visitors while we were there.

Rubbish tip. A good place for Henson's work too I reckon.

Denial, minimising, downgrading

Denial, minimising and downgrading are the strategies of the abuser towards the victims of abuse.  I've seen these strategies here on this thread as well.  I've been reading with increasing irritation but keeping my peace because sometimes it is best to let people expose their rock bottom position before responding.  Well, here goes, in summary form for the sake of clarity:

* While the difference between an adolescent and a child is a matter for child psychologists and others with such expertise the fact is that for the purposes of the production of Henson's images the law states that anyone under 16 is a child. 

* On censorship or not - anyone who is opposed to any censorship at all is an extreme libertarian and not to be taken seriously.  I don't think that we ought to be able to view snuff movies ... if you are opposed to censorship then where do you stand on that?  You either have some censorship, in which case there must be criteria for deciding what is censored or not, or you have none.  If you accept that some censorship is reasonable then the law sets the age limit for giving informed consent to participate in the production of Henson's images at over 16 y.o. 

* On parent's giving 'informed consent' - again, there is no real provision for this to be the case in law and where such provisions exist then they really need to be tested.  Some parents are perfectly capable of selling their child's interests out and not merely for the money but, let us say, for the reflected glory and cultural capital that they think will accrue to them from having their child as a subject of Henson.

*  On obscenity and perversion being in the mind of the art viewer and on the artist having no moral or ethical responsibility for the effect of their work - so theoretically uninfomed and naive as to be totally laughable.  The artist manipulates the content of his images to provoke particular responses and does so consciously and deliberately and these skills constitute the repertoire of what an artist does.  Images produce affective (ie emotional or feeling) responses rather than rational responses.  That is why artists produce art that resonates in particular ways rather than text that is designed to make an argument.  So when reviewers find Henson's images of children eroticised and eroticising they are responding genuinely and authentically to what they see.  So did Rudd, by the way, and his authentic response is that Henson's photos are 'revolting' and for good reason - they exploit the liminal space between adult and child sexuality for the titillation of the audience. 

*  Art is not the same as advertising or other forms of child exploitation - it occupies a privileged space and plays a significant role in informing social values.  It may not inform the social values of the people who live in Mt Druitt but it certainly does inform the social values of those who make and enforce the laws and determine the social conditions of the people who live in Mt Druitt.  It is the plaything generally of the bourgeoisie ... and they have been squealing like stuck pigs because other fractions of the community have stepped in to tell them that we find their attitude offensive, dangerous and unacceptable.  Tough for them.

Those who either work in the area of child welfare and protection or are public campaigners for improved child protection and welfare have taken the initiative here and if the cost of that initiative has been to wipe that smug smirk from Henson's face then it is not too great in my view.

*  On Henson's photos in particular - they position the viewer in the space of the predator.  They invite the viewer to enjoy the same power over the subjects that the predator enjoys as represented by the lens and eye of the photographer.  That is why, in my view, they are obscene.  If you cannot see that then trust those who can. 

* The issue is not one that can be constructed around a left/right divide and in any event the libertarian left was always idiotic in Australia, being represented mostly by fluffed up nincompoops like Richard Neville and his ilk.  A social democratic left is reforming itself and shedding parasitic libertarianism; we are forming a new centre bloc which will occupy conservative ground around precisely such issues as child protection and be all the more credible for it.

* So, the artists who participated in 2020 don't want to co-operate with this centre bloc - well ok, there are other artists who will.

Over and out.


Anthony, intrigued you want to give advertising a privileged location over from genuine art, which has totally different objectives and only involves eroticism peripherally. That is in contrast to either overt porn, or advertising which is happy to consciously use S#X regardless of any harm to the naive.

And you didn't refer to Dolly magazine in any of your posts, despite Miranda Devine's comments weeks ago.

But think of the chooodrin!

Paul, I find myself hard-pressed to find a line of argument coming from the opposition benches in this debate. The honourable members of the pro-censorship party ask a lot of questions; and when they're answered, ask them over again and again and again. And make no point not best described as specious.

The central question that needs to be answered, before anything is censored, is surely: What harm can come from it?

Two answers have been forthcoming. Neither stands up to scrutiny. The first is that it offends their personal sensibilities. The answer to that is easy: just don't look at it then.

The second is that Henson's works will arouse lascivious thoughts in the minds of pedophiles. I don't suppose it will, actually — pedophiles seem to have networks through which they have access to really revolting child pornography, so why would they be interested in artwork photographs? But even if they were, what is the solution to that? Should people up to the age of consent be made to wear burkhas, so as not to be attractive to pedophiles?

Another pretty tenuous sort of argument has been put up too: namely that young people who model for Henson may, some time in the future, suffer some undefined negative consequences of their "exploitation" by him. That has been effectively shot down in flames by Eliot, in his inimitable, never boring style.

I wonder how the thirteen year olds of the world reacted to this whole kerfuffle when it was in the news. Curling their lips and rolling their eyes and saying "Whatever", I expect. I second that emotion.

Kathy, it doesn't seem to me to be still in the news. It looks very dead to me. The fact that a number of people wrote a letter may be news, of a sort; but as I understand it, it comes to us not from news reports, but from a writer of opinion pieces. The fact that someone wrote a letter, and got a little publicity tucked away in an opinion piece, is what I meant when I said a few diehard witch-hunters will inevitably waste their energies trying to keep the issue alive.

"Child welfare experts", especially those in NSW, would seem to me to be much better employed getting their own house in order.

"Dramatic and emotive terms" raises an interesting issue. I think the whole pro-censorship side in this argument is guilty of using emotive terms and, unlike me, doing so dishonestly. Presenting the concept "age of consent" as meaning the age at which a person can consent to having her photo taken is a classic example.

Insisting that adolescent is synonymous with child is another. Consider the words used recently: "Child prostitution", in respect of a thirteen year old. Certainly this amounts to child prostitution, in the idiomatic sense. No one will argue about that. But it's hardly the same thing as a ten year old or a nine year old forced into prostitution, is it? So why would anyone insist that the two things must absolutely be lumped together, except to evoke an unthinking, emotive response?

The plods to whom I refer are the ones who raided the gallery and carried off the art works. A Blytonese word — look it up. The witch-hunters to whom I refer are those who sent them there, and who called for prosecution of artist and gallery owners, and even the model's parents. I would have thought that was clear to everyone who read what I wrote. Maybe if I used less dramatic and emotive terms it would have been clear to you, too. But if my mode of expression is not boring enough to facilitate your understanding, I can't help that. I'm not intent on boring anyone — and I'm certainly not here to bore myself.

Tongue in cheek? Um, no. Sick minds / deviant individuals — they mean pretty much the same. Take your pick. I'm not welcome to use the more dramatic term around here, because it is deemed to impugn another poster. I do think, though, that the weirdo you quoted earlier is the one who has the problem; not the artist, or his model or her parents, or the people who own the gallery where the works were hung. I think that applies to some degree to everyone who sees smut in harmless pictures of a young girl simply because she has no clothes on. It seems to me that they must be seeing not the pictures they are looking at, but images coloured by something hidden in their own minds, a sort of mental virus of which they are not consciously aware. And that is not a good reason for the images themselves to be condemned.

Finally, I don't know who or what "The Shadow" is, old girl. The only shadow I am a fan of is Peter Pan's. When it came off, Wendy sewed it on for him. Don't tell Hetty, because heaven knows what she will make of it, but it happened in her bedroom. At night. And there she taught Peter what a kiss was. Except that he thought it was a thimble. Is anyone's mind-virus reading anything into this?

Eeek! And these are only kiddiwinkies! No age of consent or nuffink! A book with such disgraceful themes should never have been allowed to see the light of day!

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