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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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Another intractable ostrich.

Bill: "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"

When I read that, this morning Bill , I decided to bite the bullet and ask my own 12 year old daughter's opinion on the photograph of the 12-13 year old girl. I briefly explained  that there was a controversey about whether or not these photo's should have been taken.

Her response upon viewing the photograph? "That's disgusting," she said, and seemed a little embarrassed.


"Because ... (pauses)  it's just inappropriate!"

So, would you pose for a picture  like that? I said.

"No way!" (and she crosses her hands over her chest and shoots me an "are you nuts?" look).

Do you think that any of your friends  would have their picture taken like that?

"Not without clothes on, no way. Hmmm, (pausesd to think)  X probably would, but she's the only one who would." (X is quite a nice but forward girl, who is missing her father whom she no longer sees, and is, sadly, lacking  a bit attention. Her mother is in another relationship and is soon to have a baby.)

I must add, that my daughter sometimes runs around the house naked, for example, when she needs a clean towel for a shower. On occasions the front door has been open, and I have had to tell to be a bit more mindful of that in case someone comes to the door. I know that she would be mightily embarrassed if a friend turned up at that particular moment.

That's a whole lot different, to posing naked in front of a camera, though.

Fortunately my daughter is quite open with me and tells me everything that goes on at school. Just last week  she asked me what oral sex was. She had heard someone at school mention it. Rather than skirt around it (I really felt like doing that, believe me!), I told her.  Being only twelve, it elicited a rather negative disbelieving response. "Ewwww! Yuk!  How could anyone do that?" she said incredulously. But I would rather she hear the facts from me than her peers at school, and perhaps be misinformed.

Getting back to my "tongue in cheek "comment Bill,for that is what it was.

Kathy: Lets not encourage the "sick minds ". How many more Russell Smiths are out there? Seemingly intelligent functioning individuals.. Who knows what evil lurks in the hearts of men (and women

I am not convinced that academic Russell Smith is necessarily a deviant individual with a sick mind, hence my over the top comment. From what I have read of his writings, and from what others have said about him, it  appears that there is no evidence to support this premise.

Back to the photographer. He poses (and photographs with unnatural lighting) the naked adolescent in such an erotic and provocative way that it  stirs the imagination and elicits salacious comments from Russell Smith. Had the boy been fully clothed, sitting on the park bench (as I said before) in the sunshine, no salacious comment would have been made by Smith.

The photographer was the trigger here. Other art critics have commented on the fact that many of Henson's pictures are erotic. Henson himself does not deny it.

We will just have to agree to disagree, Bill.

I fear, like me, that you are just another intractable ostrich.

PS. "The  Shadow" was  a favourite of my 72 year old Dad many years ago when he was a boy. He was a fictional comic book/radio character who oft repeated the phrase. "Who knows what evil lurks in the hearts of men?"


Kathy, your honesty with your child is commendable.  I practise a similar approach, no matter that "ask your mother" would be much more convenient.  It's a necessary part of family morality, IMHO ...  "Dad, what's a period" is, let me tell you, a defining moment in father-daugthter relations.

I too have discussed things with my daughter.   She's on that gentle cusp between carefree and image conscious.  As I've said, happy to bounce around a sprinkler in only bottoms, but also at the mirror changing outfit.s a lot. 

I taught her how to do a double-fisted uppercut to the nuts as a seventh birthday present.

It's like the binge-drinking thing, of which I'm summoning up energy to write on (happy if somebody beats me to it, though).  What is taught at home is pivotal on what plays in the community.  What I've been watching on telly suggests five years till Prohibition.  Then watch how pissed people get!

I'm pleased, although surprised that nobody else has brought it up, that Interpol have started closing kid-porn sites.  Tha't why the AFP were so busy the other week.. showing their "credentials" as host of the conference.  And that really gives me the shits.  It appears that everthing from Henson on has been posturing by the AFP to the international law enforcement community.   Again.

the shadow

You are too hard on them, Bill.

It's the press and media running fear campaigns for ulterior motives. They are deeply rooted in the practice of black propaganda and play the citizenry like violins.

We can reassure the more conservative or nervous, but they will still react, partly precisely because the media are so good at their dark profession.

Would we be happier with parents if they weren't worried about kids or adopted a "she'll be right " approach?

The people who run things know there is a lot of good "attitude" out there and play on that, too.That's what I find "obscene".

Think the Shadow was one of these old Dick Powell sort of mystery things from the thirties or forties. Very old Hollywood, from the age of Buck Rogers, Marjorie Main and Edgar Buchanan.

"Nostalgia Theatre" rides again.

Over and over ad-infinitum

The matter under discussion is no longer in the news. Those in authority with a bit more sense than Hetty and her plods have agreed, by and large, with my take on the matter, and made a right decision. The witch-hunters have failed this time. Inevitably some will waste their energies trying to keep the issue alive; the more pragmatic among their ranks will admit defeat and cast around for another witch to hunt. They are more to be pitied than blamed, one might say; but the tragedy of it is that sooner or later they will have a victory, and civil liberty will be forced to take a small step backward. And some innocent who tried to show us a new way of seeing things will be thrown to the wolves.

Paul Walter: I have a strong suspicion that Miranda is having a laugh. I think she must be having a laugh at those people who read her and take her seriously, and get annoyed at her studied ignorance and stupidity; and an even bigger laugh at those who agree with her deliberate silliness.

Every time I have read her (admittedly not many) I have had a bit of a chuckle. The best chuckle was when she said that if this creeping libertarianism that offends us all isn't nipped in the bud we will need a police state to stamp it out, and what a good thing that will be. She then went on to say that "our poor police" would be the last people among us who would like to see that. So we are in danger of having a police state in which the police don't want to participate? I almost sprayed beer all over my keyboard when I read that.

Kathy Farrelly: Lets not encourage the "sick minds ". How many more Russell Smiths are out there? Seemingly intelligent functioning individuals.. Who knows what evil lurks in the hearts of men (and women)?

So are we to censor self-expression so as to avoid the possibility of deviant reaction on the part of deviant individuals? Sorry, I reject that notion out of hand. It's hard to imagine where it would end. Looks like the end of art and literature altogether, to me. A plan devised by someone doomed by "both age, cow fetish and sex". Here's a bit of a primary school hint for you: if ever you decide you want to make sense, you'd better remember not to introduce a list of three with the word "both".

Even Enid Blyton is accused by clueless self-appointed experts of trying to brainwash her readers into racist attitudes (or just as likely anti-racist attitudes) and  homophobic attitudes (or just as likely anti-homophobic attitudes). 

Discussion and clarification.

Bill: "The matter under discussion is no longer in the news."

Well, yes it is, Bill. As reported by Anne Wright, Devine and others, Chris Goddard and forty  professionals (doctors, lawyers, psychologists, advocates etc.) have sent a letter to the government asking that the issue of consent be clarified. Goddard said that he organized the letter because many people had contacted him and they were concerned that "the debate had been hijacked".

The government should definitely clarify the issue, in my opinion.

This is not about Devine at all. As far as I am aware she is not one of the signatories on the letter.

Why you see a need to denigrate those with whom you disagree by using dramatic and emotive terms such as " Hetty and her plods" and "the witch hunters"  puzzles me.

Who might these plods and witch-hunters be? Certainly, you cannot be refering to those "child welfare experts"  who are concerned enough about the children to put pen to paper.

Kathy: Lets not encourage the "sick minds ". How many more Russell Smiths are out there? Seemingly intelligent functioning individuals.. Who knows what evil lurks in the hearts of men (and women)?

Bill: So are we to censor self-expression so as to avoid the possibility of deviant reaction on the part of deviant individuals? Sorry, I reject that notion out of hand. It's hard to imagine where it would end. Looks like the end of art and literature altogether, to me. 

Bit of " tongue in cheek" there ,Bill. (It was you who first used the term "sick minds".) Obviously went down like a lead balloon.

I gather you are not a fan of "The Shadow" either, old boy.

You are quite right Kathy

Kathy, you are quite right as usual. And thank God for those forty or so plods, including yourself. Fortunately it is often the plods of the world who actually get things done, and get changes made for the better, simply because they are prepared to hang in there when they know they are right and not allow themselves to be walked over by those who only ridicule and deride and jump up and down in faux outrage.

So plod on my dear as will Hetty Johnson otherwise, as she says, the paedophiles will be happy and the grubs who deal in child pornography will be reaching for their cameras with a new sense of freedom. No doubt they already are. Protecting children has just got that much harder. Hopefully the law will be changed to see that this does not happen again.

Ostriches all, let us rejoice.

Sometimes, Jenny, the "plods' do indeed win by refusing to listen to anyone's argument, being totally intractable and continually reiterating their point of view.

Sometimes though, they end up portraying themselves as cultural anachronisms. For example, the Amish?

I don't know about anybody else, but I gave up arguing on this thread because there was no point. It does not mean I consider myself less correct in my opinion, or that I can't be persuaded to consider other people's approaches and maybe adopt some elements. You, Kathy, and Anthony, on the other hand, are acting like ostriches.

The mindset of shutting down everything that contains a possible element of harm appalls me. If benevolence must go hand-in-hand with totalitarianism, I can see the sort of society that we're heading for.

Others can plod too, you know, if you get their backs up enough.

The "plodding" of you three has actually, for me, diluted the flavour of your viewpoint, and at the same time enhanced the aftertaste.

An intractable ostrich

Richard: “The mindset of shutting down everything that contains a possible element of harm appalls me. If benevolence must go hand-in-hand with totalitarianism, I can see the sort of society that we're heading for.”

Bit of a sweeping statement there, I reckon, Richard.

My concern is for our children, who are vulnerable and in some instances are exploited by adults as a result. I, and others out there, want the consent issue to be clarified, what is wrong with that? The discussion is far from over. If it were, we wouldn't have had that letter from Chris Goddard and 40 other professionals. That it has re ignited the debate is certainly true.

"refusing to listen to anyone's argument, being totally intractable and continually reiterating their point of view."

Sounds like both sides to me, Richard.

I think perhaps you are lacking a little in objectivity. For example, nothing said here has changed Bill's point of view, nor, has it mine. That must make the two of us intractable then?

There are some things in life that people feel very strongly about. Some things for which there can be no compromise. I have a 12 year old daughter, she still acts very much like the child that she is. I am deeply concerned about her welfare and others like her.

If that makes me intractable, so be it!

Let the eyes have it.

Kath, I am sure you have many concerns for you little girl. I am glad mine has grown up but there are grandchildren to think about now.

I think it was probably easier for us growing up in the fifties than it is now. Parents have so much more to worry about in terms of what their children are exposed to these days. 

The corporate giants know kids are easily influenced, hence the multimillion dollar advertising thrown at then - fast food,  alcopops, kiddy bras for ten year olds (making money out of their desire to belong), to electronic gadgets and so on. The internet exposes children to new risks, and cannot be controlled. With younger and younger children getting mobiles with virtually everything on the net able to be accessed through them, parents are losing the little bit of supervisory capacity that they had left.

The case of the young girl of thirteen in the US being bullied to such an extent on line that she took her own life is particularly tragic. And it is not the first case of suicide by young girls due to their exposure to the net.  There is probably a good case to be argued for providing young people with guidance in schools as to how to recognise and deal with dangers and bullying online, and also to educate them to the unhappiness they can cause if they use the net as a power tool. Of course adults engaging in on line bullying do not set a very good example.  

The capacity at age thirteen to make informed decisions as to what is in their best interest is the real issue of the Henson photos and that is the argument that the other side refuses to accept, instead just tries to present our, and not just our, opposition to his work as some sort of problem with our own mind and eye. That is just a way of avoiding discussing the real issue, which is where do you set the boundaries in terms of protecting children from those who would take advantage of them. We think the boundary was crossed by Henson and that is the bottom line. It has nothing to do with some deep inner defect in our own minds, or eye. That is patently irrational and ridiculous but the sort of diversion used when there is no rational argument to put. 

I too believe the issue is far from dead.  But it probably is in this forum. Probably best to let Bill have the last word, then he can retire in peace.

Cheers Kath.

BTW: Paul Walter. I think you might be confusing me with my other half and he is something of an intellectual force to be reckoned with. So if you want to tip your hat to anyone in this house, tip it to him. But if you want some shrubbery cleared, call me. I am very good with a brush hook.  

real world

Kathy, if you are an ostrich, particularly one with her head buried in the sand, you need "retractable", not "intractable".

Particularly if you can't see that living in an over commercialised, dumbed down society with reactionary tendencies poses at least as much of a threat to kids as some bod taking (relatively inoffensive) photographs with a camera to make some sort of artistic statement.

Look forward to your comments on that other threat to the young: environmental degradation. No doubt it will come almost as soon as Dahvine's first on such a subject.


I don't  think that the pics ARE inoffensive though, Paul.

I do agree that we are living in an over commercialised, dumbed down society though. Many's a time I have wished I lived "far from the madding crowd". Jen's farm sounds like a good place to be.

Yes, environmental degradation is of great concern to me Paul. We certainly would want to leave future generations  with an intact and functional Earth, eh?

You know Paul, we have so much water up in the Kimberley  here in the west. But we are not utilizing  it for the greater good of the country. Ernie Bridge (former WA resources minister) was a visionary ahead of his time. He proposed a pipeline  form the Kimberely  to Perth some years ago to solve the growing water shortage here in the west. They knocked it on the head. Cost prohibitive they said.

Richard:  Amazingly Tenix (onya, Reefy!) seemed to think it was the best solution. (pdf)

No one has come up with any positive alternative.. And in the meantime, all that excess water  up north goes begging while so many  places in Australia are suffering from drought. Ya just gotta shake ya head mate.

Richard:  Perhaps we need to get a new water thread going?

Anyone for tenix?

Yes, just read the Tenix link (Richard?).

Now , didn't the WA Opposition offer an idea like this at the WA state election a couple of years ago? Why was it knocked back, apart from cost and has the CSIRO or the unis ever checked objectively into this sort of thing?

Heaven forbid we should have another dubious Cubby Creek-like antic, or privatised road tunnel bailed out by the public. ( private gain; public pain )

Why not piped rather than canal-ed (verbing?)?

What about other ideas such as water harvesting run-off in Perth itself?

Are there vested interests, such as the operators of the desal plants or Perth water infrastructures interfering with a feasible idea, as they have in NSW?

Richard: We definitely need a new water thread. The KBR Adelaide "aquifer farming," you may have noticed from SA Water Minister Maywald's rhetoric Paul, seems to be off the agenda too.

Speaking of corporate financial gain, I'm wondering tonight who makes the most profit from the Henson debacle? Any thoughts?

Last first

Hen$on, his agent, and the pre$$.


I though aquifer farming was already a goer, or am I confusing it with the water storage aquifers that I thought were part of  the  wetlands system out   Salisbury way? Did not that work as a complete eco system that purified water which could then be stored for farms around  Virginia and Angle  Vale?

Aren't KBR involved some where with  Browncock and Babb, or whatever they called themselves?

Richard: Last first, as you say.  Babcock and Brown may be well and truly rooted.   Beyond that, I haven't looked into any relationship with Kellogg, Brown and Root beyond pre-existing or newfound coincidences in nomenclature.  Tomorrow's a brand new day. 

First last.  As long as our Lib Opp Leader keeps on resuggesting the Halliburton projects, they never quite go away.

Supplementary:  I was thinking of art investors as well.  This sort of media must be better-than-posthumous.

I robot.

Kathy, would it be economical to use big ocean tankers to move water south from the Ord?

I understand river systems like the Gascoyne over in WA could have been, or were, once more productive than they are now, also

Look, that was a very conciliatory post. You demonstrate you understand what frustrates some on the other side of the Henson debate to you, who are afraid of it as a media junket and probably even a deliberate distraction from the sort of thing you mentioned above.

As for Jenny, when I said yesterday that I've found her views on issues worthwhile, particularly infrastructure/ "development"/ privatisation etc, I meant it, but she's entitled to question my integrity if she wants. Disappoints me, but will have to survive as best I can in the wake of the judgement (test of a thick hide - I suspect like my recent ally Bill Avent . How's the kookaburras, Bill? )

For my part I never actually offered a personal opinion on Henson’s work. I suggested stuff about "art", more from the point of view of a "hypothetical" concerning freedom of speech and association. His stuff is skilful, but the subject matter is not especially appealing to me, either. There. Now you know.

There is so much egregious crap right throughout media. It seems to me to be difficult to say, well, we'll start with Henson, when so much else of modern culture is at least as exploitative, offensive, prurient and intrusive.

It's like the stuff I praised Devine as mentioning re filthy Dolly magazine in my intro to the thread, as to its seeming advocacy for anal sex as de rigeur for thirteen year olds. Walking through the shops today I see the same mag advising its worldly-wise reader ship on the virtues of"Faking It"!

To me it's not just isolated examples though;"the system" itself worries me! Are they deliberately commodifying kids as consumers, not just in the sense of as sex objects - so what if someone ogles, if that's all that happens - but as conditioned consumers, who diet anorexically, binge drink into a risky adulthood and even sh-g in a certain way, because they have been so conditioned, not by "lefties" but our bloody system, with its corporations and advertising moguls, as to something as nebulous as fashion!

The one thing we all surely probably do agree on, is that our own culture, our psychic home, is drowning under an avalanche of crap. But why are Miranda and I the only ones who have mentioned the commercial media's sad versions, which surely are no better than Henson’s stuff?

It's all about money not vision

Not sure about the feasibility of ocean tankers moving the water, Paul, but certainly it's worth considering and deserving of more research.

The problem with the proposed Kimberley pipeline is that no government wants to touch it because of the exorbitant costs involved. Geoff Gallop looked at it a few years back, then baulked because estimates put costs at around 10-14 billion dollars.

As you mention, Paul, the (then) opposition leader Colin Barnett went into the last state election campaigning for the pipeline. His advice from Tenix was that it would cost 2 billion dollars, over a ten year period. This was in 2005.My opinion, however, is that it would have cost considerably more, allowing for delays, unforeseen obstructions, etc.

The Labor government went with the desalinators because they were much the cheaper option.

Ernie Bridge, I still believe, had the right idea. Sure it would be a costly and mammoth task. But the water deficiencies for Perth and other areas could be permanently solved with a pipeline from the Kimberley.

Here is an interview with George Negus back in 2004 in which Ernie Bridge shares his vision of a pipeline from the Kimberley.

The easier option

Kathy Farrelly: "Labor... went with the desalinators because they were much the cheaper option."

Has resonances with the current electricity privatisation wrangle in New South.

The temptation is for them to take the easier, more expedient option. Richard mentioned[Richard: ???] I think somewhere, the selling off of silver to keep an inefficient farm going one more year, and I think of it in terms of selling off the plough, or eating this year's seed grain in times of shortage, even when there’s nothing to plant , or any way of planting it in spring when the rains come back.

The country never got past the stuffups of the late eighties and went to the opposite extreme of not even running a controlled deficit, even if something demonstrably, empirically valuable requiring a few bob out of the ordinary turned up.

And it's always likely to boost the price of a state asset for sale if you give monopoly control of it to the purchaser. Let alone all the consultancies and other rorts, on the way.

Of plods and emus

The "plodding" of you three has actually, for me, diluted the flavour of your viewpoint, and at the same time enhanced the aftertaste.

And you don't think Richard the plodding by the opposing two or three here has not had the same effect on Kathy and me. I cannot speak for Anthony. Actually, mostly the plodding from the others in regard to us has been simply derision and ridicule, hardly what one would call objective and rational discussion of our viewpoints.

And whoever said that shutting down everything that could have a possible element of harm was what we were about anyway? Far too late for that given what is on the net and our TV screens. But we can at least still try to draw a few lines when it comes to how children are used.

But I accept there is little point plodding away here. I became convinced of that when I accepted that those with the opposing viewpoint could not even bring themselves to agree that a juvenile of thirteen working as a prostitute was a victim of child prostitution.  The silence was deafening.

What was that about ostriches?  I could mention emus.  They take flight easily. And it is better not to chase them as they wreck the fences on their way out.

Bovine definitions

Why is everyone so down on bovine definitions? It's not as though they drive cars or open bank accounts and stuff. And if they get their photo taken it's not their fault.

Scott: Buggered if I know Bill, we'll both have to give it some thought.


Kathy, I'm confused as to where you're coming from. If you couldn't agree more, what point are you making?

It can't be the photographer's fault if some guy, renowned academic or not, has awakened in him some disgusting desire to pee on people when he looks at Henson's photos, is it? Any more than it is the psychologist's fault for having ink blots that someone sees as full of depraved sexual images.

I don't suppose someone who lives alone but for his computer would need a collection of porn mags, would he? Plenty of porn right there on his computer.

Ian MacDougall, I haven't come across the essay you mention, and I thought I had read all of Orwell. He's dead now; but if he were alive I'm sure he's write a few paragraphs on how lousy the Macquarie dictionary is.

I find little in what you say to be at variance with what I have said. I haven't said a thirteen year old should be allowed to drive a car. But as for voting, why not? And I'm pretty sure I had a bank account when I was about ten.

As for getting her photo taken, clad or unclad, that is her business, and that of her parents. None of mine. And none of yours. As I have said, the only negative effect she is likely to suffer as a consequence of having her photo taken will as a result of the whole mad hoo-ha under discussion here.

Jenny Hume, how many farewells is that?

So the drought-bludger brigade order people out of the saleyards at the point of a gun, now, do they? For the crime of knowing what words mean? For heaven's sake, pull yourself together.

My introduction of the bovine equivalent to a human adolescent, as distinct from a human child, was in order to provide an illustration, as any intelligent reader would recognise.

A heifer is not a calf. And a teenager is not a child. Honestly.

Scott: Have we had enough on the subject of bovine definitions, Bill?

Avoidance by Bill

So Bill Avent, you prefer to sneer and deride rather than answer the question as to why you would reject the view of those 40 experts to whom Devine refers. Avoidance strategy rather than admit you might be wrong in the eyes of those who clearly know more than you about child abuse and protection. Pull yourself together man and try being honest for once.

Now I ask again - third time: On what basis would you reject the view of those experts in regard to the Henson matter Bill?

Farewells. I recall a month or so ago you did just that. What happened, Bill? Missed us all too much?

Scott, if she was a prostitute at 13, then she was a child prostitute. I challenge you to find any intelligent person who would say otherwise.

The hanging judge

Jenny Hume, who is/are this /these "40 experts" sitting in judgement over Bill Avent you invoke, like Lord High Executioners from the Inquisition or the Salem trials?

And because Devine commends them?

For me, that reason alone, would be enough to ignore them.

C'mon Jenny. I don't regard you as a fool; you have said too much of interest on too many topics for me to regard you as one.

But not that woman. Please don't cite Devine in these sorts of places, especially (laughter) as a reliable or unbiased commentator .

No, I can't think of any more unreliable, fanciful and actually; malicious, self-serving and dishonest member of the Commentariat than that woman.

Richard: Could Miranda have been doing a wee bit of "ratings-grabbing" Paul? That was rhetorical.

The Shadow knows

Paul Walter: "Jenny Hume, who is/are this /these "40 experts" sitting in judgement over Bill Avent you invoke, like Lord High Executioners from the Inquisition or the Salem trials?"

From Anne Wright in the Herald Sun:

A group of high-profile child welfare experts have reignited the debate about Bill Henson's controversial art by writing a letter to the Prime Minister voicing their concerns over the issue of consent.

The letter, signed by academics, doctors, lawyers, advocates and artists, calls on the Government to clarify issues of consent, ethics and the law in regards to exhibitions such as Henson's.

It says the recent furore over Henson's works - seized by police before an exhibition at a NSW gallery last month - incorrectly questioned whether the art was pornography rather than questioning the ability of children to give consent.

Co-signatory Chris Goddard, director of Child Abuse Research Australia, said the central issue surrounding Henson's work was the exploitation of children.

"People are making money out of children and people who aren't necessarily capable of giving full consent," he said.

"I'm not sure a 12-year-old understands the impact that these photos, out there for all time, might have on their life.

"I'm also very concerned that somehow by claiming the title 'artist' you are exempted from more general obligations towards children," he said.

Joe Tucci, CEO of the Australian Childhood Foundation, added: "Whilst parents might have the legal right to give consent, they have an ethical obligation to their children not to put them in positions that can affect them downstream

Paul: "And because Devine commends them? For me, that reason alone, would be enough to ignore them."

Nope, not Devine .

Glad to see you have an open mind though, Paul.

And, btw, nobody is sitting in judgement here, just relating facts. These 40 people are professionals, child welfare experts. I'm sure that they would know a lot more about this than you and me and even Bill, as learned as HE is!

Bill: "It can't be the photographer's fault if some guy, renowned academic or not, has awakened in him some disgusting desire to pee on people when he looks at Henson's photos, is it? Any more than it is the psychologist's fault for having ink blots that someone sees as full of depraved sexual images."

Of course the photographer is at fault. Had he photographed the adolescent boy fully clothed sitting on a park bench in sunshine, I am sure that it would not have elicited such salacious comment from Russell Smith.

The photographer set the scene, with his erotic provocative and unrealistic posing of the subject. Not quite the same as inert inkblots now ,Bill.

Lets not encourage the "sick minds ". How many more Russell Smiths are out there? Seemingly intelligent functioning individuals.. Who knows what evil lurks in the hearts of men (and women)?

Oh, and Bill, I too would be interested in your answers to Jenny's thought-provoking questions.

Art lovers and fools

Kath, so thank you. There is no point in trying to convince Paul Walter or Bill of anything here. It would not matter what credentials in child protection those 40 might have. They would still be philistines and wowsers to the Henson supporters.

And yes, you put a valid question, and you get no answer. Interesting.

A thirteen year old girl in prostitution is not a victim of child prostitution it would seem if one accepts Bill's definition of what is a child. She is a teen. So that would make it more acceptable it would seem. Pass away, rather than die - we know the power of euphamisms to protect our senses, and I suggest consciences when it suits.

Note the piece by Sheehan this morning on the issue of suppressing the age of juvenile criminals, that is those under 18. I suggest to Bill another example: if a thirteen year old committed murder, would not there be public outrage and horror that such a crime could be committed by a child. Would the public call her a teen or a child? I suggest child. She would certainly be deemed such under the law.

Paul, no I most certainly am not a fool but be honest, you do not respect my opinion or viewpoint, so why bother asking me for it. I am as you say, no fool.

Kath, what interests me about art is that if someone of artistic repute deems a work to be a piece of art, then art buffs will automatically accept that it must be just that. They have an amazing capacity to suspend basic common sense, their intellectual judgement, and I would suggest their values.

As an example: What is the bet that If I were to, say, take a big white canvas, about a metre and a half square, draw in paint a thin black line across that white canvas, put the name of some well known artist on it, call it Black line on White Canvas and then convince some reputable gallery to hang it, that you would not soon find a group of people standing around it debating with great profundity its deep and hidden meaning and its great artistic merit. And would they not nod their heads in approval as some public gallery paid me ten grand or more for my piece, in the interest of preserving my great artwork for posterity?

Silly you say. Then clearly you are no art expert, because that very thing is hanging, or was, in a prominent place in the foyer of the National Gallery of Australia.

Art lovers and fools. At times it is hard to tell the difference. Henson knows that. He has clearly fooled quite a few into believing his work is art, and not something less edifying.

A hard task-mistress

You are a hard task-mistress, Kathy Farrelly.

Was only asking if they (the forty) had some basis in fact.

And when Dahvine finally writes something that adds to, rather than reduces, the sum total of human knowledge on any real subject up and running, instead of the salacious, circulation driven and judgemental stuff that is her usual stock in trade, then I'll give her (or Akerman, or Milne) some credit.

But yes, Kathy. You are right. I should not allow frustration as an excuse to abandon open mindedness. Will bear it mind.

Could Miranda grab ratings?

Richard: "Could Miranda have been doing a...bit of ratings grabbing"...".

Richard, that was at least one conclusion I intimated that I was on the verge of reaching even back in the original "Hensonism" post (sh-t, had almost forgotten that name...).

You'd have observed if you read today's SMH online just how heavily Fairfax are investing in on this Dwarkinist reactionary "blessed of the 'burbs" line, this time with someone called Kerry Ann Walsh, apparently a peroxided Sydney matron, running a load of tosh from Sophie Panopoulos about Bel Neal, in op/eds.

Ah...that Richard Tonkin...

 Richard...the fiddler.  I thought I had heard that name before.  Did you ever know...Declan Afflee,  Bill 'Mad Dog' Morgan, Jacko or Dennis Kevans, Vicki Osland or maybe Harry Campbell (still around Mudgee-Gulgong in a band called 'Home Rule') perhaps?  From the hirsute and wild seventies when BLF members could all sing and drink?

These days I am a complete f*ck-knuckle with a stringed instrument! I'm sure I have lost as much hair as others (and that includes those not with us anymore).

As to the matter of raising daughters ... well ... I've had my share of mates' female teenagers flirting and being sassy and I accept that this is a reaonable role for older men to play ... they need to be able to practise the flirting in safe ways with decent men...and then I tell 'em that they're sassy little buggers and to be on their way and that is all there is to it.  It is part of growing up.

As to mine ... she's been raised straight with the freedom of her own body but the boundaries are very clear: there is my business and hers and the twain do not meet.  She knows that I am pro-sex and pro-democracy and that there is a lot of fun to be had working out how to do intimate relations grounded in erotic equalitarianism.  But, as to other men and her...she is self-regarding and self-respecting and I guess that instilling that is as much as we can do for our kids and no small achievement at that either.

I have other ideas but as I'm currently at work and under pressure I'll be back later after consideration.

Nice to know who you are and thanks to all others for the spirited and considered debate because it can be bloody hard to find informed opinion elsewhere sometimes.

Dishonesty to the rescue of calves and kids

Ian MacDougall: Well Bill, we took your advice, and look where it got us.

Thanks. But I hereby swear on a stack of OEDs that I never in my life advised anyone to consult a Macquarie dictionary. Every time I get within forty feet of one of those things I break out in hives.

But the main thing is that to define a heifer as a calf is just plain dishonest. Common sense tells us that. But you can't appeal to common sense in conversation with some people. They will go off on a tangent about female calves being described in saleyards as heifer calves, to distinguish them as females, which in their minds justifies their own dishonesty in insisting that teenage humans are children.

Says it all, really. Touch on some people's neuroses and they wriggle about all over the place, and then rush off to seek Devine guidance.

Here is another example for those who would call thirteen year olds children in need of their protection (read control-freak interference in their lives): when a person's baby teeth have all fallen out and been replaced by adult ones, said person is no longer a child. Go argue with biology if you will.

Kathy Farrelly: 'As I said before, the protection of our children/adolescents is paramount. The fact that the subjects are too immature to have informed consent is of grave concern.'

What is of graver concern to me is the immaturity of those who would appoint themselves as protectors. They have exposed their own deviant thought processes in the current Rorschach test. Instead of trying to cure the art world's ills, they should be trying to cure their own.

You quote the ramblings of one weird commentator who looks at a photo of a boy taken from above and feels invited to urinate on him. Says it all, really. If kids need protection, it is from such sick minds as his.

Bye Scott and Bill Avent - about dishonesty

Scott, first of all farewell to this thread but get the facts rights first. Bill Avent introduced the irrelevant subject of female bovines to this thread in an attempt to suppport his own dishonesty in describing a thirteen year old as not being a child.

And then he accuses me of going off on the tangent he introduced in a dishonest way when I dispute his understanding of matters rural.  He clearly knows nothing about rural terminology and word use which is far more important that any dictionary defintion. Pull a dictionary out on a farmer and and try and argue your sale price on that basis and you will find yourself very smartly on the way out the gate. Some I know would assist him at gunpoint. 

Bill Avent, you fling the word dishonesty about to suit your own purpose and I see that as dishonesty. You introduce cattle to the argument to try and support your interpretations, and then accuse me of dishonesty when I give you far more relevant human illustrations to support my assertion that a thirteen year girl old is still a child.

Yoy refused to accept that a photo of thirteen year old girl being sexually abused would be described as child pornography.

You refused to accept that a thirteen year old girl found to be used as a prostitute would be deemed a victim of child prostitution.

Well, you would simply be found wrong there by I suggest the vast majority of the population. And clearly the dictionary definition of a child is not something you would look up, as I suggest no one else would need to in those situations either. A thirteeen year old girl is still a child.

Devine intervention. Well Bill, that is a feeble attempt at a put down and I could say a dishonest way to avoid addressing the valid viewpoints of those people to which she refers, who clearly see real issues in terms of child protection if society allows children to be used a la Henson and who are clearly much better equipped to evaluate the issues than you, or me.  I ask again, do you reject the views of those people as just more Hetty Johnson type nut cases, Bill? If so, on what basis? Why avoid the real question Bill?

But in any case what an under age person is called is essentially irrelevant. The fact is that the puberty stage of life for any child is often one of very great confusion and can make them particularly vulnerable. If they are not afforded the level of support and protection they need at that difficult time in their lives, then they can suffer very severe long term damage.

Those of us who have raised children know this only too well.

And I too am now out of here.  To be honest I  find your approach to this issue to rather dishonest.  And just as it was you who introduced the subject of bovines, you also introduced the issue of honesty. So wear the cap you chose, because it fits nicely.

Thirteen year olds

Jenny, you are about to learn something else about me.

I have known a former prostitute for many years although I have not had contact with her for some six years now. My decision and hers; she resented my concern for her for some reason but given her background she was always a difficult person  with which to maintain an even relationship.

She also was an abused child and hit the Cross at age thirteen. She had to grow up very quickly. She did.

Despite paying off her pimp and three different lots of bent cops, (Flying 21, Consorting Squad and another,) she was smart enough to keep something back for herself and invest in real estate. I think she's doing alright but the point I'm making is that the damage was done in her domestic environment.

All this "fear and loathing" about paedophilia is misplaced. When that sort of scenario is commonplace (and it is), we as a society have serious problems.

How and why we met is another story; it certainly wasn't on a "professional" basis.

I should know by now to never say never; so should you.

I thought this might happen

"Bill Avent introduced the irrelevant subject of female bovines"

Jenny, slow down.

First, look at my title; then place what I wrote in that context.

Remember I'm a humourist.

As you were Scott esquire

Was not taking  shot at you Scott, just noting that it was Bill who had muddied the waters through the introduction of things to do with beasts on a thread that has nought to do with beasts. And I did see your humour anyway.

So as you were, sir. Cheers

The transition from childhood to adulthood

Bill Avent: Be all that as it may, including your Mac. Dict. induced hives.

In my admittedly limited experience, and contrary to your clearly more unlimited one, I have always found the Macquarie to be a most useful and scholarly work, albeit poorly bound in the edition I have. But any dictionary can only define words in terms of other words, and is thus ultimately self-referential. George Orwell dealt with this in one of his essays, in which he outlined a parlour game based on Bingo, wherein people use a dictionary to look up the definition of a word, and then the meaning of one used in its definition, and so on until they come back to the original word. At that point the player shouts 'bingo!' and takes the prize. I am sure you must have played it many times, and with your usual determination.

However, to get away from the bovine digression and back to the main point, for there is a more important point here: the English language was not devised by grammarians or etymologists, but by the people who have used it over the centuries. The grammarians worked out the rules that the users themselves had devised and obeyed, albeit unconsciously, and the etymologists worked out the history of the usage. So when we find words like 'baby', 'child', 'teenager', 'adult' etc in use, we know that people created and used them because they wanted to isolate separate categories: in this case, of people. That in turn is because they have found the category distinctions to be in some ways important.

I put it to you that a child is not an adult, and a teenager is a person in transition from one of those categories or states to the other. A teenager has some attributes of both. "A boy's brain inside a man's body" is one popular description of the archetypal male teenager that I have encountered.

Also, the two highest priorities I have encountered in teenagers are (1) peer acceptance and belonging to a peer group, and (2) being seen by adults and peers alike to be an adult and not a child, with adult privileges if not responsibilities. At times these two drives are at variance and work against one another like rutting stags. But there you go.

If a thirteen-year-old was an adult, the law would allow him or her to drive a car, operate a bank account and vote, just for starters. It doesn't, and for reasons the populace at large happily accepts.

I suspect that a thirteen-year-old who allows a man with a camera to photograph her nude does so because she aspires to the status, in the eyes of whoever, of an adult model. Perhaps also the pay. But this just raises some further questions:

1. Is she particularly vulnerable to manipulation and exploitation?

2. Can she be sufficiently aware of any such vulnerability on her part and/or of attempts at manipulation and exploitation by any adult?

3. Is she able to protect herself and deal with any such in those circumstances?

The popular answer to all the above is in the negative. Hence the law, however poorly drafted, and the controversy over the Henson exhibition.

How the politics of all this will play out over future months I have suggested elsewhere on this thread. Briefly, I suspect that we will see the child pornographers move in to take advantage of whatever artistic freedom Henson has won for them, and the law tightened considerably in response and in turn. Protection of the vulnerable will always trump artistic freedom in the eyes of the voting public, and every politician knows it.

Dr Russell Smith, not just some old kook, Bill

Bill: "You quote the ramblings of one weird commentator who looks at a photo of a boy taken from above and feels invited to urinate on him."

But this "one weird commentator " has the potential to influence many impressionable minds, Bill. He is just not some old kook who lives alone with a stack of porn mags and his computer for company, he is a RESPECTED (and I use the term loosely) lecturer and art critic who has published a considerable amount of material. See below.

Russell Smith
Russell is a Lecturer in English at the Australian National University, and teaches literary and film studies and literary theory. His research focus is on Samuel Beckett, and his book Beckett and Ethics is forthcoming from Continuum UK in September 2008. He is co-editor of Australian Humanities Review and is a high profile arts writer whose work has been published in Broadsheet, Realtime and Art and Australia.

 from, Canberra Contemporary Art Space.

"If kids need protection, it is from such sick minds as his." Exactly, Bill.

I couldn't agree more.

That's enough for me

"...with the grave deliberation of a man discreetly exposing his penis,"

Richard:  ???  I haven't had time to read through the links yet. Where's this from?  Miranda?

it's true

Yes, Scott, it's true.

Often in the blokes' urinal at the footy on Saturdays have noted just the event you (and more correctly, Miranda) speak of. How does she know what goes on in the blokes' urinal, anyway- the flippin’ pervert! )

Not beyond a certain point – or time, more to the point) of course, particularly when the younger blokes start whining about blokes prostates (a subject that seems to intrigue many women) and their subsequent slowness at the trough eye-to-eye confrontations, so to speak, can lead to a black one.

Failing the Rorschach test

I should have thrown this in for good measure Paul, "as if to - pardon me - urinate on the subject"

To try to be objective I read Devine, (right to the end this time!) and followed Anthony's link but when I got to my first quote I quit. Maybe I should have continued to see what else the queer sod would come up with but what's the point?

I'm heartily sick of the whole bloody business; neither side is going to convert a single member of the opposite camp and it's descending into low farce.

Now we have Jenny and Bill patently intent on further muddying the waters by introducing bestiality into the debate.

I'm outa here.

Critic's appraisals are building a case

It seems that the critics have been making a solid case about the ethics of Henson's art for some time now.  Here is the link to the review by Dr Russell Smith cited by Miranda Devine in today's SMH.

To save searching Webdiary here are previously posted links to reviews by other critics of Henson ...

The first is by Prof. Robert Nelson.   The following is by Guy Rundle.

Miranda by the vulnerable and Julian abandons, whotatotit?


well , now we have more heayweights from the area of childprotection taking a stand about the issue: 

"..Far more powerful is the open letter reigniting the debate this week, from Monash University's director of child-abuse research, Chris Goddard, and 40 psychologists, social workers and child-protection advocates alarmed about the lack of concern in the art world for the exploitation of children the images represent.

Goddard says the central concern about Henson's work has been sidetracked into the dead-end discussion about art versus pornography, when it is really about the protection of children and their developmental inability to give informed consent. "We are particularly concerned [by the suggestion] Mr Henson's photographs are in some way so special as to be above the question of consent," wrote Goddard...."

 and :

"....We are no longer in the pre-1980 period when children's rights barely existed … Time does not stand still … We do know that, developmentally, most 12- and 13-year-old girls (and boys) in this society are somewhat reluctant to undress and appear naked in front of other people, particularly adults. It is, in developmental terms, certainly odd that these 12- and 13-year-old girls would undress for Bill Henson and his camera. This immediately raises concerns for many people...."

For me, this has summarised the main concerns. I see strong echoes of exactly what Jenny and Kathy have been saying with Andrew adding the more powerful language. 

While this issue and others like it  have become a tool of those who employ wedge politics against the defenders of Freedoms in our society, they who defend our society must also understand there is a line in the sand.  At present that is child protection and exploitation. I think that is a value to be cherished and itself makes a stronger society in the long run with less damaged children if it is properly administered.   AT ALL LEVELS.

This is an example of societies bravest dfenders of freedoms being caught out defending a noltz.  Julian Burnside should consdier who is REALLY the vulnerable in this issue.   To his credit the ever present twinger of our conscience Leunig does. 

Names such as the following added weight to concern about the photos: innclude the clinical neuropsychologist Dr Nathaniel Popp; the former director of the Office of the Children's Rights Commissioner for London, Moira Rayner; Father Chris Riley; the chairperson of Advocates for Survivors of Child Abuse, Cathy Kezelman; the CEO of the Australian Childhood Foundation, Joe Tucci; the psychologist and author Steve Biddulph and the family councillor Malcolm Robinson....and Leunig and Allan Zavod...."

It seems Miranda has fired another arrow. 


PS, Jenny

Try offering a heifer for sale, and when someone comes to see it, show him a calf. He'll ask you what the hell you think you're playing at.

 Tell him true definitions don't count: you only deal in general usage definitions. Better have good earplugs in when you say it. I reckon you'll hear some real ripe language if you don't.

Just for Bill

Offer him a heifer or heifers for sale and show him heifer calves when he arrives? Done that many times Bill.

Simply because any farmer who does not ask the age of the heifer/s before he arrives is a fool waiting to be taken for a ride. They could be anything from bobbies heifer calves to weaner heifer calves to point of calving heifer calves. Still heifer calves to most.  I would take the word of that Clancy of the Overflow type who runs our place to yours Bill, and to him they are calves till they become cows. 

Know what a bobby calf is Bill? Look it up in that dictionary of yours. Clearly you have not spent much time in the bush, nor done much livestock trading nor dealt with too many agents or cockies.

Oh and as for ripe language. No. I generally find those I deal with in the bush do not use expletives in the way people do here (if they can get away with it) on the net , in the streets and on TV a la the ladies on Underbelly and the oh so tough cops on Wildside. I guess some people have to use such language in order to feel good about themselves and somehow tough.  

The only time I have had the F word used to me in the bush was around a saleyard when I heard an animal moaning and on going to investigate caught  a truckie who was belting into a cow that was crippled and down in his truck and would not, could not, get up. I challenged him and he swung his whip at me and opened his foul mouth wide. I simply told him, well that is the language I would expect from someone who would do that to any animal.      

Foul language can tell you a lot about the person using it.

Now unless you want the last word, and if so feel free, this thread for me is now closed. As I said, Miranda summed up my concerns about those photos very nicely. Read her piece and when you do tell me if you see those people to whom she refers as being just more Hetty Johnson type nutters.

I await with interest your response to that.

BTW: If a thirteen year old girl is found to have been forced into prostitution I doubt there are many who would not refer to her as being a victim of child prostitution. Nor for that matter a fourteen or fifteen year old child.

Shaky grounds

Jenny Hume: "I think the grounds of the objections by me and others here to the Henson photos have been spelled out enough times by now."

Does it all boil down, then, to: "We don't like them; therefore Henson should not be allowed to make them, and no one should be allowed to see them"? 

Can, ought, should, might...

... and the answer is (the computer says) No. (Orlando Gibbons made it, and I have sung it, far better.)

I shall try, Anthony, to give you a more complete response sometime this weekend.

Rustic reality

Jenny Hume: "When is a heifer not a calf?"

When it is old enough to be a heifer, of course.

A heifer is a grown female cattlebeast, old enough to become pregnant, but still too young to have borne a calf. Buy a dictionary, and look it up. When you've finished with the dictionary, offer it to the guys at the saleyards. They will probably tell you that they knew that. They use the term heifer calf to distinguish it as a female one, as distinct from a male one. Likewise a bull calf is obviously not a bull, is it? Probably never will be, poor bugger.

Oh and by the way, I have never said those photos were child pornography.

Then on what grounds would you have them banned, and the guy who took them prosecuted? On what rationale did Hetty Johnson stick her oar in? Just what have you and the handful of misguided souls who agree with you been on about?

A heiferty dictionary dissertation for Bill

Bill Avent, you defined a heifer as "... a grown female cattlebeast, old enough to become pregnant, but still too young to have borne a calf."

Then you added some advice:  "Buy a dictionary, and look it up. "

Well, I looked it up in the Macquarie, Bill, which is the only dictionary that speaks with any authority on Australian usage. It says that a heifer is "a cow that has not produced a calf and is under three years of age." In other words, anything from birth to fully grown, provided it is yet to produce a calf.

But wait. There's more.

The same dictionary defines a cow as "the female of a bovine animal, especially of the genus Bos that has produced a calf and is generally over three years of age."

Now if we substitute this definition of "cow" for the word "cow" in the definition of a heifer, leaving the genus Bos out of it, we get:

A heifer is "a female of a bovine animal... that has produced a calf and is generally over three years of age, that has not produced a calf and is under three years of age."

Well Bill, we took your advice, and look where it got us.

As Oliver Hardy used to say to poor Stan Laurel: "This is a fine mess you've got us into."

Richard: ... and talk of love lasting for heifer and heifer would be totally inappropiate.  Excuse me while I duck.

Formative years

Anthony Nolan, when you first came here afte the APEC rally I was delighted that you'd taken your 16 year old daughter on the march, an event you later described as "her first rally as a young adult."

With my daughter about to turn 10 I'm probably going to be going down trains of thought that you've just been through over the past few years.  So help me, if somebody looks at her "the wrong way" I'll want to deck 'im. 

A friend has a girl who was 16 last year.  There was something in the way that she skipped past me one night  (known her since a tacker, and apparently I was her inspiration to start fiddling) made me ask her (in an uncle-ish fashion ... I'm an uncle to many, have assisted a dozen kids in starting their first unaided walk)  "how old are you now?"  She's turned 17, and tomorrow I'm going to meet her newborn son. 

Aside: how many new boys are going to be named after Heath Ledger?  This one was.

There are so many aspects to such a formative time in a girl's life.  With the current state of society elements of those aspects have changed.  This is what I think Henson is trying to get at.

Can I suggest

Can I suggest Bill you read Miranda Devine's piece in today's SMH and tell me if you think the people she quotes as putting foward objections to and arguments against the use of children in the manner of the Henson photos are simply more examples of Hetty Johnsons of the world. I wonder on what grounds you would reject their opinions. Tell me.

While I do not agree with much that Miranda Devine ever writes, I think on this issue and in that piece she has summed up nicely how the whole debate, including on this thread here, was hijacked by the supporters of Henson. Hijacked in such a way that completely avoided and blurred the real issue and the real concerns.

Comments here are riddled with examples of such, and no matter what the opponents here try to say, we are greeted with derision and ridicule, which I see as just tools in the hijacker's box.

Have a read Bill. For that piece sets out exactly what I think and believe about those photos. No need for me to repeat it, and in any case Miranda does it better than I ever could.

And since she has done that I see no further reason to continue this discussion. My case, as so nicely summed up by Miranda, rests.

I agree Jenny

Yes Jenny, Devine's piece is a good one.

Was certainly pleased to read that Chris Goddard and 40 other professionals were concerned enough about the exploitation of children and adolescents to put pen to paper in protest.

 Here is part of Devine's piece, below.

"Far more powerful is the open letter reigniting the debate this week, from Monash University's director of child-abuse research, Chris Goddard, and 40 psychologists, social workers and child-protection advocates alarmed about the lack of concern in the art world for the exploitation of children the images represent.

Goddard says the central concern about Henson's work has been sidetracked into the dead-end discussion about art versus pornography, when it is really about the protection of children and their developmental inability to give informed consent. "We are particularly concerned [by the suggestion] Mr Henson's photographs are in some way so special as to be above the question of consent," wrote Goddard.

On Thursday, Goddard said he organised the letter because so many people had contacted him with concerns that the debate had been hijacked. "There was a sense people didn't want to speak out, especially people in the child welfare field who feel compromised because they have artistic members on their boards … patrons of the arts and so on."


Kids come first

Part of my last comment in reference to art critic Russell Smith disappeared last time?

Richard:  Sorry Kathy, technical hitch.  

 His  review had my stomach churning.

To evoke  such drooling and salaciousness from this well known critic  speaks volumes about Henson and his photographs.

"In Broadsheet, the journal of the Contemporary Art Centre of South Australia, the visual arts critic Dr Russell Smith conceded the exhibition was "undeniably impressive"  He candidly described "a flagrantly erotic series [from 1977] of 16 photographs shot from above of a skinny elf-like boy, sprawling naked on a cushion on a wooden floor".

"But if the poses are languidly sensual, the angle of vision is stiffly predatory; in some shots the camera is poised as if to - pardon me - urinate on the subject. This is one of the few occasions where Henson really lays bare the power relations that give photographer and viewer imaginative possession of the flesh of the other. With blurry close-ups of his sleepy eyes and pixie nose, and hovering full-length shots centred on his skinny torso and his young penis tucked between his thighs, the sequence makes the boy look cute and drug-f-----, a figure of both innocence and complicit deviance, cherub and rent-boy"

 As I  said before, the protection of our children/adolescents is paramount. The fact that the subjects are too  immature to have informed consent is of grave concern.

 The debate has certainly been sidetracked.

I couldn't give a frog's fat arse whether some consider Henson's polaroids to be art or not!

The kids come first.

And I ain't talking about no nanny goats either!

Dictionary definitions and general usage

Is it just possible Bill that you can accept that the dictionary definition of a word is one thing, but usage of a word and understanding of a word through general usage is what really counts. If not, then never mind. 

At least we can agree on one thing. A heifer calf once it has had its own calf is no longer a heifer calf.   

I think the grounds of the objections by me and others here to the Henson photos have been spelled out enough times by now.

Objectivity and rationality versus hysteria

Frankly, Jenny, do you know what rationality or objectivity are? If you find my way subjective and irrational, you should be able to explain why it is that. Just saying it won't do. Just saying it totally lacks objectivity. Ever heard of playing the ball?

Saying that some mothers and others would call photographs of an unclad teenager child pornography, and therefore it must be child pornography, is hardly objective. Pretty thoughtless, actually. And thoughtlessness is never likely to lead to rationality.

If you used a few of the words you devote to the Scot's dinner to justifying your criticism of my approach, that might help. Just saying someone is wrong while studiously ignoring what he says merely indicates a lack of any rational basis for your disagreement. Here's a hint: you might attempt to answer my question as to whether you would call a heifer a calf, and if not why you would call an adolescent a child. That shouldn't be too hard. It would require you to be a bit objective, though. And you could answer my question as to what child Ms Busybody Johnson has ever protected, supposing any such child exists. Were you a fan of Mary Whitehouse, back in her heyday?

And while on your Whitehousian holier than thou trip, you might consider keeping your teeny examples within the bounds of honesty. The photographs in question here are not ones of any thirteen year old girl being sexually abused. And of course were they that, then they would depict an adolescent being abused. And that is how they would be accurately described. That's rational objectiviity for you. Please, don't mention it. Always glad to help out.

Thanks for your permission to swear all I want, though. Hey, having that takes a weight off my mind. Maybe we can debate the use of language some time. In respect of Underbelly language (I much prefer The Sopranos myself) my advice would be, if you don't like it, don't watch it.

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