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The censors and double standards

by Stuart Lord

Stuart's archive is here

We live in strange times, to say the least. And I'm not talking about terrorism or apologists and appeasers. Rather, I'm talking about the strange standards that seem to exist these days among us.

What specifically bought these set of thoughts on was the news that Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas, the fifth title in that series, is likely to be banned. Why? Because there is a third party piece of software which can be used to access a locked setting that involves showing your character having graphical sex with various partners.

I hate using that phrase 'graphical sex' but since I haven't seen it it's the best description I found. My ire is drawn not so much due to the fact that because of this extra content the game may well be banned. My protest is rather about what I think is a moral double standard being applied by censors in choosing to consider banning the game.

To understand the nature of this double standard, I must discuss the nature of the game itself, which I own and have played (to about halfway at this point). San Andreas revolves around working with and for (but not limited to):

Corrupt policemen (who in the very opening scene of the game frame you for murder of another policemen); Gang members (African-American, Latin, Caucasian and Asian - who get you to take out their rivals through doing drive-by's, beating them to death, or just shooting them generally among other things); Undercover agents (involving importing weapons and drugs); Drug plantation owners.

In almost all of these missions there is the distinct possibility of killing people, either accidentally or on purpose. The physics of the game and the nature of the missions mean that if you are in a car you usually are involved in running over men, women and children. You can actively steal at night from houses, steal cars, weapons, money from people on the street. Copious amounts of death and sex is required to complete the game.

However, my issue doesn't lie there. It's rather the double standard imposed by censors with their reasoning for there to be a possible banning of this game. Look at the above examples of what the game involves, and tell me that it doesn't have the potential to be darker than any sex scene you are able to generate in game.

And what makes the possible decision even more laughable is that already in the game you have girlfriends (with a status bar to tell you how close to sleeping with them you are), you can get lap dances, and are propositioned by prostitutes on the street. Sex and death are constant undertones to the game. So how does this additional content involving sexual activity suddenly become an issue for the public good just because it becomes visual?

Another example of this double standard was with an earlier game in the San Andreas series - San Andreas III: Liberty City. This game was taken off shelves.  Not because you could sleep with a prostitute. But because you could beat and rob her instead of paying her. Again, I'm not against some sort of judgement of morality done by our censors. Its simply the evident double standard just within that particular instance highlights the general nature of this censorship, considering the high levels of suggestive sexual content already in these games, not to mention copious violence.

We seem to be putting the act of sex (not the explicit concept, but simply the viewing of sex), on a much higher pedestal than violence and death. The irony is that there is no ban for killing police officers or other innocent people, no ban for robbing and/or killing any random person on the street, and yet the second you beat and rob a prostitute, the game is banned. Does anyone else see the flaws? It shows something wrong within our morality, that we can choose to tolerate so many things, and yet ban others that seem much more trivial in nature and effect. That we tolerate violence in games (s and we don't mind sex, we only mind most forms and representations of sex. We only get indignant about sex that is visual.

This is with a game rated MA, 15 or over, with the US version rated for adults only (our system doesn't allow for R rated computer games). The content seems to be no more explicit or morally corrupt than any version of Big Brother Uncut or most foreign movies on SBS, which have the same rating, and involves real people, no less. And yet while there was some moral outrage at the nature of Uncut, I see no censors demanding the removal of these scenes, shows or movies. We seem to have a giant moral blind spot where this is involved. A common set of morality, consistent in nature, is required to make a fair and proper choice in these regards. Again I'm not necessarily calling for all violence and sex to be banned, simply for consistency with the application of any censorship regarding these and other similar themes. A bit of common sense is required in this process of discovering moral consistency and limits.


VSU and me: why I support it

On other matters, I also want to talk a bit regarding VSU, even though it has been off the front pages for a while, perhaps due to more public IR reforms taking attention away from the issue, or perhaps because those arguing are too high, it being Uni holidays and all.

VSU is a piece of legislation that I feel is a good move. Why? Because I do not feel an obligation to support a union that neither deigns to represent me nor provides myself with any benefit approaching the cost of membership. It is that simple. Let alone having my tertiary progress halted if I choose not to pay the union; my enrolment cancelled because I do not give financial support to an organisation which does not provide me with any essential basics for completing my education.

The reason why I am at uni is to get an education to improve my chances of getting skilled employment and improving myself. Not to fund activities and equipment which I make little to no use of, subsidising organisations that I neither support nor desire to give the legitimacy that the union gives it through my money being used to provide for it. Example – the union providing both financially and morally for May Day protests, anti globalisation rallies and anti war demonstrations, causes I have no wish to support in just about any way.

It may seem selfish, but that's the way I see it. Would pro-choice people agree to their funds being used to support fundamentalist pro-life causes? Translate to almost any cause – would feminists agree to have to fund a chauvinists club? Perhaps it could be called 'Get back in the kitchen' or some other wonderful moniker. Getting my point yet? No? How about a 'Unicultural Club' or a 'Anti-Semite Club' etc. Starting to see my moral objection?

As for 'essential services' such as meals, etc, where the argument about the union providing cheaper meals to members who otherwise couldn't afford it, our union doesn't provide the discounts for meals or sets pricing, rather SAM (Students At Maquarie, which is a business that provides services to students) does.

How about the argument that unions provide other essential services such as sex education? Support for minorities groups? Well, at Maquarie the fees are $378 a year (lower than almost all others) for full time students. That means that if you stopped paying union fees and used the saved money to get 150 people together you suddenly end up with $56,700, enough to employ someone full time to look after special interests, and resource them to a reasonable degree.

How about for those who complain about globalisation or about the starving in Africa? If you get 4,000 people agreeing with you and giving their money, you can get $1,512,000. That's surely a fair hit, feeding and providing for up to 4,142 people (using the oft quoted figure of a dollar a day) for a year. Great start (and for this cause, I wouldn't mind giving additional money either).

Or for the really big protests and movements? Get perhaps 30,000 (over different Uni's) to give to a political party to get rid of John Howard and the Coalition government or perhaps just to fund rallies against them? That's $11,340,000 or (off the top of my head) about the entire advertising budget for Labor at the last federal election. Come on, the NUS has already made a start, giving $250,000 to Labor at the last federal election. Why not go the whole way and announce the marriage of the two bodies in a civil service if Labor wins power?

Either way. The point is that these dollars turn into very large amounts if you get enough people willing to support them. Fantastic - people power all the way, great, if you want to give your cash to support whatever cause you want to. However, I am not willing to have it arbitrarily spent in a manner not of my choosing if I can, and I am not willing to accept other people's money to fund my specialist needs. VSU is that option to choose. If a union offered to properly represent me as a person, not just as a 'collective', and/or gave me a benefit tangible or otherwise that I thought was worth the cost, I would support it the entire way. Any union should work along the same principles - freedom of association, providing useful and tangable services to all. But until that option comes along, give me a choice, and my voice.

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re: The censors and double standards

Jolanda, I'm sorry that I came across as angry. I wasn't particularly angry at you, but I must admit I get very tired of being judged to be morally wanting because of my sexuality - so I can be quite passionate when refuting that. Thanks for making clear what you meant by 'wrong'.

I take your point that two men can't reproduce on their own, and I agree that the survival of the human race depends on human reproduction. However, in these times of overpopulation, I don't think that gay couples are a threat to the survival of humanity. And don't forget, there are heterosexual couples who can't reproduce either, due to infertility of one or both partners. I don't think that makes the relationship any less loving or less important.

Anyhow, I can see that you harbour no particular animosity towards gay people - and despite disagreeing with some of your comments, I find you to be one of the more interesting, thought-provoking posters at Webdiary. So please don't take it personally if / when I take exception to something you say. Thank you, also, for taking the time to dissociate yourself from some of Kim Gritten's more offensive comments.

Solomon, I don't think the vitriol you have directed towards me here was justified at all. I am not a troll, and I have not falsely accused you of anything. I merely pointed out that you had maligned gay people. You stated:

"Whether homosexuality is genetically-based or not, does not alter my opinion that that is wrong... It's wrong because it's wrong, not because a homosexual person can or cannot control who they are."

There's no ambivalence here - you are unequivocally saying that homosexuality is "wrong". I'm sorry, but I reserve the right to respond when someone says there's something 'wrong' with my behaviour. And that's all I did - without resorting to name-calling or personal insults, I might add. In return, you accused me of trolling, accused me of lying, disparaged me as a "right-brainer" and accused me of "weakness" and "indescretions". A completely over-the-top reaction - and a hypocritical one too, since you then had the gall to complain about me personally attacking you!

The next time you disagree with something I say, Solomon, please address me with a modicum of decency, or refrain from addressing me at all. Oh, and next time you announce, "I'm through with this thread," and plead with people to "leave me out of it", it would be advisable not to come back and post in the same thread again less than 24 hours later.

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