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Nigel Gordon

Start Getting Worried

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It appears that certain parties in the British Government are now talking about making it a criminal offense to possess written material that contains sexually explicit descriptions of an "extreme or unacceptable" nature. Was listening to the radio in the early hours of this morning and heard a Conservative MP state that they would be looking at introducing legislation to prevent the distribution, possession or creation of written material that depicted, advocated or supported unacceptable sexual activities.

All right, I think most of us on this board have some idea of the type of material they have in mind, you only have to look at some of the stuff on other internet sites and we might even find ourselves in sympathy with the idea. However, you need to get worried. Laws like this are the thin edge of the wedge and you can never know where they will be taken. Who is to define what is unacceptable? A story with no explicit sexual content may well be deemed to be advocating unacceptable sexual activities on the grounds that it is depicting characters who might be presumed to be involved in such activities.

I suggest that those of you who are based in the UK start writing to your MPs, those of you who are outside of the UK might start to look at your own legislative bodies, once one government starts to go down this line it is easy for others to follow. Maybe you should start to raise the issue about the British Government plans to limit freedom of expression.

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"Extreme and unacceptable" are such vague terms, Nigel, they would not pass the legal tests here in the US. It has long been ruled by the courts that indecency is best left to local community standards rather than necessitating a federal law, so each jurisdiction or state must set its own standards.

The First Amendment to the Constitution guarantees free speech and has been unsuccessfully challenged many times regarding what is and is not pornographic in nature. In that authors of sexually explicit stories are lumped in with the entire media corporate machines and they have such great clout. How are we to define what is indecent in a novel like Fifty Shades of Gray compared to the monthly Penthouse magazine nudity. The courts are not willing to take that step and neither is the legislature.

I recall a discussion about ten years ago among the authors on Nifty who were concerned about a shift in the laws under President Bush but it came to naught. Some internet sites do publish explicit content that makes me cringe but you do not see anything like that on Awesomedude.

I would imagine even if an English law should come about that it would have no affect on those reading material from around the globe where such laws do not exist. Many authors still publish their stories with disclaimers about age and sexuality, but then stories are always fiction and I doubt if we will face a cadre of thought police in the future.

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In the United States, Bill Clinton signed into law the Communications Decency Act of 1996, passed by the Republican controlled congress at the time, which outlawed not just photographic material but written material as well. However, the Supreme Court struck down the prohibition on written material unless it's of a truly extreme nature on the grounds that it violated the First Amendment guarantee of free speech. However, that was before George W. Bush sent John Roberts and Samual Alito to the Court. Now, God only knows what the Supreme Court would do if, Heaven forbid, the Republicans should retake both houses of Congress. This is a very real danger, not just in Britain--which doesn't have the stronger free speech protections of the US, but in the US, as well. We need only look at Russia (or the American South) to see what happens when religious conservatives run amock.

I might add that even if I am offended by some of what I read on other sites, I do not have the right to censor it. Censorship is a slippery slope. Where do we stop. Do we stop? I am disgusted and revolted by Holocaust deniers, but it is illegal in Europe to deny the Holocaust. What will the European Parliament decide next is unacceptable? According to Foreign Policy magazine, Stephen Harper has decreed (apparently the PM in Canada has this power- how frightening) that no scientist receiving Federal money can express support of the "theory" of climate change-- apparently because Harper's home province of Alberta is being turned into a vast wasteland for the production of oil from tar sands and too many Conservative Party members are become fabulously wealthy in the process. Restricting the Freedom of Speech is insidious. One step and then another and then another...

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This is one of the reasons I'm concerned by the recent rise to power of the religious right in this country. It's a world-wide phenomenon, not just here. Attitudes run in cycles, and we seem to be in a cycle of mounting repression of the new and celebration of the old, the old bringing back the smell of witch burnings and stonings.

We can only hope this country is smart enough and has enough realistically-minded people that these people don't continue to win office and gain strength. This is why more people have to vote than currently do. There's safety in numbers. Most level-headed Americans see these radicals for what they are.

C

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That's the problem with censorship. There's never, and cannot be, a clear-cut dividing line between what is reasonable and acceptable and what is unreasonable and unacceptable. Once the line is there, even is it's in a spot that most are reasonably happy with, that line gets moved. In every culture, in every government almost without fail, that line gets moved.

Slowly, but inexorably, things get added to it. A bit at a time. "Oh, well, this is obviously distasteful. We'll make that illegal, too." Then two months later, "Well, this is almost related to that. So it falls under the same category."

In a few short years, more is illegal than not, and the choices of what is illegal have more to do with ensuring those with the resources can keep the resources and far less to do with objective consequences or cultural standards.

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It appears that Awesome Dude has been added to the list of Blocked Sites by Talk Talk. Due to a technical problem the at TalkTalk their Homesafe filter got switched on for my internet account. Suddenly I found that I could get to the Awesome Dude homepage but a lot of the authors pages were blocked and listed as being pornographic. Strangely enough it appears to have no problem letting me read Nifty! I suspect that as the UK major ISP share their filter list AD is blocked on most home computers that have a filtered feed.

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I think it's right to be concerned about censorship in the UK, not so much here in the US. There are far too many watchdogs and organizations involved in the free speech issue here who would call forth ranks of lawyers to defend the First Amendment.

I do find it ironic that some of these internet people have become concerned about posting what they deem as pornographic. Yeah, who makes that determination? And yet we hear nothing about them locking out the radical Islamic hate filled speech that we see on some sites (and they aren't even al-Qaida). Do you suppose they deem that crap as freedom of religion?

I suppose we could raise funds to buy The Dude a divinity degree from some backwoods Tennessee church and then everything on the site would become a religious document. But I am not sure the government in England wants to open that Pandora's box of restricting written words on a website.

It would take little effort to shift all the sites to another country without such restrictions and as for the boffins in the UK spying on the net I doubt if the government would survive an NSA type scandal over something like that. I love the Parliamentary type of rule where you take down one man and the whole house of cards falls.

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There is a concerted effort from the minority religious right-wing cults, all around the world, to use censorship as a political tool to attempt to initiate regulations or legislation which, will diminish the separation of church and state.

In other words, certain religious organisations and individuals want to impose their interpretation of the religion's moral laws on a society, and they see censorship as a means to limit freedom of information, freedom of speech, etc.

One day they ban sexually explicit images, then the next day they ban what they term as lewd and disgusting stories, followed by blocking informative websites that discuss medical issues dealing with diseases of breasts and penises.

Once the blocking of websites reaches this level it is a short jump to limiting intellectual and educational material that is frowned upon by the religious right-wing.

The answer is to make sure you seek out and support those sites and organisations which will defend free speech, freedom of and from, religious belief, and understands the need to protect the separation of Church and State. Also needing protection from theocratic regimes are our schools and centres of education.

No one expects a democracy to revert to a theocracy, but it does seem to be the aim of many members of these minority cults to demand obedience to Dark Age ignorance.
Their preferred method of achieving this is through encouraging stupidity.
In my opinion.
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I suppose we could raise funds to buy The Dude a divinity degree from some backwoods Tennessee church and then everything on the site would become a religious document. But I am not sure the government in England wants to open that Pandora's box of restricting written words on a website.

I don't think that sort of degree takes any course work or any real money. I think you send in several box tops and a can of chewing tobacco and they send you the degree. And Dude already has one of the major qualifications: he has a congregation!

C

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Upon reading the title, my first thought was "That's my secret, Captain. I'm always worried."

2c6.gif

But really, being blocked as pornographic by a webfilter isn't completely unreasonable. Some of our stories (hell, even one of mine) include depictions of sex. You can argue that sex scenes aren't necessarily "pornographic" (linguists, especially, would take issue with the -graphic part, I think), but if you're the kind of person who buys a webfilter or requests that sexual materials be blocked by your ISP, you probably don't want this site coming through. We're not G-rated, and some people only want G-rated Internet. Fair enough.

I'm totally on board with the Dudeciple idea, though. I've got a card in my wallet that says I'm officially a Discordian Pope, if that helps. 'Course, I've also got a card in my wallet that says I'm offically a "Pimp Daddy". (I...uh...I haven't cleaned out my wallet since middle school.)

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Names, anyone, for our holy sect?

Sanctified Breath of the Dude?

The Dude's Disciples?

Blood of the Dude?

Well, maybe not that one.

C

The Church of Sanctified Readers

The Church of God's Appointed Readers

The Church of What's Happening Now (that's from an old comedy show I saw [i think] on Nick at Night)

Colin :icon_geek:

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The Church of Sanctified Readers... The Church of God's Appointed Readers... The Church of What's Happening Now (that's from an old comedy show I saw [i think] on Nick at Night)...

I prefer what 1970s DJ Don Imus used to say: "The First Church of the Gooey Death and Discount House of Worship."

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