You've heard me gripe about the peculiar brand of censorship, book banning and proscribed books that they have in Malaysia, where the righthand hasn't a clue what the lefthand doeth, and nobody gets told what's going on - not the author, the bookshops nor the public.
And of course, no reasons are ever given for decisions. Of course, I could say that last is because there just isn't a reason that makes the slightest bit of sense, so, if you try to explain yourself, you end up looking even more like an idiot. (I mean, how could you ever explain the banning of a book about collecting Chinese teapots??)
Now, however, I have heard about an even more bizarre kind of censorship. And it comes from Australia. There are some interesting observations on Neil Gaiman's blog.
Basically, a judge with a appeal before him turned down the appeal and stated that yes, an internet cartoon showing characters modelled on Bart, Lisa and Maggie Simpson engaging in sex acts, is child pornography.
Now as weird and distasteful as I think such a cartoon might be (and as annoying as it must be to the original authors of the cartoon), it's a long stretch to think it's a form of child pornography.
Where is the child involved? Come to think of it, where is the human involved? How can a static picture that involves neither child, nor human, nor movement, nor action, nor anything real that ever happened anywhere to anyone - how can that be child porn worthy of a fine of $AUD 3,000? And presumably a criminal record as a child pornographer??? What child was harmed? What child was endangered? What child posed for the drawing? What child was depicted?
I love Neil's comments, including this:
...I should warn members of the Australian judiciary, fictional characters don't just have sex. Sometimes they murder each other, and take fictional drugs, and are cruel to fictional animals, and throw fictional babies off roofs. Crimes, crime everywhere.
The ability to distinguish between fiction and reality is, I think, an important indicator of sanity, perhaps the most important. And it looks like the Australian legal system has failed on that score.
If I have one of my characters indulge in child rape (as I have done in "The Tainted"), am I guilty of being a child pornographer? Am I safe because I didn't draw a sketch of it, but only used words? If so, why? How is what I did any different from this case, except for the artistic medium I use?
The Judge said Australian law on child pornography was, among other things, ...calculated to deter production of other material, including cartoons, which "can fuel demand for material that does involve the abuse of children" and this was the reason he was approving the fine.
So, have I fuelled the demand, simply by writing about it? Did the man charged fuel the demand simply by having a cartoon on his computer? Because that's what the judge said. How do you judge that it would fuel a demand for the real thing?
I think the judge - and those who brought the original charge - should come and give lessons to the Malaysian Ministry for Home Affairs on how to be really, really bizarre.
What do you think?