Bill Drummond, UKIP and Censorship

With the European Elections just over a week away, the campaigning is getting more and more frantic, but the news is dominated not by discussion of policies but of censorship, and even worse, totalitarian style police intimidation of political campaigners.

For the unaware things kicked off last week with UKIP complaining about former KLF co-founder Bill Drummond painting a UKIP billboard in Birmingham grey in a political stunt which is very typically Drummond. This caused UKIP supporters to froth merrily that Drummond was indulging in ‘censorship’ though it’s worth noting Drummond’s final couple of paragraphs from the article where he discusses what he’s done.

That was only a couple of hours ago, but already the doubts are rushing in. Photos of my handiwork are out there in Facebook and Twitter-land, being shared, retweeted, liked and favoured. Is all I’ve done pull the pose of the rebel? A mere publicity stunt? Was it done just to appeal to those that would already agree with the sentiments? By doing this have I added to the political discourse in the country in any sort of positive way? Or does it just entrench opinions? So much of what I perceive to be political art only entrenches opinions. Or should I be doing the same to every billboard expressing the same sentiments across the West Midlands?

If you have any thoughts on the above maybe you should join me for the knit and natter session between 2pm and 4pm on Saturday at Eastside Projects. I could show you the billboard while we are at it

 

Drummond makes clear he’s engaging a debate here. It’s vandalism but it’s also political activism as well as a very typically Drummond-esque piece of performance art or piss taking. The arguments against Drummond are summed up well in this piece from a Libertarian blogger for the Telegraph by the name of Daniel Jackson who argues that:

Drummond is a jack of all trades. Artist, musician, writer, manager, theatre designer, carpenter, baker. I think that if I had tried as many things with so little success I might try my hand at self-immolation next.

 

Which is Jackson trying to belittle the fact Drummond changed the face of dance music, something few people can ever say they ever did, especially a Libertarian blogger by the name of Daniel Jackson. But he continues to plough this field….

Drummond is typical of a certain strand of the new Left. He thinks he has the moral authority to censor bookmakers and loan companies and political parties that he has no time for. He thinks he knows what is best for us.

 

Here’s the debate as framed by Jackson, UKIP and various other Libertarian and right wing mouthpieces. Drummond is ‘censoring’ UKIP, even though they ignore the fact Drummond wants a debate, and he wants to discuss with people why he finds UKIP vile. It is however not censorship. As said, vandalism yes, but it’s not intimidating people into not voting or discussing UKIP as it’s a stunt to get people to discuss what UKIP are.

Sadly Drummond hasn’t got UKIP supporters engaging with him rather they follow the same tired arguments that Drummond is a censor and he’s stifling debate.

Fast-forward a few days and this image titled ‘Ten reasons to vote for UKIP‘  becomes a meme shared probably tens of thousands of times on social media.

10reasonsukip

This image was adapted by one used by the Green Party supporter Michael Abberton which is fully referenced with the links showing where these claims come from. This is that version:

10reasonsukipfactchecked

The fact so many of the initial claims could be referenced so easily should be the story and indeed, this is what we should all be talking about. Instead what happened was that Abberton was reported to Cambridgeshire police and two police officers had their time wasted visiting him to discuss this image. To quote Abberton:

“They asked me to ‘take it down’ but I said I couldn’t as it had already been retweeted and appropriated, copied, many times and I no longer had any control of it (I had to explain to one of the officers what Twitter was and how it worked). They said that they couldn’t force me to take it down anyway.”

The police said they made inquiries “as to whether any offences had been committed under the Representation of the People Act but none were revealed and no further action was taken.” The complaint from Ukip was that Abberton was impersonating and misrepresenting the party.

 

This made me angry as this was as bad as the infringements upon civil liberties overseen by Labour, and previously the Tories, while the coalition also happily indulge on what Labour left in place for them. Considering UKIP are saying ‘we’re not like the others’, it’d be somewhat shocking for anyone to see one of them trying to suppress legitimate political discussion, in this case of UKIP policies which Nigel Farage tries to avoid going into in any great detail.

I then decided to see if there was any way to complain to Cambridgeshire police which took me to the website of the Cambridgeshire Police and Crime Commissioner. I then had to pinch myself as it was only bloody Graham Bright! I’ve mentioned Bright’s name before in relation to David Cameron’s ”war on porn” but as anyone who’s read this blog regularly will know, I adore horror films which means the reason why Bright’s name lit up in my head was his part in the Video Nasties scandal in the 1980’s.

Bright was then a Tory MP and a typically loyal one who would have vanished quietly into history had he not introduced the Private Members Bill which eventually became the 1984 Video Recordings Act, one of the most despicable bits of postwar state censorship ever to become law in the UK not to mention a law based upon lies, ignorance and government studies which were made up or completely distorted data in order to justify this state censorship. I’d recommend searching out Martin Barker’s excellent books on the subject, or see Jake West’s splendid documentary, Video Nasties: The Definitive Guide which is essential viewing for anyone interested in how moral scares lead to media manipulation and state censorship.

As for Bright, he thought dogs could be corrupted too!

So this is the Commissioner for the county where a worrying act of political intimidation has taken place. A man who thinks horror films would corrupt dogs. A man who is seemingly locked in an eternal loop of failing upwards. I don’t have any confidence that Bright will reveal how his police force got a private address of a blogger, or how he thought wasting two officers time who could well, be actually dealing with crime, is a worthy use of taxpayers money but I eagerly await a reason to rival horror films corrupting dogs.

In the days since Abberton’s wee chat with the police other bloggers have also reported complaints from UKIP supporters which have mentioned the police being involved, and in some cases there may have been direct contact with the police though this (as yet) isn’t confirmed as far as I know. Which brings me to the point. UKIP supporters are fond of saying ‘they believe in free speech’ which is great but a large number seem not to, especially when discussing their policies which is where UKIP are weak because the working class aren’t going to vote for a party which is going to drag them into the Stone Age.

It’s also worth pointing out that we have no firm free speech legislation like the American First Amendment in the UK as we have a number of laws here and there though we are protected under Article 10 of the Human Rights Act which protects freedom of expression. The salient points being:

The type of expression protected includes:

  • political expression (including comment on matters of general public interest);
  • artistic expression; and
  • commercial expression, particularly when it also raises matters of legitimate public debate and concern.

This means that Drummond is protected under law. As are UKIP. This is not a simple case of binary logic as UKIP seem to think, or are trying to make it to be. Freedom of expression is important be that an old raver painting a UKIP billboard grey or UKIP moaning like pissy babies about said billboard.

What isn’t playing the game are UKIP siccing the police onto bloggers. That’s verging upon, and is, censorship. It’s amazingly concerning, especially as UKIP make it clear they want to dump the Human Rights Act, which would also mean the laws which protect you or I expressing ourselves in a democracy would be infringed, and although there’s talk of a ‘British Bill of Rights’ there’s no detail, or indeed, no actual informed debate, something common with UKIP. There should be no intimidation from any party for anyone making any form of debate or protest which makes others question that party, or even just makes that party look silly. The minute debate attempts to be suppressed is the minute a party, in this case UKIP, needs to be looked at as to just why they don’t want their polices discussed in an open debate rather than forcing people to censor themselves even though they are protected under law.

It’s frankly, a fucking disgrace. The more people protest about this, then the harder it’ll become for UKIP’s highly active supporters to try to clamp down on legitimate protest and debate. So let’s now take the debate and slap it right at UKIP’s feet as after all, they wanted a debate so let’s give them one. The more people who see UKIP what they are really, the better.

Violence in Comics-1989 debate with Larry King & Denis Kitchen

In the late 80’s there was a huge public debate about comics becoming ‘more violent’ thanks to new mainstream titles like Watchmen, Dark Knight Returns and Batman: Year One attracting attention from a more adult audience outside of the comics ghetto.There were attempts by retailers, publishers and the media to effectively censor comics.

This video recently popped up on Youtube and features Larry King hosting a debate between Thomas Radecki and Denis Kitchen and it’s worth watching for a piece of comics history. What’s remarkable is the examples of violence being used being pulled put of context to help build the biggest strawman you can imagine.

Also, check out the horrendous Paul Hogan advert for Australian tourism. You’ll want to commit violence after watching that…

Won’t Anyone Think Of The Children?!?-Why David Cameron’s ”War on Porn” is Dangerous For Us All

David Cameron has come out today decrying the access children have to pornography and he’s going to jolly well tell those ISP’s what for and sort out the ‘Corrosion of Childhood’ once and for all!

Image

Cameron wants to make porn something that ISP’s automatically block and that the customer (remember this word, it’s important) will have to contact the ISP to opt out, and in doing so this will create a list of people who have opted out which creates a problematic situation as in what does an ISP do with such lists?

Here’s where I take a diversion and try to be as vague as possible for reasons which will become apparent quickly. Over the last 13 or so years I’ve worked for various marketing companies and large organisations who either as a side effect of their business, or as a core of their business, collate large lists of data. These lists of data are sold, or used by those in various positions to gather information by looking at trends, etc. The data sold can end up anywhere and there’s rules and regulations around it, but it’s also the case there’s ways round this so I don’t believe for one minute this is anything but an excuse to mine data for people who may, or may not, be deemed a potential hazard to children and society in general. After all the tone of the debate is now so moralistic and dealing in sheer absolutes that logical argument is being disregarded because it’s all about the Big Political Gesture.

The problem is that do you trust Cameron and this government to not do anything with all this juicy data the ISP’s will have at their fingertips? Do you think there’s not going to be potential abuse as soon as you opt out because you might want to be an adult and watch adult things online? Does this not fill you with dread that the potential for a system where government interferes with your searches is now entirely possible as that’s exactly what’s on the table after today.

This isn’t advocating child abuse or saying there shouldn’t be something done to stop it, or the increasing pornofication of our culture and our children. We should but this isn’t the way to go round it as assuming people are incapable of making decisions by themselves, while ignoring the strong case that parents aren’t doing enough to protect their own children is frankly a weak one but it all hinges on the fact that Cameron really isn’t doing anything but doing a switch and bait tactic here.

It’s come to light that Cameron’s ”election guru” is balls deep with a private health alliance when he was advising on the Coalition’s NHS reforms. This is pretty major and it’s starting to smell like some serious lobbying, and therefore corruption of the system, has been going on but Cameron’s changed the political debate to this and suddenly everyone is thinking about the children.

Of course there’s little or no mention of how Cameron cut the funding to CEOP, or anything which he’s done in government which actually makes the policing of the internet (and most people bar the most hardened libertarian agrees these things need policing) incredibly difficult because they don’t have the support from government they need, and also, this simplification of the argument means there will be the impression that this is going to solve everything and that parents don’t need to check their children’s internet browsing, or educate them about the dangers, or that as a society we should stop trying to sexualise children from a ridiculously young age, or any number of very hard, tough questions which aren’t going to be solved by opting in or out of your ISP’s filters. How does he suggest dealing with the issue of streamed abuse, or any of the other ways abusers get their jollies?

He can’t beyond some platitudes about get your ‘best brains’ to sort it out because he’s again, not looking to solve the problem, just look like he’s trying to solve a problem.

Then there’s the problematic part of this:

 Mr Cameron said possession of online pornography depicting rape would be made illegal. 

Sounds reasonable enough, except who defines what is ‘extreme’ pornography? Let me give you an example, and this is the point if you’re reading this and are a child then ask your parents to read the rest of this before carrying on, and if you’re easily offended it’s time to go read something else.

I own a copy of Lost Girls by Alan Moore and his wife, the artist Melinda Gebbie. It’s a clear work of pornography as images like this make clear that what you’re reading is porn.

Image

That’s a mild pornographic image. You’d have to be exceptionally prudish to be offended by it.

What about this?

Image

That probably passes for fairly extreme porn for a lot of people, but say someone more homophobic than you or I decides that’s actually ”harmful’. There’s more extreme images in the book (including children as well) I could post but you get the point that who decides what is ‘harmful’ even in a case where what’s happening is totally imaginary because it’s not real even if it uses real actions & events.

Is the Last House on the Left illegal? The Virgin Spring? Shakespeare? The Bible? Who appoints our moral guardians because this is the question here as well? From past experience it’s going to be people like Graham Bright back in the 80’s, the folk at Mumsnet and so on as they agree with the government view.

Let’s also note the comparisons briefly here between this and the Video Nasty fiasco. That too was based upon lies and disinformation but the less we learn from history the more we’re doomed to let people like Cameron sell us the same lies but slightly repackaged.

If you’re now saying ‘but surely Cameron is concerned about the sexualisation of society and is doing something’ then may I draw attention to the fact he’s clearly said he’s not going to support a ban on Page 3 because I quote:

“This is an area where we should leave it to consumers to decide, rather than to regulators,”

Here’s the thing; remember how I said earlier in this blog about ‘customers’? It’s the same situation as if someone wants to download a bit of already legal porn, or watch a film or read a book or comic with violent sexual imagery in it they happen to be just as much as a customer as someone looking at Page 3. So where’s the consistency?

There isn’t one as we know Cameron is in with The Sun and Murdoch, so it’s not in his and his party’s interest to come out against Page 3 even though the case for it contributing to the sexualisation of society and therefore helping cause the problems Cameron talks about has been around for a while now.

See if you only assume the market will decide, you end up with the sexualisation of society as advertisers and marketing departments sell sex to younger and younger children because kids think sex is adult and if they think they’re adults you can flog shite to them. Page 3 sells the idea that women need only to get their tits out to progress in society. The language used by people in war is sexual as pointed out by Alan Moore in this interview.

Morphizm: The age boys go to war is often the age of their sexual prime.
Alan Moore: Absolutely, and increasingly there are an awful lot of women going to war now, which is a terrible waste. So there’s that, the killing of the sexually capable and active often by old men who, as you can imagine, are beginning to be a little bit past it. And then there is the weird sexual language of warfare. For example, when America bombed Libya, the bomber pilots took off from Britain and came back to us saying that they shot their rockets right up Libya’s back door. There were also stories circulated before the bombing arguing that Qaddafi was a transvestite. He was feminized, because we have to feminize our enemies before we fuck them. In the late 70s and early 80s during hostilities with Iran, there were rumors, again probably circulated by the CIA, that the Ayatollah Khomeni was a homosexual pedophile. It does seem to me as if the energies that people in a natural world put into sex and procreation are being perverted into this dreadful…I don’t know, antimatter sex

The entire discussion is a complex one. It’s one we need to have. We also need to ensure the safety of children while ensuring civil liberties are not encroached. This isn’t going to happen by scare tactics, censorship and blustering on about ‘best brains; as if technology can solve the problems of society that the very system endorsed by Cameron himself has helped cause. How can you reconcile a crusade against violent porn, or indeed, porn in general and at the same time defend the right for Page 3 to exist unless consumers don’t want it anymore unless you’re a total hypocrite?

You don’t need to answer that question…