What do Video Nasties have to do with the EU referendum?

Last night’s dreadfully shouty EU referendum debate on ITV sadly didn’t end with Nicola Sturgeon headbutting Boris Johnson for being a lying liar who said ‘control‘ once too often, but instead ended up with the Remain side looking angry and flustered at the Leave side because the Leave side are dealing in a fact free argument. After all, it’s easy to say ‘we’ll get control back!!’ if most people aren’t aware of what that means. It sounds impressive as after all, doesn’t the EU override all our laws and we can’t ignore them?

No. There’s a wee example I can give, the Video Recording Act of 1984 (VRA) to ban so-called Video Nasties like the glorious Cannibal Holocaust.

The VRA was a horribly censorious, repressive piece of government censorship and for those of you out there wanting a good idea of why and the effects of it I’d recommend Martin Barker’s excellent book A Haunt of Fear as a good start, with the splendid documentary Video Nasties: A Definitive History as a follow on.

However for this, the relevant point can be lifted from the VRA’s Wikipedia page.

In August 2009 it was discovered that the Act was unenforceable as the European Commission was not notified about it, as required by Directive 83/189 (see now Directive 98/34). Directive 83/189 had to be implemented by 31 March 1984 (12 months after its notification to the Member States). Until this situation was rectified, it was legal to sell and supply unclassified videos and computer games, although many retailers had agreed to observe the regulations voluntarily. Then pending prosecutions under the Act were abandoned, but the government has claimed that past convictions cannot be challenged

Under EU law, each member state is free to make and pass their own laws. Once done they’re then ratified by the EU, something that never happened with the VRA, making it not actually law yet if the Brexit campaign is right we’d not have the right to come up with something as horrible as the VRA, or ignore the fact that even though it wasn’t officially law and people were prosecuted they ignored that and hurriedly rushed through a bill to make it official.

The point here is that from 1984 to August 2009 the VRA was a piece of legislation that wasn’t actually legal yet the government ignored that fact. The EU doesn’t decide on all our laws, because it only ratifies them and even then Westminster can go ‘ah, fuck it‘ and ignore the decades of people being prosecuted. There’s also the point that the UK passed a repressive bill like the VRA, but it’s a relatively small act. What Brexiters are doing is classing all bills passed and enforced by the EU with the same level of importance, so as this site says

It makes little sense to treat major Acts of Parliament such as the 457-page Health and Social Care Act 2012 which reformed the whole NHS the same as, say, three pages of technical regulations on VAT fraud.

The House of Commons Library has warned that “there is no totally accurate, rational or useful way of calculating the percentage of national laws based on or influenced by the EU.”

So no set of figures can give us a good measure of the influence of the EU on law in the UK.

It’s more meaningful to look at specific sectors and areas of law.

In agriculture, fisheries, external trade, and the environment, it’s fair to say that EU legislation and policy is indeed the main driver of UK law and policy, although the UK retains some freedom of action in these areas.

In other important areas—for example, welfare and social security,education, criminal law, family law and the NHS—the direct influence of the EU is far more limited.

So yes, the EU is important. It does have power and influence, but in the oft used fishing example, what is never discussed is the role the EU plays in helping police illegal or unreported fishing in areas where the fishing industry is struggling. Withdrawing from the EU would leave the UK having to fight on it’s own but then again seeing as Nigel Farage failed to turn up for votes when he was a member of the EU fisheries committee and only turned up for one of 42 meetings, it’s quite clear there’s those on the Brexit campaign that aren’t fighting for the benefit of ensuring laws are upheld.

Last night’s debate showed that introducing fact isn’t going to stop the Brexit campaign. They know they’ve taken a pounding on the economic argument when they tried speaking about facts so they’ve moved onto dealing with immigration and speaking in the abstract about ‘taking back control‘ yet it’s clear the UK retains a massive amount of control and in those areas where the EU dominate like fishing our elected representatives fail to do their most basic job because I assume, Farage wanted to stand where he is now saying the EU has ‘failed’ yet it’s people like him that have truly failed.

There’s 13 days til the vote. I ask you to look at what both sides are saying and ask yourself why it is the Brexit campaign has stopped dealing in fact and who exactly is going to take control on June the 24th because it’s not going to be you or me, but it will be Boris Johnson with Nigel Farage nipping at his heels.

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.

More of David Cameron’s War on Porn..

I wrote last week about David Cameron’s proposed ”War on Porn” and how it wasn’t actually anything to do with porn, and compared it to the Video Nasty fiasco. Well, just like the Nasty era we’re seeing Cameron’s idea defended not only by the usual suspects at The Sun or the Daily Mail, but by Guardian hacks as can be seen in this truly amazing piece by Deborah Orr.

Had this been written in the Mail then the Guardian would have rightly went mental over it, but the fact it’s in their own pages shows how far the paper has fallen. Let’s take a few minutes to point out the flaws and point out why this is a dangerous piece of ‘journalism’ that’s actually nothing of the sort.

From the beginning…

A roar of libertarian outrage greeted David Cameron’s announcement this week that the government was going to talk to internet service providers about installing opt-in rather than opt-out filters for pornography, as if computer access to hot and cold running arousal aids was some kind of basic human right. Is this really such a big deal?

Well from the off it’s full of specious thinking and instantly sets up anyone against the plans as either a nutty Libertarian or some porn-obsessed misogynist freak. It does however take a step off the Plank of Stupidity from the next paragraph…

A lot of the criticism has focused on the practical impossibility of developing adequate filters.

Yes it has for bloody good reason as it’s technically impossible to do what Cameron proposes and he probably knows this as it’s not about blocking porn or ‘thinking about the children’ at all. A bit of research would have shown this to be the case but Orr, like many hacks these days, isn’t interested in the truth rather than pushing her own agenda and if that makes her look hypocritical, then so be it because it’s for the greater good!

The most shrill complaint against Cameron’s wheeze is that it’s “censorship“.

This is the point where the reader aware of the history of the Video Nasty scare (and if you’re not may I suggest searching out Jake West’s excellent documentary, or even look at this splendid Youtube documentary) will spot the exact same reasoning used then by the ‘quality’ press to excuse that bit of censorship.

I won’t go through the rest of Orr’s piece as the flaws speak for themselves, but it’s an argument for censorship while being ignorant of the facts which is a pretty shocking thing for a journalist to be.

A little bit of digging brings this page up and what the ISP’s are being told will be blocked.

☑ pornography
☑ violent material
☑ extremist and terrorist related content
☑ anorexia and eating disorder websites
☑ suicide related websites
☑ alcohol
☑ smoking
☑ web forums
☑ esoteric material

☑ web blocking circumvention tools

This shows what Cameron’s plan really is which is an attempt to control the internet and what people say and do on it.  All the usual old strawmen are being dragged out to defend the plan but the more people like Orr try to stifle or ridicule dissent like this the more we head towards a society where we make China look free.

It really is worth looking back at the Nasties for a lesson as to where this is going in terms of debate and it’s not helpful for the Guardian to print what Orr wrote as it’s the same old bollocks.

The less we learn from history, the more it’s likely to happen again and I don’t know about you, I don’t want a government who can ban ‘esoteric material’ and control my access to the web.