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 2006: Oct-Dec

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30th December  Hurling Stones at YouTube...
 

   
YouTube logoTeachers call for censorship

From the BBC see School shock at vandal web video

A head teacher has spoken of his shock at seeing a video clip posted on a public website of a laughing pupil hurling a rock at a classroom window.

The shaky 15-second footage shows a clearly identifiable boy grinning as he strides up to throw the missile. The clip, featured on a popular video-sharing website, also shows a boy and a girl dressed in school uniform who appear to have been encouraging the attack, while other voices can also be heard. The rock or lump of concrete that he throws smashes the glass - although the window does not break completely - and the clip ends with the group running away and laughing.

On the website, the video is accompanied by an explanation from the perpetrator saying his teacher deserved it for the way he had been treated all year.

Head teacher Gordon Cunningham said it had been the Year 9 pupil's last day at Easthampstead Park School before he and his family emigrated:  It's not just the audacity of it, but to video it and then put it on a public website....

Chris Keates, general secretary of the NASUWT teachers' union, said: Such behaviour is completely unacceptable and could have resulted in injury to staff and pupils as well as to the property. Unfortunately, any yob or vandal can now have their 15 minutes of fame, aided and abetted by readily accessible technology and irresponsible internet sites which enable such behaviour to be glorified."

She said the union supported a zero tolerance approach in schools to pupils who used technology to abuse and undermine teachers, and called for more rigorous legislative control of internet sites which gave them licence.

 

30th December  Home Contents...
 

   
Internet Watch Foundation
Home Office looking to IWF as Internet content censors

From The Register
See also the full analysis

Based on recommendations in an unpublished report seen by The Register, which the IWF commissioned from Julia Unwin, OBE, a former charity commissioner, the IWF is considering revising its governance structure to become more independent of the industry that created it.

The IWF was founded in 1996 as ISPs' response to the threat of regulation. Although the IWF has at various times considered expanding the range of material it recommends for removal from British servers, it is not known to have gone beyond the illegal material it lists in its remit. Currently, this is: "child abuse images" hosted anywhere in the world, and also incitement to racial hatred and obscenity if hosted in the UK.

Peter Robbins, the IWF's executive director, notes, however: It's very rare for [the latter] to be hosted in the UK. There are always going to be debates about what is illegal content on the internet, but I think there is a clear understanding among people in the know, including on our board. That remit is paramount. Taking down child abuse images is very clear. It's illegal around the world, and there doesn't seem to be much dispute about what the definition of a child abuse image is. That's why it's successful.

Everyone quoted here is firmly against child abuse. Nonetheless, issues such as the IWF's accountability and the Home Office's desire for universal content blocking excite some controversy.

 

18th December    Nutters with Hatred in Mind...
 

   
Scottish Women Against Pornography logoMaking porn a hate crime

Based on an article from Sunday Mail

A women's nutter group have petitioned MSPs to make porn a hate crime in Scotland, like the race and sectarian laws.

The parliament will hold a porn summit with [no doubt a biased selection of] Scotland's leading experts.

Scottish Women Against Pornography (SWAP), who believe there is a direct link between top shelf magazines and violence and abuse, have called for the repression.

The group's Catherine Harper said: The message of all pornography is that women secretly wish to be raped and abused and enjoy the treatment they receive. We view pornography as sexual hatred in the same way racist material is regarded as incitement to racial hatred. There needs to be a change in legislation and an awareness campaign informing and educating people that it is not about taking their fun away. It is about providing a more equal society and a safer place for women and children."

The petition was heard by the equal opportunities committee, who will hold the summit on February 6. They will hear from academics and sex abuse speakers such as Ray Wyre.

Elaine Smith, MSP for Coatbridge and Chryston, said: We need to hear from academics who work in this field about whether they think pornography is harmful and how serious a problem it might be. We don't expect any of them to say it is a good thing so the next question will be what we can do about it. There are those who say it should be banned completely.

MSPs and selected experts will also look at restricting the sale of porn in newsagents and corner shops.

Catherine Harper, of Scottish Women Against Pornography, said: The law does not allow racial hatred and it should not allow sexual hatred against women either. I am encouraged by the political support our campaign is receiving and hopeful this might lead to change. Legislation will take time but parliament needs to hear the wealth of evidence of the links between pornography and violence. I have very high hopes that this problem is going to be tackled.

Avedon Carol, of Feminists Against Censorship, said: Aside from the explicit civil liberties dangers, a ban won't achieve anything. It is actually going to create more crime and violence - what is the purpose of making people criminals? Researchers have tried to prove there is a link between pornography and sexual violence but none of them have really achieved that. All of the studies are flawed in some way - there really isn't any scientific evidence to justify a ban.

Comment from Dan

Regarding the Scottish Women Against Pornography's campaign to have pornography regarded as a hate crime the same as racism. I am sure someone who has been a victim of a brutal racist attack would love to hear that their suffering is equated with a man looking at a nudy maagzine.

 

17th November   Press Freedom Chipped Away

fast free fair logoFrom The Guardian

Sir Christopher Meyer, the chairman of the Press Complaints Commission warned that freedom of the press was being gradually chipped away by the government. He said the breakdown in communication between the government and newspapers was unhealthy for democracy: I believe the boundaries of freedom of expression seem to be closing in a bit on newspapers and magazines in a way which may not be healthy.

I don't believe in government plotting to curb freedom of expression. But when you read that after two years, there are proposals to make it more difficult to obtain information under the Freedom of Information Act, you have to worry.

A combination of changes to the law and the way channels of communication between the government and journalists had changed under New Labour had led to it becoming harder for the press to report on those in power, he said.

Sir Christopher cited recent attempts by Lord Falconer, the constitutional affairs secretary, to limit the scope of the Freedom of Information Act and inconsistent application of the Data Protection Act, with some local authorities using it as a means to avoid questioning from the press, as examples.

He also argued that in a world where newspapers are increasingly expanding into digital media the PCC should extend its remit to newspaper's websites.

 

6th November   Publicists Saw Us Coming

Saw III posterFrom The Guardian & Stuff

Was it when the fetid pig remains were cut up and poured over a chained-up judge? Or perhaps it was when Troy tore out the shackles sewn into his skin? Or maybe it was the moment when Kerry delved into a jar of acid for a key to unlock the iron spikes in her spinal cord?

Saw III is like a Crystal Maze where people die when they fail to complete their tasks. The torturer-in-chief is Jigsaw, the only character who sticks around long enough for you to care when his skull is drilled in glorious close-up.

An array of cheery incidents in the film Saw III could have induced the fainting fits among cinema-goers in Stevenage, Peterborough and Cambridge this week that led to 999 calls and ambulance crews racing to the scene. As well as collapses, we have had reports of people running screaming from the cinemas, said Matthew Ware of the East Anglian Ambulance Trust.

The UK ambulance trust advised "squeamish or faint-hearted" people to seat themselves where they could easily leave the theatre if the gore became too much or:
Don't go see the movie.

 

5th November   Meeting One's Own Censorship God

Equus DVD coverPugh's stance on censorship seems very much in line with the ethos of the play where personal perception is all important.

Based on an article from The Telegraph

As the star of the Harry Potter films, he is the heart-throb and role model every parent wants for a child. But now Daniel Radcliffe, 17, has sparked a great parental dilemma.

Should they allow their children to see the young star perform nude scenes when he hits the West End in February?

David Pugh, the producer of a new production of Peter Shaffer's Equus, which stars a fully naked Radcliffe, has insisted he will not ban children from any of the performances.

The lack of a ban is likely to prove highly controversial and is in stark contrast to the policy adopted by other theatres in the West End.

Pugh told The Sunday -Telegraph: We will offer parental guidance and we will point out that some scenes in Equus are unsuitable for children. But there will not be a ban on them attending the performance. Every child is different and they will react to the play differently. I am not going to start playing the game where I say you can't come because you are 11 or you can't come because you are 14.

I saw the play at 14 and it changed my life. If I hadn't seen it I wouldn't be producing it now.

At the heart of the story is the character Strang's obsessive and very physical relationship with a horse called Nugget. In one scene, a naked Strang kneels before the horse as an act of worship. In another, he is clearly sexually aroused by the act of riding the animal.

The nudity and those scenes are an essential part of the story, said Pugh.
We are not doing it as an excuse to show Harry Potter's willy.

 

4th November   Staging an Anti-Censorship Conference

Behtzi posterFrom The Stage

Playwright David Edgar, National Theatre artistic director Nicholas Hytner and Behzti director Janet Steel are to unite against the threat to freedom of artistic expression posed by fundamentalist religious groups and the attempted censorship of plays such as Jerry Springer - the Opera.

A one-day conference, organised by Equity and sponsored by The Stage, is to be held at the National Theatre later this month, with a number of high-profile panellists also including director Michael Bogdanov, writer John Mortimer and freedom of expression campaigner Lisa Appignanesi, which will attempt to confront what organisers warn is a growing danger to theatre in the UK.

The decision to stage the event has been taken after a series of productions were affected by attempts from religious organisations to censor or shut them down. This year’s tour of Jerry Springer - the Opera has been dogged by protests by evangelical group Christian Voice, while a Birmingham-based production of Behzti was forced to close in 2004 after the theatre where it was staged was subjected to violent attacks.

Jean Rogers, Equity vice-president and chair of its censorship working party set up in the wake of those protests, said that performers and writers could no longer take for granted freedom of artistic expression and that it was important that the industry established a common standpoint.

She commented: It will be good for the industry as a whole to be seen to be standing up for this…What would be good is for everybody to know that everybody feels the same, so that when an incident happens again, we can pounce on it.”Rogers added that it was crucial that, following the event, government: took a very clear lead on the issue.

As well as representatives from the theatre industry, Liberal Democrat MP Evan Harris and entertainment lawyer Sean Egan will be involved at the conference, which will address three core issues - ‘Should there be a right not to be offended?’, ‘What is the place of the law in performing arts?’ and ‘How can artists resist the pressure to self-censor?’.

 

24th October
updated to
27th October
  Losing the Propaganda War

MOD logoFrom The Guardian

The Ministry of Defence has withdrawn facilities for ITV News to embed any of its reporters with the army, following a row over footage of injured soldiers returning home from Afghanistan.

Last week ITV News screened a series of reports examining the care given to wounded servicemen returning to the UK. The coverage angered officials at the MoD, who complained that the footage was both inaccurate and intrusive, and that it had tried to imply the MoD was seeking to hide casualties by returning them to Britain under the cover of darkness.

In a letter to ITV, the MoD said that it wanted evidence that the broadcaster had first sought permission from a wounded soldier to film him being taken from a plane after being injured in a battle. Until it had "satisfactory answers", the letter says, the MoD feels unable to guarantee that our people will be treated fairly, honestly and their privacy respected. As a consequence, facilities for embedding ITV journalists were withdrawn until the matter was resolved.

Defence officials contested any accusation of censorship, saying that ITV had not been denied access to warzones or prevented from speaking to troops in Afghanistan. They said that the restrictions were a simply a temporary measure preventing ITV journalists from being embedded with frontline troops until they are given a satisfactory explanation as to the tenor of the ITV reports.

27th October   Update: Inept and Authoritarian

MOD logoFrom Press Gazette

A former BBC TV correspondent has added to the criticism of the Ministry of Defence by calling MoD press officers the most inept and authoritarian of all government press officers.

In a letter to The Times former BBC correspondent Michael Sullivan wrote: “Ministry of Defence “facilities” and access” should not be personal favours for only those journalists and organisation of whom civil servants approve.”

He said:
It is no surprise to most journalists that a government that permitted Alastair Campbell to practice his megalomania, MoD press officers – in my experience the most inept and authoritarian of all government press officers – are abusing their power in the same way.

 

21st October   The Bridge

From The Times

Audiences are haunted by a film that shows the suicide leaps of real people

Emergency phone on Golden Gate bridgeA tall black-coated figure with wild, billowing hair mounts the safety railing of the Golden Gate Bridge, looks around him, and tips slowly backwards towards the water far below. Gene Sprague’s death would be a dramatic scene in any film. In a documentary it is as shocking as anything in cinema history.

The Bridge, which is being screened at The Times BFI 50th London Film Festival on Monday, breaks one of the medium’s last taboos, by showing real deaths. Six of the twenty-four people who killed themselves at San Francisco’s most recognisable landmark, in 2004, are shown jumping.

Brief portraits of their tragic lives, pieced together from interviews with family and friends, give the film shape and depth, but it is the footage of the jumpers that haunts audiences long after the credits have rolled.

The film by Eric Steel has provoked controversy on both sides of the Atlantic. It was rejected by several film festivals, including Cannes and Berlin, with one of the events’ organisers describing it as “voyeuristic, nothing more”. Suicide experts accused Steel of glamorising his subjects and cautioned that the film would trigger copycat deaths.

Professor Keith Hawton, of the Centre for Suicide Research, at Oxford University, said that the film’s approach was ill-advised and tasteless. All research suggests that showing, in detail, methods of suicide does result in an increase of those methods immediately afterwards, so portrayal of methods of suicide is ill-advised.

Mike Cobb, a Samaritans spokesman, said that footage showing suicide risked encouraging vulnerable people to take their own lives. Even showing a method on Casualty has led to an increase, he said.

Steel got the bridge authorities to co-operate by pretending that he was filming a series on national monuments. Filming from dawn to dusk for the whole of 2004, the crew captured 23 of the 24 suicides that year. He said that he wanted to make a serious contribution to the debate on mental illness and could not have done it without showing the deaths (although he did not tell his interviewees this).
To me, the most disturbing footage is not the film of people jumping. It is watching the people who walk by, when someone is standing on the ledge, and do nothing.

 

21st October   Links to a Political Wilderness

From the excellent National Secular Society Newsline
(To subscribe to Newsline, send a blank email with “Subscribe to Newsline” on the subject line to
enquiries@secularism.org.uk)

Letter from Andy Mabbett:

Foggy Bodmin MoorBodmin Council www.bodmin.gov.uk/terms_of_use.html  say: Your further use of this website will be considered as having accepted these conditions... You are not permitted to link to Bodmin Town Council if your site contains any content that may be considered offensive, scandalous, obscene, pornographic, blasphemous or threatening or in any other way conflicting with the Council’s stated Equal Opportunities Policy.

Surely their Equal Ops policy should defend the rights of (supposedly blasphemous) atheists? Perhaps you might link from your “blasphemous” website to theirs, then challenge them to sue you for doing so?

 

18th October
updated to
30th October
  Currys Suckered by Hype

Bully Playstation game Based on a story from Euro Gamer

Electronics retailers PC World, Currys and Dixons have refused to stock Rockstar's game, Bully, renamed Canis Canem Edit in Europe.

All owned by DSG International, the group has confirmed the title will not be on sale in High Street stores PC World and Currys Digital, as well as online outlet Dixons.co.uk.

We have no plans to stock Canis Canem Edit, said a statement from Currys: We're fully aware people will be able to buy this game elsewhere, but we feel this game is not appropriate for Currys' family-friendly image.

PC World is taking pre-orders for Rockstar Games' Grand Theft Auto: Vice City Stories, as well as Grand Theft Auto IV, to be released in October 2007.

Canis Canem Edit is released in Europe on October 27th, and carries a BBFC 15 rating.

 

30th October   Update: Boycotting Curry's & PC World

Bully Playstation game From GamesIndustry.biz

British retailer Currys last week took the astonishing decision to publicly refuse to stock Bully, renamed Canis Canem Edit in Europe, a clear bending to tabloid will in the face of perfectly clear facts about the product. This kind of spineless pandering to the tabloid mentality is rife among US retailers. However, in the UK, retailers do not customarily pander to tabloid outrage, and Currys' decision to do so is a disgustingly simpering attempt to hop onto a PR bandwagon which, we hope, is rolling inexorably over a cliff.

There are a few possible scenarios which arise from Currys' decision. The first is that the firm gets the PR it wants from the decision, appeals to the narrow cross-section of middle England which is prepared to get its hackles up over lunch about videogames they've never even seen, and loses only a tiny amount of revenue from lost sales of the game. In this instance, we start to slide down a slippery slope towards the US situation, where retailers routinely refuse to stock anything that the newspapers, or the moral moronity, might have a whinge about. This is not a situation we'd like to see mirrored in Britain.

Another scenario, however, is that people who are sick and tired of this treatment of the videogames medium decide to take matters into their own hands, rather than simply rolling their eyes at the media's ignorant reporting or at the antics of ludicrous characters such as Keith Vaz and Jack Thompson.

Currys is a major home electronics retailer. They sell videogame consoles, televisions, speaker systems, cables, and a host of other related devices - and with HDTV being rolled out at increasing pace in Britain, they will be expecting a bumper Christmas as people, many of them gamers, walk through the doors of the store to upgrade their home entertainment systems. Wouldn't it be quite a message to send, if a significant proportion of gamers were to decide to boycott the Currys chain - and to let them know that their appalling behaviour over Canis Canem Edit was the reason for this boycott?

After all, there are many places to buy high definition TV sets and so on; and only one of them has chosen to take the side of the tabloids over this issue, when simply doing their job and stocking the product without such judgments would have been perfectly acceptable. As a member of the games industry, or simply as a gamer, this is certainly worth bearing in mind if you find yourself pondering a home entertainment system upgrade in the next few months. When our opponents have reached the point of lying about products to push their agenda forward, perhaps it's time to make our voices as consumers heard.

 

11th October   Basking in Ignominy

Based on a story from Milton Keynes Today

Models at Milton Kenyes showThe honeymoon was well and truly over for models at a city centre wedding showwhen they were marched off for being too sexy!

The girls were wearing black and shocking pink corsets, sewn in leather and silk as part of the new Honeymoon and Bedroom range by Kingston-based Beretun Designs.

They were escorted back to the changing rooms by two burly security guards under orders from thecentre.mk management, said Beretun owner Linda Johnson: They seemed to think the girls had nothing under their lacy knickers but they did, in fact, have skin colour shorts and skin colour fishnets, A shopping management manager said it was inappropriate. The show organiser received a telling off and I was told that it was a family centre and they couldn't have that sort of thing.

Thecentre:mk Events Manager Jackie Tracey said:
This is being viewed in a serious light by centre management as we are concerned about maintaining our reputation.

 

6th October   Deeply Influenced

From the BBC

Deep Throat DVD coverDeep Throat, thought to be the most successful pornographic movie, features in a list of 100 landmark films.

Radio Times magazine said Deep Throat was the worst film to have major influence, but that it took
porn out of the back room and into the cinema.  Cheerfully trashy, charmingly silly, this was a phenomenon of its day, a sign that the sexual revolution was in full swing.

The Radio Times' film editor Andrew Collins says, Deep Throat is not necessarily recommended for everyone--it's a quite badly made film--but to deny its influence would be pure snobbery.

Made in 1972, it was the first pornographic film widely seen in cinemas, earning $600m (£320m).

The film was banned in 23 US states on its release, and UK censors only passed an uncut version in 2000.

 

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