Thursday, March 01, 2007

Every move you make

Hard on the heels of the disgraceful banning of Dr Philip Nitschke and Dr Fiona Stewart's The Peaceful Pill Handbook in the early hours of last Sunday morning -- after Philip Ruddock, in cahoots with the Right to Lifers, had successfully managed to get the original December 2006 classification reviewed and overturned in short order -- comes this new bit of über-regulation from the Feds, as reported by Margaret Simons in today's Crikey bulletin:

'The infamous Big Brother turkey slapping incident may be about to lead to a turkey of another kind – unprecedented censorship of Australian books, magazines and other media material of all kinds.

The Government plans to pass legislation in the autumn session aimed at regulating all content – including text and still images – using the film classification system as the standard.

Crikey understands that publishers would have to submit for classification all material to be delivered electronically – including book and magazine content. Any content that gained an MA or R classification would have be subject to an approved age restricted access system.

... the Government Bulletin of proposed legislation states that the Communications Legislation Amendment (Content Services) Bill would "reform the regulatory structures for non-broadcasting communications content to ensure that existing policy principles for the regulation of content are consistently applied to these new audio-visual services".

The wording suggests the law is aimed at providers of mobile telephone and internet content – and that nobody has thought through the implications for book and magazine publishers who also deliver content online.'

I wonder in passing what the implictions are for blogging, but never mind that; this has far wider and more immediate implications. If most of the Right -- even the smart ones -- didn't hold literature, the history of literature and, most of all, the study of the history of literature in complete contempt, they might understand that the words 'Fahrenheit 451' have some resonance here.

So excuse me while I go and start memorising my chosen book before they burn it. I bags Jane Eyre: 'There was no possibility of writing a blog post taking a walk that day ...'

UPDATE, MARCH 2: Dr Fiona Stewart makes a similar point in today's Crikey's 'Comments, corrections, clarifications and c*ckups' section:

'Dr Fiona Stewart writes: Re. "Publish and be censored: Coonan moves to regulate everything you see and read" (yesterday, item 1). Crikey runs Coonan as No. 1, but in the same breath seems to have missed the banning of my book on voluntary euthanasia, The Peaceful Pill Handbook? It's all the same brush, guys, what's happening? We're swamped with angry Australians who a) can't believe a book banning has happened and b) want to order the PPH – still – and can't comprehend the fact that Ruddock and Right to Life (the appellants) have ensured they cannot. The "win" has been referred to by the Australian Christian Lobby as "encouraging." Who is pulling these strings? It's been interesting answering public enquiries this week. People don't understand the word "banned"; they still think they can order the book, that they can see a loophole. Alas, no. We tell them to try Amazon. ... Australia is the ONLY country ever to ban an end of life choices information book.'


comicstriphero said...

I don't want to be overly cynical, and I say this with some *wink wink*-kinda knowledge, but that Crikey story is such a beat-up.

The content bill is about p0rn on phones.

Pavlov's Cat said...

Yes, I heard Coonan on the radio this afternoon (after Regina) speaking along those lines. I think the concern is more about the unintended consequences of that kind of legislation, as per that last quoted paragraph from Simons (though I agree the spin is a bit odd) -- certainly if the publishers are up in arms (and they are) then there's probably some cause to worry, even if it isn't what the Feds had in mind.

The Nitschke thing worries me more -- they cracked straight down, looking for a legal excuse to ban the book, and found one. Pensioners can wait five years for new teeth, but one troublesome and determined citizen trying to lessen the suffering of the elderly gets all the stops pulled out and is banned in under eight weeks, and over Christmas at that.

Anonymous said...

Totally agree with PC - the problem is that it gives the Feds the potential power to censor & restrict in a totally ad-hoc manner. As per PPH. & interestingly, books previously banned - Lady Chat's say - left leaning bookshops were more than happy to defy the ban. Not this time - fed. legislation, & the possibility of sections of even anti-terror laws being used has booksellers running for cover. A climate of fear so persuasive, no one is willing to chance it. Half the battle won then, eh Howard? People are scared, rightly or wrongly.

Fyodor said...

I know I should be consumed with righteous outrage at this juncture [don't worry, I'll get there - we're spoiled for choice with our government "running" the way it is], but all I can think is "MEME, baby, MEME". Specifically...

"Which book would you memorise on behalf of humanity if faced with a F451 regime".

I bags Candide. En français, s'il faut.

Pavlov's Cat said...

Sometimes I think I've pretty much memorised half of my favourites already.

I think Lolita would take a lot of beating. That or Les Murray's Translations from the Natural World (much of which is animal noises), or the entire Lymond chronicles of Dorothy Dunnett. 'Music, the knife without a hilt.' 'Yes, I know what to do [if the pirates come on board]: offer them the raspberry wine and keep them talking till Mother comes in.'

I knew I would make it through all six volumes when I got to the bit in the first one where the hero, having been comprehensively shot through the middle with a nasty big shot-spraying sixteenth-century firearm, says to the brother who is trying to patch him up: 'I don't think so, Richard, the fenestration seems fairly extensive.'

Fyodor said...

Ah, sweet mystery of blogs, at last I've found thee...with not a little help.

I know precisely nothing about these Lymond Chronicles of which you write. I take it you would recommend them to a person of literary inclination?

Pavlov's Cat said...

I remember Nabakov saying somewhere that he was a DD fan, if that helps. Her books are produced/marketed as standard airport historical romances, and they are certainly working that genre with a vengeance, as in 'work the room', but she is brilliant. (Was, alas-- she died a couple of years ago, but not before I got to meet her at Writers' Week here a few years ago, and discover that she was adorable as well as brilliant.) She was 'Damed' for her services to literature and I still have her card, which simply says


There are two historical series and one contemporary (ie around 70s, when she was writing them) thriller series about a millionaire portrait painter called Johnson Johnson who works for MI5, each book narrated by a different young women who gets caught up in the story. The women are defined mainly by their work, though this is not laboured. My favourite narrator is the dyslexic Scottish film and TV makeup artist, whose pronouncements one has to decode as one goes along: 'Parrots are asthma to me', 'She had those perchance sheets', 'He decided to divorcify into short films.' Etc. And -- as with everything she writes -- you have to work out for yourself what the hell is going on, including who the bad guys really are.

Fyodor said...

"I remember Nabakov saying somewhere that he was a DD fan, if that helps."

Please, lady: say no more. I'm already in great peril of overbuilding my expectations.