CultureWatch

Bill Muehlenberg's commentary on issues of the day...

Who Censures the Censors?

Jun 15, 1997

Many Australians are mystified and disturbed about the proliferation of pornographic, violent and obscene materials on television, in films and video, in magazines, in advertising etc. Many are also curious as to why our official censors and monitors seem to be so out of touch with community standards. Three recent news items help to explain these queries.

A recent article on former deputy chief censor David Haines in the Bulletin was quite revealing. After many years of reviewing pornography, Mr Haines has now announced he will be promoting Nightmoves, a new adult sex channel on Galaxy pay TV In an accompanying photo, we see Mr Haines with one arm around Miss Nude World, and another arm around a glass of bubbly. Mr Haines was appearing on stage with Miss Nude World, extolling the virtues of satellite sex.

This explains a lot. It tells why standards on pornography have been so poor over the past decade. For years my tax dollars have been paying his wage so that he might protect my family, my children and my community from the harmful effects of pornography. Now it turns out this guy was on a completely different wavelength.

Whether he has always been pro-pornography, or whether he became that way as a result of his job as “censor” is unclear. But pro-family groups have long known that lengthy exposure to pornography desensitises the viewer.

A similar story which appeared in the Australian concerns a former computer game censor at the Federal Office of Film and Literature Classification (OFLC), Mr Peter Mackay. Mr Mackay left the OFLC and joined forces with the group he was meant to monitor – the computer game industry. He bemoans what he sees as a “whole move to a particular set of values being forced on a democratic system.” He is alarmed that community advisory panels are being established to oversee OFLC activities. He feels public freedoms are being restricted “by a few rightwing fundamentalist-type senators.”

This is but another example of someone who was being paid to uphold community standards, but who actually warred against them. Said Mr Mackay, “There are no games so disgusting as to warrant refusal”. That tells us a lot about his standards.

Speaking of which, it is ironic that Mr Mackay should be so concerned that members from the community will help to determine community standards. Evidently Mr Mackay wants only an elite group, with people like himself, deciding what is best for the community.

This is another case in point of the obvious: long term exposure to pornography or degrading material will desensitise the viewer. Obviously Mr Haines and Mr Mackay have long ago become hardened to what the rest of the community finds offensive.

A third news items is equally alarming. An “anti-censorship” body has been recently formed. Called the Watch on Censorship, this group is also alarmed by the community assessment panels which will monitor OFLC decisions. (Interestingly, Mr Haines is one of the founding members of Watch on Censorship.)

The group was launched in late March in Sydney. The NSW Attorney-General Jeffrey Shaw spoke at the launch, warning that Australia is “facing an onslaught from puritanism and authoritarianism”.

An Attorney-General is supposed to uphold State laws and community standards, and not push personal opinions nor engage in social engineering. If laws on porn seem weak and ineffective, it is perhaps because some of our government officials are pushing their own libertarian agendas.

In a few months there will be a public inquiry into censorship procedures in Australia. This will be a good chance for us to express our concerns. It should be clear from the above stories that changes need to be made.

From now on all censors should be limited to six month stints, to prevent the desensitisation process from taking its full course. There should be a regular turnover in this kind of work to prevent the kind of downward spiral that Mr Haines and Mr Mackay entered into.

[662 words]

Leave a Reply