Saturday, April 28, 2012

Australians, the State Knows Best

Art with a message the State disagrees with had better watch out in Australia. Censorship by the government is the way the State puts limits on certain thoughts being expressed publicly and with which the State disagrees or perhaps it considers may cause public unrest? north-korean-artists-banned-from-australia  These North Korean artists were commissioned by the Queensland Art Gallery to supply works for exhibiting but they were not allowed entry to Australia to explain their works. This might upset the thoughts of a free thinking secular democratic Australian public, so they were denied visas. The Australian public is here being told that in certain matters they must not be permitted to think for themselves and they must be protected from the expressions, words, ideas, thoughts of others. 
Is the Government overstepping its role? I am concerned it may not matter to Australians as much as it should. Whatever the message art, literature, speech may deliver, the silencing of it by-way of laws designed to limit free expression is much worse.

Obviously I do not support the North Korean regime, its march into isolation is a disaster for its development and its people. However, I have the right to hear about their message foul or fair. The reason I know North Korea is controlled by an insane regime, an anti-human, anti-free though and pro-censorship regime is because the free press and the freedom to think and express opinion freely does exist here in Australia. Or at least that is what I thought to be the case. The Australian authorities felt we needed protection, from the thoughts and opinions of these artists. Who knows what they may have said about their work, we will never know, it just makes me curious though to know. Denied a visa to protect us. This concerns me, what did we need protecting from? Words, thoughts, propaganda? We'd have expected this surely and would have relished the exchange of ideas and points of view. An opportunity lost.

Whether criticisms are politically, religiously, culturally motivated we must be able to hear about the criticism in order to decide for ourselves what is being said by the critic and about the subject. The alternative is surely to accept what the State knows best and we should hear only about what it deems safe?

Ideally everyone in Australia is permitted to consider information for themselves and be able to correct and challenge or agree with ideas, conclusions, opinions,  that is the nature of a muscular confident democracy. Bluntly we need to retain the right to hear the intelligence or stupidity of others voiced freely and openly so we may rightly critique, challenge and counter it or agree. This is our right. But is it in reality what we have and do enjoy?

In a 2010 exhibition "Banned books in Australia", held at the Melbourne University Ballieu Library, Jenny Lee writes:

"Twentieth-century Australia had the strictest censorship of any democratic nation. Publications of all kinds were kept under surveillance and thousands of books were banned as seditious, blasphemous or obscene."

Will the Australian government soon deliver us a return of Blasphemy Laws?

Consider UN submissions by Australian organisations like HREOC that are in support of an OIC's push for the UN to adopt what is essentially a bill to limit any criticism of Islam. It attempts to apply censorship around religious subject matter. Specifically it is inspired to quarantine criticism of Islam. It is clumsy and fortunately and rationally the UN voted against it. Is the Australian Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission still pushing for it? Seems to be so, which is dumbfounding. Anyone with a questioning mind simply must ask, why is it that Islam cannot tolerate criticism that it needs such significant protections, from criticism? Defamation_of_religion_and_the_United_Nations

Have we already seen Blasphemy charges brought against critics of Islam in Australia?
Catch the Fire Ministries Inc & Ors v Islamic Council of Victoria Inc

Official interference by Australian organisations (like HEROC via the OIC) is to be loudly objected. It is an interference in the conduct of free association, free thought and freedom of expression. Citizens of open secular democracies believe they have these rights along with the right to a religion or to have no religion. To exempt organised religions from examination, challenge and criticism is hugely concerning. Legislation to criminalise and expose to litigation any person or organisation who critiques religion, any religion, limits freedom of expression in ways which smack of dictatorial control. In George Orwell's 1984, thoughts must be kept secret or individuals will expose themselves to retribution by the dictatorship. The sort of resources this requires, if adopted large scale, changes society.

Intolerance of criticism of political systems, religions or cultures must not be tolerated.

Artists, thinkers, individuals, all must freely examine the society in which they live and critic its fundamental flaws from any angle and without fear of prosecution. The consequence is not only literally state controlled censorship but a self-censorshi because prosecution for a criticism, opinion or conclusion has become a very real threat. One feeds the other and what we get is a closed, fearful and ignorant society.

The message this push to quarantine religion from criticism sends is we must practice silence or "self-censorship" for if you do dare to present a difficult or seriously critical thesis you risk prosecution (legalised persecution) or banishment.

Is this really what we want?

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About Leeanneart

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Melbourne, Victoria, Australia
We are first and foremost human with a responsibility to the humanity within us and not to any faith, political, apolitical, social or societal group, union or faction. We are responsible for our own reputation, and for what deeds we do and what achievements or otherwise in life we enjoy. The rest is nonsense.