Archive | October, 2011

Abbott’s duplicity: Mamamia and the Mad Monk

28 Oct

Tony Abbott has found himself an unlikely defender and advocate in the form of Mia Freedman,former editor of Cosmopolitan, Cleo and Dolly magazines, and columnist for the Sun Herald and the Sunday Age. Freedman also has  a regular spot on the Today Show, and hosts Mamamia Live on Sky News. She is editor and publisher of the highly popular Mamamia website.

With a history like this, Freedman has a big voice among women, and Tony Abbott will no doubt be glad to have her on his side.

It wasn’t always thus. In this article on the Mamamia site, Freedman explains that she was shocked to read a quote by her used without permission on the jacket of Susan Mitchell‘s new book about Abbott. The quote reads:“If he’s elected as our PM in the future I would be very scared for women everywhere.” Freedman made this statement in a piece she wrote in 2009 when Abbott became Leader of the Opposition. She is not happy that Mitchell’s publisher’s used it on the book without consulting her as she has changed her mind about Abbott in the ensuing period and does not hold the same views.

Over a breakfast with Abbott, brokered by Women’s Weekly editor Helen McCabe, Freedman writes that she came to respect and genuinely like Abbott very much, and that she likes his vibe. “I don’t believe Tony Abbott is a direct threat to women” she notes and goes on:

He did talk about his frustration at being constantly portrayed as king of the Catholics and the assumption that his personal faith would affect his policies. He spelled out that he is not opposed to contraception or IVF and that his views on abortion were not nearly as black and white as many people thought.

I asked him how and why he thought he had this image if it was inaccurate and he talked me through his views on that which were rooted in the RU486 vote in 2006 when he was health minister.

If Abbott’s views on abortion aren’t black and white, this is a complete contradiction of his views as expressed on his website in a piece titled “Rate of abortion highlights our moral failings,”  in which he states: When it comes to lobbying local politicians, there seems to be far more interest in the treatment of boatpeople, which is not morally black and white, than in the question of abortion, which is.

It’s also worth reading the transcript of Abbott’s ABC radio interview on the RU-486 (morning-after-pill) issue, in which he fails to explain why he’s ignored the AMA’s recommendations for the release of this drug for use by Australian women, in the face of overwhelming international research proving its safety.

Until Tony Abbott makes public statements to the contrary, women would be most unwise to accept any assurances that he’s changed his mind on women’s reproductive rights, especially as they are so clearly set out on his website. There is no mistaking his position.

We need hard facts from Abbott and we need them soon. If Mr Abbott no longer sees abortion as a “black and white issue”, if Mr Abbott no longer views abortion as “a convenience for the mother”  as he states on his website, then he needs to let us know.

In the meantime one has to wonder if  Ms Freedman has read the piece on Abbott’s website, because the dissonance between what he has written there and what he has said to her is great. It’s a measure of the man’s profound and sickening duplicity that he uses Ms Freedman in an attempt to persuade women he has revised his views on abortion, while making no attempt to correct the quite contrary views expressed on his website.

Abbott’s ascendency puts women’s choice at risk

27 Oct

Is this the face of the next Prime Minister?

This article was first published in On Line Opinion

US Republican Presidential Candidate Michele Bachmann started her campaign as the Tea Party Queen, promising fiscal conservatism and an end to “Obamacare,” otherwise known as the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act that in 2010 extended health care insurance to some 30 million Americans, arousing the fury of many who feared it was an indicator of what they allege is President Obama’s destructive inclination towards socialism.

Bachmann describes herself as a social conservative who believes that wives must be submissive to their husbands. She is the mother of five children, and appears to be of the opinion that it is virtuous to produce large families. She is a graduate of the Oral Roberts University, a Christian college where she studied tax law at the insistence of her husband, and where she learned that Christian morality is the basis of US law.

The term “social conservative” is considered by some in the US blogosphere to be code for evangelical Christian or Christian conservatism. Bachmann believes that what the US needs now is a marriage between fiscal and social conservatism, a marriage that she is attempting to contrive as the Tea Party’s apparent willingness to risk national default in the pursuit of their political goals saw some of their supporters take a set against them, and against Bachmann herself. Bachmann’s fortunes also took a turn for the worse when Texas Governor Rick Perry entered the Presidential race. In an effort to regain ground, Bachmann is now appealing directly to evangelical Christians, and focusing her efforts on gaining the support of conservative Christian voters.

 The Heartbeat Informed Consent Act

To this end, Congresswoman Bachmann has proposed a bill in the US House of Representatives known as the Heartbeat Informed Consent Act. This is federal legislation that would require pregnant women to have ultrasounds, and be shown pictures of the foetus they are carrying before an abortion could be performed.

The Act also requires that doctors be required by federal law to capture the sound of the feotal heartbeat and play it to the pregnant woman, before an abortion can legally be performed.

Penalties for abortions carried out without observance of these proposed laws are fines of $100,000 for the first offence, and $250,000 for repeat offences.

The premise on which the proposed bill is based is that a woman is far less likely to go through with an abortion if she sees the foetus, and hears the heartbeat. To this end, the proposed legislation requires that ultrasound pictures “accurately portray the presence of external members and internal organs, if present.”

Right-to-lifers have apparently given up attempting outright to have all abortion criminalized. Instead they are adopting a back door approach that seeks to move the permissible time frame to when the foetal heartbeat can be detected, thus legally redefining “life.” The heartbeat can be heard as early as eighteen days, and in Ohio, for example, the state version of the “Heartbeat Bill” proposes that all abortion is outlawed after a heartbeat is detected.

There is little likelihood of Bachmann’s federal bill getting past the Senate, and President Obama has let it be known that in the event that it does, he will veto it. However, a very similar piece of legislation known as the Informed Consent Bill is now being advocated in every US state, by anti abortion groups who are aware that Bachmann’s bill won’t be legislated at the federal level. At the state level this bill is backed by major conservative groups such as National Right to Life, the US Conference of Catholic Bishops, Americans United for Life, Susan B Anthony’s List, and Family Research Council Action. In some states the bill stands a good chance of becoming law. In Rick Perry’s Texas for example, the bill has passed through two readings and requires only one more.

The Protect Life Act

This Act recently passed the House of Representatives with every Republican voting in favour, along with eleven Democrats who crossed the aisle to join them.

The Protect Life Act prohibits women from buying health insurance plans that cover abortion under the Affordable Care Act, and makes it legal for hospitals to deny abortions to pregnant women with life-threatening conditions. Its purpose is ostensibly to ensure that no taxpayer dollars flow to health care plans that cover abortion. In fact it is already against the law in the US to use taxpayer funds for abortion procedures, a fact right-to-lifers consistently ignore or misrepresent. Abortions are covered only by private insurance payments. However, this Bill would prevent women from buying an insurance plan that includes abortion through a state health care exchange, even though most private plans currently cover abortion.

The Protect Life Act also allows hospitals morally opposed to abortion, such as Catholic institutions, to do nothing for a woman who needs an emergency abortion to save her life. Hospitals in the US currently have an obligation to provide care in a medical emergency, however under the new Act that obligation would legally come second to the institutions’ moral objections to providing abortions.

This bill is also likely to be defeated in the Senate, and again President Obama has signaled his intention to veto the bill should it land on his desk.

However, it’s worth remembering that every Republican voted for it, as well as eleven Democrats.

In some quarters the bill has become known as the “Let Women Die Bill.”

Vow to withdraw federal funding for contraception.

Another Republican Presidential hopeful, Catholic father of seven Rick Santorum, has vowed to repeal all federal funding for contraception should he be elected President, on the grounds that contraception “is a license to do things in the sexual realm.” Santorum also holds the view that “ sex is supposed to be within marriage,” and he talks at length about “the dangers of contraception.” Santorum, like Bachmann, is a social and fiscal conservative.

Mitt the Mormon Bishop.

Mormon feminist academic Professor Judith Dushku developed a life-threatening blood clot when she was pregnant with her sixth child. Arrangements were made to abort the foetus and thus save her life. When Dushku arrived at the hospital for the procedure she was met by her then Mormon bishop and father of five, Mitt Romney. The following exchange allegedly took place between Dushku and Romney:

He said – What do you think you’re doing?

She said – Well, we have to abort the baby because I have these blood clots.

And he said something to the effect of – Well, why do you get off easy when other women have their babies?

And she said – What are you talking about? This is a life-threatening situation.

And he said – Well what about the life of the baby?

And she said – I have four other children and I think it would be really irresponsible to continue the pregnancy.

Dushku proceeded with the termination, and lived to bring up her four children. Though previously friends Romney and Dushku no longer speak, at his insistence.

In 2005 as Governor of Massachusetts, Romney revealed a change of principles on abortion, moving from the “unequivocal” pro-choice position he adopted throughout his 2002 gubernatorial campaign, to a staunch pro-life stand that saw him veto a bill that would expand access to emergency contraception in hospitals and pharmacies, on pro-life grounds.  Romney revealed to Dushka prior to their falling out that he had only adopted his pro-choice stand because he’d been advised it would be more appealing to voters, and that his true position had always been one of pro-life.

Meanwhile, back in Australia

If an election were held in Australia today it would be won by the Coalition, headed by Tony Abbott. Mr Abbott is a Catholic. In 2004 when he was Federal Health Minister, Mr Abbott stated in an interview with ABC Radio’s AM program that he was concerned about the “abortion epidemic” apparently raging in Australia. He said:

I certainly share the concerns that many people have about the number of abortions that are taking place in Australia today. We have something like 100,000 abortions a year, 25 per cent of all pregnancies end in abortion and even the most determined pro-choice advocates these days seem to be rightly concerned at the way that the abortion epidemic has developed.

The then Health Minister was supported in his concerns by his then junior Minister, Christopher Pyne, who expressed his moral difficulties with late-term abortion.

On ABC Radio’s PM program November 15 2005, then Federal Health Minister Tony Abbott explained why he had refused to approve the use of the abortion pill RU-486 for Australian women as follows:

TONY ABBOTT: I conclude that there is no reason, based on the report from the Chief Medical Officer, to change longstanding practice in regards to RU-486.

 CATHERINE MCGRATH: But the AMA says itself, that it is the best and safest, or it is an option for the best and safest termination, where doctors are assessing the risks to the patient.

TONY ABBOTT: That’s not my reading of the report from the Chief Medical Officer. My reading of that report is that there are significant additional health risks associated with medical terminations, and that the safest way to have a termination is a surgical termination.

CATHERINE MCGRATH: To say the AMA is stunned is an understatement, and the peak medical body takes issue with the advice Tony Abbott has received.

The AMA said Mr Abbott’s information on RU-486 “is plain wrong” and “ignores international research.” The AMA further said that the drug would be denied to Australian women for political reasons.

Then there’s this piece on Abbott’s website titled: Rate of Abortion Highlights our Moral Failings. The problem with the Australian practice of abortion is that an objectively grave matter has been reduced to a question of the mother’s convenience… Even those who think that abortion is a woman’s right should be troubled by the fact that 100,000 Australian women choose to destroy their unborn babies every year… When it comes to lobbying local politicians, there seems to be far more interest in the treatment of boatpeople, which is not morally black and white, than in the question of abortion, which is.

The belief that the question of abortion is “morally black and white” is one Tony Abbott shares with evangelical Michele Bachmann, Mormon Mitt Romney, and fellow Catholic Rick Santorum. Australian women should be very concerned about living under an Abbott-led Coalition government. Abbott’s stated (and written) beliefs on abortion are deeply entrenched. As Federal Health Minister he managed to prevent Australian women accessing RU-486 on entirely spurious grounds, grounds that were fiercely contested by medical experts, and international research. This is the action of a man whose decisions about women’s reproductive rights are determined solely by his religious faith.

RU-486 is still not readily available. There are only approximately 100 doctors Australia-wide who are Authorised Prescribers of the drug, and then only within their own practices and hospitals, the majority of which are in capital cities.

Do Australian women want to risk Tony’s rosaries on our ovaries again?

Abortion in Australia is a state, not federal matter. Laws vary between the states. In NSW, Queensland, South Australia, Northern Territory and Tasmania, abortion is subject to criminal law codes and acts. In the ACT there are no laws regarding abortion in the Crimes Act, and in Victoria the procedure is covered by the 2008 Abortion Law Reform Bill.

In Queensland in 2010 a young couple was prosecuted for obtaining an “unlawful abortion” after self-administering medication designed to cause early abortion. They were found not guilty. That such a case could be brought highlights the urgent need for abortion law reform in Australia. It’s well worth a visit to this site for examples of why such reform is imperative for women, and to see evidence that the Australian debate is in some quarters unnervingly similar to that in the USA.

An Abbott-led government is not good for Australian women’s reproductive health and our hard-won right to choose.

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Why I can’t write anything today

26 Oct

Bellagio Hotel and fountains

I knew I was heading for trouble when yesterday I said goodnight to my iPhone. I’m only mentioning this because my entire household threatened to leave comments on Sheep about it and I want to get in first.

Then at midnight, there were really scary thunderstorms. The whole house lit up with forked lightning and big noise. The Dog is terrified of thunderstorms and has to be talked through these events. For some reason it’s always me who ends up talking him through it, while everybody else cowers under their doonas.

But last night Mrs Chook appeared, all wrapped up in the luxurious white cotton robe she bought at the Bellagio Hotel in Las Vegas a few years ago. She manifested in the doorway, momentarily illuminated by nature’s theatrics. I glimpsed her for one terrifying instant and then there was the thunder and then there was the darkness. I screamed and leapt out of bed, treading on the Dog who was cowering beside it. The dog howled and tried to get up, with his bad back leg hampering his progress. I fell and hit my head hard on the corner of the wardrobe. Then I cried. It was shambolic. I’m exhausted. I’ve had no sleep. There’s a big egg on my forehead. I’m sick of everybody and I need to find some new friends.

Re the cotton robe: these are supplied in the rooms at this hedonistic hotel. Some people wear them down to the pool. Mrs Chook fell in love with hers and expressed an intention to nick it. I yelled about that, seeing as it was my credit card being used to pay the bill, and she was shamed into going down to the lobby shop and buying her own.

Mrs Chook also insisted on wearing hers down to the pool, so I insisted on taking a later elevator so I wouldn’t be seen with her.

It’s my intention to write something serious later in the day, but first I have to go to my aerobics class, have coffee with a few people, and get iOS 5 on the iPhone so I can get into the iCloud, which is where I really want to be today.

In the meantime, New Matilda has this on how Chris Bowen lied about Malaysia.

And there’s always something interesting over at the Watermelon Blog, where David Horton gives an account of his latest contest with seabirds on Twitter.

And you have to read this in Slate about how Occupy Wall St is framed as an anti semitic movement.

See you later.

PS I just realised this is a post about nothing and I subconsciously stole that idea from Jerry Seinfeld. I hope this acknowledgment will forestall any litigation.

More complaints about ABC’s “incestuous” connections

24 Oct

In this article at On Line Opinion titled “A 7.30 Affair,” author Phil Dye has a critical look at the ABC’s 7.30 Report, currently fronted by Leigh Sales.

One of his criticisms focuses on an interview Sales conducted with author Nikki Gemmell last week about her new book. Sales introduced the author by explaining that she’d just published her “long-awaited follow-up to [her previous novel] ‘The Bride Stripped Bare.'” Dye points out that Gemmell is an ex ABC journalist.

Dye writes as follows:

While what women want in bed may be a saucy dinner party topic, it’s not a topic of national interest worthy of the ABC’s flagship current affairs program. Ms Gemmell would definitely fit the content profile of ‘Today Tonight’ or ‘A Current Affair’, but not tax-payer funded television. The Gemmell-ABC connection, while probably innocent, is also troublesome. Relevance aside, an eight-minute book promo on prime-time TV by an ex ABC staffer is worth investigation. It’s not the actuality of the relationship that matters, but the perception. We could easily be forgiven for assuming an incestuous connection.

Dye’s article was published before last Friday. On that morning’s Radio National Life Matters, hosted by Richard Aedy, the entire one hour program was devoted to Nikki Gemmell and her new novel, with callers ringing in to speak to Gemmell and a couple of other guests who were experts in the areas explored in Gemmell’s novel.

On October 6 I posted this piece on Sheep protesting the ABC’s promotion of the book Big Porn Inc:

Between June 15 and October 5 2011, the ABC’s Religion and Ethics Online and the Drum have published eight articles written by anti pornography campaigners and colleagues who share the same perspective on pornography.

Judging from many of the comments on some articles, the views of this collective are regarded as extreme, and pushing right-wing Christian conservative values.

Seven of these articles were written by contributors to Big Porn Inc, a collection of anti pornography essays edited by activists Melinda Tankard Reist and Abigail Bray.

In five of the articles reference is made to the soon-to-be-released Big Porn Inc, and three of them are extracts from the book. Clive Hamilton‘s article in Religion and Ethics reads like a book launch speech, and his last two paragraphs enthusiastically promote Big Porn Inc.

Gail Dines, also an author in Big Porn Inc, appears in R&E on September 15 promoting her anti pornography position. Meagan Tyler writes in the Drum on October 5th defending Gail Dines against critics, and promoting the same anti porn position. Tyler has another anti porn piece in the Drum on September 20th.

During this period the ABC has published one, yes that’s one alternative perspective to that put forward by all the above authors. That piece was by academic Alan McKee on September 23rd. McKee addresses many of the criticisms launched at him and his colleagues by some of the above authors.

I submitted an alternative perspective and a response to the Meagan Tyler piece which was not published.

Editor of the ABC’s Religion and Ethics forum, Scott Stephens, is launching the book the ABC has been blatantly promoting in Brisbane next week.

At the editor’s website, the launch of Big Porn Inc is headlined thus: “ABC Editor Scott Stephens to launch Big Porn Inc in Brisbane October 14.”

That the ABC should promote a book that is subsequently launched by one of its employees is bizarre. The ABC is not publishing this book. It isn’t written by ABC employees.

There’s a big difference between noting publications in an author’s biography, and the kind of intense promotional activity immediately prior to a book launch we’re seeing here. There’s a big difference between the ABC interviewing an author about his or her book, and the promotional activity seen here. There’s a lot of cosiness between the book’s editors and the ABC Religion and Ethics editor. None of this is good for a public broadcaster whose mission is to convey as many perspectives as reasonably possible on issues that affect the whole of our society.

I’ve since lodged a complaint with the ABC and Media Watch, both of which I will now update to include Dye’s observations.

While the national broadcaster is quick to expose and exploit “incestuous” connections when uncovered  in the commercial media, does the same standard of scrutiny apply in-house?

No Place for Sheep features at Newsnet 14

24 Oct

Newsnet 14 provides “world news for Europeans world-wide” So imagine my surprise this morning when I noticed that this post from Sheep  on asylum seekers and Immigration Department Head, Andrew Metcalfe, was picked up overnight and featured on their blog.

I was especially surprised when I went to their About pages and discovered that their mission is to protect the interests of those of European descent around the world, interests they feel are neglected by the msm  and I quote:

Africa is for Africans, Asia is for Asians, and European lands are for everyone…. This IS Genocide!…The goal of this site is to ensure our people have all the facts available on issues that affect our race. We encourage you to read and learn from every source possible, both our side and the opposition. After all you can’t make an educated decision without knowing all the facts.

Above all we believe that EVERY race has the right to self determination, EVEN OURS!

Well, what can I say. When you put it out there it’s anybody’s!  I guess they’re using Sheep as an example of their opposition. I can only say I’m happy to contribute to the education of Europeans everywhere.

I’ve started a new blog…

23 Oct

I’ve just started a new blog called The Practice of Goodness. It’s very different from No Place for Sheep. No politics, just stories, essays, bits and pieces I collect around the place, and extracts from academic work and conference papers. Not that I’ve put all that up yet.

I hope you visit and enjoy.

Bolt the revisionist caught in distortions of historical facts for personal gain!

23 Oct

I bet there are women everywhere who’d give a great deal for the opportunity to take public revenge on an old lover, as has Suzanne Walshe, ex fiancée of Andrew Bolt, in this article in The Age.

There’s also plenty who’d rather have needles in their eyes than trot out ancient hurts for everyone to see. Whatever floats your boat, is what I think.

Bolt has publicly refered to Ms Walshe in less than flattering terms, negating the almost six-year slice of life they shared and their engagement, by stating in an interview that he once was a “minder for a belly dancer” who was his “then girlfriend.” It was the belly dancer bit that alerted Ms Walshe to the fact that Bolt was talking about her, as she put herself through college with this employment. The cad later went on to deny there had ever been an engagement, effectively erasing his serious relationship with Ms Walshe from his account of his personal history. Ouch.

“Minder for a belly dancer?” What’s that supposed to mean? He fought off other males?

This just goes to prove, by the by, what I have argued many times to the moralistic furies who want to ban pole dancing, strip shows, belly dancing and the like. There are many young women who choose to support themselves in these occupations while they learn to be doctors, lawyers, academics and a whole host of other vocations. So unless you’re prepared to finance them leave them alone, it’s none of your business if they like to get raunchy.

A series of strangely formal and constrainedly histrionic emails ensued between the two, accusative on the one side, quite grovellingly apologetic on the other. “I am not trying to wipe you from the record of my life.” Bolt protested, even though he wrote on his blog that he couldn’t recall ever being engaged to anybody, except, presumably, he might have been to his wife at some point.

Suzanne fires back with claims of not just an engagement ring but an Irish wedding ring as well that Andrew told her to wear upside down, the custom being that Irish wedding rings are worn upside down during the engagement, then turned right side up after the wedding. The things you learn. Walshe also included in her article a touching note that Andrew sent with the ring (he was apparently in Dublin at the time) as proof positive that she wasn’t making any of this up. Ouch again. That might be a line-crosser, but it’s hard to say.

For myself, I read the personal emails of others made public with a voyeuristic thrill of horror and disbelief. Such communications are almost always cringe-worthy because of their very nature, let alone for what is written in them. I imagine firing off emotive notes intended only for the recipient (which I have done, I admit it, hasn’t everyone?) then waking up one morning to find them splattered across a national daily and I know I’d want to go to outer Mongolia and never, ever come back. Half the nation takes sides about how you’ve conducted your private life, and a good many of those sides are going to be nastily turned against someone, whether the writer or the revealer.

I have some empathy with Ms Walshe’s hurt feelings. It is not pleasant to discover that the man you loved enough to marry (till your common sense kicked in) has turned your six-year relationship into a one-line joke, dismissing it and you as never having been of any importance to him and claiming to have forgotten that he wanted to marry you into the bargain.

If Andrew Bolt is this fast and loose with his own history, where does he get off complaining publicly about how anybody else chooses to recount theirs?

Still, this does happen all the time in people’s accounts of their lives. Things left out, things left in, truths stretched, subjective experience that fails to correlate with the experience of others involved in the events. Family members end up in court charging one another with defamation. Siblings write books about their parents that appear to be written about entirely different mums and dads, and then never speak to one another again. Who owns the story? Whose story is “true?”

There is a considerable body of critical opinion that considers the “facts” of a life always to contain elements of fiction. The nature of memory is enigmatic, as is the question of how facts are remembered by the subject. For example in his autobiographical novel The Facts, Philip Roth states that “…memories of the past…are not memories of facts but memories of your imagining of the facts.”

I wrote that in my Honours thesis.

Luckily Suzanne appears to have kept a written record in the form of Andrew’s letters so he’s stuffed.

It turns out that Ms Walshe broke off the engagement. I’d venture to suggest that people generally attempt to erase or repress memories because they are painful in some way. Likewise people often become dismissive and derogatory about past intensely emotional events for the same reason.

Could it be that Andrew still smarts when he remembers Suzanne’s rejection of him as a husband and potential father of her children? Could publicly pretending to forget be Andrew’s revenge after all this time? Is it an indicator of Bolt’s pathological solipsism that it apparently did not occur to him that the woman he so cruelly dismissed might strike back and show him up for the dorky manipulative tosser he really is? Or was it his intention to draw her out in the hope of instigating fresh dialogue with her? How would Andrew’s wife feel about that, I wonder?  Does anybody really care? Does anyone want to read my Honours thesis? Is “pathological solipsism” a tautology? Shall I go out in the kayak this morning? Should I close my Twitter account before I offend more people like I offended Joe Hildebrand the other day by calling him a toothy git, causing him to fire back that I was a troll?

Hoo Haa! Life is marvellous!!

UPDATE!! Andrew strikes back here! Continues to deny engagement! Bemoans Fairfax Press obsession with his private life! 

The woman and the octopus, or how anti porn activists sabotage their own message

20 Oct

This article was first published in On Line Opinion

It ought to be de rigueur for anyone warning society about the perils of pornography to first state what they consider to be pornographic. As it is, the word is used to describe everything and anything to do with the public display of sexual behaviours, from the most innocuous, to the most stupid, to the most alarming, violent, and frightening. In fact, the word is rapidly becoming meaningless as anything other than code for “here come the wowsers,” and activists have only themselves to blame for this. They are heeded largely by those who already agree with them, which is useless in terms of getting any serious action going against the kind of pornography that damages people. They refuse to see that in tarring all pornography with the same brush they are sabotaging the message with generalizations and stereotypes, and that this deafens people.

In reality, many of those who dispute the anti pornography position are decent people, highly indignant at the activists’ lack of discrimination in determining the pornographic, and understandably resistant to having someone else’s moral perspective imposed upon them. One person’s sexually objectifying and degrading music video is another’s reference to surrealism and the politics of race, yet it could likely be that both are in agreement on the undesirability of violent porn.

From the outset the activists are frequently defensive, oppositional, and cult-like in their fervor and insistence that their interpretation is the “right” and only one. This is no way to get a message out to anybody other than those who already agree with you.

Agreeing on the pornographic

While what is considered pornographic can be very subjective, there are some criteria which most of us would agree could be used to set a community standard. Government regulation is already in effect in every medium other than the Internet, and I think, outdoor advertising. The Internet is a rogue beast. I would agree with the same restrictions on Internet content as are in place in every other medium. The problem is technical: how do we do that?

It’s likely true that since the advent of the Internet, public tolerance for sexually explicit images has risen as they are more easily accessed than ever before by greater numbers of people. The anti pornography crowd can rail as much as they like, they aren’t going to stop the production of these images, and they aren’t going to stop people viewing them. The very best we can hope for is enough restriction to protect children and limit access, safeguards we already have in place for other media, and that should be in place for outdoor advertising as well.

Woman with octopus

There is also no reason to oppose all sexually explicit images, as if the sexually explicit in itself is dangerous and anti social. This past weekend, for example, I visited the Queensland Art Gallery and came upon a work by Japanese artist Masami Teraoka called “Sarah and the Octopus/Seventh Heaven,” in which a woman is being pleasured by an octopus. (Yes, I would have laughed if someone just told me about it. Seeing it was another thing altogether.) In Japanese erotica images of women enjoying sexual pleasure with tentacled sea creatures is nothing remarkable, though the images are often interpreted in Western culture as being pornographic depictions of rape.

I found the painting erotic, and could see no signs that the female subject was feeling anything other than intense pleasure. I did wonder momentarily what Gail Dines would say about it, and assumed her comments would likely be stridently negative. As I gazed at the painting I thought that there are people who would like to stop me looking at an image such as this one, because they believe it will do me and the wider society psycho-sexual harm. Such people see sexual violence in every pornographic image. They see pornography itself as an act of violence against women, and they want me to “see” as they do.

Their vision casts images such as this painting in a negative and destructive light. I would never consider Teraoka’s work as dangerously pornographic unless that had first been suggested to me as a lens through which I ought to view it. So it is that the careless manner of speaking negatively about all pornography causes everything to be viewed as dangerously pornographic, and we are left with no other possible or legitimate ways of seeing. This is a tyranny and oppression we should resist.

For example, Clive Hamilton argues in his essay on photographer Bill Henson’s controversial images of adolescence that:

It is tragic that those who are responsible for sexualising children have robbed us of the ability to see Bill Henson’s photographs the way he intended. In destroying the sexual innocence of children they have destroyed the innocence of innocence.

Those who are responsible for “sexualising” children have not robbed us of anything in my opinion. On the contrary, those who like Hamilton and Dines demand that we relinquish our “innocent” gaze and replace it with the gaze of, in this case, the paedophile, are those who are responsible for attempting to if not rob, certainly alter for the worse our ability both to see innocence, and to see innocently. Henson should have known better, Hamilton concludes, and he should have realized that in today’s world photographs such as his cannot be “innocently” viewed. Therefore they should not be offered for viewing at all.

Personally, I will resist to my dying breath the efforts of anti pornographers to make me view the entire imaged world through a sexually dangerous and dysfunctional lens, whether I’m looking at Henson, music videos, Japanese erotica or Cosmopolitan. To look in innocence means to look without prejudice and preconditions, and to trust in the integrity of one’s own gaze. Hamilton’s ability to innocently gaze may well have been irrevocably damaged by those who seek to “sexualize” children. Mine has not, and I do not wish to join him in that trauma.

How to stop people wanting and making violent porn

The only way people will not participate in violent pornography, either by producing it or as viewers, is if they have a sense of self-worth that prevents them demeaning and abusing others or allowing themselves to be demeaned and abused. How are we going to produce human beings like that, given the culture in which we live and raise our young? The degradation of human beings is endemic in Western capitalist society indeed it’s a necessity if this form of society is to survive. Violent pornography is but one expression of this degradation. Like drug trafficking and people smuggling, it will never be “stopped” because there’s too much money and too much corruption involved in its production and distribution.

The best we can do is to educate our young to care for themselves and others, with the goal of creating a society in which degradation isn’t inherent. The rest is just sound and fury, unless the activists open their minds and hearts enough to engage with those who might not entirely agree with them, but who may well be on their side in some aspects of their battle.

Free range chooks not always better off than their caged cousins?

20 Oct

Guest blog today by Gerard Oosterman, artist, farmer and blogger. 

Don't fence me in

Things are hardly ever what they appear to be, especially not in the world of shopping, and in particular, in the world of egg buying. A few nights ago we were jolted into the reality of animal cruelty when a program on chooks and their environs was presented on ABC television‘s 7.30 Report.

It proved to be an amazing world of deceit, cunning, and hoodwinking of you, the customer. If you thought that buying ‘free range’ eggs made you into a person caring for the welfare of the Rhode-Island Reds, think again. Unlike in the EU where the term ‘free range’ means a minimum of 4 square metres of open space per chicken and a mandatory supply of greenery, here ‘free range’ can be even more cruel and horrific than caged birds.

The European Union regulates marketing standards for egg farming which specifies the following (cumulative) minimum conditions for the free-range method:

  • hens have continuous daytime access to open-air runs, except in the case of temporary restrictions imposed by veterinary authorities,
  • the open-air runs to which hens have access is mainly covered with vegetation and not used for other purposes except for orchards, woodland and livestock grazing if the latter is authorized by the competent authorities,
  • the open-air runs must at least satisfy the conditions specified in Article 4(1)(3)(b)(ii) of Directive 1999/74/EC whereby the maximum stocking density is not greater than 2500 hens per hectare of ground available to the hens, or one hen per 4m2 at all times and the runs are not extending beyond a radius of 150 m from the nearest pophole of the building; an extension of up to 350 m from the nearest pophole of the building is permissible provided that a sufficient number of shelters and drinking troughs within the meaning of that provision are evenly distributed throughout the whole open-air run with at least four shelters per hectare.[

It is different in Australia where there seems to be an open slather on deceiving customers into thinking that free range eggs, which are often 2 to 3 times the price of caged eggs, are somehow produced by happy chickens, freely cavorting and picking their food from open grassy fields.

Those EU standards are certainly not applied here. The latest regulation now allows a staggering 20 000 chickens per Ha (10,000 sq metres). That is one chicken per half a sq M. This in effect raises their stress levels to such an extent it results in cannibalism. No worries, the chooks are then de-beaked. This was demonstrated on the young pullets by putting their beaks into a feeding tube. Instead of getting feed, they get instantly de-beaked. Footage was shown of the young pullets with bleeding beaks.

If you thought the Australian Egg board would be keen to improve conditions for the poor chooks or at least comply with EU standards, think again. A quick scan through the list of directors reads like the who’s who of some of the largest ‘free range’ operators, egg marketers and producers.

Hardly a bunch of unbiased, independent operators keen on improving the lot for chickens. Their main aim is to improve profits not kindness to chooks.

In Sweden, where else, caged eggs have been banned. In many other European countries, main supermarkets, including Aldi, do not stock caged eggs anymore. At least the ‘free range’ eggs have the legislative back up of a maximum of 2500 chooks per Ha (1 chicken per 4sq metres). How come, after so much publicity of late about the plight of chooks, this hasn’t been implemented here? It makes one wonder if the caged eggs are not a better and more ethical deal here after all.

I just hope Tony Abbott hasn’t got his finger in the eggs, he’s such a freemarketeer.

Gerard blogs at  Oosterman Treats Blog

Tweet of the day

19 Oct
Tweeted by : EnoTheWonderdog An imaginary dog 
Superb – The Dr No of Politics, @TonyAbbottMHR had only stopped one thing with his obstructionist tactics. Offshore Processing!!
Yeah! Suck it up, Nope Dope.
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