Tuesday, 7 June 2011

Try The Off Button

It's a truth universally acknowledged that when there is a Tory government two things will happen; there will be more EU integration and the Tories will try to ban stuff. The latter is a drearily familiar pattern that has long been established but it becomes most prominent when a new culture or technology emerges such as films, home videos, computer games, Facebook and now the internet itself:
Prime Minister David Cameron has warned ISPs to be more robust with their plans to provide better tools to help parents censor sexualised content online, or else the government could step in with its own regulation measures.
Here we go again, and the Tory attitude is always if in doubt it requires more government regulation to the rescue! So unsurprisingly on the back of a report about the 'sexualisation of children' Cameron has backed measures such as:

  • make public space more family-friendly by “reducing the amount of on-street advertising containing sexualised imagery in locations where children are likely to see it.”

  • ensure children are protected when they watch television, are on the internet or use their mobile phones by “making it easier for parents to block adult and age-restricted material” across all media.

  • stop the process where companies pay children to publicise and promote products in schools or on social networking sites by banning “the employment of children as brand ambassadors and in peer-to-peer marketing.”
Using the classic Trojan horse of; "think of the children", Cameron wants to restrict advertising in public spaces including surely near and in pubs - my 'family friendly' local is now full of children; shock horror they might even see advertising that is inappropriate in the gent's toilets - and to regulate mobile phones, the internet and the television watershed even further. (Odd the last one because I've lost count of the number of programmes broadcast late at night recently, well past the watershed, still 'bleeping out' swear words or even being criticised for using them).

And of course government regulation means not only an assumption that the government knows best and that parents shouldn't take responsibility, but the establishment of yet another unaccountable quango. And inevitably what is initially devised to 'protect children' becomes an instrument for other things.

Take, for example, the film censorship body, the BBFC, which was given more powers under Tory legislation due to a moral panic about video nasties (although hilariously this was later found to be unenforceable due to an oversight regarding the EU).

Apparently independent, from the start it was under intense political pressure regarding censorship - one of the longest running restrictions in the UK for a film was for Battleship Potemkin, banned for political reasons until 1954 and Sergei Eisentein's classic was even given an X-rated certificate until as late as 1987.

The unaccountable BBFC became even more ludicrous as its unaccountable long-serving Director, James Fernman had carte blanche to censor films at will.

One notorious example is, after seeing the legendary nunchaku (chainsticks) scene from Bruce Lee's magnum opus Enter the Dragon, Mr Fernman attempted to replicate the scene, whilst watching the film, and knocked himself out in the process. On the basis of not being as talented as Mr Lee, he removed the scene completely (which was not reinstated for years). Mr Fernman's obsession with the nunchaku reached such ridiculous heights that he removed a scene in the 1990 Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles film because a string of sausages swung by Michelangelo looked like a nunchaku.

Such considerations about accountability are 'minor' - as ever the cry to protect children means the attitude is always the same - it should be banned for all of us. This is typical Tory stuff, only now it's policy based on panic by mumsnet. So much for Cameron's 'Big Society' (my emphasis):
The big society is about changing the way our country is run. No more of a government treating everyone like children who are incapable of taking their own decisions. Instead, let's treat adults like adults and give them more responsibility over their lives. That's why, in reality, this is quite different from what politicians have offered in the past.
So what happened Cameron to treating parents like adults and make them take responsibility? They have huge amounts of control over what their kids read, wear and watch. Did a pre-teen ever go into a shop and buy a ‘future porn star’ T shirt without some kind of parental approval?

And as for mobile phones, the internet, and films; these can easily be regulated in the home - it's called the 'off' button.


  1. Well I never knew that about Enter the Dragon. I've been a fan of Bruce Lee since I was a teenager in the early seventies.

    I think Fernman addled his brain with the nunchaku though.

    I really do despair at this country's obsession with social control, it has gotten out of hand.

  2. @TheBigYin, I agree, I'm a fan of Bruce Lee films too.

    You're right about Fernman he even went as far as censoring a scene from '80s police comedy Dragnet because it contained a poster with Bruce Lee with chainsticks in the background.

    Interestingly most of the original banned or censored films have now been released uncut and none of the original 'society will fall apart worries' have materialised - unfortunately though we have to fight this 'social control' every generation.

  3. Of course the original method of social control was religion. With traditional religion on the wane our leaders are now looking for new religions to enable them to regain control.