Censorship, self-censorship and the chilling effect
Saturday May 31st 2008, 3:10 pm

This is it- this is the image from a postcard invitation to the opening of a Bill Henson exhibition opening that Hetty Johnson wants to use to put Henson and the Oxley9 gallery owners in jail.

image: Bill Henson, Untitled 2008

This is the one of a very few that Kevin Rudd looked at for 20 seconds in the middle of an on-air interview (he has yet to see an entire Henson exhibition), at which point KRudd’s knees jerked hard enough to break the table as he branded Henson’s photos “revolting,” a view he has since shamelessly and thoughtlessly reiterated.

Rudd is certainly entitled to his opinion as a private citizen but has conflated that opinion with government policy as PM. The knock-on result is that self-styled child protection advocates are now confident that they have free rein to go after any Henson work displayed anywhere, at will. This creates a chilling effect, where publishers feel obligated to self-censor lest they be the next witch to be hunted.

The Age published the image last week along with this story but have since removed it from their site after a complaint to ACMA, who have referred the material to the official censor, the Office of Film and Literature Classification. The Age story once looked like this. The ABC have published the image, albeit censored, with a black bar across the model’s breasts and her face pixellated. Other news ops have failed to publish the image altogether.

Museums across Australia are falling all over themselves to remove Henson works from display, some going to the point of calling police on themselves. Invariably, police have instructed some to remove works from display but have not confiscated them nor have obtained warrants to do so. Many are now languishing in dusty storage, well away from the prying eyes of those who might (shock, horror) discuss them- but more importantly, away from the prying eyes of overzealous child protection advocates.

Self-censorship, under a climate of fear and witch hunting, encouraged by the government, is the very worst kind.

NSW Police have handed their case to the DPP. Nicholas Cowdery will now decide whether to lay charges against Henson, the Oxley9 Gallery and presumably The Age, if not yours truly.


Worth a thousand words…

Link to interesting video about Bill Henson’s photographic work:

Comment by Jate 05.31.08 @ 3:22 pm

Thanks for the link.

Comment by weez 05.31.08 @ 3:51 pm

From the ‘Nazis Are Not Getting Any Smarter’ department:

One of our local neo-nazis, Darrin ‘Gay Porn & Sex Toys’ Hodges, would like you to complain about this website to ACMA.


Re: Brian Stokes (of FDB) displaying child pornography on his website.
Reply #22 on: May 31, 2008, 10:04:01 PM

Brian “child porn king” stokes is at it again. This time displaying an image that the AMCA has caused the Melbourne Age to remove from its website. Feel free to complain to the AMCA about Stoke’s taste for child pornography under the guise of “art” – http://web.acma.gov.au/AimsWeb/webcontent.jsp

Be my guest, go right ahead! All depends on how much time you want to waste and how loud you want to be laughed at. Oh- and that’s ‘ACMA’, not ‘AMCA,’ you moron.

I somehow don’t think the Australian Communications and Media Authority will be able to act against a site hosted outside of Australia– call me crazy, I could be wrong… but hey, have a go. 😆

What’s funniest is that Hodges knew full well mgk is hosted in Dallas, having lodged false complaints of child porn on mgk to my host already, yet wants his flying monkeys to report me to ACMA. 🙄

Yeah, man- go for it!

Bustin. A. Gut. 😆

Comment by weez 06.01.08 @ 4:18 am

Board clears Henson images – David Marr

Comment by weez 06.02.08 @ 4:15 am

Through a lens darkly – Germaine Greer

Any man who calls Henson’s pictures “revolting” protests too much.

Comment by weez 06.02.08 @ 2:44 pm

Aren’t our Blogger pages also hosted OS? Should we all be afeared of Rudd’s Ratbags? (Yeah I know… stupid hippy.)

Comment by hip 06.04.08 @ 6:22 pm

Yep, Blogger is on Google’s facilities in Mountain View, Cowlifornia.

Australia has no constitutional free speech boilerplates, so I’d never run a site hosted nor registered in Australia. Ask Richard Neville what he thought when Melbourne I/T invalidated the domain name ‘johnhowardpm.org‘ for his satirical take on HoWARd ‘apologising’ for the war in Iraq.

Should we be afeared? You betcha. KRudd demonstrated by jerking his knees halfway to Mars over some images he had not even seen that his religious conservativism is going to turn into outright fascism.

Host offshore- it’s the only safe bet.

Comment by weez 06.04.08 @ 6:41 pm

Storm in an A-Cup – Richard Neville

But why pick on an art, when trainer bras and sexy lingerie for 6 years olds are hot items, when 5 years olds go to beauty parlours and have makeovers to celebrate their birthdays, when the advertising industrys’ use of very young “models” is morally questionable at so many levels, when ads for jeans are shot like pornography, when ads for lipstick are shot like pornography, when ads for cars are shot like pornography, and when 75% of the internet is pornography.

Comment by weez 06.04.08 @ 7:32 pm

Just as this writer has been saying all along…

Henson photo not porn, says censor

David Marr

IT’S official. The picture of the naked girl that sparked the Bill Henson fuss is not pornography.

The sight of her on an invitation to the photographer’s Sydney exhibition two weeks ago provoked shock and outrage, but the Classifications Board has now declared the picture “mild” and safe for many children.

Yesterday the Herald also learned that the Director of Public Prosecutions was on the verge of advising NSW police that any prosecution of Henson was unlikely to succeed. In Canberra, Federal Police also announced that no charges would be laid over photographs in the Australian National Gallery.

The Henson affair appears close to collapse.

Police seized 32 of his photographs from the Roslyn Oxley9 gallery in Paddington on May 23 following uproar on talkback radio. The Premier, Morris Iemma, declared the pictures “offensive and disgusting” and the Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd, called them “absolutely revolting”.

Since then, Henson photographs have been removed from the walls of two regional NSW galleries and impounded at the National Gallery. Stacks of the invitation, along with copies of Art World, a new magazine containing Henson images, have also been seized by NSW police.

But the Classification Board, under its new chief, former ABC head Donald McDonald, is far less troubled by Henson’s work. Earlier this week it cleared five images – four of them had been partly censored – and it has now given the young girl on the invitation a rating of PG.

The board’s guidelines state: “Material classified PG may contain material which some children find confusing or upsetting, and may require the guidance of parents or guardians. It is not recommended for viewing or playing by persons under 15 without guidance from parents or guardians.”

The picture came to the board for classification when it was found in a blog discussing pornography and the sexualisation of children. The classifiers found the “image of breast nudity creates a viewing impact that is mild and justified by context and is not sexualised to any degree”.

While a minority of the board thought the impact of the picture was “moderate”, none of the classifiers called for any restriction on its display.

Of course, the blog in question can’t be this one. ACMA would not have acted on a complaint about a site which is not hosted in Australia.

Comment by weez 06.06.08 @ 4:43 am

Just to put it all in perspective, child sexual exploitation IS a real problem.

However, when wowsers scream ‘won’t somebody think of the children!!!’ when it’s not warranted, it dramatically devalues the pursuit of real, valuable, child protection- and speaks a lot more to the self-promotion of the complainants than to the protection of children.

Comment by weez 06.06.08 @ 5:49 am

“it dramatically devalues the pursuit of real, valuable, child protection…”

Bang on. That message devalues Hetty J’s confected outrage rather neatly.

Time to turn up the heat on Fred Nile.

Comment by hip 06.06.08 @ 5:20 pm

Ol’ Freddy Nile has got a shitload to answer for out in Islam-den.

Comment by weez 06.06.08 @ 5:42 pm

pretty ordinary pic, methinks .. Have seen much more “artistic nudes, can’t see what all the fuss is about.

Comment by Davo 06.06.08 @ 6:38 pm

Yep, it’s a fairly tame image- rated PG in Australia. It’s not ‘explicit’ (sexualised) thus is not subject to US “2257” laws.

This hasn’t stopped mad bog Irish Catholic anti-porn activist Gregory Carlin from lodging several bogus child porn complaints about this site (thanks to TP for loose lips).

‘Sokay, I won’t be intimidated- and mgk will remain online as long as I want it to and in this form. No cathlick wowser asshats are going to instruct me on what I can and can’t publish.

Comment by weez 06.25.08 @ 5:34 pm

whats the big deal about? its not porn, its nudity, just the media making a issue out of it.

Comment by mark 07.19.08 @ 7:31 pm