Friday, 20 June 2008

Big Brother Strikes Again

A couple of news reports emerged recently, which although unconnected, both I think potentially have serious implications for civil liberties here in the UK.
The first I noticed on the news ticker at the local gym and couldn't actually believe it until got home and checked it out on the bbc news website. There are proposals by the government to make ownership of drawings and computer-generated images of child sex abuse illegal. It's apparently to help "close a loophole that the government believe paedophiles are using," and it's "not about criminalising art or pornographic cartoons more generally."
After the extraordinary Gordon Lee case in the US which thankfully ended in favour of the retailer, please excuse me if I don't trust our own justice system to use any potential law to whatever motive it chooses.
This is another reminder that British society is moving further towards Orwell's nightmare 1984 vision of the Thought Police - an attempt to prevent the public from discussing or even thinking about subjects that the government deem inappropriate. It also brings to mind Florida cartoonist Mike Diana's conviction for creating offensive images with his Boiled Angel mini-comic.
Should this new British proposal become law, it would presumably mean that anyone owning a copy of Alan Moore and Melinda Gebbie's Lost Girls would technically be classed as a sex offender, having to report to police on a regular basis and fend off attacks by mobs of anti-paedophile activists.
Let's hope not though, eh?

Coincidentally there is also some fuss over plans by British publishers to place age advisories on childrens' books. This is curiously reminiscent of DC's introduction of the 'Mature Readers' advisory on comics such as Swamp Thing in the mid 1980s which Alan Moore and Frank Miller were so strongly opposed to.
Again this appears to be an ill-conceived, knee-jerk response to a genuine concern. Richard Bruton directed me to a write up in the Guardian by Phillip Pullman who is opposed to 'age banding' and covers the story pretty concisely, so I won't repeat it here.
There's also a petition that you can sign up to if you are concerned about this development:
No To Age Banding Petition
What the implications might be for comics, I dread to think.

Curiously connected to this, amazon.co.uk have been listing my second Strangehaven book Brotherhood for many months now as suitable for 'reading level' ages 4-8. Not entirely sure how they missed the naughty words, sex scenes and bloody violence, nor why they have not removed or altered this advisory despite several attempts to inform them over this matter. But maybe all it needs is an irate mother to buy a copy for her daughter's fourth birthday and go to the Daily Mail. Maybe a bit of controversy will help sales.