[CJ Hinke of FACT comments: We like boobs (a lot!) And let’s face it, everybody’s got ‘em. As a ThaiVisa poster noted: “Thailand’s Got Tits!” Boobs are depicted in murals in nearly every wat in Thailand and regularly appear on govt webpages. Boobs are beautiful! So screw all this ultramoralistic, political posturing. What’s really obscene is breast implants. Lewdness is in the mind of the beholder…and a lot of govt bureaucrats apparently have dirty minds. Incidentally, the National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission issued the top fine to Channel 3—THB500,000 (we hope FACT co-founder and NBTC commissioner Supinya Klangnarong boycotted this travesty) even though the boobs were pixelated. Guess even pixels are immoral. (Like isn’t the purpose of pixelation to hide the nasty bits?) I suppose none of these prudes have been to an upstairs Patpong pussy-painting show!]

Thailand’s topless talent show shock: Are some breasts more equal than others?

Kaewmala

Siam Voices: June 19, 2012

http://asiancorrespondent.com/84500/after-thailands-bare-breasted-talent-show-shock-are-some-breasts-are-more-artistically-equal-than-others/

It’s bound to happen again – and again. That is, yet another scandal exposing tender feminine flesh and Thailand’s uneasy relationship with female breasts. Why, for all its peculiar mammophobia (the correct term is mastrophobia by the way), Thailand just can’t get enough of breasts, especially the bare kind. It’s an untreated national psychosis.

Bare-breast painting

This time the Thai fear (or fixation) of female breasts was stirred by a Thailand’s Got Talent contestant, who stripped and painted with her bare breasts on national television. She definitely shocked the audience and got the lone female judge quite upset.

Given the studio audience’s reactions – a mixture of gasps, laughs, smiles and cheers – it was clear the audience was more delighted than not. The two male judges let the contestant go on to the next round, while the female judge was aghast, outraged and walked off the stage in a hissy fit. See for yourself in this YouTube video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sDlOxMLk_bY&feature=player_embedded.

Personally, this bare-boob painting neither tickles my artistic sensory response nor offends me. But who am I to judge? Is it talent? Is it art? Is it a cheap, surefire way to get noticed? I’m not quite sure what to make of it. As it happens it triggered quite passionate reactions among the conservative Thai public (and many chuckles in the not-so-conservative quarters).

Swiftly and unfailingly the Ministry of Culture (abbreviated here as ThaiMiniCult) came out to express its customary outrage. Culture Minister Ms. Sukumol Khunploem said:

There must be limits on artistic expression. I was shocked when I saw the clip. The ministry will meet the organisers of Thailand’s Got Talent to get an explanation.

Since the show was pre-recorded, the “inappropriate” content should have been edited out, she added.

Then there’s the famous Ms. Rabiabrat Pongpanich, a staunch defender of Thai family values and self-appointed Thai culture watchdog, who growled for the Bangkok Post:

Thai society does not accept this. The police will consider whether this is obscene. This also shows that Thai society is ailing and it’s becoming a sex-consuming society.

Their reactions are all very predictable really. We’ve heard all this before from both ThaiMiniCult and Ms. Rabiabrat, whom I myself have honored as one of the leading Thai culturalists (afflicted by a grand delusion of Thai CULTure with accompanying symptoms of historical mammary amnesia. See more here.)

Art or obscenity?

What is art is highly subjective, especially when it comes to abstract painting. For instance, which is art to you, among all these silly abstract paintings? I reckon what’s identified as art in this case would be different from one person to the next.

And what’s a paintbrush as an artistic tool as opposed to limbs, boobs or trunks?

Upon further reflection the bare-boob painting reminds me of Thai elephant paintings, though admittedly the comparison might have worked better if the artist had used her nose instead of her breasts as the painting tool, but then that wouldn’t have been so interesting, would it?

Come to think of it, are elephant-trunk paintings art? Would anyone – human or elephant – complain that this “Foxy Lady” painting is obscene?

The judge vs. the artist

In any case, what’s interesting here isn’t whether or not bare-breast painting is art, or how much talent there is in the artist. What interests me is the female judge, who to me is a stunningly beautiful woman, even when she cringes. But more than her beauty, I was captivated by her reactions.

The judge Pornchita Na Songkhla, who is a highly versatile talent herself (multiple award-winning actress, model, singer, presenter, spokesperson, cultural ambassador, talk show host, etc. – see her Wikipedia page) delivered her verdict in a style befitting a judge on Thailand’s top talent show. Benz (her nickname) told the bare-breast artist after she completed her painting performance (at 2:40 min):

I’m not saying it’s bad, but it’s inappropriate in Thai culture. Benz does not support this sort of thing.

 The judge vs. the artist

Judge Benz’s hauteur was impressive, but the contestant took it admirably well, with a nice smile as you can see.

But Judge Benz didn’t stop there. After her fellow male judges gave the contestant a green light to go on to the next round, both agreeing the performance was art, she cried, “Are you serious?,” maintaining her impressive judgely hauteur. Then after a few more expressions of incredulity (at 3.42 min), she swung her axe with a no less impressive theatrical flare:

Incidentally I’m not artistic. So no go from me!

And some more:

I really don’t get it! I don’t get it! I don’t like it!

And then she stormed off stage. Boy, did I enjoy her theatrics!

The master vs. the apprentice

Judge Benz’s outrage was delicious. Almost as delicious as (what looked like) a chocolate-covered body of hers – beautifully, artistically photographed less than two years ago. No wonder she was outraged! (Look at the bare-breast artist on the right. What a haphazard, unpolished way to make art with a woman’s body, Benz must have thought. Not to mention one can’t eat paint!)

Judge Benz in IMAGE Magazine in 2010 vs. The bare-breast painting contestant in 2012

It must have been painful for Benz to watch the girl’s inexperienced attempt at sauciness. For this Benz has my sympathy. The aspiring artist definitely could learn from the master like Benz. I am inclined to think that Benz must have just used MiniCult’s “inappropriate in Thai culture” reason as an excuse to cover the fact that she couldn’t bear watching such ineptness in an amateur. It would explain why she was so angry.

I imagine, while Benz was wincing, several glorious images of herself were passing through her mind. If she was so inclined, she might have snapped at the contestant, “Watch and learn, girl!”

That’s how a woman should pose covered up with sticky stuff on her skin… Not like that!

Inanimate canvases are so passé. Look at possible alternatives, you little noob!

And if you have to wear clothes, wear them in style!.. Shed that carpenter shirt. No, no, not here! Keep it on!

It’s undeniable, the skills of the apprentice are light years away from those of the master. There is absolutely no doubt that there is much Judge Benz could teach the bare-breast painter, if she would ever be inclined to accept an apprentice. (Get more glimpses of Judge Benz’s masterly skills here.)

Just one small question clings to my mind though: How the talented Judge Benz would explain to the Ministry of Culture (which once employed her as its spokesperson) how the bare-breast painting on her show was inappropriate in Thai culture, and how her modeling for the IMAGE Magazine in 2010 was not.

Would her explanation be “some breasts are more artistically equal than others”?

h/t Bangkok Pundit for Benz’s modeling images, which are from Postjung.com.

UPDATE: (1:50pm 19 June 2012) …

This bare-breast painting show has got a huge buzz not only in Thailand but also internationally. There has supposedly been so much outrage that the Thailand’s Got Talent’s producer came out to apologize to the Thai public. I bet the TGT people were counting on morally hyper-sensitive Thais’ reactions to garner domestic and international headlines. (There are even suggestions that the bare-breast painter was hired to go on the show. If that’s true, the show would pretty much have been staged, possibly even Judge Benz’s outrage. The staging is entirely plausible given the nature of Got Talent shows in other countries.)

Credit goes to the crafty TGT producer Work Point or whoever in TGT that approved the bare-breast painter to go on the show. The stunt, if it was a stunt, has certainly worked. Even realizing this, I still can’t resist. TGT has certainly given much for the public to discuss. Thailand does need more discussion on sexuality and could loosen up a lot, especially concerning the female sex.

This morning, a Twitter friend shared a YouTube video of another topless TGT contestant from last year, a young man who showed a lot more than bare breasts. See Judge Benz’s reactions to the male contestant’s nudity: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZeWIwu7g-SY&feature=player_embedded

The gender reversal of the contestant and the reversed reactions of the one female and two male judges give some food for thought. Staged or not, it’d appear that not all Thai breasts are equal, and some breasts are viewed and treated as artistically more equal than others, depending on gender, timing, and perhaps whether the show needs a scandal to boost its ratings. And when it comes to outrage, women can be counted on to bear the brunt and show expected contempt for “culturally inappropriate” display of bare breasts.

h/t Associated Press’s Thanyarat Doksone for the YouTube video from last year

Kaewmala is a writer, a blogger and an avid twitterer. She blogs at thaiwomantalks.com and is a provocateur of Thai language, culture and politics @thai_talk. Kaewmala is the author of a book that looks at the linguistic and cultural aspects of Thai sexuality called “Sex Talk”.

COMMENTARY

Kong Rithdee

Bangkok Post: June 9, 2012

http://www.bangkokpost.com/opinion/opinion/297250/ladda-gone-but-the-thought-police-aren-t

“Cultural Surveillance”: Ladda Tangsupachai

Amidst the ballyhoo of black-screen TV, broadcast-rights rivalry, football fracas, reconciliation war and constitution horror, we return to visit the most beloved media agency of all: the Cultural Surveillance Office, aka the Rottweiler, the guardian of Thainess, or the Department of Propriety.

Last month, the Culture Ministry made a surprising move: they transferred (“promoted”) Ladda Tangsupachai, the controversial head of the surveillance office whose past record inspires shudders among artists, singers, actors, and anyone who dares test the limits of official appropriateness. Ms Ladda’s new post is analyst and supervisor of the southern cultural policy, an appointment that has sparked an impromptu joke about the South bearing the brunt, once again, of Central prejudices and conservatism.

 One of Ms Ladda’s last campaigns was against the fad of planking.

Whether or not there’s a political angle to this move is a moot point, one can never judge the depths of such a labyrinth. Ms Ladda’s latest involvement was to push for the new bill to drum up the funding for “safe and creative media” – a name that evokes either easy optimism or necessary caution, for “safe”, in linguistic cartwheeling can be a euphemism for censorship. The details of the law, which has been proposed to parliament, are not available, but the earlier draft contains a clause that the National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission should inject money into the fund which will be distributed to “producers of safe content”, whatever that means. It was widely expected that Ms Ladda, a senior officer, would supervise the funding once the law had been passed. But now, no more.

While parliament, which has recently adopted the lively bar-room brawl and thuggish tournament style, is embroiled in the reconciliation mess, the “safe media” bill is likely to wait. But let’s make sure we keep an eye on it. Not that we don’t want safe TV, but we shouldn’t confuse precaution with prohibition, and protection with moral paranoia.

That last term is what we often attribute to a surveillance agency. Ms Ladda’s transfer ended her long tenure at the cultural watchdog marred by resentment, scandals, and even T-shirts bearing her infamous quote. To be honest, there have been sighs of relief at the news of her move. But to be fair, Ms Ladda, to whom I talked personally on a few occasions, is a steadfast believer in her cause: to protect the nobility of Thai culture and weed out unpleasant surprises, from short skirts to TV bitchfests. She’s a crusader on the eternal horseback to Jerusalem – her war cry is authentic, and her dogmatism is transparent. Her run-ins with the more liberal sections of society illustrate the wider contest to own, or define, the meaning of Thai culture in the 21st century.

It’d take hours to revisit her high-profile outcries at media “indecency’, but here are the two most infamous cases: in 2008, Ms Ladda gave an interview to Time magazine [http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,1670261,00.html] and described Thai film audiences as “uneducated” and thus needing parenting from the ministry (somebody made T-shirts featuring the quote); then last year, she angered many by speaking out against a hit soap series and the portrayal of its men-lusting female lead, which led to an episode of national hysteria.

Lost in translation: Many Westerners believe their dogs to be enlightened. Ladda banned this image!

Symptomatic though not necessarily emblematic, Ms Ladda is easily villainised, sometimes unfairly. The problem is not her; the problem is the fact that the government blithely believes that something called the Cultural Surveillance Office is even necessary. As if we were a mansion so susceptible to cultural vandalism, or a terminal patient in need of 24-hour vigilance, or an ungodly girl under perpetual threat of demonic possession. The fact that we still need to spend tax money on this agency is an issue worthy of public hearing. And that the government still relies on the watchdog’s (dis) service betrays the feudal mindset that it believes the people are so weak they can’t think for themselves.

Society should be trusted to be its own watchdog. Top-down control isn’t working any more in the new environment of great flux, of rapid advances in technology, and of heady, global interconnectedness that keeps redefining “culture”. Civic bodies, consumers organisations, industry associations – say, TV producers or filmmakers – and the audiences themselves should be encouraged to have the power to control the media’s performance and to decide what’s appropriate and what’s not in an organic way. Governmental parenting is as dated as last week’s football results, and the Culture Ministry is too valuable to spend its time, like East German thought police, carrying out surveillance on the people. It’s a shame that they still don’t realise this at this hour.

Kong Rithdee is Deputy Life Editor, Bangkok Post

Mwangi G

All Africa: June 1, 2012

OPINION

The issue of censorship has been on my mind a lot these last two weeks. In fact, ever since the issue of the Spear hit the headlines here in South Africa, I have been thinking of the many excuses given by the authorities whenever they want to stop something that will embarrass them getting out.

The Spear, in this context was a controversial portrait of South Africa’s President Jacob Zuma in which his genitals are exposed. The painting was done by a white South African artist, Brett Murray. [Note to readers: As this is taking place in South Africa, mentioning people's race is vital in a story such as this.]

Immediately the news of the painting hit the public domain there were those in support of the painting and those who opposed it. The painting’s supporters said it was all about the freedom of expression whilst those who were against the painting decided it was a racist piece of art as it depicted the president in such a disrespectful manner.

There was a lot of talk of freedoms and rights and arguments as to whether the freedom of expression as guaranteed in the South African constitution was absolute or whether there were limits. From where I sat, I must say the painting made me squirm a little when I thought of the shame and embarrassment that would be visited on the president’s immediate family including his school-going children.

But on the other hand, the journalist in me who has been a long-term supporter of Article 19, the London-based human rights organisation with a specific mandate and focus on the defence and promotion of freedom of expression and freedom of information worldwide, I felt that no matter what my personal feelings, nobody had a right to ban the painting.

The whole affair reminded me of a few times in my professional life as a journalist that I had been at the business end of censorship. The first time was when I worked for the now defunct Kenya Times Media Trust. The Kenya Times newspaper was owned by the then ruling Kanu party and fairly often, there would be calls to the senior editors purporting to be from State House (occupied then by President Daniel arap Moi) demanding that one story or the other be killed. It was the day of the first ever Saba Saba (July 7) riots in 1990 and I had joined some of my more senior colleagues on the news desk to report on the protests in Nairobi. It was an exciting beat for a young fellow such as I was and a tough day covering the violence of the police on the demonstrators.

We got back to the newsroom all pumped up and ready to write up the day’s events but as we sat down to our typewriters, there were already whispers that “State House” would kill the stories. Undeterred, we wrote our stories and developed our photographs and left the office that evening secure in the knowledge that we would carry the news of the day just like the other two independent newspapers of the time, the Nation and the Standard, though perhaps with a pro-government twist.

You can imagine my shock and disappointment the next morning when I ran to the news vendor on our street to buy the paper only to find that while the other two newspapers had saturation coverage of the riots, my newspaper didn’t even mention them. It was as though we had been on a different planet. Apparently the call purporting to be from State House had come and my then editor had quickly capitulated, whilst the editors of the other two newspapers had not.

Another memorable incident was years later when I was working at another newspaper where the cartoonist had come up with a drawing of the First Lady sitting on the President’s back dictating a press statement to him about family size matters. This time it was not State House that killed the cartoon, but the editors of the newspaper who felt that it would be in poor taste and worse still, it might provoke the wrath of Mama Lucy.

The cartoonist decided not to hand in a replacement drawing and the newspaper appeared the next day with a photograph where the cartoon should have been. I ended up keeping a copy of the cartoon and for many years displayed proudly on my wall of photographs in my flat. The point I am making is that though the censors stopped the cartoon from being placed in the newspaper, it was still seen by hundreds of thousands of others who saw it on the artist’s website and so the censorship proved to have been a failure. The same goes for the Zuma painting, even before it was defaced by vandals, it had been seen by millions on the internet and continues to be seen by millions more.

 

Rais: Blocking Filth Not Censorship

Malaysian Digest: June 6, 2012

http://malaysiandigest.com/news/49311-rais-blocking-filth-not-censorship.html

 

FACT: Is he old enough to use the Internet?

Information, Communications and Culture Minister Datuk Seri Dr Rais Yatim said enforcing laws to block filth on the internet does not mean the internet is being censored, reported The Star.

“Cheating, gaming or gambling, pornography and child pornography and phishing are offences.

“To disregard this purely for freedom of the Internet is not right,” he said after opening the Selangor 1Malaysia Social Media Convention here yesterday.

Rais (pic) was responding to a suggestion by former prime minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad that Malaysia should enforce some form of regulatory control to block filth and punish those who corrupt the minds of internet users.

Rais said he was happy to accept Dr Mahathir’s view as the former premier had previously guaranteed freedom of the internet, adding that the government is seeking to curb users from abusing the freedom of expression.

“Freedom on the Internet should be used constructively and not to slander others.

“Although a decision has not been reached, the ministry is studying various approaches that may be adopted,” he said.

He said the availability of broadband and the application of social media like Faebook and Twitter must be wisely used.

“We must not slander each other. If we have to criticize, post your tweet or Facebook (message) based on facts,” he said, adding that the people would be more convinced by a certain stand or argument that is based on facts.

Department of Mental Health Issues Warning against Exhibitionist Websites

TAN Network: May 24, 2012

http://www.thaivisa.com/forum/topic/557485-thai-mental-health-dept-issues-a-warning-against-exhibitionist-websites/

 

     

The Department of Mental Health has issued a warning against exhibitionist websites promoting indecent public exposures.

There has been an exhibitionist website published on the internet showing hundreds of photographs of women of various ages exposing themselves in public places.

The viewers could also give scores on the photos and post comments to encourage these women to show off even more obscene poses.

Many young women are seen in photos taken inside a BTS train, bus, pedestrian bridge and even inside a Buddhist temple.

Many are concerned that these youth have been lured to expose themselves just to garner some strangers’ attention.

Spokesperson to the Department of Mental Health, Doctor Panpimol Wipulakorn, has warned of consequences to every action, even within the online communities.

She is asking young people to distinguish what is appropriate and what is not.

She said that what seems to be a harmless fun may have severe repercussions in the future, while urging everyone to think carefully before doing something they might regret later.

Ogi Ogas

Wired: May 24, 2012

http://www.wired.com/wiredscience/2012/05/opinion-naked-sexting/

 

Over the past two years, more photographs of bare-naked celebrity anatomy have been leaked to the public eye than over the previous two centuries: Scarlett Johansson snapping a blurry self-portrait while sprawled on her bed, Vanessa Hudgens posing for a cellphone in a bracelet and a smile, Congressman Wiener touting a Blackberry and a mirror in the House Members Gym, Jessica Alba, Christina Aguilera, Miley Cyrus, Ron Artest, Charlize Theron, Chris Brown, Bret Favre, Rihanna, Pete Wentz, Ke$ha, and dozens more.

This flood of celebrity skin has prompted folks to wonder, ‘Why are so many famous people exhibitionists?’ The source of all this au naturel flaunting lies not in the culture of fame, but in the design of our sexual brains. In fact, research has unveiled two distinct explanations: Female exhibitionism appears to be primarily cortical, while male exhibitionism is mainly subcortical.

“The desire of the man is for the woman,” Madame de Stael famously penned, “The desire of the woman is for the desire of the man.” Being the center of sexual attention is a fundamental female turn-on dramatized in women’s fantasies, female-authored erotica, and in the cross-cultural gush of sultry self-portraits.

Studies have found that more than half of women’s sexual fantasies reflect the desire to be sexually irresistible. In one academic survey, 47 percent of women reported the fantasy of seeing themselves as a striptease dancer, harem girl, or other performer. Fifty percent fantasized about delighting many men.

“Being desired is very arousing to women,” observes clinical psychologist Marta Meana, president of the Society for Sex Therapy and Research. “An increasing body of data is indicating that the way women feel about themselves may be very important to their experience of sexual desire and subjective arousal, possibly even outweighing the impact of their partners’ view of them.”

The source of all this au naturel flaunting lies not in the culture of fame, but in the design of our sexual brains.

The desire to be desired drives young women’s willingness to enter wet T-shirt contests and flash what their mama gave them at Mardi Gras. Whereas male exhibitionism is considered a psychiatric disorder and sometimes a crime, female exhibitionism is rarely considered a social problem. Just the opposite: It’s exploited commercially. Multi-millionaire Joe Francis built his Girls Gone Wild empire by taping college girls stripping down for his no-budget camera crew. How does he persuade young women to disrobe? He offers them a T-Shirt and a chance to be ogled by millions of men.

“Look I’m human, & just like every girl in this world, I admire my body so i take pics,” wrote singer Teyana Taylor after her graphic self-portraits were leaked. International data supports Taylor’s contention that the female exhibitionist urge is universal. In Brazil, Japan, Ghana, and the USA, well-trafficked websites offer galleries of tens of thousands of racy amateur self-portraits surreptitiously downloaded from women’s private MySpace or Facebook accounts or maliciously provided by ex-boyfriends. It’s not just celebrities who share intimate imagery.

Though men are so eager to gaze upon women’s candid photos they’re willing to risk jail time by hacking cellphones, pictures of men’s private parts usually come to public attention when a recipient is offended; German Olympian Ariane Friedrich, for example, outed a man on Facebook for sending her a photograph of his manhood. These pickle shots tend to elicit protests and consternation. Men do not question why Scarlett Johansson or Jessica Alba might want to sext bare skin to a guy. But women everywhere ask, ‘What are men thinking when they send us photos of their junk?’ The answer is that men may not be thinking at all; they may be compelled by an unconscious, evolutionary urge inherited from our primate ancestors.

Male monkeys and apes routinely display their penises to females to indicate sexual interest. Primatologist Frans de Waal writes in Peacemaking Among Primates:

Since bonobos can sheath their penis, nothing is visible most of the time. When the organ does appear, however, it is not only impressive in size, but its bright pink color makes it stand out against the dark fur. Males invite others by presenting with legs wide apart and back arched, often flicking the penis up and down — a powerful signal.

Men do not share women’s desire to be desired. Instead, they emulate their bonobo brethren: The internet is saturated with penis self-portraits from every nation on Earth. At any given moment, one in four cameras on the webcam network ChatRoulette are aimed at a penis. On the adult networking site Fantasti.cc, 36 percent of men use an image of a penis as their avatar; only 5 percent of women use a vagina. On Reddit’s heterosexual Gone Wild forum in 2010, where users were free to post uncensored pictures of themselves, 35 percent of images self-posted by men consisted of penises.

Though hordes of men pay to peruse amateur photography depicting the anatomy of ladies, not a single website collects cash from ladies interested in surveying amateur photography of phalluses.

Anyone who has seen a koteka, the elaborate two-foot-long penis cap worn by men in Papua New Guinea, can easily believe that men have inherited our hominid cousins’ exhibitionist urge regarding the penis. In fact, male exhibitionism has long been understood by clinical psychologists as a non-dangerous compulsion: Men who flash their organ to strangers rarely seek contact afterward, instead describing a powerful sense of relief from the display alone. Of course, the yawn is also a powerful biological compulsion, but as we learned in grade school it’s always preferable to cover your mouth.

Though hordes of men pay to peruse amateur photography depicting the anatomy of ladies, not a single website collects cash from ladies interested in surveying amateur photography of phalluses. It is this marked gender difference in interest that reveals the dichotomous evolutionary pressures shaping male and female exhibitionism: Women feel the conscious desire to catch the universally attentive male eye, but since women’s erotic attention is rarely ensnared by a penis, the male exhibitionist urge is comparatively vestigial.

There are profitable penis sites, however. They boast an engaged clientele who view male sexting as neither troubling nor distasteful and reveal the universality of male sexual circuitry. Who appreciates leaked shots of The Game‘s well-endowed Hosea Chanchez with the same enthusiasm heterosexual guys show for leaked shots of Mad Men‘s well-endowed Christina Hendricks? Gay men.

Cynicism Redefined: Why The Copyright Lobby Loves Child Porn

Rick Falkvinge

Falkvinge on Infopolicy: May 23, 2012

http://falkvinge.net/2012/05/23/cynicism-redefined-why-the-copyright-lobby-loves-child-porn

 

“Child pornography is great,” the man said enthusiastically. “Politicians do not understand file sharing, but they understand child pornography, and they want to filter that to score points with the public. Once we get them to filter child pornography, we can get them to extend the block to file sharing.”

The date was May 27, 2007, and the man was Johan Schlüter, head of the Danish Anti-Piracy Group (Antipiratgruppen). He was speaking in front of an audience where the press had not been invited; it was assumed to be copyright industry insiders only. It wasn’t. Christian Engström, who’s now a Pirate Member of the European Parliament, net activist Oscar Swartz, and I were also there.

“My friends,” Schlüter said. “We must filter the Internet to win over online file sharing. But politicians don’t understand that file sharing is bad, and this is a problem for us. Therefore, we must associate file sharing with child pornography. Because that’s something the politicians understand, and something they want to filter off the Internet.”

“We are developing a child pornography filter in cooperation with the IFPI and the MPA so we can show politicians that filtering works,” he said. “Child pornography is an issue they understand.” Schlüter grinned broadly.

I couldn’t believe my ears as I heard this the first time. But the strategy has been set into motion worldwide.

Schlüter’s plan worked like clockwork. Denmark was the first country to censor AllOfMP3.com, the (fully legal) Russian music store, and is now censoring The Pirate Bay off the internet. The copyright industry is succeeding in creating a fragmented Internet.

COLUMN REPOST, UPDATED

This is a repost of a previous TorrentFreak column, which has been updated to reflect recent events. The book The Case For Copyright Reform also describes the scene with Mr. Schlüter, on page 14.

This is why you see the copyright lobby bring up child pornography again and again and again. They are using it as a battering ram for censoring any culture outside of their own distribution channels. You can Google the term in any language, together with the copyright lobby organization’s site in that language, and see them continuously coming back to it.

In Sweden, the copyright industry lobbyist Per Strömbäck has publicly admitted it being one of his best arguments. Try Googling for the Swedish word for child pornography on the Swedish lobby site and see if you get any hits in any articles. If there was no direct association strategy, you’d not expect to get any hits at all – you’d not expect them to touch that subject. Instead, you get over 70 hits.

The reasoning is simple and straightforward. Once you have established that someone who is in a position to censor other people’s communication has a responsibility to do so, the floodgates open and those middlemen can be politically charged with censoring anything that somebody objects to being distributed.

It is not hard to see why the copyright lobby is pursuing this avenue so ferociously.

It doesn’t really matter that censorship at the DNS level – legislating that one particular set of DNS servers must lie – is ridiculously easy to circumvent: it’s just a matter of changing your DNS provider. The idea is to create a political environment where censorship of undesirable information is seen as something natural and positive. Once that principle has been established, the next step is to force a switch to more efficient censorship filters at the IP or even the content level.

News reached us this week that the so-called six strikes arrangement with Internet Service Providers in the United States has been delayed, but is expected to take effect this year. This is a quite unpopular agreement between ISPs and the copyright lobby to police the net outside the realm of the law. The arrangement, it turns out, also stems from the copyright industry’s love of child pornography.

“We pointed out to [the governor] that there are overlaps between the child porn problem and piracy,” Mr. Sherman [The RIAA president] said, “because all kinds of files, legal and otherwise, are traded on peer-to-peer networks.” (New York Times)

Sound familiar? It should. It’s a page right out of the 2007 scene where the Danish Mr. Schlüter talked about the copyright lobby’s policymaking strategy of associating non-monopolistic sharing of culture with the rape of defenseless children.

This association strategy has now worked in the United States, too.

In the United Kingdom, when the courts ruled that the Internet Service Providers must use their existing child porn filter to also censor The Pirate Bay, who do you think gave the courts that idea? When the court didn’t just mandate that The Pirate Bay be censored, but gave the ISPs explicit instructions for what technology to use to do it? That incident is probably the clearest example of the success of this association strategy, yet.

Just when you think the copyright lobby can’t sink any lower, they surprise you again. And it gets worse. Much worse.

In Europe, the copyright lobby succeeded in pushing Commissioner Cecilia “Censilia” Malmström to create a similar censorship regime, despite clear setbacks in these ambitions from the European Court of Justice which defended human rights and freedom to communicate against internet censorship.

But taking one step back, would censorship of child pornography be acceptable in the first place? Is the copyright industry perhaps justified in this particular pursuit, beyond their real goal of blocking non-monopolistic distribution?

There are two layers of answers to that. The first is the principal one, whether pre-trial censorship is ever correct. History tells us that it plainly isn’t, not under any circumstance. End of story.

But more emotionally, we can also turn to a German group named Mogis. It is a support group for adult people who were abused as children, and is the only one of its kind. They are very outspoken and adamant on the issue of censoring child pornography.

Censorship hides the problem and causes more children to be abused, they say. Don’t close your eyes, but see reality and act on it. As hard as it is to force oneself to be confronted emotionally with this statement, it is rationally understandable that a problem can’t be addressed by hiding it. One of their slogans is “Crimes should be punished and not hidden”.

This puts the copyright industry’s efforts in perspective. In this context they don’t care in the slightest about children, only about their control over distribution channels. If you ever thought you knew cynical, this takes it to a whole new level.

The conclusion is as unpleasant as it is inevitable. The copyright industry lobby is actively trying to hide egregious crimes against children, obviously not because they care about the children, but because the resulting censorship mechanism can be a benefit to their business if they manage to broaden the censorship in a follup-up stage. All this in defense of their lucrative monopoly that starves the public of culture.

It’s hard to comprehend that there are people who are so shameless that they would actually do this. But there are. Every time you think the copyright lobby has sunk as morally low as is humanly possible, they come up with new ways to surprise you.

“With time, it becomes clearer that these people will stop at nothing.” — Danish reporter Henrik Moltke, about a (different) recent run-in with the copyright lobby, and who reminded me of this episode and who observed firsthand the next occasion when Schlüter and I met, when I reminded Schlüter of his remarks in front of a silent audience. (Thanks, Henrik.)

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