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Police stopped screenings of Base-Moi in Sydney last month, when the film was effectively banned (after its initial R classification), on the complaints of two members of the public - and the review board’s report is still not published*. If we let this action pass without loud and sustained objection, we deserve the Governments we will continue to get, warns Andrew L. Urban, and the loss of social tolerance that results. 

How things work in Australia – 
Case study 1:

A man goes into a pharmacy and picks up a tube of popular creme for piles, which is labelled ‘For external use only’. When he gets home, he spreads it on his toast and eats it, being violently sick. He complains to the Government and the Attorney General institutes proceedings to effect a ban on the creme. Police seize tubes at suburban chemists.

Case study 2:
The French film, Baise-Moi is released in Australia after much publicity that it contains graphic sex and violence. It is rated R (18+) and is released with the Consumer Advice that it contains "Strong sexual Violence. High-level violence. Actual Sex. Adult Themes". Over 50,000 Australians buy tickets to see the film over a three week period. Of these, two (reportedly members of the Australian Family Association and Festival of Light) complain to the Government and the Attorney General institutes proceedings to effect a ban on the film. Police march into cinemas and stop screenings.

The whole point of a classification system is to avoid having censorship.

Having voted with their feet and their money, Australians clearly demonstrated that they can read consumer advisory notices. They didn’t complain because they weren’t offended. They were ‘advised’ and knew what to expect. The millions who have chosen not to see the film have not been offended by it, either. What on earth were members of the Australian Family Association or Festival of Light thinking when they went to see Baise-Moi? Can’t they read? Or did they have an agenda to be able to complain, wanting to be offended? The whole point of the present system is to enable the public to make informed choices.

Why do their complaints have greater validity than the 50,000 who saw the film and didn’t complain that it offended them? Why isn’t the Attorney General compelled to know what he is talking about (and made to see films that require his intervention)?

In this case, it’s the minority that call the shots. And Daryl Williams is stonewalling in the righteous way of all stonewallers, in the face of clear evidence that the ban defies current public opinion. Take a look, for example, at the outpouring of opinion on The Movie Show web page devoted to feedback on the subject, where the majority of viewers express outrage that Australia is censoring art and entertainment. 

But among the many letters of outrage, is this comment from someone who signs simply as Kephan (42): “A great deal of sanctimonious humbug will be aired by those who object to the censoring of Baise Moi, but here is a minority view. I welcome any sign that thoughtful people are finally saying "enough is enough". The restoration of some standards of decency is long overdue, and I hope that this banning indicates the beginning of a trend.” 

Which sanctimonious kettle is calling the sanctimonious pot black? But the point I’m more interested in is Kephan’s perception that banning Baise-Moi will somehow begin a trend of making this society more decent. That’s the same sentiment that’s behind the manipulation of Daryl Williams, by well meaning social ignorants who suffer moral selectivism. They can be sanctimonious about graphic sex and violence SOME of the time but can’t distinguish what is a pornographic film. The one thing Baise-Moi isn’t is pornography. And the thing about standards of decency in society, Kephan, is that censorship doesn’t beget it. Suppressing the ugliness in the world from world cinema will not make us somehow more decent, nor will decency grow without understanding. It is understanding of the human condition that is enhanced by films like Baise-Moi. Ignorance is the basis of prejudice and hatred: understanding is the foundation of tolerance. 

The danger of outright censorship in this instance is that it encourages the illogical, intemperate and narrowminded view to hold sway over enlightened attitudes. If we don’t strenuously object, Government ministers will continue to act like puppets, manipulated by narrow interest groups whose agenda leads to the opposite of tolerance. And boy, do we need tolerance in this community! I just wish I had some left over for these people. 

Published June 13, 2002

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A print copy of this article has been sent to the Attorney General and to the Convenor of the CRB. If you also wish to complain that you are offended by the ban, write to:
The Hon. D. Williams 
Attorney-General's Dept. 
Robert Garran Offices 
National Circuit
BARTON A.C.T. 2600 

Ms. Maureen Shelley
Classification Review Board
C/- O.F.L.C
Locked Bag 3,

*At time of publication, June 12, 2002, the CRB’s report on its decision to refuse Base-Moi classification a month ago has still to be published.

http://www.sbs.com.au/movieshow/news.php3 – and scroll down to CENSORSHIP – BAISE-MOI – YOUR SAY

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