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20 September 2014 13:45 (South Africa)
Opinionista Styli Charalambous

Beware the state of Nanny McUnfree

  • Styli Charalambous
Amid all the yackety-yack about freedom of choice versus censorship, pornography and moral rectitude, we need to ponder whether our children are more in peril from cyber-porn or lazy parents and irresponsible education.

Good news: The Mother City finally had a porn conference. Bad news: It was hosted by a group called the “Justice Alliance” which is trying to block Interweb and cellphone access to the root of all evil, pornography.

The centre of this porn extravaganza will focus on filtering the content of internet service providers, presumably, to prevent sexual abuse of children. The Hugh Hefner of this conference is Peter Mancer, of Watchdog International, founded in New Zealand in 1999. Watchdog is a service providing filtering technology that integrates with ISPs, effectively censoring the content that can be viewed by various organisations and individuals.

While an admirable objective in principle, in practice enforced censorship should not be condoned as an across-the-board measure to prevent sexually deviant conduct.

The conference’s media release concludes with an example of how, according to the Justice Alliance, porn is the sole reason for the decay of our children’s moral fibre.

“Other speakers will explain the harm suffered by children as young as 10 years as a result of pornography being freely available on cellphones as well as the Internet. Recent press coverage has highlighted, for example, a group of children between the ages of 10 and 15 in Mitchell’s Plain who have filmed each other performing acts of oral sex after watching cellphone pornography.”

Admittedly this is another sad story emanating from our townships, but the question is not whether children of 10 should be exposed to pornography, but rather how the exposure should be restricted. As with all issues affecting the conduct and upbringing of children, the two bastions of “good” behaviour have always been and shall remain, education and parenting. These two elements are most likely absent from the lives of these fellating 10 year olds and no amount of Internet censorship will prevent sexually deviant conduct by these kids. Only by incorporating more education and better parenting into the lives of these kids will their behaviour be altered.

What would the Justice Alliance have done if those kids had performed the illicit acts after they had witnessed two dogs fornicating in Victoria Street? Would they be attempting to ban all canine intercourse? Of course not, that would be plain ludicrous. And equally ludicrous is the attempt to filter the porn available to all of us because some destitute, unemployed parents were too busy getting high to look after their kids.

If I want to restrict the websites my children can visit on the home computer, I’ll download Cybernanny to keep them from visiting undesirable sites, but allow adults to peruse whatever they desire. Cellphones? No problem, here you go, son, a phone that only makes calls and sends text messages. If Justice Alliance and Watchdog International have their ways, I will no longer be able to access www.crossdressingclowns.com or upload a video of the Standerton Midget Oil Wrestling Championships.

And who exactly will decide what is to be filtered (censored)? Bilbo Baggins from New Zealand, the skilfully gifted and efficient ministry of home affairs or the Justice Alliance cult? Personally, I would rather wear JZ’s soiled loin cloth on my head for a week than endure that kind of ”verkrampte” censorship.

Let’s not forget that pornography is in itself an important educational tool. Parental “birds and bees” discussions just don’t give you the level of detail necessary to know what to do and where to do it. Just like any activity watching a professional (repeatedly, even finishing before the best part) will usually up one’s game a few notches. I shudder to think how much worse off the intimate encounters of most people would be had those extramural tutorials not been consumed.

The word pornography originates from the Greek description for writing about prostitutes. And while its etymology is no longer an appropriate guide to its modern perception, the dilemma that the pornography censors face is that, like prostitution, society will not accept a scenario where it does not have access to it. Even with various technical avenues available to the draconian segements, society will always find a way to access it, albeit through illegal means. From IP address blocking to DNS filtering, the Interweb will always be one step ahead with proxy websites, VPNs and a host of other workarounds.

Censorship has now become big business alongside its socio-political implications. Many countries employ forms of censorship, ranging from a total blackout of Internet access (North Korea) to lesser nominal censorship (Australia). In response, the Parisian-based press freedom organisation, Reporters sans frontières, publishes an annual list of the “Internet enemies”.

While sites offering illegal pornographic material or extreme violence are high on the list of blacklisted sites around the world, there is defence of a principle at risk here. That principle is that moral majorities (or otherwise) should not be allowed to enforce their opinions or tastes on mentally competent adults on the basis that it is offensive or immoral. The principle is perfectly delivered through the adage, often attributed to Voltaire: "I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.”

Justice Alliance and their kind need to realise that the consumption of porn can sometimes merely be a symptom and not the cause of sexual misconduct. After all, porn doesn’t rape people, people rape people.

  • Styli Charalambous
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With a high-school prize for best supporting actor in a one-act play and as captain of the chess team, Charalambous qualified to join the esteemed ranks of the Daily Maverick opionionistas.

After being expelled from the halls of finance houses for possessing an inkling of wit, this budding entrepreneur spends his days bird watching and writing subtle, yet moving social commentary pieces for South Africa’s bastion of journalism excellence (that’s The Daily Maverick, in case you were wondering).

Having escaped the Port Elizabeth mis-education system, Charalambous now resides in Joburg and can often be spotted quality-control testing the water in many of the city’s watering holes.

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