There’s nothing edgy about ‘honour killings’

I can’t believe this needs to be said, but the choices of the Festival of Dangerous Ideas suggests it does.

Uthman Badar, spokesman for Hizb ut-Tahrir in Australia, will be speaking at the Festival on the topic “Honour killings are morally justified”.

How clever.

It has been many years since FODI has shown any desire to live up to its name. Their existences hinge on the flow of government grants, directly or indirectly through the units that make up the art establishment. It’s not here to disrupt the status quo. It is here because, as a Facebook friend snarked, “the whole idea of a Festival of Dangerous Ideas [is to be] some white–person wankery for inner–city latte drinkers to indulge themselves in a trip to the opera house and [provoke] the special feeling of belonging to that special part of society that attends ‘cultural’ events.

So whilst I am openly impressed that FODI has actually gone and proposed a dangerous idea in that context, as far as dangerous ideas go this is quite safe… which is what makes it so dangerous.

It is dangerous in the first instance because the material is justifying murder. Violence is generally accepted as dangerous.

For anyone who, say, might like to think of themselves as culturally enlightened, the barest of philosophical forays will lead you to the subjectivity of morality and/or its experience by the individual.

Armed with this, it is totally conceivable that people who commit what we call “honour killings” have reasons for doing so. It’s a scary rejoinder to the idea of monstrosity as other and seemingly perfect for a crowd seeking “danger”.

This makes it a safe bet. It’s destined to light up blogs like this, and papers and talkback tomorrow, and possibly the 6pm news from earlier this evening. Helen Dale – who has lit up the local media a few times, including this week – called the decision to give Badar a platform “the intellectual equivalent of streaking”, which is so right not just because it’s flashy, insubstantive, and guaranteed to get your eyeballs on the dangly bits, but also because it isn’t novel.

We know that attention will be paid because we have had these debates before. We have had these debates before because there are millions of people who believe murder is a prurient respond to the exercise of certain kinds of autonomy – but they’re other, safely ‘over there’, and the unbridled, uncritical acceptance of the other is how the worst sort of unthinking leftist gets their counter-cultural jollies.

It will be controversial. Why millions of people would hold values so far removed from our own always will be.

And thus we have Badar at FODI, surrounded by the latte elite, who have already started falling over themselves to demonstrate their open-mindedness by paying to listen to a man who fronts the national arm of an organisation that opposes the close-mindedness of a Western liberalism that would go back to stoning women if the culture wasn’t so close-minded.

If an open-mind is worth keeping on this issue this is still not a justification for FODI’s decision. The point of keeping an open mind is to think, judge, and close it eventually. If it never closes it is no great feat of mind, but the simple abrogation of critical thought. FODI is, by choosing to give this violent idea a platform, abrogating that responsibility in the name of whoring themselves out for attention. This is not an act without consequences; what we say in public sends a powerful message about (are you ready for this?) what is is acceptable to say and do in public.

They’re not concerned about that, nor are they actually concerned about whether we should kill slutty sluts for slutting. They’re concerned about how they can leverage Uthman Badar and the Hizb ut-Tahrir brand and the white guilt that creates the cultural relativism that baby leftists are injected with when they submit their first protest poster for assessment, in service of painting the Festival and it’s supporters as open-minded, critically engaged and edgy, and getting the attention that gets them paid. With taxpayer dollars.

If open engagement is what we desire there’s an endless supply of literature on the subject that could be privately consumed. Somehow I don’t think that’s what Hizb ut-Tahrir wants.

That is what I find the most dangerous – it’s lovely to have organisations like FODI that self-consciously hike their skirts and whore their stages in the pretence of glorying in liberalism while trying to undermine it. These ideas don’t deserve to be paraded on a platform as flimsy as amusement. There is no honour in giving a microphone to a man who doesn’t want to give the microphone back, when he will use it to promote a ban on microphones.

FODI sets its own agenda. They made a considered choice to offer the stage to a lobbyist for Islamototalitarianism to promote the murder of (mostly) women.

If FODI wants to truly be provocative, there are orthodoxies far better challenged than the secular, liberal, individualist democracy that permits people – including women – to pursue the free thought that allows them to consider and reject the killing women who exercise autonomy could be totally sweet.

FODI has the right to offer the PR flak for totalitarian organisation a space on its platform, and its secular “cultural establishment” type audience is mature enough to consider the idea without accepting it (the way the Murdoch-media-swilling general publicans apparently cannot, no doubt). Minds aren’t likely to slip out from under the warm, prosperous blanket of liberalism for the rock hard reality of whatever backwards logic makes it okay to kill for a contorted derivative of honour. 

The day the Premier resigned

NSW Premier Barry O’Farrell has been found to have received a $3,000 bottle of 1959 Penfolds Grange as a gift, which he failed to declare, and failed to admit to ICAC, conveniently suffering from memory failure, and has accordingly resigned this morning.

Before all thoughts move to who will move on up into the top spot, our anti-lockout friends at I’m Not The Problem Barry – No Lockouts NSW have been taking advantage of this scintillating story to have a bit of a laugh. The full gallery is here, but some of my favourites are below!








Games, and why the Classification Review sucked


Lara Jeffery argues that adults should be able to read, hear, see and play what they want and recent classification review remains part of a trend by governments to ensure people are not equipped with the skills or knowledge or tools to encourage people to make the right decisions, but rather simply preemptively banning the ‘wrong’ ones:

In July 2011 the Australia Federal Government announced it was finally ready to acknowledge that the playing of video games was an activity no longer dominated by children. Protecting the children would no longer cut it as an excuse to ban stuff. It was time for an R18+ classification category to be created. A long campaign had been waged to allow adults to make game choices for themselves, and with the announcement, the internet was appeased.

The reason a review was needed was summed up nicely in the segment of the guidelines called ‘The Code’ (reproduced below). ‘Adults should be able to read, hear, see and play what they want’. Fair enough. Adults should be able to do what they want (so long as they are not infringing on the rights of others to do what they want). Isn’t that the point of being an adult – making decisions for yourself?

Another problem was that games that really should be R18+ would minimize a few of the stronger elements in order to sneak into the MA15+ category, meaning kids could get to what was overall a game more suitable for adults. Still pretty simple, right?

Apparently not. Today, new classification guidelines were released, to come into effect on the 1st of January 2013. Overall, they kinda blow. You’d have a hard time accessing games or game content you couldn’t before.

Themes, language, and nudity (three of six Classification Board areas of regulation) have ‘virtually’ no restrictions.

Drug use is permitted, as long as it’s not ‘related to incentives and rewards’ or ‘interactive … detailed and realistic’.

‘Depictions of actual sexual activity’ are not permitted. ’Depictions of simulated sexual activity may be permitted’, as long as they’re not ‘explicit’ and/or ‘realistic’. Seems inconsistent to me, since you can rent a porno at 18. The interactive nature of video games is used to justify this crap (technological determinism..).

As for violence, ‘High impact violence that is, in context, frequently gratuitous, exploitative and offensive to a reasonable adult will not be permitted. Actual sexual violence is not permitted. Implied sexual violence that is visually depicted, interactive, not justified by context or related to incentives or rewards is not permitted’.

Again with the sex! Are all regulators puritan? As long as everyone involved in filming consented then, again, it’s barely different to renting BDSM porn. And you can stream that the moment you figure out what Google is and what BDSM means.

Anyway, the code uses a lot of language to make itself seem fair. ‘Not permitted’ vs ‘banned’. Then it says lovely things like this:

Under the Code, classification decisions are to give effect, as far as possible, to the following principles:

(a) adults should be able to read, hear, see and play what they want;

(b) minors should be protected from material likely to harm or disturb them;

(c) everyone should be protected from exposure to unsolicited material that they find offensive;

(d) the need to take account of community concerns about:

(i) depictions that condone or incite violence, particularly sexual violence; and

(ii) the portrayal of persons in a demeaning manner.

I’m not too sure why (d) is there. Firstly I believe it is not only wrong but foolish to censor anything that is real, or realistic, because that shit is REAL. As in, it’s out there in the world. In Australia. In a bunch of our homes. Every night. Trying to protect your quivering emotions from the ugliness of humanity by dismissing and hiding the problems is weak and, I feel, an appalling reflection on the ethics of those who advocate such an approach. Moreover, (d) directly counteracts (a), so one of them has to go. The continued existence of Refused Classification as a category also counteracts (a), so it’s pretty clear which one the bureaucrats decided to let wither.

Honestly, though, I don’t feel like I can argue this part of my point much better than the guidelines do.

Adults should be able to read, hear, see and play what they want. They’re mature enough to make that choice.

I’m not even going to talk about keeping age-inappropriate stuff away from kids because that is what an R18+ classification does, and beyond that it is up to parents. 

I say ‘they’ referring to players of video games because I very rarely play games. I don’t own a gaming console and I haven’t downloaded games onto my computers. I owned a few Playstation games back when it was called a Playstation but I eventually found the stress of being attacked by whatever attacks you in Crash Bandicoot was too much for me. That was the end of my illustrious gaming career.

However, I don’t feel like this is an issue that does not affect me. It’s part of a broader series of administrative and political decisions that kinda terrify me. To get back to something I said earlier – the point of being an adult is to make decisions for yourself – well, the flipside of that is to make responsible decisions. One needs to apply some critical thinking skills as to whether or not one wants to spend an hour or a few hours or the whole day playing games, immersed in the violence of whatever the latest shooter is, to what level of violence you are comfortable engaging with through your controller, and what type of violence.

Critical thinking is a skill and, just like any other skill, it diminishes if it is not practised. When games are ‘refused classification’ (never forget that this is just a nice euphemism for banned, censored, prohibited) you don’t really have to think about what it is appropriate for your or your kids to play because that decision has been made for you by the Classification Board.

The Classification Board is an independent statutory body comprised of 11 people I hadn’t heard of but maybe should have (some former ABC execs, other media types, assorted public servants, former defence personnel, and a few with legal and business backgrounds). The youngest is 26, the next youngest are two of 32 years, and a 39 year old. Of course, the board is ‘trained’ and ‘assisted’ by the Office of the Attorney General, which also ‘helps’ with ‘developing’ policy, and operate under the scope of the Commonwealth Classification (Publications, Films and Computer Games) Act 1995.

The Act is designed to “help consumers make informed choices” but it actively removes some of the choices we could make, and should be able to make, or decide not to make. 

In the gaming arena, as in so many others, our society is moving in a direction where the correct response to problems is not seen to be equip people with the skills or knowledge or tools to encourage people to make the right decisions to cope with the problems individually (which I’m sure was the initial intention of classification) but to preemptively ban the ‘wrong’ decisions. This is because it is easier for the state and they/the community inevitably know best what is in the interest of each and every varied, unique individual. 

This lulls us into a very false sense of security. We end up living our lives to a checklist of pre-approved behaviour, believing (as we are told) that if we don’t break the rules no harm can come to us.

It’s as silly as thinking, ‘If I stay in the lane I’m supposed to drive in and follow the speed limit I will never get into an accident’. But that’s the basis of our road rules, too.

Then the reason you need to think critically, and I’ll try to say this without sounding like a conspiracy theorist, is that this is, after all, the government we are talking about. That is who decides which games you are and are not allowed to play. What you are and are not allowed to see. What makes it into the curriculum. Which civil liberties we are allowed (in NSW, none, apparently). Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction (Reagan) and governments never hand back control, rather, they only ever take more and more. In Australia it is easy to believe the government is here to help, and their interjections into your ability to choose your path may just be benign enough. All it takes is one charismatic wacko, and enough people who will stay silent.

We all thought it was going to get better. I guess not.

Lara Jeffery is studying media at the University of New South Wales, and is currently on exchange at the University of Kansas. Originally published on her personal blog reproduced with permission.