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The Madness Of The New Puritan State

The trouble with fighting for human freedom is that one spends most of one’s time defending scoundrels. For it is against scoundrels that oppressive laws are first aimed, and oppression must be stopped at the beginning if it is to be stopped at all.

-H. L. Mencken

I was going to write something long and historical about historical matters, but I don’t have the time today and then this caught my eye, via The Anti-Feminist, who is well worth a read.

American Apparel advert featuring 23 year old model banned because the woman appeared to be under 16 and ‘semi-nude’

and

Pervert jailed indefinitely for drawings found on his computer

The second of those refers to a dirty old man who was briefly infamous as head of the long defunct Paedophile Information Exchange, having some drawings on his computer that the Ulema and Mutaween have decided are of underage persons having sex. The first of those refers to another arm of the censorious state taking it upon themselves to decide that a real human being, whose birth certificate quite clearly shows is 23 years old, “looks under 16″.

You see the problem here?

I have to declare an interest here. I draw rude pictures for a living, so, the “underage pictures” law, introduced in those faraway days of 2009, is a genuine concern. How is one supposed to defend oneself against an accusation that a drawing “looks” under 18, when even pictures of real people can be declared to be seven years different to the actual age? Drawings don’t have birth certificates. They don’t have any human characteristics at all. Because they aren’t real people.

Now at this point I’m supposed by convention to lob in some kind of disclaimer about the men convicted; vile perverts, hanging’s too good for them, and try to use an argument that it’s right to convict them but, well, innocent folks might get caught as well, and that’s why libertarians oppose it, or something. Well, I don’t like that kind of wishy washy argument. A crime is a crime when you hurt somebody. If you write a 10 million word novel about hurting people, if you draw a thousand pictures of people being hurt, those aren’t crimes. That’s the beginning and end of it.

Picking through the yellow journalism typical of the BBC on this issue, and stripping out excited words like “ring”, what we’re left with is some blokes who had collected some Japanese hentai pictures and games- all legal in Japan and all legal here until 2009, under a law designed to enable fishing by the Mutaween. This stuff is all over the web. The particular issue is that the Japanese have a big thing about schoolgirls and the like, or at least the Japs who like porn seem to; and the “anime” style of cartooning is a very broad cartoon style with a lot of neotenous (i.e. juvenile) features- large head/body ratio, big eyes, small noses and mouths. It’s impossible meaningfully to assign an “age” to any of it. They’re cartoons, extremely stylised cartoons, for fuck’s sake.

As for the fishing question, one is left to wonder how exactly the Mutaween found out about their hentai collections. It doesn’t seem unlikely that it was a case of “get our list of nonces and seize their computers, they’re bound to have something on there”. Does it?

Where this will end I don’t know. All I do know is that this man- who has harmed nobody so far as we know- has been thrown in prison and the key literally thrown away. For make believe drawings. Welcome to the free world!

And, okay, I will use that “nobody is safe” argument. Consider this. When the State has decided you can be prosecuted not for how old somebody is but how old somebody, in their opinion looks- well, make sure you haven’t got any fruity pics of that slim, small breasted girlfriend. You’ve been warned.

While I’m at it, here’s an exellent blast from the past from Sean Gabb, where amongst other things he discusses how the rule of law can divorce itself from justice, and already had done when he wrote it… in 1989.

18 Comments

  1. Paul Marks says:

    The error goes back as far as one can look.

    Cato the Elder, an utterly vile man (not just in grand politics, his desire for a war of extermination against Carthage, but also in his personal conduct – for example he held that any slave too old or sick to work should be left to die), was famous for his belief that state regulations could make people better.

    “Well if they work so well, why have they been such an utter failure with you?” Are the words that spring to mind.

    Lycrophon (many years before and in the Greek world) argued that the state could not make people just and good, and it was not the business of the state anyway (it was the business of the state to prevent people attacking each other). But he was ignored – ignored by an ever increasing mountain of regulations.

    In the Christian world there have always been people who have held that moral conduct is worthless (is not moral) if it forced – and have held that the state has no business trying to control every aspect of like. However, they have often been swamped….

    And so it goes on sometimes worse and sometimes better – but in recent years, yes, things have been getting worse.

  2. PT Barnum says:

    Both of the cases you cite are clearly thought crimes and ought to act as a wake-up call to everybody (but they won’t). The model may be perceived by the viewer to be under 16 and therefore the maker of the image is guilty of perpetrating psychological corruptive influence. The hentai stuff (definitely not to my taste but hey) is so far from realism but to the thought police speaks of a mindset which would turn cartoons into actions in the blink of an eye. All of this tells me far more about the prosecutors than it does about the ‘perpetrators’. Nasty, filthy-minded types, as noted in the final lines of Milton’s Areopagitica, determined to find the cowpat in a beautiful landscape.

    Methinks I should be worried about my collection of Victorian erotic drawings which includes several examples of women getting frisky with squid. That can’t be legal. Although they are quite athletic.

  3. Paul says:

    So the top and bottom of it is that, under the present laws, a huge amount of porn on the Internet is actually illegal?

    Basically…

    If you veer away from the very established subscription adult sites (and not even then, given the DPA) you’re probably breaking the law?
    If you visit image hosting websites (IFap et al), you’re breaking the law?
    If you visit xHamster on a regular basis, you’re probably breaking the law?

    Sheesh. So, basically, probably millions of porn viewers in this country have essentially been criminalised.

  4. Paul says:

    …addendum…

    Or even if you produced your own porn that was more than a bit kinky, you could be prosecuted for your own ‘dangerous’ pictures? A guy is currently going through a court case recently where he had fisting pictures in his possession.

  5. Roue le Jour says:

    …millions of porn viewers in this country have essentially been criminalised.

    I always assumed that this was the intention. A quick look in the browser cache of any bloke’s computer will undoubtedly reveal ‘illegal’ images. Even if you delete it, your ISP knows where you have been. You don’t even have to know this has happened. Any page, this one included, could ref an illegal image and render it so you couldn’t see it. It’d still be in your cache and on your record.

    The only small comfort that can be drawn from this is that it will not lead to a thousand years peace and tranquility as the puritans suppose, but collapse of the state.

  6. Ian B says:

    One of the things going on here is that a lesson that the State learned from the Drugs War is the value of possession laws. They traditionally aimed obscenity laws at distributors, that is publishers. It wasn’t illegal to own a mucky magazine, it was just illegal to produce one.

    The advantage (from the State’s POV) of a possession law is it instantly creates millions of criminals. Most of them will get away with it, but you can pick and choose who to persecute. Not to mention plant evidence on, which is a Plod tradition dating back decades with narcotics.

    A second point is that these laws retrospectively criminalise vasty amounts of “possessed” material. Old pictures of under 18 Page Three girls, like Samantha Fox or Maria Whittaker. Mainstream “mens magazines” from the 80s, when the nudey age was similarly 16. Old nudist magazines that routinely pictured youngsters until they were “asked” to stop in the 80s. Victorian erotica, as mentioned above. And comics, of course; old American underground comix like ZAP that went out of their way to be obscene (I bought some reprints back in the 80s, I can remember at least one Robert Crumb story about familial incest which was poking fun at staid family values, but trying arguing that in court in the midst of a moral panic). In this sense, it’s a chronic act of bowdlerisation intended to erase an entire archive of cultural material.

    The third point is the deliberate vagueness of the laws. I believe it is a basic standard of a decent justice system that a law should be clearly defined so that one can know whether one is breaking it. These laws are deliberately vague, with the consequence that nobody can know if they have broken the law until they are standing in the dock listening to the verdict. In this sense, they’re worse than the drug laws. At least I know objectively what cocaine is, and can thus avoid breaking the law by not having any. These laws are the equivalent of not even having an agreed list of what drugs are illegal, and having it arbitrarily chosen on a case by case basis by the police and court.

  7. JuliaM says:

    “Now at this point I’m supposed by convention to lob in some kind of disclaimer about the men convicted; vile perverts, hanging’s too good for them…”

    Those terms certainly apply where they might have abused real children, or viewed images of real children, yes. But drawings? This is utter madness.

  8. Andrew Campbell says:

    “A crime is a crime when you hurt somebody.”
    I agreed with this when I read it and consider my a libertarian but then thought, what about actions which have the potential to hurt? Speeding is a crime – do you think that’s acceptable or should crime exclusively cover ‘hurt’ and nothing else?

    I’m not sure where I stand on this personally so I’m interested in other people’s views.

  9. CountingCats says:

    No, speeding should not be a crime. Causing an accident via speeding should get the book thrown tho.

  10. Andrew Campbell says:

    Is there any point where the threat of hurt or potential for hurt should be a crime?

  11. Tim Newman says:

    make sure you haven’t got any fruity pics of that slim, small breasted girlfriend.

    I carry around a picture of my wife, taken when she was 25, in which she looks no older than 15. Indeed, a lot of Russian girls who are in their 20s look stupidly young, mostly because they hit puberty late and keep their teenage figures.

  12. Paul Marks says:

    The “war on drugs” is a particulary odd thing.

    It is not that people can (reasonably) pretend that they do not know the American Federal government has no legal authority to do what they do – after all the Amendment, to give them the power to ban booze, was only passed after the First World War and only got rid of in 1933 (Roosevelt has gained credit for this – but he had nothing much to do with the campaign to repeal the Consitutional Amendment).

    No one (as far as I know) seriously pretends that the American government had the power to ban booze before the Amendment was passed, or that it still had this power after it was repealed. And drugs are no different, in constittutional terms, from booze (after all opium was the standard way to deal with extreme pain in the Founding period).

    So millions of people are attacked (tossed into prison and so on) in a Federal government campaign that has no constitutional authority what-so-ever. And most people do not seem to find this odd.

    In case anyone still does not understand what I am saying I will repeat it.

    18th Amendment (since repealed) gave the Feds the power to ban booze. The Amendment to give the Feds the power to ban drugs was passed in the year……

    It was NOT passed, it does not exist, there is no such thing……

    But the Feds carry on passing statutes (and so on) when they have no right to do so.

    No doubt the above will be misinterpreted as “Paul Marks is pro drugs” – rather absurd for anyone who knows me (actually I am almost absurdly reserved on various moral matters).

    And the normal mistakes will be made.

    For example that the war on drugs reduces the use of drugs – absurd, as a “before and after” look at events shows.

    And that such things are any business of the state (the Sword of State) anyway.

    As, for example, Edmund Burke (not known as a long haired flower child) was fond of pointing out – such things as the use of drugs (which Burke used himself to deal with the pain of his cancer) are simply none of the business of the state.

    “But medical use only….” – no Burke carefully mentions recreational use, he does not say it is a good idea (but it is none of the business of government – is is simply not what the Sword of State is about, to think otherwise is a category mistake).

  13. Ian B says:

    Paul, as I understand it, technically they didn’t ban drugs. The federal government instead introduced a licensing scheme, then didn’t issue any licenses. At least, that was the case for marijuana. So it’s still technically legal to distribute and possess marijuana, so long as you have a license, which are never issued.

    But of course you are absolutely correct. There was and is no constitutional justification. But then, when you see the distorted shape of the Interstate Commerce Clause (“any thing you produce affects commerce between states indirectly, therefore we may regulate any production”) it shows the ultimate uselessness of the constitutional approach to restraining government.

    One does not need to be “in favour” of drug use to oppose drug laws, any more than one has to admire the gutter press to oppose press regulation by the State.

  14. Paul Marks says:

    On the decline of the principles of the rule of law in England and Wales.

    Firstly one must remember they were never fully understood or observed – for example the various attempts to criminalize sodomy (a classic confusion between the provice of religion and morality and the provice of the criminal law). With, of course, the smearing of anyone who questioned these laws by implying they were involved in sodomy themselves (again a little known Burke point, when he started to question these laws, specifically the savagery of the punishments, he was at once falsely smeared as a sodomite, – if people who wish to use the criminal law to enforce moral norms are so noble why do they, at once, resort to campaigns of lies when their ideas are questioned?).

    However, it is generally the case that what the principles of law are (and what they are not) was better understood (and better applied) at one time than it is now.

    Of course there were signs of decline even in the Victorian Age – as Herbert Spencer’s book “Man Versus the State” (1884) makes clear, however the first detailed legal book on the decline in the application of the principles of the rule of law on this island is (I believe) Chief Justice Hewart’s “The New Despotism” (1929).

    By the way the Gabb piece is odd in some respects.

    For example, local government, unions, and universities did not protect individuals against the state in the 1980s (or before the 1980s – at least not in modern times) – indeed local government and the universities (with the exception of Buckingham) were really part of the state. As for the unions their powers were granted by the state (by such Acts as that of 1875 and 1906) and they were certainly in the business of protecting people against collectivism – quite the reverse.

    One has to be careful with facts (they do matter) – for example I am reminded of something I just read a few minutes ago (I hit the wrong key or something on the computer and found myself reading the Devil’s Kitchen or whatever it is site).

    I started to read an entry that said that the Communists (specifically in the West) were wiped out in the 1980s – a false statement.

    For example, in the case of American unions, Communinst influence today is vastly GREATER than it was in the 1980s (or at any time since the 1930s) – hardly surprising as there were strict rules in place (passed by the unions themselves) to prevent Marxists infiltrating leadership positions – rules that were quietly done away with at the end of the 1980s (gradually leading to the present position where many of the most important American unions, expecially public sector unions, are under Marxist influence).

    Of course the universities are also more (not less) Marxist than they used to be – especially in the United States where the generation of Marxist students of the 1960s are now academics (and administrators) who run the very institutions they once rioted in. In Britain also the “education system” (universities, schools, teacher training) is under the iron grip of the left (both Marxist and nonMarxist).

    I know of no evidence that Mrs Thatcher managed to reduce the power of the left in the BBC (“the media”) or the univerities and schools – and if Mrs T. had managed to do this, how would that have been a threat to individual liberty and a support for collectivism?

    What one can say is that Mrs Thatcher’s approach to the problem of leftist control of education and the broadcasting media was utterly misguided – as it amounted to vague (and half hearted) lashing out by the elected government against the “permanent government”.

    I doubt that such lashing out was even intended to actually achieve anything (it was a release of emotion – like kicking over the breakfast table because one does not like what is being said by the nasty people on the television and/or radio. But certainly it did not achieve anything (they were certainly not “humbled”).

    A more sensible approach would have been to get rid of the television tax (“license fee”) and the regulations on “blanced” news and current affairs (“balanced” for official bodies always means pro collectivist).

    Real (not pretend) independent radio and television stations should have been allowed – with their own versions of news and current affairs.

    And as for the universities (and so on) getting rid of collectivist funding is the key in reducing collectivist bias.

    The legal status of a university does not matter nearly as much as who funds it.

    For example, in theory Harvard is a “private” as Hillsdale – yet Harvard (and the vast majority of other universities in America, Britain and elsewhere) is statist to the core.

    If a university will not, on principle, reject government funding of its students (via “loans” and so on) then the temptations of collectivism should be removed from them. A university (or school or….) might still be leftist (after all Harvard has lots of money of its own) – but at least it would not be leftist at the expense of the taxpayer. There were plenty of leftist lecturers at British universties back when they were voluntary (the far distant days of the 1930s), but the balance was better than it is now (with the possible exception of Cambridge which really does seem to have gone wild left in the interwar period – oddly enough I would say that now Cambridge is one of the more moderate British universities, almost as if Peterhouse had defeated the spirit of King’s and Trinity).

    Getting rid of state funding is not “attacking individual liberty by undermining institutions that stand between the indivdual and the state”, quite the contrary.

  15. Paul Marks says:

    province not provice,

    and unions (and so on) NOT in the business of protecing the individual against the state.

  16. Laird says:

    “Did you really think we want those laws observed?” said Dr. Ferris. “We want them to be broken. You’d better get it straight that it’s not a bunch of boy scouts you’re up against. . . We’re after power and we mean it. . . There’s no way to rule innocent men. The only power any government has is the power to crack down on criminals. Well, when there aren’t enough criminals one makes them. One declares so many things to be a crime that it becomes impossible for men to live without breaking laws. Who wants a nation of law-abiding citizens? What’s there in that for anyone? But just pass the kind of laws that can neither be observed nor enforced or objectively interpreted and you create a nation of law-breakers and then you cash in on guilt. Now that’s the system, Mr. Reardon, that’s the game, and once you understand it, you’ll be much easier to deal with.”

  17. Paul Marks says:

    Good point Laird – our rulers seem to see Atlas Shrugged as an instruction manual.

    Ian has a good point also – government people are tricky, they seem to see their rule as twisting the words of laws and Constitutions (well scrub the words “seem to” – they obviously see their rule as twisting everything to maximise power).

    That leade me to hostility to a quote from John Adams – the line that goes something like the Constitution is designed for a moral people (he said moral and religious – but just moral will do) and will not work for a people who are not moral.

    Well, if true, that means the Constitution was never going to work – because people in politics can not be counted on to be moral (i.e. not to twist things) and no general public can be expected to turn their attention from their own lives, to watching every trick that polticians and administrators play.

    A Constitution must be designed not with good people in mind, but with BAD people in mind – people who will seek to twist every word and institution.

    Actually some State Constitutions in the United States are like this – they were written with bad (corrupt) people in mind (often by people who were rather nasty themselves – but did not want future people to get away with their own tricks).

    Some of these State Constitutions work rather well.

    P.S. I know the point John Adams could have been making is that limited government depends on people being able to control themselves (so the government does not have to control them), but the point I make above is still valid.

    And, anyway, one can always find vice – if vice is what is needed to justify statism.

    I bet (even in the Founding Era) I could have found terrible things happening in New York and the other large towns. But also in the smallest townships and farmsteads.

    Human beings are not angels – and there not being angels does NOT justify statism.

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