Bill Henson : Art or Pornography?

Update : This is not porn, say Henson’s models, Paul Bibby, The Sydney Morning Herald, May 26, 2008

Opening tonight at the elegant Roslyn Oxley9 Gallery in the heart of Paddington is an exhibition of photographs by Bill Henson, featuring naked 12 and 13 year-olds

is how Miranda Devine began her article on the ‘Moral backlash over sexing up of our children’ (The Sydney Morning Herald, May 22, 2008).

Devine’s concern is the sexualisation of children, a project which has allegedly brought together “artists, perverts, academics, libertarians, the media and advertising industries, respectable corporations and the porn industry – to smash taboos of previous generations and define down community standards… successfully erod[ing] the special protection once afforded childhood”.

Previously in the ascendant, today these malignant forces confront a backlash, one consisting of “parents, feminists, psychologists, teachers, grandparents – conservatives and progressives”. Further, “At the eye of the storm is the current Senate inquiry into the “sexualisation of children in the media”, instigated by the Democrats leader, Lyn Allison, and due to report next month”. (An inquiry which is, quite probably, one of the Democrats’ last gasps.)

However, in what is, presumably, regarded by Devine as a small victory for parents, feminists, psychologists, teachers and grandparents, the Henson exhibition has been closed, a number of the works confiscated by NSW police, and the artist himself, as well as the gallery owners, likely to be charged with criminal offences. Dolly (ACP) and Girlfriend (Pacific) magazines, on the other hand — publications which, Devine reports, Julie Gale, a Melbourne mother of two and the founder of parents’ lobby group, Kids Free 2B Kids, claims has a “preponderance of 11, 12, and 13 year-olds featured in their pages, along with stories about anal sex” — may carry on unmolested.

(See also: Peter Craven, Sexuality or spirituality: it’s a matter of taste, The Sydney Morning Herald, May 23, 2008.)

Art or Pornography?

‘Who would call this art?’ ask Clare Masters and Justin Vallejo (The Daily Telegraph, May 23, 2008). Not, apparently, either the NSW Premier Morris Iemma — “As a father of four I find it offensive and disgusting,” Mr Iemma said — nor Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd — “I think they’re revolting” (Rudd ‘revolted’ at art of naked children, ninemsn, May 23, 2008). Not to be outdone, soon-to-be-dumped Leader of the Federal Opposition, Brendan Nelson, reckons the whole thing is decidedly un-Australian (Naked child photos ‘violate Aussie values’, AAP/Herald Sun, May 23, 2008).

Others, however, disagree with the assessment of police, Premier and Prime Minister, at least insofar as the nature of the photographic images contained in the censored exhibition are concerned. ‘Adolescent nude photos not unusual: art expert’ (The Sydney Morning Herald, May 23, 2008): “The naked body has been the subject of art for thousands of years and artist Bill Henson’s photographic exhibit of nude adolescents is not pornographic, an art expert says. The question, said art market analyst Michael Reid, is “have the images [been] sexualised?,” and believes they have not.” Meanwhile, “John McDonald, art critic for the Sydney Morning Herald, says there is nothing sexual about the photos. “To me, the big shame is that the only time that we start looking at art and talking about art in the mainstream media is when it’s banned, when it’s supposedly pornographic, when it’s doing something that’s taboo,” he told ABC Radio’s AM (Art community defends naked teen photo exhibition, May 23, 2008).

More considered reflection is contained in Clive Hamilton’s article on Crikey, ‘Henson fracas: Art the victim of child sexualisation’ (May 23, 2008):

Henson is one of Australia’s foremost photographic artists with a considerable international reputation. Much of his work explores the idea of adolescence as metamorphosis from childhood to adulthood. It reminds the viewer of the anxieties, confusions and intense emotions in which their mature selves were forged.

The photographs in question are of a naked girl, back-lit, who appears to be about 12 years old. Her poses and expression convey wistfulness and ambiguity, as if she is saying “Here I am, as you see me; but who am I?”. Like much of Henson’s work they have a dream-like quality to them.

The photographs show the girl’s budding breasts, her hips and, in one case, a glimpse of her vagina. Their intention is not to arouse erotic feelings and they are unlikely to do so except in those already inclined to view children in that way. They are imaginative, haunting and beautiful. Although not sexual images, they can be seen as a commentary on the slow, halting and unsettling metamorphosis of child’s body into an adult one.

However, the fact that the pictures cannot be characterised as pornographic is not the end of the ethical story because the social context in which the photographs are presented changes their nature.

If we lived in a society of sophisticated people with mature sexuality, one that respected children and the integrity of their maturation process, then there could be no objection to the Henson exhibition. Alternatively, if the photographs were seen only by the intended audience and in the gallery environment, the exhibition could fulfill its purpose without controversy.

Perhaps some decades ago such a world, or at least a subset of the world, existed; but it doesn’t any more. The exhibition cannot be isolated from a society in which children are increasingly exploited for commercial reasons and used for gratification…

In other words, the kinds of images of children’s bodies present in Henson’s work must inevitably be viewed, it would seem, as ‘pornographic’: “In destroying the sexual innocence of children they [that is, the forces responsible for “the sexualisation of children by the media and the wider culture”] have destroyed the innocence of innocence.” In short, no-one is ‘innocent’, and the viewing of images of children’s naked bodies — regardless of the intent of the producer — is a ‘pornographic’ experience. In summary, Hamilton argues:

Closing down the exhibition should not be characterised as the victory of prudery over artistic licence. Oddly perhaps, if the exhibition had been mounted in more conservative times it would have passed unremarked and been appreciated by the art-loving minority. If artists have a responsibility to push at the boundaries of the acceptable, society has a responsibility to push back. After a decade or more in which children have been increasingly exploited, society is beginning to push back and Bill Henson has been a victim: innocent perhaps, but he should have known better.

Response

As a result of the police confiscation and surrounding publicity, Roslyn Oxley9 Gallery issued a statement:

Media Statement
Friday 23 May 2008

Statement on behalf of Roslyn Oxley9 Gallery and Bill Henson

After much consideration we have decided to withdraw a number of works from the current Bill Henson exhibition that have attracted controversy. The current show, without the said works, will be re-opened for viewing in coming days.

Bill Henson is one of Australia’s leading contemporary artists and is internationally respected. His works are held in every leading art institution in Australia and are included in the collections of a number of the world’s most prestigious art museums. The Art Gallery of New South Wales and the National Gallery of Victoria have both recently held a retrospective of 30 years of the artist’s work.

Roslyn Oxley9 Gallery will remain closed while the current exhibition is re-hung.

As it stands, then, the exhibition is going ahead — minus the offending photographs — although police are “likely” to lay charges against the gallery owners under Section 578C of the NSW Crimes Act (1900). If found guilty, the maximum penalty for such an offence “in the case of an individual” is “100 penalty units or imprisonment for 12 months (or both), and in the case of a corporation 200 penalty units”.

Writing in The Australian (Porn case is likely to fail, May 24, 2008), however, Chris Merritt believes that these and other associated charges are unlikely to stick:

THE success rate in obscenity trials in Australia is extremely low – and experts believe the looming case against renowned photographer Bill Henson will prove no different. With Henson facing the possibility of indecency and child pornography charges after police seized 20 of his works from a Sydney gallery yesterday, Australia is facing a rerun of the divisive Oz obscenity trials in the 1960s and 70s. The case will almost certainly boil down to a decision by either a magistrate or a jury on whether the photographs are obscene… They were seized yesterday using a warrant issued under a Section 91G of the NSW Crimes Act which prohibits the use of children for pornographic purposes. If charges are laid under the same provision, the fate of the photographs could turn on whether expert evidence can show they were being used for an artistic purpose…

Note that, under Section 91G:

Any person who:

    (a) uses a child who is under the age of 14 years for pornographic purposes, or
    (b) causes or procures a child of that age to be so used, or
    (c) having the care of a child of that age, consents to the child being so used or allows the child to be so used,

is guilty of an offence. For which the maximum penalty is imprisonment for 14 years. In addition:

    (3) For the purposes of this section, a child is used by a person for pornographic purposes if:

    (a) the child is engaged in sexual activity, or
    (b) the child is placed in a sexual context, or
    (c) the child is subjected to torture, cruelty or physical abuse (whether or not in a sexual context),

    for the purposes of the production of pornographic material by that person.

Assuming that (a) and (c) do not apply in this case, it would appear that guilt or innocence would depend on whether or not “the child is placed in a sexual context”. If one were to accept Hamilton’s logic, this would seem — perhaps sadly, but inevitably — to be the case.

Nevertheless, Henson has also received the support of the NSW Law Society (Law Society backs nude child pics artist, The Sydney Morning Herald, May 24, 2008):

The Law Society of NSW has backed embattled artist Bill Henson, who could face charges after police seized his latest gallery images which feature nude children. Society president Hugh Macken said he could not see how a crime had been committed, and police prosecutors would have to argue the renowned Melbourne-based artist had intended to produce something other than art. “What is relevant to the commission of a crime is the intention,” Mr Macken told reporters in Sydney. “If the intention is to produce a work of art, and solely to produce a work of art, then I can’t see how a crime has been committed.”

Which would appear to be a rather sensible position, as well as present a difficult challenge for police. That is, assuming that Macken is correct, “the challenge” is to demonstrate that Henson intended to produce ‘pornography’ rather than ‘art’.

Finally, note that, perhaps not unexpectedly, the gallery owners have allegedly been subjected to threats of violence (Gallery under angry siege, Frank Walker and Heath Gilmore, May 25, 2008The Age, May 25, 2008).

Bill Henson in the wonderful world of blogs:

Avert your eyes, deborahb.blog
Art and the sexualising of children, blue milk (thinking + motherhood = feminist)
This is not art?, Larvatus Prodeo
and just because a lawyer can’t leave a good case alone, Squibblog
The Bill Henson ‘kiddy porn’ fiasco, skepticlawyer
Bill Henson, art and child porn, What the cat dragged in
Sunday Text – in support of Bill Henson, our man in berlin
Bill Henson # 6 uncensored, Junk for Code
Projection onto Adolescent Forms, The wells of fancy
But is it art? — 2, Ninglun’s Specials
Parallax error: Bill Henson (2), The Morning After: Performing arts in Australia
What Censorship Looks Like, Flaming Horses
putting a sock on the henson case, Barista
Feelthee Peektures of Cheeldren on the Eentairnet, Tug Boat Potemkin
R-I-D-I-C-U-L-O-U-S – Shock of the Nude 2, cecilia fogelberg
Bill Henson photography exhibit – a tangent, The Ship That Faced A Thousand Launches …
When nudity equals sex and art equals pornography, Somebody Think Of The Children
Troops needed back in Sydney to protect us from evil!, Atheist with Attitude

Andrew Bolt nails it:

Artists rage: let us undress 13-year-olds
Saturday, May 24, 2008

Many Australians would agree:

THE art world has denounced a ”dark day in Australian culture” after police seized up to 21 photographs of naked child models and said they would lay charges over an exhibition by the renowned artist Bill Henson.

But the difference here, of course, is that the “art world” thinks the darkness in our culture isn’t the stripping and photographing of 13-year-old girls, but the seizing of the soft-porn shots by police.

UPDATE

An Age headline-writer insists:

“Creepy? Perhaps, but it’s not porn”

This appears over an article by Age critic and theosauritis victim Robert Nelson, who on the contrary admits:

In the past, I’ve been critical of Henson’s work and have noted the parallel between his images and pornography. The sense of a powerful male presence of the photographer and a disempowered youngster as model has to be faced. I find the pictures a bit creepy.

I feel that someone is going to steal up on the girl on my computer and offer her various comforts that will put her even further in a man’s power. So the images could almost be set up for sinister wish-fulfilment, a dream of possessing and controlling an almost nubile child for sexual gratification.

So in fact it’s creepy AND porn. Creepy because it’s porn. You see, Nelson has just described a common reaction to pedophile pornography, forcing him (and his sub editor) to then arbitrarily redefine the work that produced that reaction to merely “creepy” to dodge the debate. It’s the psueds’ [sic] equivalent of saying they read Playboy just for the articles.

To add insult to insincerity, Nelson – desperate to find reasons to justify a gut reaction contradicted by his groin [!] – then insists that if you can’t perve on 13-year-olds, you are dead to sex [!]:

But without the artistic inquiry that recognises irregular erotic feelings, we have a culture without curiosity for sexuality, a repressive regime that simply seeks to crush feelings as illegitimate just because they don’t conform to our best moral templates.

The same argument, of course, can be run to justify the publication of photographs and films celebrating rape, bestiality, incest, necrophilia and extreme sado-maoschism. Without that, by Nelson’s desperate argument, we wouldn’t be interested in sex at all.

Makes you wonder how devout Christians, Muslims and Jews ever reproduced.

Fact is, Henson’s photographs are soft porn, featuring girls as young as 13. The arts lobby likes to boast that artists change society. Now is not the time to argue that when it comes to an artist’s child porn, the effects will not be felt outside the gallery walls. That’s wimping it, in many ways.

The only consistent defence you could make of this exhibition is that letting gallery habitues and the artistically inclined enjoy child porn is worth the risk of having other children stripped, photographed and enjoyed by people not quite so, um, refined.

UPDATE 2

Tim Blair points out that Nelson’s argument is sillier still. Take Nelson’s plea that we respect the violent taboos of extremists in the Middle East:

In some cultures, it seems unquestionably appropriate to behead a woman for wearing a miniskirt. And up to a point, we have to respect those alien standards… It would be much better to look at the photographs with a humbler mind, form your own opinions and move on. Unfortunately, the law is denying us this fundamental right.

Observes Blair:

So we have to respect “alien standards” in regard to beheading women, but the alien standards of Australian law in regard to pictures of naked children are some kind of rights-denial deal. Art critics are morons.

About @ndy

I live in Melbourne, Australia. I like anarchy. I don't like nazis. I enjoy eating pizza and drinking beer. I barrack for the greatest football team on Earth: Collingwood Magpies. The 2017 premiership's a cakewalk for the good old Collingwood.
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42 Responses to Bill Henson : Art or Pornography?

  1. Dean says:

    I think that you’ve missed the point Andy. Art that features the naked body…of any age…is a reproduction of the natural image…as in a sculpture, a painting, drawing, etc.
    The art is in the skill of the artist to reproduce the original image, to make it look as lifelike as possible (well, maybe not Picasso). Another issue is the difference between porn and art…lies in the perception of the audience. For example, whilst I may not be offended by a picture of a woman in an advanced stage of undress, other women might be. The criteria lies in the moral attitudes of the audience seeing the “art”. From what I could see of the pictures shown in the capitalist press, it wouldn’t have been an art show that I could have taken my 9 yr old daughter to go and see. I presume she would have thought it very disgusting that people would pay money to see nude photos of children. I know that you are a supporter of libertarian ideas, one of which would be the freedom of artists to create what they want. However, a person that takes naked pictures of a child, and then tries to make money from those pictures, is exploiting that child for monetary gain. I think that is…WRONG!!

  2. @ndy says:

    G’day Dean,

    I might’ve missed the point, I’m not sure. As I see it, the controversy (that is, ‘the point’) concerns the nature of Henson’s work — to be precise, the 20 or so photos confiscated by police — and whether or not such images should, in fact, be suppressed on the basis of their constituting child pornography. This question has an ethical and legal dimension, as well as an artistic, cultural or political one.

    Regarding the fact that art is a reproduction — yes. ‘Art’ is the product of the ‘artist’, and the ‘artist’ is the one who produces ‘art’. But the intent of the artist is not necessarily to produce an ‘accurate’ or ‘objective’ image; an impossible task in any case. Rather, the artist interprets what she sees — whether in ‘reality’ or in her mind’s eye — and in doing so produces an entirely new vision.

    Regarding the difference between pornography and art, yes, this is a problem. So, I agree with you that the meaning of images is not inherent in the images themselves. That is, where you may not be ‘offended’ by a particular image of a naked woman, someone else might be. Inre Henson’s work, the same may, arguably, be said to be true. That is, those viewing his work are likely to display a range of reactions. One of the complicating factors, however, is that some of the images are apparently of naked or semi-naked minors. Depending on how one interprets the law and the work itself, this may mean that Henson has produced ‘child pornography’.

    As for the exhibition, as far as I’m aware, entry was (is) free. If Henson was (is) to make any money from his work, in other words, it will be through its sale, not its display. Is his potentially making a profit from the sale of his work unethical? I’m not so sure. I think to answer that question would require more knowledge of the circumstances under which it was produced. From the little I’ve read, it appears that no child was in any way forced to take part in the photos in question, and in each case he has sought their permission, as well as that of their parent/s.

    Finally, regarding the attendance of your 9-year-old daughter, you may be right. It may well be that it would be better if (some of) the images contained in the exhibition were not viewed by her. But even if that’s the case, this does not, in and of itself, justify the police action.

    Cheers,

    @ndy.

    PS. I am a libertarian, of sorts. But I think that the ‘right’ of artists to make art is only one among many others; I certainly don’t support the ‘right’ of artists to exploit children, especially if the exploitation is sexual in nature.

  3. @ndy says:

    On Henson’s models:

    Joelle Baudet, who posed naked for Henson as a 24-year-old, said she was approached by the photographer at a gallery opening in the mid-1990s.

    “The experience was enlightening. It never crossed my mind that what I was doing was pornographic,” Ms Baudet said.

    “His work is sublime and only a warped mind could associate it with such crassness. My children and I enjoy seeing his photographs daily in our home.

    “He’s always had total consent from his subjects and their families and would never have made any of his models do anything they were uncomfortable with.”

    While Henson made efforts to ensure that his young subjects and their parents were comfortable and informed, child advocates say no one can consent to such a practice.

    “It is clear from the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child that parents do not have the right to make that decision on behalf of their children,” the chief executive of Child Wise, Bernadette McMenamin, said.

    “And children, at the age of 12, 13 or 14, do not have the experience or the understanding to make an informed consent. They don’t understand how those images will be used or re-used. When they’re 18 or 20 or 30 they may look back and say, ‘My god, I made a mistake.'”

  4. Ultimate Hater says:

    A nude 12 year old is a nude 12 year old regardless of your exposure setting and lighting skills.

  5. @ndy says:

    And therefore?

  6. weez says:

    And therefore, nudity alone does not constitute sexualisation nor pornography.

    Many kudos to The Age for actually printing one of the recent Henson pics, uncensored.

    Suck it, philistines.

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  8. vents says:

    I just looked up the pic then and I reckon it looks pretty sexual in nature. Is that just my pedo interpretation? I looked at it and saw nipples, which he seems ot have made the focal point of the photo. There is no way I would guess she is 13 either (unless we are blaming the low pixels) but that might be because I don’t really expect 13 year olds to be in a pic like that.

  9. Liam says:

    The human body is a vehicle for a wide variety of activities, one of them is sex. I am amazed that people automatically associate a naked figure with sex, sure we are often naked when we have sex – though not always. And we are far more likely to be naked when we do much more commonplace activities such as showering, changing, or are born, yet for some reason association with these is secondary (if at all).
    Nature has no indecency – we invent them. (Some guy on the ball, either Walt Whitman or Mark Twain I think.)
    I wish I was having more sex than I were showers.

  10. vents says:

    Nature is no fun without indecency.

  11. Gregory Carlin says:

    The classification board has just cleared (in a letter to the IATC) the uncensored photographs. They’d previously cleared the censored material.

    PRESS RELEASE

    NO EMBARGO

    05 June 2008

    CLASSIFICATION BOARD CLEARS FOR PUBLICATION UNCENSORED NUDE PHOTOGRAPH OF 13 YEAR OLD CHILD

    BEGIN///

    The Irish Anti-Trafficking Coalition is dismayed that the Australian authorities have cleared for publication an uncensored nude photograph of a 13 year old girl. This closely follows the Classification Board’s green light for photographers to take pictures of naked under-age models after backing down on an investigation into a fashion magazine. Australia is closely emulating Japan in its failure to regulate indecent images of children.

    The decision by the Classification Board is in violation of Australia’s obligations under the UNCRC, CEDAW and ICCPR. This is the first occasion anywhere in the world that a nude photograph of a female child who was subject to a police investigation relating to a sexually motivated crime has been cleared for publication. This decision is also a fundamental breach of Australia’s [responsibilities] as partner nation of the Virtual Global Taskforce.

    ///END

    Gregory Carlin

    Director

    Irish Anti-Trafficking Coalition
    4 Downfine Walk
    Belfast
    Northern Ireland
    UK

    (UK) 44 (0) 2890 963164

    Note:

    U18 topless photographs are classified as child pornography in the United Kingdom.

    The IATC was a consulting partner with the UK govt. in relation to the SOA 2003.

  12. @ndy says:

    “This is the first occasion anywhere in the world that a nude photograph of a female child who was subject to a police investigation relating to a sexually motivated crime has been cleared for publication.”

    I’m not sure I fully understand this statement. Exactly which crime are you referring to?

    “U18 topless photographs are classified as child pornography in the United Kingdom.”

    Does this apply to both males and females? Taken literally, this would mean that the family photo albums of millions of British citizens are crammed with child pornography.

  13. @ndy says:

    Whatever.

    June 5:

    Henson avoids charges over National Gallery photos – ABC
    NGA in clear over Henson photos – Noise Ltd

    June 6:

    Henson in clear: prosecution scrapped – SMH
    No charges for Henson – The Age
    Bill Henson ‘obscenity’ case close to collapse – Noise Ltd
    No case against Henson: prosecutors – ABC

    Henson photo not porn, says censor
    David Marr
    SMH
    June 6, 2008

    And so on, on thousands of sites.

    BBC (w- photo of guess who?) – Sydney nude art inquiry dropped
    AFP…

    Police clear Australian artist of pornography

    SYDNEY (AFP) — An Australian artist whose photographs of a naked adolescent boy and girl sparked accusations of child pornography and led to the seizure of his work will not be charged, police said Friday.

    Prosecutors had advised that there was “no reasonable prospect of a successful conviction” over the nudes taken by acclaimed photographer Bill Henson, said Assistant Commissioner Catherine Burn.

    Police shut down Henson’s exhibition ahead of its opening last month, seizing some 20 works from the Roslyn Oxley9 Gallery in Sydney’s upmarket Paddington and saying charges would likely be laid.

    But Burn said Friday she had been informed by the Director of Public Prosecutions that any case based on the photographs would likely fail.

    “Matters involving the law and art are notoriously difficult and that is why police sought this advice,” she said in a statement.

    “We looked at the possibility of breaches of the Crimes Act. The advice given to us is that a successful prosecution was unlikely.”

    Police investigated the images — one including a portrait of a naked 13-year-old girl in which her breasts were visible — following complaints from the public.

    The dramatic closure of the exhibition shortly before it was to open on May 22 triggered fierce debate in the country, with Prime Minister Kevin Rudd declaring the works “absolutely revolting”.

    As child protection activists called for Henson to be charged over the images, artists such as Hollywood star Cate Blanchett rallied behind him, saying stifling art would damage Australia’s international reputation.

    Henson, who had not commented since the exhibition was shut down, welcomed the news that there would be no prosecution.

    “It is reassuring to see existing laws, having been rigorously tested, still provide a framework in which debate and expression of ideas can occur,” he said.

    Gallery director Roslyn Oxley said she had received support from not only the arts community, but ordinary Australians concerned about free expression.

    “These messages give us faith that our society really is as we believe it to be — one that is open to frank debate and inquiry and not afraid to voice differing views,” she said.

    The police decision not to press charges came as the Australian censor found that the image of the naked girl was mild and “not sexualised to any degree.”

    The Australian Classification Board said its review found the photograph was “mild and justified”.

  14. Gregory Carlin says:

    “Does this apply to both males and females? Taken literally, this would mean that the family photo albums of millions of British citizens are crammed with child pornography.”

    Henson’s material, as per the items, is child pornography in Britain as it is in other places and (your suggestion) the family photo albums would have to be squirted over the net or put in a gallery to get to the comparison stage, if something is neither posed or if it is accidental, that should keep the police at bay. A red herring from you I’m afraid.

    Henson’s [material] is child pornography in Britain. A few pro-porn lunatics at the classification board in Oz will not change that. Interestingly the porn industry was working feverishly behind the scenes and extended their Henson lobbying to include Operation Centurion. The same suspects obfuscated both issues. Which is what we expected.

    “I’m not sure I fully understand this statement. Exactly which crime are you referring to?”

    Police at the time were saying that charges were about to be pressed in relation to child pornography or indecent photographs. Whether or not charges are pressed is irrelevant, the fact that an active investigation is in progress is usually a sign that the victim should not have her photo (naked or otherwise) splattered all over the media.

    In civilized countries at least. The additional background to the alleged crime was that Bill Henson was already being tagged by the cops elsewhere, oddly enough for the very same thing. Which is why I doubt he’ll be doing a tour with the images in Britain.

    He won’t get past Heathrow. I doubt he’ll be over here for a while.

    Gregory

  15. @ndy says:
      “Henson’s material, as per the items, is child pornography in Britain as it is in other places and (your suggestion) the family photo albums would have to be squirted over the net or put in a gallery to get to the comparison stage, if something is neither posed or if it is accidental, that should keep the police at bay. A red herring from you I’m afraid.”

    Whether or not you believe that Henson’s material is child pornography in the UK is not strictly relevant as far as I can see. That is, laws vary considerably from one territory to the other and so, naturally, does the nature of what constitutes a criminal offence.

    Regarding the pornographic status of some number of family snapshots, I agree that context is important. I do not, however, necessarily agree that ‘pornography’ must be in public view for it to be considered ‘pornographic’. If one were to accept your logic, then a large amount of material that is otherwise considered pornographic — and the possession of which is a criminal offence — would be considered harmless.

    In terms of the question of ‘posing’ (aesthetic construction) or ‘accident’, if a person who places such material on the Internet is able to argue that it was not their intention to provide viewing material for paedophiles, surely Henson could mount the same defence? That is, while it may be the case that a number of viewers may find the material sexually stimulating, it was not his intention to produce such a reaction in that segment of his audience.

    It seems to me that the crux of the issue is whether or not an image of a naked or semi-naked minor, when put on public display, must always be considered, literally, the graphic depiction of a whore?

      “A few pro-porn lunatics at the classification board in Oz will not change that. Interestingly the porn industry was working feverishly behind the scenes and extended their Henson lobbying to include Operation Centurion. Which is what we expected.”

    I don’t know what you’re referring to here, either in terms of the lunatics at the Classification Board, porn industry reps working feverishly behind the scenes, Operation Centurion or who ‘we’ are. Am I to take it that you view the many thousands of individuals who might agree with the Board’s decision as being “pro-porn lunatics” or in some way stooges of the porn industry? That is what’s implied in your assertions, I think, and that’s also to stretch credulity to breaking point.

    Finally, with regards the police. At the time of the initial raid, a police spokesperson was quoted as stating that charges of some description were considered “likely”. This hasn’t eventuated, obviously, and following the Board’s classificatory decision, would seem highly unlikely now. Whether or not charges are or were pressed is, in my opinion, highly relevant to a discussion of Henson’s work and attendant issues. The fact that police investigated is also significant, but insufficient, in and of itself, to establish that there’s a case to answer: innocent until proven guilty.

    In civilized countries at least.

  16. Gregory Carlin says:

    “Whether or not you believe that Henson’s material is child pornography in the UK is not strictly relevant as far as I can see. That is, laws vary considerably from one territory to the other and so, naturally, does the nature of what constitutes a criminal offence.”

    It is definitely child pornography in Britain. If Oz will be good enough to leave the VGT, that would suit for the moment, it can join Japan, the two territories have a lot in common. The issue is to protect those agencies which are legitimate (from the FBI/RCMP & British view).

    The material is unambiguously identical to pornography from the 1880s, in all respects, to the point one could over-lap the photos with the hands being in the same place. The similarity is quite uncanny. It’s retro child porn.

    “In terms of the question of ‘posing’ (aesthetic construction) or ‘accident’, if a person who places such material on the Internet is able to argue that it was not their intention to provide viewing material for paedophiles, surely Henson could mount the same defence?”

    There is no defense in the UK, the idea in the photographers head, doesn’t really count. It is enough for it to be what it is. The posing usually deals with the accidental issue of capturing something & knowing about it. There is no defense other than marriage etc. and even then it can’t be shared and consent has to be proven. That won’t work with ’12’ or ’13’.

    Henson is a pedophile icon, how could he not possibly know that? He just is, he is famous for his kiddie pics. that is why when we were doing a re-vamp of our child pornography laws (SOA 2003) we had Henson, firmly in mind. He’s smart enough to know that he has to keep what we view as child pornography to his local regional toleration zone.

    If he does it here, he gets arrested.

    Gregory Carlin

    Irish Anti-Trafficking Coalition

  17. Gregory Carlin says:

    Rated PG by a classification board that also gave the thumbs up for U18 porn in fashion magazines, so don’t compare chalk and cheese.

    Thanks for the link, I see Alison Croggon is censoring her blogs now! I think that is worth a prize for being a hypocrite.

    Henson is becoming a local property, his U18 material is far too hot for galleries overseas, so it doesn’t look as if he is a Caravaggio, as if. How desperate is Australia for talent, that it has to throw such hyperbole at a guy who at best, is quite talented with a camera?

    ‘Far more powerful is the open letter reigniting the debate this week, from Monash University’s director of child-abuse research, Chris Goddard, and 40 psychologists, social workers and child-protection advocates alarmed about the lack of concern in the art world for the exploitation of children the images represent.’

    There are some Australians, who have a vocabulary of human rights, it is more a case of Alison Croggon and her her group-think friends not being part of that enlightened tribe of reasoned people.

  18. Gregory Carlin says:

    “Many kudos to The Age for actually printing one of the recent Henson pics, uncensored.”

    Somebody pointed out to them that they were the only newspaper in the whole wide world, to ever to do such a thing.

    (They might have removed it then.)

    The convention of course is, that one doesn’t post photos of girls central to sexual abuse investigations. It doesn’t matter if it is a maybe, hard to say, or a sure thing, an investigation is an investigation.

    In the USA, Canada & UK that’s standard.

    Gregory Carlin

  19. @ndy says:

    Gregory,

    It’s difficult to follow your argument(s), as you skip from one subject (Henson’s exhibition) to another (the Australian Classification Board) to another (UK law) to another (the Australian porn lobby) to another (Operation Condor) — and so on and so forth.

    A few points.

    1)

    When I originally raised the issue of photos of naked or semi-naked children in family photo albums, I was trying to establish whether or not you regarded any and all such depictions as pornography. From what I can gather from your response, you do not. That is, for such photos to be considered pornography, they would need to be published (made public in some fashion) and also be in some sense contained of ‘posed’ figure(s).

    2)

    Regarding “a few pro-porn lunatics at the classification board in Oz”, who are these lunatics?

    This is a relatively straight-forward question, as the Board has a membership. The members of the Board are:

    1) Donald McDonald
    2) Olya Booyar
    3) Jeremy Fenton
    4) Alexandra Greene
    5) Rod Smith
    6) Sally Bryant
    7) Chantal Chalier
    8 ) Georgina Dridan
    9) Stephen Dunham
    10) Andrew Pak Poy
    11) Greg Scott
    12) David Simon
    13) Rajan Venkataraman
    14) Joseph Mlikota
    and
    15) Rosalea Oberdorf

    Which of these 15 people does the Irish Anti-Trafficking Coalition consider to be pro-porn lunatics?

    3)

    You wrote: “…the porn industry was working feverishly behind the scenes and extended their Henson lobbying to include Operation Centurion. The same suspects obfuscated both issues. Which is what we expected.”

    I ask: what evidence is there to support this contention? Who are these suspects? I’ve searched the Eros Association site but they appear to have made no public statement regarding the affair. To the best of my knowledge, most of the support for Henson has come from the artistic communities, civil libertarians, and the general public.

    4)

    Regarding the abortive police investigation and publication of Henson’s work: the SOA 2003 refers to the POCA 1978 (PDF), which refers to ‘indecent photographs’. As far as I can discern, precisely what constitutes ‘indecency’ is a matter for the courts to interpret. Presumably, there is scope within this definition for the lawful production of images of minors for artistic and other purposes considered legitimate by the state.

    More later…

  20. Gregory Carlin says:

    You might be forgiven for missing it.

    The adult sector were issuing statements of one kind or another. It is not an area I can go into in great detail at the moment. I think there is a sensible connection between pro-pornography advocacy and the Henson scandal. Alison Croggon also went out of her way to link the two. I thought that was rather a bad move myself.

    ‘Johnston’s arguments against the work of Bill Henson are equally used by those who regarded pornography as exploitative of women. The adult entertainment industry, in all its forms, has been resisting such arguments, and the censorship that inevitably flows from them, for decades.’ [Bernard Keane, Hetty Johnston’s strange bedfellows, Crikey, June 6, 2008]

    Alison’s take on the child pornography problem in Oz, was related to ‘The Porn Report’ people and leaving aside pro or anti pornography sentiments, they’re not numerically credible people, they’ve little or no idea how our business works. For example, if I was really pushed, I could almost make up the net abusers for the world total, they suggest, with the teaching & kindred professions, with real cases.

    (To which you’ll say, why don’t I do a teacher with a spycam in a changing room, and I reply, I do my best, and in fairness to Oz, across the VGT group of nations, there are different degrees of willingness to do certain groups, it might actually be easier to do Bill Henson than a teacher. And we did have teachers doing Equus with naked children.)

    Bill Henson was a factor for our input for the Sexual Offences Act 2003. That would focus on directed photography, posed, modeled and material which could be understandably related to pornography, glamour images, and with a context that would not struggle to get over the test (indecency) for the Protection of Children Act.

    ‘In Regina v. Graham-Kerr, Stocker L.J. said that the appropriate test in the case of the Protection of Children Act was that as stated in R. v. Stamford [1972] 2 QB 391, which uses the formula ‘recognised standards of propriety.’

    This, and the use of the word ‘impropriety’ by Lord Parker, point to the essential elements of indecency being offence caused, and inappropriateness, rather than that any amount of shock or disgust be caused in those forced to see it.’

    When we were passing this law, the issue in the minds of everybody was topless photographs of 16 & 17 year old girls. That would have been the main thing, the accepted purpose, everybody would have been aware of that, it would then go without saying that 14, 15 were also included, in fact that was already criminalized. So with the SOA 2003 we extended the protection to ’18’.

    That is not to say there wasn’t a backlash against what we were doing. In Europe and the UK, a political party in Britain decided the SOA 2003 was to be amended at the first available opportunity. The Partij voor Naastenliefde, Vrijheid en Diversiteit (Dutch Pedophiles) with a view to simplicity of approach, adopted the same Liberal Democrat policy on child pornography. The Dutch Pedophiles copied the PVND policy from the Liberal Democrat Policy Paper 63.

    Proposal To Allow 16-Year-Olds To Appear In Explicit Porn
    Andy McSmith
    Political Editor
    The Independent – UK
    3-21-4[?]

    So, the Liberal Democrats, and the Partij voor Naastenliefde, Vrijheid en Diversiteit, were in opposition to the SOA 2003 and still seek to see it amended, only the Brit party has the numbers to work, they have 4,000 elected officials, mostly councillors, but they’re not close to being in govt.

    The Lib Dems are more of a nuisance with teachers, prostitution and related issues as a factor of local authorities they influence. They gave us a few campaigns in relation to red light zones for example.

    The Dutch Party is a reaction to clandestinity, they don’t have much of as future. Sexual radicalism in the Netherlands, is over, on the retreat, no longer a major phenomena. I’ll get back to you on the Classification Board if I may. I’m not at liberty to discuss that at the moment.

    Respectfully submitted

    Gregory Carlin

  21. Dr. Cam says:

    “To which you’ll say, why don’t I do a teacher with a spycam in a changing room, and I reply, I do my best.”

    Who is the real pervert here?

  22. @ndy says:

    “Why doesn’t Gregory do a teacher with a spycam in a changing room?”

    There.

    I said it.

  23. Gregory Carlin says:

    I do lots, polyvictimization makes teachers worth doing. It is not that unusual for teachers to victimize hundreds of children:

    Ex-teacher jailed for cyber sex
    BBC
    April 13, 2007

    There’s another talented ‘artist’ for you and just to put you straight, that type of individual, out-offends all the other sex offenders in Britain combined. So the primary offending group in the UK, are teachers referred to LIST 99 but *not* included.

    ‘Pervert’s sick colour codes, The Sun, April 14, 2007: “…Evil Graham Conridge listed how far each of the 261 girls would go after he lured them on to webcams. The 60-year-old posed as a 15-year-old…”

    I’m sure that CEOP/IWF & SOCA even forgot to take down his personal contact portfolio, there are basically too many pedophiles and not enough police officers to deal with them.

    http://www.myspace.com/grahamconridge

    That looks like him.

    ‘Even after coming under suspicion while teaching at Robert Bloomfield Middle School in Shefford and being banned from working in any Bedfordshire school he carried on his secret perversion and later got a job at Collenswood School in Stevenage.’

    [Broken link]

    Between teachers in Britain and Henson in Australia, it is just not that easy.

    We need Henson nailed down so we can return to the teachers et alia and their secret cameras, before that becomes ‘art’ or free speech’.

    Gregory Carlin

  24. Gregory Carlin says:

    “As far as I can discern, precisely what constitutes ‘indecency’ is a matter for the courts to interpret. Presumably, there is scope within this definition for the lawful production of images of minors for artistic and other purposes considered legitimate by the state.”

    Listen-up,

    There is no art, no research, no context: that’s a design feature of the law I helped to get. You really need to accept that.

    The Protection of Children Act & Sexual Offences Act 2003 do not allow for defenses of context or artistic and alleged cultural merit. Australia will in my opinion have such a law eventually.

    The effect of the British legislation is retrospective, applying to all such images, regardless of when they first came into circulation. Indecent material was also defined by our legislation as ‘child pornography’ and the test is Regina v. Graham-Kerr.

    We’ve had convictions relating to coffee table book photogs already and compared to Henson, they were less sinister, less dark, less pornographic, less offensive, less scary, less heroin chic, less everything!

    The other images were successfully prosecuted, in one recent case because the FBI bunged a name over, with Henson, it is urgent, it just is, we need a firing solution on him, because he is ‘a project’.

    Henson went too far.

    Gregory Carlin

    In Regina v. Graham-Kerr, Stocker L.J. said that the appropriate test in the case of the Protection of Children Act was that as stated in R. v. Stamford [1972] 2 QB 391, which uses the formula ‘recognised standards of propriety.’ This, and the use of the word ‘impropriety’ by Lord Parker, point to the essential elements of indecency being offence caused, and inappropriateness, rather than that any amount of shock or disgust be caused in those forced to see it.

    http://www.geocities.com/pca_1978/pseudsCorner.html

  25. Dr. Cam says:

    “I do lots, polyvictimization makes teachers worth doing.”

    For goodness sakes.

  26. Gregory Carlin says:

    I encounter teachers who have photographed more kids than Henson, Hamilton, & Sturges combined.

    ‘Pervert’s sick colour codes, The Sun, April 14, 2007: “…Evil Graham Conridge listed how far each of the 261 girls would go after he lured them on to webcams. The 60-year-old posed as a 15-year-old…”

    A few of him is a lot of victims. So, 261, how would that affect the stats for a force area that rarely clips more than a few per annum? That chap managed to affect crime stats in Canada, Indiana, with a decent blip in Chicago. That’s polyvictimization.

    Teachers originate as much as 80 percent of the child pornography in some of the jurisdictions I have worked in. The teachers in Oz, need to be watched as well, they’re up there.

    Gregory Carlin

  27. Lumpen says:

    Say George, care to mention where the funding for “Rights of the Scottish Child” came from and how many members you, ahem, sorry, the group has, and where the membership comes from? It might actually inform any debate when you envoke “we” when speaking of anti-pornography/anti-sex ed activities.

  28. dj says:

    Keyword alerts and narcissism = blog comment awesomeness!

  29. Dr. Cam says:

    “I encounter teachers who have photographed more kids than Henson, Hamilton, & Sturges combined.”

    Just for future reference, this is the way you should phrase this claim. Otherwise you come off as a sex-mad teacher molester.

  30. Gregory Carlin says:

    Dear Lumpen,

    Well I’ve probably generated a lot more money than Bill Henson ever will, I imagine that my fan club even after thirty or so years might still compete with Henson’s. A heavy metal album in the States will tend to out-shine the spivving of photos of naked boys’ genitalia in the backroom of a gallery in Oz.

    My support in Scotland is exclusively Catholic. The same support constituency the gay people got the money to buy Broughton Street.

    http://catholicactionuk.blogspot.com/2008/03/scottish-priests-involved-in-abortion.html

    So, if we are keeping track of Scottish cash, the British pedophile movement got a major cash gift via its Catholic associations. They eventually moved to London to eradicate the anti-pedophile elements in gay liberation there.

    They joined forces with the GLF to get that project going. They were accepted & entertained by the NCCL and (a small number) of members of the Labor Party etc.

    I would have chucked in about 45K of my own money for northern Britain and Cate Blanchett & Alison Croggon’s group-think colleagues were not on the list of my other donors. I’m selective about things.

    Gregory Carlin

  31. Dr. Cam says:

    Gregory, what metal band were you in? And how did you go from being a metal head to becoming a Catholic priest?

  32. Lumpen says:

    Is that some xt3.com lingo I’m not hip to? What do gay people have to do with disclosing the membership of the organisations you’re attached to and where the funding comes from?

  33. @ndy says:

    HOLY MICHAEL, ARCHANGEL, LISTEN-UP. DEFEND US IN THE DAY OF BATTLE. BE OUR SAFEGUARD AGAINST THE WICKEDNESS AND SNARES OF THE DEVIL. MAY GOD REBUKE HIM, WE HUMBLY PRAY, AND DO THOU, PRINCE OF THE HEAVENLY HOST, BY THE POWER OF GOD, THRUST DOWN TO HELL SATAN, AND ALL WICKED SPIRITS WHO WANDER THROUGH THE WORLD FOR THE RUIN OF SOULS, ESPECIALLY A FEW PRO-PORN LUNATICS AT THE CLASSIFICATION BOARD IN OZ. AMEN

  34. Lumpen says:

    FYI: The article that Gregory linked to has one of the most (unintentionally) hilarious blog comments I’ve read in ages.

    LeonG said … (5:24 AM) :
    This movement was also aided and abetted by the Dominicans in Edinburgh in the guise of “Father” Anthony Ross whom I knew for 4 years in the 1970s, unfortunately, as a young Catholic university student. He worked with a priest from Glasgow a Fr Jock Dalrymple.

    Anthony Ross OP and Fr. Jock Dalrymple helped organize, publish, and keep going the first Scots queer group, the Scottish Minorities Group [now the Scottish Homosexual Rights Group]. The first gay discos in Scotland were held in the Catholic chaplaincy at Edinburgh University. They made a lot of money and bought premises for their activites in Broughton Street. He also allowed an esoteric vegetarian group promote vegan food in the basement too. [My emphasis]

    I did not realise at the time just what he was up to as I was heavily into my studies but he and his supporters certainly must have actively promoted homosexual rights. He used to sleep with some of his “problem” boys and wrestle naked with young men in the Catholic chaplaincy, George Square, Edinburgh on Sunday afternoons. He also knew a young catholic Psychiatrist who once tried to sexually proposition me but without success. It was only subsequently I read an item about Ross and realised he must have been as sexually disorientated as his contemporaries, supposedly under “therapy”. I was often invited to participate in the wrestling but my inner-conscience told me there was something that was un-Catholic in such demeanour. [My emphasis]

  35. Gregory Carlin says:

    “and wrestle naked with young men in the Catholic chaplaincy, George Square, Edinburgh on Sunday afternoons.”

    Let’s just call that a G going on for a PG.

    Gregory

  36. @ndy says:

    THE POINTED VIEW: The art of moral panic
    Larissa Behrendt
    National Indigenous Times
    June 16, 2008

    On May 22 police raided the Roslyn Oxley9 gallery and confiscated artworks only hours before the opening of an exhibition.

    The camera crews were there to capture the police carting off crates. Talkback radio buzzed about “decency” and the old debate about the line between art and pornography was rehashed.

    But underneath the images of the state trampling on artistic freedom lie some bigger issues.

    Controversy is no stranger to artist Bill Henson. His photographs have provoked debate for over 20 years. But his notoriety has never been greater than when Prime Minister Kevin Rudd was asked about Henson’s work on morning television and replied “Whatever the artistic view or the merits of that sort of stuff, frankly I don’t think there are any. Just allow kids to be kids, you know.”

    Art critic John McDonald made the observation that the whole fiasco highlights the level of public ignorance about the visual arts. He pointed out that in 2005, Bill Henson was the subject of large retrospectives at the Art Gallery of NSW and the National Gallery of Victoria.

    Over 65,000 people visited the exhibition in Sydney alone; the Melbourne exhibition broke records. And no one complained.

    This is because when Henson’s work was exhibited it was in context. The stark photographs of young people in the fragile stage between adolescence and adulthood, the vulnerable yet harsh period of life when the future seems full of possibilities are usually juxtaposed against equally stark industrial landscapes that hint of exploitation, of powerlessness.

    Together, they are not just visually haunting, they do what all great art does – they hit a nerve about our own feelings and provoke us to think about the world. Shown in context, Henson’s work is clearly creative.

    But you do not have to be a fan of Henson’s work to be concerned about the confiscation of his art.

    Malcolm Turnbull, about the only politician to speak with rationality rather than emotion on the issue, summed it up when he said: “I don’t believe that we should have policemen invading art galleries… I think we have a culture of great artistic freedom in this country.”

    John McDonald made this point even more clearly: “Using the law as a blunt instrument to victimise Henson and Roslyn Oxley will not make the slightest difference to the activities of paedophiles and child abusers. Any attempt to stigmatise Henson’s work in the collections of the public museums around the world? If it is impossible to decide where to draw the line between art and pornography, one can at least examine the intention behind the work – and in this case, there can be no doubt that Henson has set out to make works of art.”

    Hetty Johnston summed up the argument against the photographs: “Pictures portraying sexualised imagery of young girls can never be called art. It is child pornography, child exploitation and it is a crime.”

    But just because the images have nudity does not mean that they are sexualised. It does not mean that they are pornography. It certainly does not automatically make it a crime.

    The police have sent the brief to the Department of Public Prosecutions and they now have to decide whether or not the case will proceed.

    I predict they’re going to encounter some difficulties. [Larissa’s column was filed last week, before the DPP made its decision not to charge Henson. Nice call, Professor! – Ed].

    Section 91H of the Crimes Act of NSW provides for gaol terms for up to 10 years for production and dissemination of child pornography and up to 5 years for possession of it.

    The material must show children in a “sexual context” and the question is whether nudity is enough. While the politicians say “yes”, the lawyers are not so sure.

    The law also provides a defence if it can be shown that the material was intended to be used for “genuine artistic purposes”. Henson has a career that has spanned over 30 years; major galleries all around the world have collected his work. He is as successful in his field as Nicole Kidman is in hers, and Powderfinger are in theirs.

    The other equation in the debate is, of course, the young people who have been models for Henson. And in this debate they have been his most vocal supporters.

    Not only has the mother of the child who was the subject of the confiscated photographs come to his defence, but so have former models.

    In a letter to The Age, Antonia Green, who had been a model for Henson when a child, said: “To me, these images have always communicated a fragile truth and a pure beauty in a dark world…. Henson’s work is poetic, not pornographic. If we censor the expression of what is dark and ambiguous in art, then a far greater darkness takes hold – that of ignorance, suppression and a numbing of imagination.”

    As many commentators observed, for the model in the controversial photographs an experience of being part of the creative process, one negotiated with trust, would have been far less traumatic than having the Prime Minister look at the photograph on national television and say “That’s disgusting”.

    One of the fascinating aspects of the whole debate has been the insight into the Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd.

    It revealed both his conservative morality and his penchant for playing the populist.

    None of this is particularly surprising. Rudd had long played on his image as a conservative in order to best the ultra-conservative John Howard and he also managed to out-politick Howard when it came to keeping with the pulse of public opinion.

    That’s who Rudd is and it has been a winning formula for him personally, and for the ALP as a party.

    What is apparent is that many people did not realise this.

    They saw in Rudd what they wanted to see. Someone who would be the saviour for our nation’s appalling treatment on refugees; someone who would deliver true reconciliation; someone who would re-elevate the intellectual into public life; someone who would bring light after the darkness of the Howard era.

    It is the arts community who seem to have been among the most duped, by placing so much hope and expectation on what Rudd was going to deliver.

    Like a thousand (and a few) others, I attended the 2020 conference.

    Despite my general scepticism I was supportive of the process of inclusive debate and the manner in which the government was sending a message that the discussion of big, new ideas was an important part of community life.

    I was in the ‘Towards a Creative Australia’ stream, the one that included artists, actors, arts administrators, and broadcasters.

    While there had been general disappointment about the way in which the final documents failed to include key ideas and deliberations, the group stayed in contact through a website and when the police raided the Roslyn Oxley9 Gallery, the response was swift.

    A few thought the Prime Minister may have rushed his reaction, ambushed on morning television as he was, and that, if given the chance to reflect on the issue, he would backtrack. He didn’t.

    The criticism from the arts community only seems to have hardened Rudd’s resolve.

    But many who attended the 2020 conference, who took the Prime Minister at his word when he said he believed creativity was a central part of Australian life and that the role of the artist in contributing to society should be supported, quite rightly felt betrayed by his public comments about Henson.

    Rudd displayed a lack of understanding of the difference between artistic process and pornography, and an ignorance of the catalogue, impact and intellect of Henson’s work.

    At the first public test of his commitment to the importance of creativity in the community, Rudd capitulated.

    He crashed and burned.

    When I signed the public letter in support of Henson I knew that, as a vocal opponent of the welfare reform, land grab and racist aspects of the Northern Territory intervention, I was opening myself up to the criticism that, in defending Henson I was promoting child pornography in the same way that my opposition to the insidious aspects of the Northern Territory intervention had seen me labelled by the pro-Howard’s as protecting paedophiles.

    It is powerful rhetoric. The mantra of ‘it’s all about the children’ has certainly been effective in stifling debate.

    It is a mantra that covers all manner of ills, stops them from being analysed, criticised, debated.

    And usually has very little to do with the protection of children.

    There will always be debates about the line between art and pornography, and the proper role, if any, of governments and police in dictating community standards.

    These are, however, public debates – they should not take place in a courtroom.

    But what this is not is simply a debate against the “elites” and “the common folk”.

    Such a characterisation demeans the creativity in all people – whether they live in Toorak or Mount Druitt, Broken Hill or Yuendumu.

    It also demeans the capacity of the “common folk” to see the dangers in the government and police dictating moral standards and in the curtailing of freedom of expression.

    The ‘common folk’ can spot hypocrisy in politicians just as easily, if not more so, as the ‘Chardonnay set’.

    As Doug Steley from Maroochydore wrote in to the letters page of The Sydney Morning Herald on 31 May: “I am wondering how many of those objecting to Bill Henson’s nude photographs actually objected to the Howard government locking up children in detention camps for years? That was child abuse, yet so many remained silent or approving.”

  37. Gregory Carlin says:

    I object to both Henson and prison abuses, Henson is just as evil. I don’t use that word lightly, evil is the word.

    My first detention/prison protest was the eleven people sentenced to die during the Franco era, two pregnant women, and nine others, Angel Otaegi and Juan Paredes Manot (“Txiki”), they could have been garroted, so some were shot by firing squad, three FRAP members were also shot, Franco was close to death himself.

    I eventually got around to the Australian abuses. I filed Oz in my head as a big darn Texas in the ocean. I clipped it onto Hawaii. My track record, on prisons, is thirty years of activism.

    Gregory Carlin

    Irish Anti-Traficking Coalition

  38. @ndy says:

    Henson = prison abuses = evil? Hmmm.

    You may think you’re being serious Gregory, but I think you’re being silly.

    And yeah, lotsa peeps were sentenced to die during Francisco Paulino Hermenegildo Teódulo Franco y Bahamonde’s 36-year reign; the Catholic church displayed immense concern for all of them. However, the last person to be executed by garrotte in Spain was the anarchist Salvador Puig Antich in March 1974; 18 months prior to the executions you refer to.

    “The sentencing to death of ETA activists ‘Txiki’ Jon Paredes Manot, José Garmendía Artola and Angel Otaegi Etxeberría, and the subsequent blanket repression of the region, saw general strikes paralyse the region on August 29 and September 11-12. In the interim, the Government introduced their draconian Anti-Terrorist Law (Preston 1986: 73). ‘Txiki’ Paredes and Angel Otaegi were executed along with three FRAP members on September 27 1975 (ibid.: 73-74). For the first time since the announcement of the intended reform of the state monolith, the government left the door ajar enough for ETA to exploit.”

  39. Gregory Carlin says:

    ‘In Madrid today, police – including many in plain clothes and using unmarked cars – waited outside the Cathedral of San Isidore as 2,000 worshippers attended a mass for the souls of the five who were executed. After a 20-minute silence in honour of the dead, several hundred of the worshippers dashed out of the church and began shouting “Freedom” and “No to the death penalty.”‘

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/1975/sep/29/spain.walterschwarz

    ‘Of all the foreign criticism, that of the Pope, who sent three requests for clemency for the condemned men and women, may prove most damaging. The Church here had joined in appeals for clemency and the executions can hardly fail to bring about a new confrontation between sections of the Church and the regime.’

    Franco withdrew his ambassador to the Holy See. Garrottings were the official method, a firing squad was more merciful.

    Gregory Carlin

  40. @ndy says:

    Gregory,

    As The Guardian article suggests, revulsion at these executions was widespread, both within Spain and without (including Australia). The reaction to these executions also revealed deep splits within the Spanish state regarding the transition from dictatorship to ‘democracy’; an era which commenced barely a few months later with the death of Franco. Regarding the relationship between his regime and the Catholic church, while it’s true that some worshipers joined the rest of Europe and the world in protesting at the executions, my point remains: over its 36 year history, the church was a key ally of the dictatorship; Catholicism an ideology of class rule. Although it dates from the commencement of the fascist uprising in July 1936, this support was made explicit in, for example, the encyclical that the Spanish bishops wrote “To the Bishops of the Whole World” in July 1937. This kind letter on the part of the bishops was triggered in part by another, earlier massacre: that of the population of Guernica/Gernika, and Franco’s request that these Men of God respond to the negative propaganda produced as a result.

    The legacy of Guernica
    BBC
    April 26, 2007

    Josefina Odriozola was a 14-year-old girl shopping in the market with her mother when German and Italian planes supporting the Fascist forces of Gen Franco closed in on the town.

    “I remember it well,” she says.

    “We left everything in the market and went home. We lived just outside the town, but the bombing started and we were there in the main square. Three planes flew in full of bombs and then left empty. Bomb, bomb, bomb, bomb, until everything was burning.”

    Josefina is one of about 200 people, many in their 80s, who are still alive to describe what they witnessed on that day. Today, it is not the bombing that makes her most angry, but what followed.

    “They burnt the city down with their planes and they denied they had done it – they blamed it on the Communists,” she says.

    “My sister was 13 years older than me and they told her that the Reds had destroyed Guernica. But she said: ‘No, the Reds don’t have planes.’ And they said to her: ‘You little Red, we’re going cut all your hair off.’ Why? Because she was telling the truth. We couldn’t even say the truth about the attack.”

  41. @ndy says:

    PS. It’s been over a month now, and I’m wondering…

    Regarding “a few pro-porn lunatics at the classification board in Oz”, who are these lunatics?

    This is a relatively straight-forward question, as the Board has a membership. The members of the Board are:

    1) Donald McDonald
    2) Olya Booyar
    3) Jeremy Fenton
    4) Alexandra Greene
    5) Rod Smith
    6) Sally Bryant
    7) Chantal Chalier
    8 ) Georgina Dridan
    9) Stephen Dunham
    10) Andrew Pak Poy
    11) Greg Scott
    12) David Simon
    13) Rajan Venkataraman
    14) Joseph Mlikota
    and
    15) Rosalea Oberdorf

    Which of these 15 people does the Irish Anti-Trafficking Coalition consider to be pro-porn lunatics?

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