Another day, another outrageous attack on free speech. Colorado resident Phillip Greaves was arrested a week ago by Florida cops on obscenity charges. His crime? Writing a book on pedophilia called: The Pedophile’s Guide to Love and Pleasure: A Child-Lover’s Code of Conduct. The cops, posing as buyers on the internet, got him to mail a copy of the book to them and then flew to Colorado to arrest him.
I haven’t read the book, but it is apparently not — despite the title — a book on how to abuse children, but instead on how pedophiles can conduct themeselves around children in a manner that conforms to the law.
Eugene Volokh wrote a nice post explaining why Philip Greaves has not violated the obscenity statute nor any child pornography laws. Also read this post at Sexhysteria.
I am pretty sure that the charges against him will be eventually dismissed. Even if the jury convict him, he can appeal and will be virtually certain to win. The operative word though is “eventually”. Till then, he sits in jail. It appears that he lacks the money to hire a good lawyer or set himself free on bail (set at $15,000).
For a related case, read this old post of mine.
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Posted in India, libertarianism, tagged free speech, hindu extremism, moral police, muthalik, ram sena, religion, renuka chowdhury, taliban on February 18, 2009 |
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They say rightly that truth is stranger than fiction.
So Muthalik and his gang of goons beat up women at pubs because they deem the activity is against Indian culture. This sets off similar acts of violence and vandalism by other Hindu right-wing groups. One of their victims, a fifteen year old girl, is so traumatized by the incident that she commits suicide.
What next? At the very least, you’d expect legal action against the perpetrators, right? But this is India, where miracles happen everyday, only in a bad way. Instead of directing its ire at the bad guys, a Mangalore local court directs the police to file a FIR against the Union minister Renuka Chowdhury for her statement comparing these incidents to the acts of the Taliban.
The whole thing beggars belief. The first news report I read on the matter didn’t mention the law that Ms. Chowdhury had allegedly violated (and for the life of me I couldn’t figure it out); so I scoured around some more. Finally I found it:
…directed the police to register the FIR under section 153 A (Promoting enmity between different groups) and B (Imputations, assertions prejudicial to national integration) and 505 (Statements conducive to public mischief) IPC and also to submit the investigation report before March 20,
The only thing more WTF than the act of the local court is this terrible set of sections under which the FIR was filed. There are ridiculous laws and then there are ridiculous laws. In the theater of the absurd, anything is possible — and if the results are mostly tragic, hey that’s life!
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Posted in India, tagged bully, couples, goons, liberty, moral police, paternalism, ram sena, valentines, valentines day, vigilantism, violence on February 6, 2009 |
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A thought just struck me. All those dashing moustachioed South Indian actors, yeah the ones who beat up the bad guys and gyrate with the voluptuous ladies with equal panache, should write a letter to their adoring fans. They should tell those young fellas that they can do something really great this Valentine’s day; form vigilant squads and protect the couples who decide to go out. Of course, it is difficult to take up the cause of over-happy lovers, but surely these fellas (who presumably have no significant others) will do that much to abide by the wishes of their favourite superstar?
So there you go young fans, you know it is right to woo a pretty lady (your hero does it all the time) and it is also right to beat up a villain soundly (your hero excels at this too) — why not help both happen this 14th? Go out and thrash any Ram Sena activist you see on the street — Rajnikant will bless you.
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Posted in India, libertarianism, tagged civil liberties, free speech, freedom of expression, fundamentalism, intolerance, moral police, offended feelings, protests, religion on January 26, 2009 |
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The Mumbai terror attacks were remarkable, not just for their audacity and horrifying elements, but also for the spontaneous reaction it elicited from the public. Citizens across India demonstrated in massive numbers and expressed their outrage against terrorists and politicians. There were posters and sloguns and an atmosphere of common purpose. The numbers were massive, the intensity electrifying, the cause just.
However I wonder.
I wonder what those protesters, proud Indians all, who presumably are outraged at Pakistani terrorists killing our people and overjoyed about our economic growth and rapid urbanization, feel about Raj Thackeray’s dictats to out-staters, the culture of entitled offendedness that pervades our society and makes people force their beliefs on others, the recent incident where a Pakistani girl studying in Mumbai was assaulted for having an Urdu tattoo on her body or this other incident where Ram Sena activists beat up pub goers for behaving ‘immorally’.
I wonder if they think twice when they read about Sania Mirza getting harrassed for keeping her feet too close to our flag, Taslima Nasreen being told what she cannot write, M F Hussain’s paintings being vandalized, Tamil movies being ‘banned’ in Karnataka, arrests made for writing derogatory stuff about politicians or Harbhajan Singh being dragged to court for dressing up as Ravana in a TV show. If they do, they certainly do not show it.
So, while I am happy that my country has been recording good economic growth and all that, I fail to muster up enough enthusiasm about the grassroot protests that took place after the Mumbai attacks. There is little to argue about a terrorist attack; we all agree it is horrifying and wrong and that the perpetrators should be punished. Protests and all are fine and good, but there is hardly much moral ambiguity at stake there. On the other hand, the incidents I mention are commonplace and related in that they all involve a complete disregard for individual liberty. There are principles at stake there, principles worth fighting for. So, when I see that my countrymen, who proved their amazing ability to gather together and protest less than two months ago, display little or no outrage at all these incidents I have mentioned above, it tells me something — their values are not really pro-liberty, their conception of morality not necessarily mine.
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Posted in libertarianism, tagged censorship, civil liberties, entertainment, freedom of speech, immoral, moral police, obscenity, offended feelings, religious fundamentalism, saudi arabia, television on September 12, 2008 |
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No, it’s not the Taliban saying this, but the senior-most judge in Saudi Arabia.
The most senior judge in Saudi Arabia has said it is permissible to kill the owners of satellite TV channels which broadcast immoral programmes. [...]
“There is no doubt that these programmes are a great evil, and the owners of these channels are as guilty as those who watch them,” said the sheikh.
“It is legitimate to kill those who call for corruption if their evil can not be stopped by other penalties.”
Have a good life.
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Watch the ad first. It’s yummy.
The Ministry of Information & Broadcasting of India has written to the Indian Broadcasting Federation (IBF) asking it to make sure this advertisement is not broadcast any more, terming it indecent, vulgar and repulsive.
I have long believed that of all the useless appendages of the Indian government, the one that has the least rationale for existence is the Ministry of Information & Broadcasting.
As Ezra Levant would say: Fire. Them. All.
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Posted in libertarianism, people, tagged accident, collateral damage, death, gambling, government, law enforcement, moral police, paternalism, victimless crimes on July 3, 2008 |
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The wages of sin is death. What constitutes sinful behavior is going to be decided by us, the government. We will do everything in our power to ensure that your children grow up in a moral environment.
Sometimes shit will happen in the process. Culosi– poor guy — his fate was an unfortunate one. But you know what, some collateral damage is unavoidable in matters like these. Don’t worry about Culosi, he was a martyr to a great cause, he will surely go to heaven.
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Posted in libertarianism, tagged censorship, child abuse, civil liberties, civil liberty, explicit content, first amendment, freedom, freedom of expression, freedom of speech, internet pornography, intolerance, karen fletcher, liberty, moral police, nanny-state, obscenity, obscenity case, offended feelings, pittsburgh, police state, policies, pornography on February 8, 2008 |
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A hundred years ago, you could be arrested if your drawing, writing or other form of creative expression was considered obscene by the authorities. Artistic freedom was not as important as preserving public morality. And the idea that a century on, pornography could be displayed and sold in perfectly legal shops was unthinkable.
For good or bad, those times are far behind us. One of the greatest jewels of the United States is her First Amendment, a piece of law enshrined in her constitution and systematically strengthened by the courts through the last century – that guarantees the freedom of expression for all. In modern day USA you can depict anything and not worry about the moral police coming after you. Of course you can still be charged if your work is libelous or directly incites violence or violates someone else’s rights. But other than that, the idea that someone can be put in jail simply for expressing distasteful thoughts or fantasies is preposterous. This is a free country, right?
Karen Fletcher, a reclusive woman living in Pittsburgh, recently began posting short stories on the Internet that describe, in graphic detail, the sexual abuse of children – in order, she says, to cope with her own history of childhood abuse. The internet abounds in pornography, much of it visual. Fletcher’s stories had no illustrations, were obvious works of fantasy, and were not displayed publicly. The only way to read these stories was by paying a modest sum of ten dollars a month, so that – Fletcher says – she could she could keep the website running and also protect children (and unwilling adults) from accessing it. Yet those stories, read by about 29 paying subscribers, have made Fletcher one of the few people facing federal criminal charges for obscenity.
In many ways, Fletcher’s case is unusual. A obscenity charge is rare these days, and almost unheard of in situations where no one has been harmed in the making of the offending material. And a case like Fletcher’s, which involves only the written word, has not been successfully prosecuted in the last thirty five years in this country.
So if this case feels like a throwback to the dark ages, it indeed is. But it should not be viewed in isolation. Recent years have witnessed an increasing clamping down on civil liberties in the US, accompanied by the passage of the Patriot Act, draconian anti-discrimination laws, hate-crime laws and an atmosphere of extreme political correctness. This particular case seems to be an example of the Bush administration’s efforts to cater to the religious right and reinvigorate the Obscenity Act. It is a long, slippery slope. Once a certain level of freedom becomes unacceptable, the bar is lowered and the next act of censorship is not only easier but also more extreme. Intolerance begets greater intolerance and by the time you realise the value of what you have lost, it is too late. Once these freedoms are gone, the wheels of motion are much harder to turn in the opposite direction. Illiberality and offended sensibilities make for excellent political nourishment. Those of us from India will attest to that.
It is possible that Karen Fletcher will not be convicted. If she is, God save us all.
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Shiv Sainiks vandalise paintings in Hussain exhibition.
This couldn’t have been a surprise -the exhibition was initially suspended due to vandalism threats and opened only after additional security was provided.
I’ll make an exception from my usual distaste for such measures and propose a new law. One that will provide for immediate non-bailable arrest and expedited trials – with a mandatory jail term if found guilty – against those who commit violent acts infringing upon others’ freedom of expression . That would include all these acts that our moral police prides itself on – harassing lovers, vandalising art, burning theatres.
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