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Two steps forward, one step back

spiderstars (who also wrote a post on this) recently sent me this link: http://www.wired.com/threatlevel/2009/05/manga-porn/
To summarize it, there's a guy who bought manga (Japanese comics) that evidently had what the government deemed representations of children in sexual situations in them. Because of a law that says that representations of children having sex are now illegal, this guy is facing up to fifteen years in jail.


This is bad censorship. Any time there is a situation in which you are telling someone that they cannot read something (excepting the protection of children from mature content, which does not apply here as this guy was most definitely over 21), it is bad. You should have the right to read what you want, even if it might not be to others' tastes.

Additionally, I have beefs with the law beyond the violation of rights it represents. The law says (http://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/18/1466A.html) that the media, in order to violate the law, must "lack serious literary, artistic, political, or scientific value." I'm sorry, but what exactly is "serious literary, artistic, political, or scientific value?" How does one determine/rate that? What scale are we using, and who created it? Under these rules, one could make a case that Lolita, which is considered to be an excellently written (if disturbing) and highly lauded book about the relationship between a thirteen year old girl and an older man, could be considered illegal. Or you could make the case that it would be legal judging by its "serious literary" value. The law's guidelines are such that a case could be made for virtually anything either way. (Now I'm not saying that the case would be particularly good for a lot of publications, but it could still be made)

And, as told in the article, "the Protect Act narrows the prohibition to cover only depictions that the defendant’s community would consider “obscene.”" WHAT community!? WHICH community!? The one in which he physically lives? The one from whom he got his comics? The 'community' of his peers, aka the jury? And the prosecutors could, in theory, handpick whatever 'community' they wanted (except the jury one) so that yes, it would be considered obscene.

Neil Gaiman, author of the Sandman series (which is one of my favorites of all time), has put his two cents in on the issue, weighing in on the side of Christopher Handley (the accused). (Read more here, or keep reading for some highlights: http://splashpage.mtv.com/2008/11/24/neil-gaiman-on-the-obscenity-of-manga-collector-christopher-handleys-trial/ ) Neil's hooked up with Black Phoenix Alchemy Labs to create a perfume line based on his books in order to raise money for Handley's defense. Additionally, he's gone on record (as the interview says) defending Handley's right to his books, and even saying that he himself could be considered to be breaking the law with his books (see what I mean about really general judging rules?). Gaiman supported another comic collector a while back when on Free Comics Day, comic shop owner Gordon Lee's employee accidentally gave a minor a comic with *gasp!* depictions of buttocks in it. The kid's mom protested, Lee was sued, and the charges were finally dropped after hundreds of thousands of dollars were spent over an accident. (Link to article: http://www.mtv.com/movies/news/articles/1585974/story.jhtml ) Now, Gaiman said something I find rather interesting in this article:
"It's cost the fund $100,000," Gaiman said, "and I think it was starting to edge into the millions for the city of Atlanta. The reason why this was so ridiculous, so iniquitous and should be stopped is that you're in a world where someone like Gordon would just be driven out of business. A comic book shop does not have the financial resources of a state that has decided its intention or function is to put you into jail or drive you out of business."
He's got a good point. The people who are prosecuting for these "crimes" have lots and ltos of money to back them. The comic collectors and shop owners? Not so much, which is why the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund is such a lovely organization (I won't get into that now, but the short version is that they paid and are paying for the defenses of both men mentioned in this post). Now I'm sorry, but I didn't realize that comic book collectors were such an evil lot.

Several points I'd like to make before I wrap up this (rambling) post, one of which probably some of you have seen in spiderstars's post. Even if you want to say that these comics depicting children having sex has no "serious literary, artistic, political, or scientific value" (god, that makes me angry every time I write it), it can serve a purpose. I've heard the argument used for (consensual of-age) porn before that it can be used as a safety valve; should you have a person who has the urge to go out and rape or perform other morally reprehensible acts, and they are able to curb the impulse to perform those acts by watching porn, then you'd say that porn would be a very good thing, right? Now let's extend that to drawn depictions of kids having sex. If that's what it takes to keep a guy (or girl) from becoming a pedophile/rapist, then I'd say that that comic is performing a good function. Maybe that wasn't why Handley bought this stuff, but that doesn't make the argument any less valid. Additionally, the term "minor" encompasses a lot of ground. We'll say you're no longer a minor at 18. Well, let's also say that you went through puberty at age 13. That makes five years in which you can be sexually active and have PLENTY of hormones racing through your system. Ever read a book from the teen fiction section that included two characters having sex (even the "fade to black" type)? Well, there's a good chance they were minors. Kids who have not yet gone through puberty are a rather different case (at least in my mind) than some group of teenaged high schoolers, although whatever the comics this guy had, this whole prosectution situation, and the law itself, are wrong.

Ugh, that turned into a monster. If I've missed any points, then feel free to give 'em to me. Hell, feel free to argue with me.


( 2 comments — Leave a comment )
Jun. 7th, 2009 08:25 pm (UTC)
Bravo. Hahaha, much more on-topic than mine, but bravo.

I really think child pornography is a serious issue, and I understand a lot of the laws against it. However this does seem a bit overboard.
Jun. 7th, 2009 10:48 pm (UTC)
On topic? Maybe, but I somehow managed to ramble for far longer than necessary, and your post was much more connected within itself.

Child pornography is not equivalent to drawings of kids having sex. That's all I can say.
( 2 comments — Leave a comment )

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