FPB: Inside Politics declines to censor The Spear

by The Editor

FEATURE: The Film and Publications Board (FPB) has attempted to censor The Spear, by giving it a 16N rating, for nudity. It has stated that it will attempt to enforce this rating by approaching internet service providers. Inside Politics declines to censor the picture of The Spear on this blog. It shall stay up, as is. The full reasoning behind that decision follows in the article below.

Inside Politics declines to censor The Spear

By: Gareth van Onselen

1 June 2012

The Film and Publications Board (FPB) has attempted to censor The Spear, by giving it a rating of 16N, for nudity. Its statement reads:

“This classification is legally restrictive and dictates that persons below the age of 16 may not be exposed to this artwork. Secondly, ‘N’ represents nudity and is an advice impressed upon sensitive adult viewers who may make the choice to avoid exposure to nudity as content.”

The Board’s statement continues:

“It is our intention to engage our local and international partners including the Internet Service Providers Association (ISPA), Wireless Application Service Providers Association (WASPA), Press Ombudsman, search engines etc. in seeking avenues to enforce this decision going forward.”

Inside Politics disagrees with the Film and Publications Board’s decision and reasoning, and thus declines to censor its blog containing a picture of The Spear.

Why? First, I consider the decision arbitrary and inconsistent. The Board has failed to censor in the same way a range of artwork since the advent of democracy in South Africa comparable with The Spear. Its decision in this case is clearly political and its rating, in my opinion, an attempt to appease the African National Congress, not uphold the rights of children or those sensitive to such things.

Indeed, even if that were its intent, I regard it as wrongheaded. Those rights are not at play. Thus, second, there is no difference between it and any depiction of the human anatomy in a sex-education book or in those myriad other artworks that reveal the full human anatomy, from the statue of David through the two naked cherubs that adorn the gables at Tuynhuys. The painting is not gratuitous in any way. In none of these instances has this sort of censorship been applied for the very reason that no reasonable person, man, woman or child, would assume them in anyway damaging to their constitution.

Indeed, when the FPB’s logic is applied to the internet, it becomes absurb. I have alluded merely to actual examples of simialr art that exist in the real world. On the internet they are infinite. If it is the board’s intention to apply the same logic to all such similar depictions on the internet, it is a mission doomed from first principles. Freedom reigns on the internet, and trying to censor images of the human body on it, akin to trying to stop one opening their eyes in the morning.

Thus, I decline to censor The Spear on Inside Politics. To do so would be an affront not only to the general principle that govern’s one right to freely express their opinion (a right which also encompasses what one chooses to view) but the specific right for artists to freely practice their art. It would be to limit the choice of the reasonable person. Likewise, it would be to promote intolerance and secrecy and, were the Board’s decision to stand, to retard debate and critical discussion in South Africa and set a precedent from which artistic licence, parody, metaphor and criticism would struggle to recover. And as a country, we would be poorer for it.

In conclusion, history is replete with examples of various authoritarian regimes who, through censorship in all its forms, have tried to control and limit public debate, to enforce and augment secrecy and to dictate to others the decisions which are rightly theirs. Ultimately, they have all lost. If, through some anti-democratic machination, The Spear cannot be hosted on a local internet site, I shall just post it internationally. Should it then be decided to shield the South African community from the international World Wide Web, the ever-closing gap between us and country’s such as China will simply have been reduced further, and with it, those rights the constitution affords us further denuded of their worth.

The Film and Publication’s Board’s saying is ‘We inform, you choose’, in this case it is more appropriately constituted as ‘We choose, and you will be less informed’. That cannot stand.

For a fuller explanation as to my reasoning for keeping The Spear up, see my Open Letter, linked to below.

Related Posts:

An Open Letter: Why the Spear is staying up on Inside Politics

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