Pubdate: Sat, 17 Mar 2007
Source: Australian, The (Australia)
Copyright: 2007nThe Australian
Author: Phillip Adams


PROHIBITION doesn't work. Didn't work for grog. Doesn't work for
drugs. Failed with porn. Hopeless with ideas. Not only does
prohibition not work, it's entirely counterproductive.

Applied to alcohol in the United States from 1920 to 1933, prohibition
added to alcoholism and nurtured gangsters such as Al Capone, while
writing a blank cheque for corruption at every level of the political
and justice systems.

Applied to drugs, prohibition teamed with useless exercises in
interdiction gave narcosis increased countercultural cred, recruited
millions of users and addicts, created countless drug lords with their
mules, pushers and enforcers and encouraged limitless corruption -- up
to and including the corruption of national governments.

By modernising and intensifying ancient taboos, the 20th century
censorship of porn ensured an insatiable appetite that not even the
internet and high-speed downloads can satisfy. Which brings us to
thought prohibition.

In a democracy, ideas, good and bad, come crashing through the door.
In dictatorships they creep through the cracks. Even the combined
threat of the KGB and the Gulag failed to stop the Soviet's samizdats,
the whispering and finally the shouting of dissent. Ditto for any
other totalitarian society you can name. Combine human recalcitrance
with increasingly subversive technology and censorship is as old hat
as John Kerr's topper.

So if you want something to flourish, ban it. Thus prohibition is the
drug pusher's best friend and secrecy the surest way of spreading
secrets. As a young film-maker I loved R.J. Prowse, hallowed be his
name. Australia's chief censor (1964-70) would snip and slash with his
sanctimonious scissors and the subsequent kerfuffle provided our
publicity. In every attempt to suppress anything you've got a
marketing campaign, and in the age of the www, a global shopping mall.

Taboo or not taboo? If you want to promote something, persuade the
church or state to condemn it or, better still, ban it. Even mild
social disapproval can be a help in regard to everything from haircuts
to hemlines. One of the army of Fred Niles will fall for it, denounce
it and you're home and hosed. I've fallen for it myself. While
ridiculing the taboos that had Lady Chatterley's Lover, Oz magazine,
Mary McCarthy's The Group and a little Swedish film called I Am
Curious (Yellow) in trouble with the authorities, and while
campaigning to have the bans on porn lifted, I railed against the
pornographies of violence. How hypocritical to ban images of
lovemaking while filling cinema and TV screens with images of slaughter.

George Miller's first feature, Mad Max, was a case in point. The
brilliance of Miller's direction made the sadism and savagery doubly
effective and I attacked the film as a prime example of the
pornography of violence -- only to find my protests included in the
film's advertising campaign, Adams filling in for Fred Nile.

(Mind you, George and I had a history. Kennedy-Miller's first film,
Violence in the Cinema, Part 1, was a mockumentary in which a lecturer
on the topic is shot, stabbed and eviscerated at his lectern. Arthur
Dignam played the part, continuing his harangue as he was hacked to
pieces. In the end there was little more than a still-moving mouth
atop a pile of protoplasm. And the words came from a speech deploring
media violence I'd given to an international psychiatric conference.
It's good to see that George now choreographs the dancing of penguins
rather than cinematic butchery.)

I should have learnt my lesson, but was spotted evacuating a cinema
screening a turkey called Turkey Shoot, wherein animal liberationist
Lynda Stoner was subjected to more brutal indignities than Arthur
Dignam. Yet again my disapproval was featured in the ads. "See the
movie Adams walked out on!" Perhaps the better protest would be the
kiss of death -- warm approval for the pornographic representations of
pain and suffering in, for example, Mel Gibson's The Passion of the
Christ and Apocalypto.

Ridicule, I reckon, works better, hence my little script for This Day
Tonight -- dramatising the simple fact that putting things in the
mouth -- from pencils to cigars -- gives some of the comfort once
provided by the nipple. So we filmed a Marlboro man, complete with
tattoo, sitting on his horse sucking his thumb, with the slogan
"Smoking is for Suckers".

Certainly humour was a devastating weapon against the silliness of
Australian sexual censorship. Cross my heart, it got close to having
sniffer dogs at airports trained to nose out naughty novels. By
laughing at censors, customs officers, judges and cops, we embarrassed
the governments into giving up. But think of the help the wowsers gave
us. In Melbourne, for example, the Vice Squad raided the Myer Emporium
and arrested a largish copy of Michelangelo's David.
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MAP posted-by: Richard Lake