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Fatality!!!
February 24, 2011 9:05 PM   Subscribe

Mortal Kombat has been banned in Australia. In the highest profile censorship incident since last year's butchering of Left 4 Dead 2, the new Mortal Kombat game has been "refused classification by the Australian Classification Board and will not release in Australia". This should galvanize efforts to implement an R18 rating for Australian games, though so far progress has been slow.
posted by Lovecraft In Brooklyn (144 comments total) 6 users marked this as a favorite

 
Any Australians who want a copy bad enough to pay for postage, you know how to get hold of me.
posted by Ardiril at 9:12 PM on February 24, 2011 [2 favorites]


What are the issues with modding XBoxes to play region-free games? Plus you don't want to end up on Border Security
posted by Lovecraft In Brooklyn at 9:13 PM on February 24, 2011


In fairness, since every Australian animal species can kill you without breaking a sweat, the authorities need kids to stay focused on their immediate surroundings.
posted by Celsius1414 at 9:15 PM on February 24, 2011 [24 favorites]


What is it with Australians and video games?
posted by BitterOldPunk at 9:16 PM on February 24, 2011 [3 favorites]


In fairness, since every Australian animal species can kill you without breaking a sweat, the authorities need kids to stay focused on their immediate surroundings.

but now I'm at the mercy of the dreaded Scorpion
posted by Lovecraft In Brooklyn at 9:17 PM on February 24, 2011 [4 favorites]


That game looks pretty crappy. But no one should be denied the right to purchase (and even, dare I say it, enjoy) crappy games if that's what they're into. Sheesh.
posted by The Winsome Parker Lewis at 9:17 PM on February 24, 2011 [1 favorite]


CH-CHING!
posted by Hoopo at 9:19 PM on February 24, 2011


They're trying to breed a nation of competitive Street Fighter 4 and Marvel Vs Capcom 3 players
posted by Lovecraft In Brooklyn at 9:20 PM on February 24, 2011 [2 favorites]


Mortal Kombat controversy? Fuck, I time traveled back to 1993 again. PEOPLE OF THE PAST, THERE ARE NO WMD!
posted by furiousxgeorge at 9:21 PM on February 24, 2011 [51 favorites]


I don't really agree with your logic that it is this year's tragic loss of Mortal Kombat that will rally Australian voters, but it certainly is another straw on the camel's back.
posted by 2bucksplus at 9:22 PM on February 24, 2011


Strange that there already isn't a system for 18+. Adults should be free to purchase whatever they like!
posted by worldli at 9:24 PM on February 24, 2011 [3 favorites]


It's because Raiden's boobs are too small.
posted by Sticherbeast at 9:25 PM on February 24, 2011 [7 favorites]


You'd think with the game industry making so much money they'd throw some serious lobbying muscle behind this. To be fair, i think there's only one holdout and eventually he'll retire or get voted out. But not before infringing on my rights.
posted by Lovecraft In Brooklyn at 9:27 PM on February 24, 2011 [1 favorite]


Good thing they picked a game likely to be played by children
posted by Blasdelb at 9:40 PM on February 24, 2011


L4D2 was also censored in Germany, but as a concession they put some guns from counterstrike source in the game. With a little tweaking and server mods you can play with them too. Not sure why they kept it out of the Australian version.
posted by hellojed at 9:41 PM on February 24, 2011 [1 favorite]


What is it with Australians and video games?
We've been discussing a question related to this on Wilful's thread on Australian carbon tax, and I think there are a few things that need stressing for the North Americans on mefi trying to understand the issue of classification in this country.

First, Australia simply doesn't have the same unequivocal, uncompromising stance on free speech and free expression as in North America. It is simply not a part of our political tradition. We value different rights and different ways of organising our affairs. A statement like:
Adults should be free to purchase whatever they like!
Is not one that Australians would endorse without qualification. I don't (although I do agree that there needs to be radical reform of the way classification is done, and there should be an R18+ classification for games).

Second, there's a fairly overwhelming support for an R18+ classification for games in the country, in the order of three-quarters or more of the population, but that should not be read as opposition to all classification or censorship. Here (in PDF) is the Galaxy polling commissioned by the Commonwealth Attorney-General's Department which has results on community attitudes about classification. The short story is:
Australians are strongly in favour of an R18+ classification for computer games, but possibly for different reasons among different sections of the community.
posted by Fiasco da Gama at 9:52 PM on February 24, 2011 [5 favorites]


Lovecraft in Brooklyn: "But not before infringing on my rights."

If you wouldn't mind helping an old man who cares little for computer games… which of your rights are being infringed?
posted by Pinback at 9:54 PM on February 24, 2011


Yet ANOTHER reason why NZ is better than Australia.

Seriously guys, if you want to make Australia cool again, it starts with doing away with the Murdochs.
posted by hal_c_on at 9:56 PM on February 24, 2011


If you wouldn't mind helping an old man who cares little for computer games… which of your rights are being infringed?

Well, old man, did you feel your rights were infringed upon when they banned books back in the day making them unavailable for your intellectual curiosity. I think its the same thing.
posted by hal_c_on at 9:58 PM on February 24, 2011 [3 favorites]


The truly retarded thing is that lower profile games with much "worse" content slip right through. I literally saw someone's face get ripped off in Dead Space 2 and saw Wolverine's torso get turned into goo in the Wolverine movie tie in game but those got through without problems.
posted by Silentgoldfish at 9:59 PM on February 24, 2011 [1 favorite]


If you wouldn't mind helping an old man who cares little for computer games… which of your rights are being infringed?
None of them. But I think you knew that ;-)
posted by dg at 10:01 PM on February 24, 2011


A statement like:

Adults should be free to purchase whatever they like!

Is not one that Australians would endorse without qualification. I don't


This does not help this North American understand the issue of classification in Australia. Why the hell not?

In the hate speech thread a while back I could at least conceptually understand why a reasonable person in a 21st century democracy might support hate speech laws, however much I may have disagreed. This just boggles my mind.
posted by eugenen at 10:04 PM on February 24, 2011 [1 favorite]



First, Australia simply doesn't have the same unequivocal, uncompromising stance on free speech and free expression as in North America. It is simply not a part of our political tradition. We value different rights and different ways of organising our affairs.


How do I change this? I'm an American in Australia. It's a small country. Where do I start making speeches and rallying the people against oppression? Because even some people my own age - in the Labor party! - have claimed that 'free speech is not an Australia value'. This is utterly horrifying, especially given the general relaxed, libertine attitude of many Aussies. They will drink and swear with impunity. They will allow sex on television at 9pm and celebrate those who drink and gamble the most. But those rights may be taken away at any second! And nobody cares!

'She'll be right, mate' isn't a political philosophy.

Yes, Mortal Kombat - a game I probably won't play - is a silly hill to die on. But where does it end? They censored Valve. Will they censor Rockstar? Will they censor Bioware? Will they censor Lynch or Cronenberg or Clive Barker? Will they censor YOU?

sorry, got a bit carried away
posted by Lovecraft In Brooklyn at 10:05 PM on February 24, 2011 [2 favorites]


If you wouldn't mind helping an old man who cares little for computer games… which of your rights are being infringed?
None of them. But I think you knew that ;-)


Huh? What about my right to decide how to entertain myself? My right to speak freely, and enjoy the speech of others? The only protected speech, it seems, is political speech and even that is narrowly defined.

Perhaps the Tea Party is right. Maybe the glorious healthcare system and social services do lead to censorship. Or are they independent?
posted by Lovecraft In Brooklyn at 10:07 PM on February 24, 2011


When we say "free speech" isn't a value, what we mean is that we don't define it the way Americans do. And as an American, having you come in and rally us against our supposed oppression is really obnoxious.

In some good news, the iinet trial results are in, and the judges decided that enforcing copyright is not the job of ISPs.
posted by harriet vane at 10:08 PM on February 24, 2011 [5 favorites]


Video games dpn't kill people; people kill people.
posted by three blind mice at 10:10 PM on February 24, 2011


This does not help this North American understand the issue of classification in Australia. Why the hell not?

In short, there is no R or 18+ or whatever classification for games here. This means that anything that can't fall into the MA 15+ classification or lower cannot be sold here. The real oddity in this is that there is a R 18+ and X 18+ classification for films but games are explicitly excluded from these.

Lovecraft in Brooklyn, perhaps it would help those of us that don't have your knowledge on such topics to show where it is stated that you have the right to speak freely in Australia?
posted by dg at 10:11 PM on February 24, 2011



Lovecraft in Brooklyn, perhaps it would help those of us that don't have your knowledge on such topics to show where it is stated that you have the right to speak freely in Australia?


No where, right? The government could pass a law tomorrow banning pretty much any form of speech, and that would be okay?
I'm pretty fuzzy on the details, but after growing up with free speech drilled into my head finding out that i don't have free speech here is jarring. It's like the classic Star Trek/Twilight Zone plot where there's a utopia, but the utopia has some terrifying flaw. But I'm no Captain Kirk, and I don't know what words to say to fix it.
posted by Lovecraft In Brooklyn at 10:13 PM on February 24, 2011 [2 favorites]


When we say "free speech" isn't a value, what we mean is that we don't define it the way Americans do. And as an American, having you come in and rally us against our supposed oppression is really obnoxious.

Is it obnoxious when an American tries to bring human and civil rights to a country without them? And in healthcare threads, I'll do the opposite - I'll explain how much better Australia's healthcare and welfare system is then America's. Is that obnoxious? I realize Yanks can be arrogant, but Free Speech is a value that needs spreading.

I am an adult. I have the right to play a video game in the privacy of my own home. I should note that censorship for films isn't usually as strict. Ads for SAW run on busses. And videogame censorship is inconsistent (which is the only thing that makes it tolerable). Bulletstorm and Red Dead Redemption passed by uncut.
posted by Lovecraft In Brooklyn at 10:16 PM on February 24, 2011 [1 favorite]


I don't know what words to say to fix it.

"Set phasers to stun" should do the trick. ;)
posted by Celsius1414 at 10:17 PM on February 24, 2011


hal_c_on: "Well, old man, did you feel your rights were infringed upon when they banned books back in the day making them unavailable for your intellectual curiosity."

Nope. I might not have agreed with the decision, but that's a very different thing; I would have said "I don't agree with the decision to ban 'Lady Chatterley's Lover', because I think adults should be allowed to decide what's appropriate to read or not read", not "help, help, my rights are being infringed!"

I don't think that's a particularly difficult or subtle distinction to make.

Lovecraft in Brooklyn: "Huh? What about my right to decide how to entertain myself?"

I really don't want to drag this thread or my reply down into troll territory but: Oh, I think you already know how to entertain yourself, and you've been doing it all day here and in other threads.

But: you don't have an unfettered right to decide how to entertain yourself. You never had - and, barring a slide into complete anarchy, you never will.
posted by Pinback at 10:18 PM on February 24, 2011 [1 favorite]


Maybe the glorious healthcare system and social services do lead to censorship. Or are they independent?

Is it obnoxious when an American tries to bring human and civil rights to a country without them?

Ok now you're just being stupid. Try to include a little nuance in your worldview, especially on topics you've admitted you don't know much about.

Pretty much everyone under the age of 35 and many older people agree that the old men currently in charge of our ratings system are old fogies with an unreasonable fear of video games. But those people will not be in charge forever, and with a bit of campaigning (GetUp has been active on this in the past) it's a fixable problem.

There's no need to panic or freak out about this.
posted by harriet vane at 10:19 PM on February 24, 2011 [4 favorites]


It's weird that Australia, which is a pretty tolerant and open place censors so much.

It may well be because people who think that things should not be censored are too ambivalent.

Perhaps a bit of stirring up on these issues is needed.
posted by sien at 10:19 PM on February 24, 2011 [2 favorites]


I'm all for hate crimes laws. Banning hate speech? Eh, I'm iffy. But Mortal Kombat? Really? We're not talking Custer's Revenge or RapeLay here.

The real oddity in this is that there is a R 18+ and X 18+ classification for films but games are explicitly excluded from these.

Yes, that is odd.

As for freedom of speech, while obviously no country on Earth even comes close to following it completely, I think the Universal Declaration of Human Rights is a pretty good goal to aspire to, and Article 19 is: Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.

I would have said "I don't agree with the decision to ban 'Lady Chatterley's Lover', because I think adults should be allowed to decide what's appropriate to read or not read", not "help, help, my rights are being infringed!"

By your logic, why should adults be allowed to decide what's appropriate to read or not read?
posted by kmz at 10:25 PM on February 24, 2011 [1 favorite]


Apparently LiB is here to save us all from our oppressors, who are ourselves.

I don't think we're ambivalent, I just think Aussies tend to have a 'just in time' approach to public issues. We're pretty tolerant, but once something crosses a line we'll sort it out without much fuss. Howard's Workchoices is a good example - he went too far with restricting the rights of workers, and not that much was said about it, but he dropped in the polls and not only cost his party the election, he lost his own seat as well. Hardly any animosity from the swinging voters, just a "nuh-uh" and a vote the other way.

It'll be the same with video game ratings. People will route around it until it becomes too inconvenient, at which point they'll sort it out.
posted by harriet vane at 10:26 PM on February 24, 2011 [2 favorites]


Nope. I might not have agreed with the decision, but that's a very different thing; I would have said "I don't agree with the decision to ban 'Lady Chatterley's Lover', because I think adults should be allowed to decide what's appropriate to read or not read", not "help, help, my rights are being infringed!"

I don't think that's a particularly difficult or subtle distinction to make.

Gee, it's almost as if Lovecraft in Brooklyn is saying that an autonomous adult human being should have the right to decide what media to consume in his spare time. A radical notion.
posted by eugenen at 10:30 PM on February 24, 2011 [3 favorites]


When we say "free speech" isn't a value, what we mean is that we don't define it the way Americans do
Precisely, harriet. It's not that the Australian political culture doesn't value free speech, it values it highly. It's simply that we don't value it in a foundational document, or outside the context of other implied rights, such as living in a society of mutual respect and dignity (to crib from the Immigration Department's appalling pamphlet of clichés).
'She'll be right, mate' isn't a political philosophy
On the contrary, it's an extremely powerful one. One of the things about the Australian settlement which is invaluable and infuriating at the same time is that it values compromise, shared dignity and agreed coexistence above almost everything else. We tend to treat issues like free speech as matters of regulation, cross-jurisdictional State-Territory consultation and the policy reform process, whereas in places like the United States free speech is a matter of violent existential crisis (and expensive lawyers).

We're an insular, conservative, rather complacent country in a lot of ways, but, then, we don't have the Westboro Baptists, either.
posted by Fiasco da Gama at 10:32 PM on February 24, 2011 [15 favorites]


There is in Australia an implied right to free speech as it relates to any form of political communication - thanks, High Court!
posted by nicolas léonard sadi carnot at 10:34 PM on February 24, 2011 [2 favorites]


No where, right? The government could pass a law tomorrow banning pretty much any form of speech, and that would be okay?
Exactly, nowhere (sic). It doesn't mean it would be OK for the government to ban such a thing, but it would be constitutional.

I have the right to play a video game in the privacy of my own home.
No, you don't.
posted by dg at 10:39 PM on February 24, 2011 [1 favorite]


Exactly, nowhere (sic). It doesn't mean it would be OK for the government to ban such a thing, but it would be constitutional.

And how are people okay with this?

I have the right to play a video game in the privacy of my own home.
No, you don't.


EXCUSE ME?



It'll be the same with video game ratings. People will route around it until it becomes too inconvenient, at which point they'll sort it out.

Sure. I'll import my games and get my fighting game jollies from Capcom's (far superior) offerings.
No worries, mate.
And Conroy will pass that law he wants that makes talking about circumventing the Internet filter illegal, and we'll just 'route around that' until everyone lives with that.
No worries, mate.
And protesting the government online will be illegal. But we'll route around that.
No worries, mate.

Poeple wonder why Julian Assange is so absolute about freedom. I'm starting to understand that he grew up in a culture where if you suggest that adults might be allowed to say what they want you're branded a 'free speech libertarian'. And speaking of Assange, we've got part of the site arguing that his trial will lead to his death at the hands of the CIA and another part arguing that ACTUAL CENSORSHIP isn't a problem.
posted by Lovecraft In Brooklyn at 10:44 PM on February 24, 2011


Lovecraft, I think what you're not getting is that the idea of free speech as an ontological, fundamental right, one which props up all the other ones as if it were a first principle of every other liberty, established through popular sovereignty and enshrined in foundational law, is a peculiarly North American idea, one that carries a freight of other ideology.

In other places we've constituted our affairs differently. As nicolas léonard sadi carnot says, free speech in Australia is a limited, implied right, and it doesn't have any special place amongst all of the other ones.
posted by Fiasco da Gama at 10:55 PM on February 24, 2011 [8 favorites]


As nicolas léonard sadi carnot says, free speech in Australia is a limited, implied right, and it doesn't have any special place amongst all of the other ones.

This terrifies me on an almost visceral level. Australia is an enjoyable place to live and I love your welfare system but every time somebody reminds me of my lack of free speech I start to panic. I feel like I'm in one of those Creepy Small Towns right when they explain that We Do Things Differently Here, and won't you stay for the Red Hour?
posted by Lovecraft In Brooklyn at 11:02 PM on February 24, 2011 [1 favorite]


I like I'm in one of those Creepy Small Towns right when they explain that We Do Things Differently Here, and won't you stay for the Red Hour?
7.30pm AEST, an hour earlier in SA and Perth. Queenslanders may adjust their clocks according to the Daylight Savings Time in other States.
posted by Fiasco da Gama at 11:07 PM on February 24, 2011 [3 favorites]


A much bigger issue as an American in Australia is the inflated price of video games here, compared to back home. With the dollars at parity for the time being, I simply can't justify paying $100+ to play a new release game in Melbourne that'd cost me $50 or less back in Los Angeles. Even with international shipping, it's still considerably cheaper to import.

This article on Kotaku Australia talks a bit about why games might cost so much over here.

High prices, combined with these censorship issues, have me considering either modding my Australian 360 to a US firmware, or selling it and having my US 360 shipped over here. I may even use a friend as a proxy so I can use an American Gamefly subscription over here... ~$275 for the year, plus the international shipping, to rent two new release games at all times, for as long as I want.
posted by adamk at 11:07 PM on February 24, 2011 [1 favorite]


How do I change this? I'm an American in Australia. It's a small country. Where do I start making speeches and rallying the people against oppression? Because even some people my own age - in the Labor party! - have claimed that 'free speech is not an Australia value'. This is utterly horrifying, especially given the general relaxed, libertine attitude of many Aussies.

I encountered this attitude when I lived in Australia and I found it quite disturbing as well. Part of it might be related to the holier-than-thou attitude that a lot of Australians have towards Americans on all things political. Because Americans are quite absolutist on free speech, as well as legally committed to it with your constitutional guarantee, the no-compromise stance is seen as a peculiarly American obsession that needn't apply in Australia. It's an attitude that (IMHO) serves Australians well when it comes to gun control, but they let their guard down badly on free speech.
posted by L.P. Hatecraft at 11:08 PM on February 24, 2011 [2 favorites]


Part of it might be related to the holier-than-thou attitude that a lot of Australians have towards Americans on all things political.

And yet in this thread alone we've been called Tea Partiers, and told that we don't have any human or civil rights. Which is such a hugely ignorant stance to take that you might have to forgive us if we think you guys aren't really interested in sensible debate over comparative politics and cultural issues.

American values are not universal values. There's more than one way to do things, and sometimes even if people do it differently to you, it doesn't mean they're doing it wrong.
posted by harriet vane at 11:17 PM on February 24, 2011 [10 favorites]


It doesn't mean it would be OK for the government to ban such a thing, but it would be constitutional.

I would argue that this would in fact be unconstitutional. In Australia, as in all governments where a parliament reigns supreme, acts of parliament are or course legal but may at the same time be unconstitutional. That is to say, a law can be passed which is fully enforced, but contrary to historical precedents of the land (in America this is of course entirely different). Thus just because a parliament can and has the power to pass a law does not make that law constitutional.
posted by boubelium at 11:25 PM on February 24, 2011


eugenen: "Gee, it's almost as if Lovecraft in Brooklyn is saying that an autonomous adult human being should have the right to decide what media to consume in his spare time."

Maybe so - but, if so, it's a bit hard to tell amongst statements like "But not before infringing on my rights."

(Hypothetical: what if that autonomous adult human being has decided that he likes to look at hardcore lolicon? Surely a right is being infringed there?)

sien: "It's weird that Australia, which is a pretty tolerant and open place censors so much."

But that's the thing - it doesn't, though I can understand how it might when viewed from outside through the prism of the media. Even LiB admits that "ads for Saw run on buses", and would have to admit if asked that we can say "fuck" and show tits on prime-time network television (ah, Underbelly, how I miss thee!), and that we don't really care if a politician is sleeping with someone other than their spouse (hell, our PM isn't even married!) - all things that are apparently unthinkable in the US of A. On top of that, as one of the world's largest generators of almost anything that could be censored, censorship in the USA is different - in a lot of cases it's implicit rather than explicit; stuff that would cause the US Government to raise an eyebrow and ban it just doesn't get made in the first place; much that does certainly can't be shown publicly.

But, really, what seems to confuse many Americans is that other places - specifically, in this case, Australia - often choose to draw the line between "acceptable" and "not acceptable" differently to the US. What happened to that famous tolerance you're supposed to show?

In short, Americans may value freedom everywhere in the world - but for far too many, it's only 'freedom' as long as it's exactly the same as American-brand "Freedom™"…
posted by Pinback at 11:28 PM on February 24, 2011 [4 favorites]


As nicolas léonard sadi carnot says, free speech in Australia is a limited, implied right

American values are not universal values. There's more than one way to do things, and sometimes even if people do it differently to you, it doesn't mean they're doing it wrong.

But it's not just free speech in Australia that's being limited. From listening to conversations with other drug reform activists, your drug laws are also fairly strict. So we have video game censorship (censorship is a harsh word, but that's what it is), Internet filtering, and draconian drug laws.

I'm not letting the U.S. off the hook here. We've slipped a LOT in the past few years, and we need some change. Australians get a lot of things right when it comes to politics and basic social values, and we could learn a lot from you. But that doesn't mean everything we do is wrong.

You might not think things like freedom of speech are universal values, but a lot of the younger Australians wish more of those values were shared by other Australian citizens.
posted by formless at 11:33 PM on February 24, 2011 [1 favorite]


Just to continue piling on the poor, deluded seppo, here's a nice sweet reason why Australians might not be so absolutist about "Freedom of Speech" as you are.

It's called, I believe, the "Citizens United" decision, which just shifted the US into another gear on the highway to total political corruption and collapse.
posted by Jimbob at 11:35 PM on February 24, 2011 [1 favorite]


The Australian constitution includes an implied right to freedom of political expression.

It is not an unlimited right to free speech. It doesn't include, for example, the right to publish simulated child pornography.

I'm cool with that.

I think the lack of a R18+ classification for video games is stupid and counterproductive, but not every stupid policy has to be unconstitutional.
posted by robcorr at 11:36 PM on February 24, 2011 [4 favorites]


Pinback: do you think the lack of 18+ classification in Australia for video games is OK in general? In specific, do you agree with banning Mortal Kombat?

(And really, "What happened to that famous tolerance you're supposed to show?" is such a stupid canard I'm surprised you pulled it out because you were pretty reasonable otherwise. That's the kind of bullshit right-wingers pull when you call out their bigotry.)
posted by kmz at 11:38 PM on February 24, 2011 [1 favorite]


it's not just free speech in Australia that's being limited. ... your drug laws are also fairly strict

Ah yes, the famed 28th Amendment to the Constitution of the United States of America: "the right of the people to keep and bear bongs shall not be infringed".
posted by robcorr at 11:38 PM on February 24, 2011 [3 favorites]


It is a little naive to think that only on a foundation of unfettered free speech can a functional state be constructed. The US is an historical aberration, really.

Australian drug laws are brutal but rarely enforced, and I believe not subject to US style mandatory minimums in sentencing: certainly when I was working in the Supreme Court, custodial sentences for drug cases were vanishingly rare. The Internet filter is a complete non-starter.
posted by nicolas léonard sadi carnot at 11:44 PM on February 24, 2011 [1 favorite]


7.30pm AEST, an hour earlier in SA and Perth. Queenslanders may adjust their clocks according to the Daylight Savings Time in other States.
Or states that mess with nature by pretending it's a different time could just adjust their clocks instead ;-)

It doesn't mean it would be OK for the government to ban such a thing, but it would be constitutional.

I would argue that this would in fact be unconstitutional. ... just because a parliament can and has the power to pass a law does not make that law constitutional.

As I understand it, the fact that free speech is not protected in the constitution means that a law explicitly taking away that free speech would be constitutional by its very nature. To be considered unconstitutional in this context, a law would have to infringe on a right vested in the constitution.

We can argue about this forever and a day but, as has been alluded to up there somewhere ^, Australia pretty much does have free speech, even though there is no intrinsic right to it. In Australia, you can pretty much say what you like when and where you like and people will either call you a fuckwit, point and laugh at you, smack you in the face or agree with you. Whatever the reaction, you are likely to end up at the pub later getting shit-faced. Perhaps Australians aren't so worried about the lack of formality attached to this right because they are comfortable in the knowledge that is is universally considered to be an intrinsic human right and doesn't need to be codified. Americans seem to get very heated around constitutional rights and, from my uninformed perspective, this is largely because successive governments seem hell-bent on taking away those rights.

In a way, enshrining specific rights in the constitution can have the effect of limiting the rights of people because, by definition, you end up not giving any rights that are not in writing. By saying 'here is a list of your rights', you also say 'everything else? You don't have those rights'.

I think it's ridiculous that the Australian Guidelines for the Classification of Films and Computer Games doesn't have the same scale as films, especially given the large number of games that are a spin-off from a film anyway. But that doesn't mean anyone's rights are being infringed by the guidelines. It just means the guidelines need changing.
posted by dg at 11:44 PM on February 24, 2011 [8 favorites]


(Hypothetical: what if that autonomous adult human being has decided that he likes to look at hardcore lolicon? Surely a right is being infringed there?)

Don't worry. I already know that as a supporter of free speech I support child pornography. Even some of my friends have pointed this out.
posted by Lovecraft In Brooklyn at 11:45 PM on February 24, 2011


(SARCASM/HAMBURGER)
posted by Lovecraft In Brooklyn at 11:46 PM on February 24, 2011


And yet in this thread alone we've been called Tea Partiers, and told that we don't have any human or civil rights. Which is such a hugely ignorant stance to take that you might have to forgive us if we think you guys aren't really interested in sensible debate over comparative politics and cultural issues.

This is actually kind of a good example of what I'm talking about. Even on something as trivial as video game censorship, why you are turning it into us-versus-them with your "us"/"you guys", voicing of petty grievances (someone called you a "Tea Partier") and condescending broad-brush remarks about others being "ignorant" and not interested in "sensible debate"? It's totally unnecessary. I'm not American myself btw.

American values are not universal values. There's more than one way to do things, and sometimes even if people do it differently to you, it doesn't mean they're doing it wrong.

Freedom of speech and belief are universal human rights according to the UNDHR. The American attitude towards free speech happens to be the best one. There's no sense in giving up your freedoms just so you can find something to differentiate yourself from Uncle Sam. That's just cutting off your nose to spite your face.
posted by L.P. Hatecraft at 11:47 PM on February 24, 2011 [3 favorites]


The American attitude towards free speech happens to be the best one.

So you say.
posted by robcorr at 11:51 PM on February 24, 2011 [6 favorites]


But that doesn't mean anyone's rights are being infringed by the guidelines. It just means the guidelines need changing.

If nobody's rights are being infringed, then why do the guidelines need changing?
posted by kmz at 11:54 PM on February 24, 2011


Ah yes, the famed 28th Amendment to the Constitution of the United States of America: "the right of the people to keep and bear bongs shall not be infringed".

I know you're joking, but take a step back and really ask if you want our drug laws. Do you want mandatory minimums, do you want to arrest one of your citizens every 30 seconds for smoking a plant in their own home. Do you want to pay the cost, financially and socially, for imprisoning these people?

Is our criminal justice system really the thing you want to emulate and support?
posted by formless at 11:55 PM on February 24, 2011 [2 favorites]


If nobody's rights are being infringed, then why do the guidelines need changing?
That's a good question. I believe they need changing because a not-inconsiderable portion of the population thinks they are wrong and that nobody is harmed by changing them. To me, that's enough.

The American attitude towards free speech happens to be the best one.
You forgot to put the <sarcasm> tag on that.
posted by dg at 12:00 AM on February 25, 2011 [1 favorite]


I'm really not sure what your point is. We have less free speech than you, but better drug laws. Is your point that we live in different countries with different constitutions and different laws? Because... yeah, okay. I agree.
posted by robcorr at 12:00 AM on February 25, 2011 [1 favorite]


(Hypothetical: what if that autonomous adult human being has decided that he likes to look at hardcore lolicon? Surely a right is being infringed there?)


Child pornography, including its possession, is constitutionally banned in the United States because of the very real and immediate harm caused by its manufacture and the uniquely extreme importance of avoiding that harm. A recent Supreme Court decision correctly held that the possession of simulated child pornography -- i.e., pornography that looks like it involves real children but actually does not -- may not be punished.
posted by eugenen at 12:00 AM on February 25, 2011 [3 favorites]


The American attitude towards free speech happens to be the best one.

The one where you can't say shit on TV, but corporations can make massive anonymous donations to political candidates because money is considered "speech" and corporations are considered "people"? Yeah. Totally the best.
posted by Jimbob at 12:02 AM on February 25, 2011 [21 favorites]


I mean, just pause and consider how weird free-speech absolutism is. You regard it as the primary, most important right - to the extent that while you are in a country that you otherwise like, you feel "uncomfortable" because in theory you don't have it.

I can guarantee there are people in Africa who value a bowl of maize over freedom of speech right now.

There are folks sleeping on a park bench who value a blanket over freedom of speech.

You see any restrictions on freedom of speech as the utmost urgency. We see restrictions on freedom of speech as just another governmental problem, like fixing pot holes or getting our tax refund back on time.
posted by Jimbob at 12:37 AM on February 25, 2011 [3 favorites]


Censorship in Australia makes no sense:Like nearly all censorship, it's arbitrary and impossible to justify on a logical basis. So Australians don't try. Australians don't tie themselves in knots when someone tells them they can't do something, they just nod and say 'okay' and then go do it anyway.

How well this attitude serves them in the future remains to be seen.

* This one is just jaw-droppingly bizarre. Think about it.
posted by Ritchie at 12:40 AM on February 25, 2011 [2 favorites]


pictures of naked adult women with very small breasts - not allowed

Thankfully that one isn't true.
posted by gronkpan at 12:49 AM on February 25, 2011


I'm amused to see people from a country where a second of nipple on TV leads to fines and media outrage lecture on free speech.
posted by atrazine at 12:51 AM on February 25, 2011 [12 favorites]


Thankfully that one isn't true.

Oh, good. Not that it would've stopped anyone.
posted by Ritchie at 12:53 AM on February 25, 2011


Australian drug laws are not harsh, just for any Americans having a look here.

Have a look at fact sheet.

In the ACT for the last 18 years, causing no great outrage, posessing 2 plants or up to 25 gm of pot only gets you a $100 fine.

Also, for any Australians looking at cheap games check out the gamecafe price engine. A lot of the time you can get 50% off from retail at an Australian EB outlet.
posted by sien at 12:57 AM on February 25, 2011 [1 favorite]


Also, for any Australians looking at cheap games check out the gamecafe price engine.

Oh hey, it's a booko for games :) Thanks sien!
posted by jaynewould at 1:04 AM on February 25, 2011 [1 favorite]


Freedom of speech and belief are universal human rights according to the UNDHR

Absolutely, and you won't find anyone here disagreeing with that. However the UNHDR sets forth a number of rights without privileging any of them over others. There also exists in the UNHDR a universal right to medical care, protection against unemployment, and the right to take part in the government of their country. Does the US not prevent certain criminals from voting? Now, I would argue that this doesn't violate the spirit of the Declaration, but it does indicate that most of the UNHDR's rights are no implemented anywhere as absolute rights that cannot be taken away.

Not only that, article 12 protects against attacks upon his honour and reputation which is obviously incompatible with free speech absolutism. What is a libel trial after all but restitution for the spreading of certain kinds of speech?

Anyway, the point is that there is a difference between recognising free speech as a human right and elevating it over all other human rights.
posted by atrazine at 1:07 AM on February 25, 2011 [1 favorite]


Australian classification law is pretty stupid. Anyone publishing a game in any form - including app store games, internet flash games, free online games, MMORPGs etc - is required to submit it for classification, an expensive and time-consuming process. Technically a MMORPG publisher should be submitted each patch that alters gameplay for classification separately, paying between $500 and $2000 each time and waiting until the classification is finished before rolling it out. Of course not much of this is actually enforced (in part because it would be too hard in most cases for the OFLC to work out whether a particular online publisher was subject to Australian jurisdiction) but the laws are there.
posted by A Thousand Baited Hooks at 1:13 AM on February 25, 2011 [1 favorite]


The one where you can't say shit on TV, but corporations can make massive anonymous donations to political candidates because money is considered "speech" and corporations are considered "people"? Yeah. Totally the best.

Like corporations don't give massive donations to political parties in Australia. Extending person-hood to corporations is the problem there, not the principle of free speech itself.

You see any restrictions on freedom of speech as the utmost urgency. We see restrictions on freedom of speech as just another governmental problem, like fixing pot holes or getting our tax refund back on time.

Yes, and that's the problem. Free speech isn't just another issue like potholes or tax returns, it's fundamental to the democratic process. Chipping away at free speech isn't just worsening one particular social problem, it's eroding the very mechanism by which we solve social problems in general. When it isn't explicitly guaranteed, it becomes just one more thing that can be horse-traded away at election time against a hundred other competing issues. That wouldn't happen if Australia (and New Zealand) had constitutional protections for free speech and treated them an inviolate, which is what I meant by "the American attitude" (not each and every detail of how free speech works out there).
posted by L.P. Hatecraft at 1:18 AM on February 25, 2011 [3 favorites]


we don't have the Westboro Baptists, either.

Thank Xenu for that!
posted by Duke999R at 1:21 AM on February 25, 2011 [1 favorite]


kmz: "do you think the lack of 18+ classification in Australia for video games is OK in general?"

No. But that's something of a moot point; we're already well on the way to getting one.

"In specific, do you agree with banning Mortal Kombat?"

Specifically, as I don't care much for gaming, I do not have an opinion on the banning of that or any other game. Since I don't have an opinion, and believe that even if I did it is not my place to force my opinions on others, I delegate those decisions to a group of public representatives who's job it is to assess the societal position and make such decisions. That last is something that is common to both American and Australian societies, among many others.

Note: you may disagree that the Classification Board are suitable people, or whether they do take into account society's position when making their decisions. I'd disagree; from what I've seen of their decisions they do account for all that and make supportable decisions. In this particular case, they are hamstrung by the fact that there is not (yet) an R18+ games category.

"And really, "What happened to that famous tolerance you're supposed to show?" is such a stupid canard I'm surprised you pulled it out …"

Which just goes to show the gulf in communications between our 'two countries separated by a common language' - since so much of the discussion here is already at the "you don't see things exactly the way we do, you're wrong - GRAR!" level, it was a serious question, albeit again rhetorical, and one I would be genuinely interested to see discussed*.

eugenen: "A recent Supreme Court decision correctly held that the possession of simulated child pornography -- i.e., pornography that looks like it involves real children but actually does not -- may not be punished."

As I understand it - and, please excuse my Wikipedia-and-slashdot-based understanding of the issues; I admit it may not be accurate - the decision was specifically that simulated child pornography did not fall under any child-pornography laws (e.g. PROTECT), but was prosecutable under pre-existing obscenity laws.

LiB: "Don't worry. I already know that as a supporter of free speech I support child pornography. Even some of my friends have pointed this out.

(SARCASM/HAMBURGER)"


Despite the sarcasm, you might be surprised to learn that I would actually respect a position that included child pornography as free speech more than the usual "free speech is an absolute - until I see something icky!" position.

My point, as I made above, is this: Different societies have different priorities and opinions on different issues. They also draw their limits between 'acceptable' and 'not acceptable' in different places, and enforce those limits in different ways. Additionally, someone famous you may have heard of once said "with rights come responsibilities"; different societies choose to develop, interpret, delegate, and enforce those responsibilities in different ways too. That doesn't mean that one or another is 'right', or that all the others are 'wrong' - it just means that they're different.

(* Unfortunately, I have a life outside to lead, and won't be able to follow any such discussion until tomorrow. I'll now return you to your regularly scheduled thread…)
posted by Pinback at 1:37 AM on February 25, 2011


How do I change this? I'm an American in Australia. It's a small country. Where do I start making speeches and rallying the people against oppression? Because even some people my own age - in the Labor party! - have claimed that 'free speech is not an Australia value'. This is utterly horrifying, especially given the general relaxed, libertine attitude of many Aussies. They will drink and swear with impunity. They will allow sex on television at 9pm and celebrate those who drink and gamble the most. But those rights may be taken away at any second! And nobody cares!

I think thats your cue to stop. If the people don't want something, and you are trying to convince them that their cultural attachments aren't correct...it kinda seems like some colonialist bullshit. I'm not trying to go to Iraq and telling them to eat bacon. If the people don't want free speech, who are we to say they should have it? There are some drawbacks to free speech, and perhaps they think the drawbacks outweigh the benefits. I don't agree with them...but I don't think an outsider should tell a country to change its culture.
posted by hal_c_on at 1:46 AM on February 25, 2011 [2 favorites]


Yes, and that's the problem. Free speech isn't just another issue like potholes or tax returns, it's fundamental to the democratic process. Chipping away at free speech isn't just worsening one particular social problem, it's eroding the very mechanism by which we solve social problems in general.

It's fundamental to the democratic process, but is it always a positive? And are there not other issues, like preventing corruption, like educating the populace, like protecting suffrage, that are just as important? Quite simply, the democratic process in the US, where free speech reigns supreme, is completely screwed. There is a direct relationship between your fund-raising capacity and your chances of getting elected. Not so here. The blatant corruption in the US of politicians having a fund-raising luncheon with a corporate supporter, then walking into Congress to vote for a bill that the supporter asked them to, should be completely untenable. The disenfranchisement of voters so common in the US, coupled with Gerrymandering that ensures politicians are elected for life, is a disgrace. The fact that an entire television news network can hide behind "free speech" as they broadcast partisan lies, with no right of reply offered, has severely distorted the democratic process. All the free speech in the world doesn't seem to be fixing these problems. Free speech certainly isn't helping anyone out there make progress on the issue that the US could afford to cut about $400,000,000,000 from its defence budget, solve all your budget woes, and still have a military as large as the next four largest combined.

Quite frankly, I have more faith in the democratic process in Australia than what I see going on in the US, therefore I don't see our supposed lack of free speech as harming our democracy a great deal.
posted by Jimbob at 2:21 AM on February 25, 2011 [20 favorites]


American rights: "What can I do?"
Australian rights: "What should we do?"
posted by obiwanwasabi at 2:38 AM on February 25, 2011


The idea that there has been a "chipping away at free speech" in Australia is arse-backwards, too. The history of freedom of speech in Australia has been of expanding speech rights. The push for an R18+ classification for games is just the next step, and it won't be long before it is introduced. Yes, Australian citizens must be vigilant, because there are people pushing back, but Americans need to be vigilant too.

Really, what we're debating is not whether freedom of speech is crucial to a free society (we all agree it is) but rather whether a codified bill of rights is the best way to protect them. Me, I'm of the view that the best way to protect your rights is to exercise them. An ancient piece of paper won't protect you against real threats to freedom.
posted by robcorr at 3:48 AM on February 25, 2011 [9 favorites]


Can we at least agree that the libel laws in the UK are fucked up? And what's up with their Official Secrets Act?

Australia and the US: united in their disdain for England since 1788.
posted by Ritchie at 4:21 AM on February 25, 2011 [6 favorites]


Is anyone else baffled that Australia bans violent content (but has a healthier view of sexuality) where as we're totally OK with absurd (I don't object...I play 'em too) levels of violence, but throw in a set of boobs and you're guaranteed an M or pushing the dreaded AO rating. The UK sent Nintendo a nasty-gram a few years back, which resulted in recalling one of the Super Smash Brother sequals because the word "spastic" was used in reference to one of the characters (apparently its slang for "retarded" on the other side of the pond).

Is it me or would that time & money be better spent on something wacky like education instead of frivolous and petty crap?
posted by ironbob at 5:09 AM on February 25, 2011


You see any restrictions on freedom of speech as the utmost urgency. We see restrictions on freedom of speech as just another governmental problem, like fixing pot holes or getting our tax refund back on time.

People haven't fought and died for the right to get potholes fixed.
This seeming reasonableness is so frightening. I'm having trouble even putting it in to words. I never thought I'd have to explain to people on METAFILTER of all places that the right to say and publish what you want is fundamental to a free people.
Jimbob, Pinback - what would you do if the government banned you from Metafilter? Or banned MeFi from Australia because, say, someone explained how to graffitti a building (a real reason a game was banned)? Would you meekly submit?
When i praise Australia's healthcare system in healthcare threads nobody brings up Aus' treatment of refugrees. But because I want rights that I was taught were INALIENABLE I'm told to shut up.
posted by Lovecraft In Brooklyn at 5:12 AM on February 25, 2011


Well, here are a few kinds of speech:
- inciting racial hatred
- inciting a specific kind of racial hatred in a place which has historically had issues with that specific kind of racial hatred
- porn involving simulated sexual violence
- media corporations trashing the reputations of private individuals
- copyright infringement
- releasing the personal information of individuals, e.g. credit card details, onto the web
- disclosing the names of informants in a way that risks their safety
- yelling "bomb" on an aeroplane
- violent videogames

At least some of these types of speech are regulated to some extent in every "free" society (even the US!) because of a view that they cause specific, identifiable forms of harm. Now, there's plenty of room to disagree on where to draw the line (personally I think the potential harmfulness of a game like Mortal Kombat is far too trivial to worry about) but choosing to draw it in one place rather than another isn't likely to make the difference between a society in harmony with the natural, universal laws of human freedom and the gulag.
posted by A Thousand Baited Hooks at 5:36 AM on February 25, 2011 [1 favorite]


People haven't fought and died for the right to get potholes fixed.

Yet. There are, apparently, battles occurring on multiple fronts of the War on Potholes. Just a matter of time before tarmac-allied insurgents start defending their sinkhole territory.
posted by jaynewould at 5:37 AM on February 25, 2011



American values are not universal values. There's more than one way to do things, and sometimes even if people do it differently to you, it doesn't mean they're doing it wrong.

Sorry. In the good old U.S. we don't do gray. It is either black or white.
Or Red or Blue.
posted by notreally at 5:53 AM on February 25, 2011


We don't do "gray" here either. It's spelled "grey", dammit. We haven't found a way to stick an extraneous letter "u" in there, but by god we're willing.
posted by jaynewould at 5:57 AM on February 25, 2011 [7 favorites]


I think we all need to step up and decry the human rights abuses going on in Australia. Yet another thing the Obama administration is woefully silent on. It's no surprise to see the US government supporting despotism as long as they are friendly to business interests.
posted by Ad hominem at 5:58 AM on February 25, 2011 [1 favorite]


Can we all agree that certain games, just like books or movies, are for adults, work on prohibiting access to children and move on?
posted by Vanifriss at 6:25 AM on February 25, 2011


Thankfully that one isn't true.

Yeah, but you are only allowed to show "discrete" labia [NSFW] in which the inner lips do not protrude past the outer ones, which are uncommon in adult women (but more common among younger girls).
posted by NoraReed at 6:40 AM on February 25, 2011


Lovecraft in Brooklyn: You seem to be suffering from some serious culture shock, dude. Take a breath or two and spin your perspective around 90 degrees or so.

You see, Australians don't generally give a damn about encoded and formally ratified anything. We don't make laws saying you can breathe, or eat, or sleep, because that's fairly pretentious and wanky. We make laws as they are needed. As it always has been. Australia wasn't founded to be some glorious new republic, it was a prison colony. The laws were written correspondingly to tell prisoners what they couldn't do. We prohibit things, we don't allow things. You can't leave the barracks, as opposed to staying in your cell, that sort of thing.

And as we've developed as a country, that approach has expanded. Why fuck around with things if they don't need to be fixed? We're pragmatic. We have better things to worry about - like our water, or making sure our trade is good, or federating, or whatever - than building some base philosophy with which to live by. Unlike the US, we were never created from whole cloth, but have slapped bits on over time.

I think this approach has worked well for us. We're made of a thousand conflicting philosophies, from our migrants to the decendants of convicts and forced settlers, indigenous survivors and warders kids. We can't afford the my-way-or-the-highway that has resulted in the Culture Wars coming out of the States. She'll be right, in the end. We let it grow organically, and if it gets tumorous, then we deal with it.

This is why people here grow their own pot and brew their own booze, despite the tenuous legal standing of both. We buy our X rated material despite it being illegal to sell it - I shift porn for a living, in a state where it's technically illegal to do so. No-one really gives a damn. It's regarded not that differently from laws against witchcraft, and when the holdouts leave office it'll be fixed. The same goes for violent video games. We wait, because we know that once it's a serious problem, then we can deal with it. Like so much other censored material, it's not that hard to get your paws on it. The pollies can tell us what we're supposed to be doing, and like our convict forefathers we'll listen to our warders, nod at them, then go and do what we damn well please regardless.
posted by Jilder at 6:42 AM on February 25, 2011 [8 favorites]


Nora Reed: Yeah, about that. I sell hardcore, including some locally produced material that has what I suppose you'd call discreet shots of cervix.

There's what's "allowed", and what we do anyway.
posted by Jilder at 6:43 AM on February 25, 2011


There are many things I will defend my own country for. Our severely lacking defense of free speech will not be one of them.
posted by Dumsnill at 7:06 AM on February 25, 2011 [1 favorite]


This seeming reasonableness is so frightening. I'm having trouble even putting it in to words. I never thought I'd have to explain to people on METAFILTER of all places that the right to say and publish what you want is fundamental to a free people.

It's not that we don't get it, we just doubt that Australian policy requires the intervention of American citizens such as yourself, and that your eagerness to serve as a Missionary of Freedom is naive and woefully misguided.

Or at least, I do.
posted by hermitosis at 7:24 AM on February 25, 2011 [2 favorites]


Piss Christ is more worthy of censorship than depicting minors having sex?
posted by mippy at 7:56 AM on February 25, 2011 [1 favorite]


as I don't care much for gaming, I do not have an opinion on the banning of that or any other game

The very definition of apathy.
posted by adamdschneider at 7:59 AM on February 25, 2011 [1 favorite]


In a way, enshrining specific rights in the constitution can have the effect of limiting the rights of people because, by definition, you end up not giving any rights that are not in writing. By saying 'here is a list of your rights', you also say 'everything else? You don't have those rights'.

Actually, there's an amendment for that. Our failure to hold to it is indeed a shame, but enshrining specific rights in the American constitution explicitly does not limit the non-enumerated rights of the people.
posted by vorfeed at 8:08 AM on February 25, 2011 [1 favorite]


Er, come on people. What the hell is going on here? The thread reads like this:

"In America, we can play any game we want! In Australia, they dictate what games you play!"

I spent some time in the gaming industry, and let me tell you, the xbox and playstation certification processes are restrictive. There is a massive pile of rules, regulations, and restrictions that all of the games have to pass to be produced at all. (It's still a bit slacker in the computer world, as I understand it.)

Do you honestly think that an American gaming store is going to sell you "Hate Crime Gang Bang 4: The Reckoning. XXX", now for the XBox and PS3? No. They're not. For the same reason you can't shoot the annoying little children in Fallout 3.

So this isn't about extreme American freedom versus crazy Australian restrictions. It's about where you set the bar. This isn't about freedom of speech, and they're not censoring ideas, and you're not Rosa Parks.


Special snowflake opinions:

Personally I don't really give a damn about banning video game gore. If your game relies on graphic gore. If all that your game offers is gore, then it's not much of a game. But I grew up playing games back in the 80s, when ASCII was king, so maybe that's biased me.
posted by Stagger Lee at 8:25 AM on February 25, 2011 [3 favorites]


As a free speech fundamentalist, I will heartily agree that the USA has fallen woefully short of what it should be. The very existence of obscenity laws, the way the FCC works around the First Amendment in prohibiting speech it doesn't like on TV, etc are affronts and should not be tolerated for an instant.

But I'd rather have that than an official censorship board. Once you've conceded that the government has the right to tell you what you can and can't say, what you can and can't see, what games you're permitted to play and the only fight is over what particular games, speeches, etc will be banned the fight is lost.

I'm not even sure I agree with prohibiting actual, real, child pornography. The production should be an offense, that actually involves non-consensual sex, but possession of child porn you didn't produce? Why would that be illegal? Should it illegal to possess or distribute video recordings of, say, bank robbery? It isn't that simple of course, there are obvious issues with child pornography (the victim didn't consent to releasing the video, obviously and you can reasonably argue that the victim is further harmed by the distribution of the video), but I'm not at all convinced that even that is sufficient to justify outright prohibition.

Cartoon and virtual child porn may be distasteful, but certainly shouldn't be banned.

As for inciting to riot it's the riot, not the speech, that should be prohibited. Come down hard on those who do the inciting of course, but don't prohibit their speech.

Simulated sexual violence? As long as all the participants are consenting adults how is there even a tiny problem?

Any sort of restriction on free speech can be exploited by sufficiently evil people into repression. The obscenity laws of the USA, themselves a vile abomination, were successfully used to suppress information on contraception, a political issue at the time.

Look at the modern American conservatives and their disturbing eagerness to declare those who disagree with Republican leadership to be "treasonous". The idea is clearly to define political disagreement as outside the bounds of accepted speech and thus legally suppress it.

Maybe Australia is a paradise filled with perfectly nice people who will never, ever, consider exploiting censorship laws to advance their political aims. But I really doubt it.

And the absurdity of declaring that censorship is peachy keen fine and dandy because free speech is defined differently is impossible to overstate. That's the same line the PRC feeds the world about how the Evil West is simply trying to impose their non-Chinese vision of freedom on an unwilling victim of cultural imperialism. The PRC doesn't have a different cultural vision of freedom, it's a vile totalitarian government that despises the very existence of freedom.

Nor does Australia have a different vision of freedom of speech, it simply has no real freedom of speech. That the censorship regime there has not, yet, tightened it's grip is merely a nice coincidence. They will, sooner or later.

It's like theocracy, it stars small and it inevitably grows.

Again, not that America is doing well. Despite our formal codification of free speech the forces of evil are winning here. Heck, despite our formal codification of separation of church and state the forces of theocracy are winning here.

dg wrote In a way, enshrining specific rights in the constitution can have the effect of limiting the rights of people because, by definition, you end up not giving any rights that are not in writing. By saying 'here is a list of your rights', you also say 'everything else? You don't have those rights'.

Actually, I find that if you don't outline rights very specifically people tend to pick away at them and declare that they don't really apply.

More to the point, my very favorite amendment to the US Constitution addresses the problem you brought up. The 9th Amendment:
The enumeration in the Constitution of certain rights shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.
Not that this hasn't kept people from doing just that, but it's there and it tries.
posted by sotonohito at 8:32 AM on February 25, 2011 [2 favorites]


I spent some time in the gaming industry, and let me tell you, the xbox and playstation certification processes are restrictive.

That's not the government, that's Sony and Microsoft. If you want to make your own console to play Grand Theft Terrorism and Hooker Bang XII you can. (Or you can make it for computers.)
posted by NoraReed at 9:27 AM on February 25, 2011 [1 favorite]


Maybe Australia is a paradise filled with perfectly nice people who will never, ever, consider exploiting censorship laws to advance their political aims. But I really doubt it.

We didn't spring up yesterday. Got any cites for that rather large claim?

The closest thing to a censorship board is the Office of Film and Literature classification. The guidelines they use aren't that different from the guidlines used by broadcasters in the States. The state broadcasters, the ABC and SBS, regularly critique our governments with full vigour. We have a lively independent press.

All this babble about the lack of enshrined freedom of speech resulting in a totalitarian state full of censored material is disproved by the fact that Australia has, in fact, not turned into a dictatorship quietly while no-one was looking. I know I haven't had much trouble selling Ass Gapers Five lately. I regularly read local rabble-rousing independent newspapers and blogs without being coshed in the back of the head.

We're a nation of rabble rousers and shit stirrers. We go looking for dirt on our politicians. The parlimentary system is good at encouraging the airing of political dirty laundry. The minute the incumbents started to try that, the Opposition would be on it like flies on honey, if only to milk it for as much political gain as possible. Our Greens are an actual party doing actual work. We have more than two teams in this game, and they're all trying to discredit the other guys.

Guys, not having FREEEEDOOOOOOOM printed on every piece of legislation doesn't make us frikkin North Korea here. It's not black and white, and the minute our shade of grey doesn't suit us any more I can garauntee you we'll fix it. Right now we have other things to do, like not being on fire and watching the football.
posted by Jilder at 9:28 AM on February 25, 2011 [5 favorites]




That's not the government, that's Sony and Microsoft. If you want to make your own console to play Grand Theft Terrorism and Hooker Bang XII you can. (Or you can make it for computers.)


Sooo... monopolistic private bodies can restrict speech, but public ones can't?
That doesn't make any kind of sense to me.
posted by Stagger Lee at 10:15 AM on February 25, 2011


And you know, the more I think about it, the happier I am to NOT have the American Way of Free Speech. I don't think you guys realise how much of your political discourse is lies and misinformation.So much of it! You have whole television stations dedicated to it - and it's completely legal! You may have the right to speak as much truth as you please, but my god, you drown it out in so much garbage. People are critical of our libel laws, but when it comes to political discourse, requiring participants to be able to back themselves up with fact is a major advantage.
posted by Jilder at 10:25 AM on February 25, 2011


Yeah, but you are only allowed to show "discrete" labia [NSFW] in which the inner lips do not protrude past the outer ones, which are uncommon in adult women (but more common among younger girls).

Really? I have never heard this before, and am honestly surprised to hear it now. I have always thought that this is just something that varies among women, regardless of age.
posted by misha at 11:07 AM on February 25, 2011 [1 favorite]


The truly retarded thing

Please.
posted by Danf at 11:36 AM on February 25, 2011


Jimbob, Pinback - what would you do if the government banned you from Metafilter? Or banned MeFi from Australia because, say, someone explained how to graffitti a building (a real reason a game was banned)? Would you meekly submit?

No, as people have tried to explain a number of times, we would bitch about the state of affairs loudly while we access Metafilter via a proxy or mirror or SSH or Tor. Pragmatism, baby, yeah! I wonder if all this doesn't simply come down to Americans being more afraid of their government than we are.
posted by Jimbob at 12:51 PM on February 25, 2011 [1 favorite]


Actually to expand on that line of thinking, the suggestion that we ought to be afraid and start fighting for our freedom because the Gubbmint might take it away at any moment feels a little like that peculiar American obsession with carrying a hand gun around everywhere you go just incase you get mugged.
posted by Jimbob at 12:55 PM on February 25, 2011


Jimbob My government has spent decades teaching me that I should fear it. Not it alone, as the trap of Libertarianism tempts us to. But yes I do most definitely fear my government and fear deeply that the enemies of freedom will gain even more power than they already have.

Perhaps it is more accurate to say that I fear the censorious and other tyrannical urges of my fellow citizens and I know that they are unhesitating and ruthless in the use of governmental power in their quest to prohibit every least thing they find objectionable. The government, in and of itself, is merely the preferred tool of the right wing and it's demands of ever greater social control and theocracy.

I am absolutely certain that absent the First Amendment the USA would have right wing mandated restrictions on every possible form of speech. That everything from being non-Christian to viewing pornography to criticizing the government or elected officials would all be illegal.

We've already seen the last, the Sedition Act of 1798, which was enacted specifically and explicitly to make illegal political opposition to the Adams presidency. It never got to be tested by the Supreme Court, thanks to expiring quickly (and, amazingly, just after Adams left office), though later Courts have held that it would have been ruled unconstitutional.

Prior to the US civil war the slave states sought to make it a criminal offense to even discuss the issue of abolition. Under the constitution of the Confederated States of America that dream was realized and it is only thanks to a war that resulted in around 200,000 deaths that the conservative dream of criminalizing political talk they don't like was temporarily crushed.

Maybe American conservatives are just more vicious than their counterparts elsewhere, I don't know. But I do know that they try, endlessly, to criminalize any and all speech which they find "obscene", or with which they disagree. Perhaps your Australian conservatives are less vile, or less numerous, or less powerful, I don't know.

But I do know that in the USA there would be no free speech if we had your attitude towards it, and I find it difficult to believe that American conservatives are uniquely powerful, or vile which leads me to suspect that your complacency is misplaced.

Jilder You're the people who exported Murdoch to us, I wouldn't feel so superior if I were you.
posted by sotonohito at 1:51 PM on February 25, 2011


I'm pretty sure it goes back to history, sotonochito. Australia wasn't founded in a glorious revolutionary throwing-off of oppressors. Instead, we were founded gradually, through a step-by-step conversion from prison to free nation. Our rights didn't come from some grand declaration at the end of a battle. Our rights and laws were fought for slowly over a century or more, carving our independence out of English law by the book, rather than going to war then finding ourselves suddenly a new nation that had to be defended from without and within.

There is evidence for this, as well, in the 2nd Amendment in the US, something the vast majority of Australians would regard as ridiculous, childish and asking for trouble. I've had it explained to me to the point that I understand where it came from, why it's there, why it's no easy matter to change it, and why that attitude towards deadly weapons still holds strong in the US. I don't approve. I think it's a mistake. But I understand the 2nd Amendment rose from the particular situation the US was in at its founding. However, I wouldn't tolerate Americans coming to Australia and telling us we need to fight for our guns, because it should show a complete misunderstanding of the different foundations of our nations.

I can't explain why I don't fear the government. I don't believe our conservatives are less vile or numerous, but the difference may, perhaps, be less of a tendency in Australia to try to win at all costs. Pluralism still, somehow, survives.
posted by Jimbob at 2:08 PM on February 25, 2011 [2 favorites]


As it happens I agree with you about the 2nd Amendment, though I think it has a lot more to do with many Americans seeing guns as metaphysical penis extensions than anyone really wants to admit. I own guns myself, I like them from an engineering elegance standpoint and they're just plain fun to shoot, but I have no delusions that they somehow protect my freedom, or my person and I wouldn't feel at all uncomfortable living in a nation that prohibited civilian ownership of firearms.

I'm in an odd position on the 2nd because I take the position that the text of the document is what matters, and a plain reading would seem to make civilian ownership of not merely howitzers but also atomic weapons a Constitutionally protected right. I note that the NRA seems to support my view of guns as penis symbols in that despite claiming to be all about the Constitution they don't actually advocate for a genuinely strict reading of the 2nd.

Pluralism still, somehow, survives.

Perhaps that's the most important part, Australia has a parliamentary form of government, in the USA it's winner take all dualism. Our form of government leaves very little room for pluralism.
posted by sotonohito at 2:34 PM on February 25, 2011 [2 favorites]


You're the people who exported Murdoch to us, I wouldn't feel so superior if I were you.

We'll trade you back, but you have to take Kristina Keneally.
posted by jaynewould at 3:13 PM on February 25, 2011 [1 favorite]


No, as people have tried to explain a number of times, we would bitch about the state of affairs loudly while we access Metafilter via a proxy or mirror or SSH or Tor. Pragmatism, baby, yeah!

And what about the people without your technical skills? Don't they deserve free speech
What is pragmatism without ideals?
Australia has less frothing right wing nuts but it does have a very suburban form of conservatism. "why do you need the Internet? You've got the beach and beer" type of thinking
posted by Lovecraft In Brooklyn at 4:13 PM on February 25, 2011


Ah, Murdoch. Murdoch left, because the American Freedom of Speech suited his devilry better. We have legislation to prevent media barons monopolising the media - taking speech from others by drowning them out. He couldn't should down everyone, so he left, going to somewhere where it's legal to lie to everyone.

My point is simply that we are doing it differently here because we have a different historical background that means that the fetish for Free Speech never took root here. We still say what we want.

And what about the people without your technical skills? Don't they deserve free speech?
What is pragmatism without ideals?


Not your ideals. We have plenty. Just not identical to yours. Right now we're working on fixing the games rating system. There's debate about the ratings for adult media. We get to have those debates without drowning in extremist rhetoric, because everyone doesn't feel the need to make it us vs. them. Because that's not part of how we came to be. It was never Us vs. the British or Us vs the French. It's just us, knocking about trying to patch something together that's reasonable for the most people. Right now, the majority of folk don't give a damn about your violent video games, LiB. This is such a tiny issue for most Aussies. We're more concerned that our landscape is trying to kill us more so that usual right now and that we've got to find the money to repair. We're having debates about where that's going to come from - reasonable, informed debates. No death-panel, Secret-Kenyan level hysteria. Reasonable, informed debate. Once, say, there are parts of my state that have reliable water and power again, then we can move on. But the nature of OUR freedom is that we don't let one or two vocal minorities drown everyone else out.
posted by Jilder at 7:19 PM on February 25, 2011 [4 favorites]


We're more concerned that our landscape is trying to kill us more so that usual right now and that we've got to find the money to repair.
Anyone who works in any Queensland Government department is finding out just how enormous that task will be. If they haven't realised now, they will soon.

posted by dg at 7:39 PM on February 25, 2011


It's fundamental to the democratic process, but is it always a positive? And are there not other issues, like preventing corruption, like educating the populace, like protecting suffrage, that are just as important? Quite simply, the democratic process in the US, where free speech reigns supreme, is completely screwed.

I don't think anyone is advocating that the US political system should be imported wholesale into Australia and recreating an exact facsimile. There are a lot of things wrong with the US, but it's really a stretch to blame them on too much free speech. Do you think that the power of corporate America would be lessened if America's already-litigious corporations could hide behind libel laws? How much worse could the Patriot Act have been if the Bush administration wasn't restrained by constitutional free speech protections for dissidents?

When people criticize Australia's free speech restrictions (especially by negatively comparing Australia with America) it trips this patriotic defensive reaction where Aussies respond by pointing out all the bad things about America that are worse than Australia (drug laws, corporate media dominance etc etc), as if the argument is that "America is better than Australia" in general and some seppo ratbag is slagging off Straylia!

When you look at the concrete objections people have to Australia's free speech deficit (e.g. the Internet blacklist) there's no reason to believe that abolishing them would lead to American style politics, especially if corporations weren't considered people for the purposes of free speech rights. That whole issue is really a diversion anyway and should be considered separately. If America abolished the death penalty there would probably be some corporate lawyers claiming that revoking a corporation's charter was "sentencing it to death". That wouldn't be a reason not to support abolishing the death penalty, and corporate abuse of free speech shouldn't be considered an argument against free speech either. It's an argument against making corporations people.

I'd bet money that if some of these shitty anti-free speech policies had been brought in by the Howard government and the argument wasn't framed in terms of "the Australian way" versus "the American way" that people would have no problem finding fault with them. Take for example the fact that Wikileaks was put on the Internet blacklist and effectively banned from May 2009 to November 2010 (during the period the Iraq War logs were released). I can't imagine Johnny Howard being let of the hook for that with some BS about "Australian free speech values are different to America's, so who are you to judge?". The only real saving grace is that these laws are mostly unenforced and unenforceable.
posted by L.P. Hatecraft at 8:45 PM on February 25, 2011 [1 favorite]


No death-panel, Secret-Kenyan level hysteria.

Excuse me if I get a bit 'hysterical' about defending one of my fundamental human freedoms
posted by Lovecraft In Brooklyn at 10:58 PM on February 25, 2011 [1 favorite]


Or: how would you like it if the government told you what beer you could drink? If VB was banned but Tooheys was ok?
posted by Lovecraft In Brooklyn at 11:02 PM on February 25, 2011 [1 favorite]


When people criticize Australia's free speech restrictions (especially by negatively comparing Australia with America) it trips this patriotic defensive reaction where Aussies respond by pointing out all the bad things about America that are worse than Australia (drug laws, corporate media dominance etc etc), as if the argument is that "America is better than Australia" in general and some seppo ratbag is slagging off Straylia!


This is because we enjoy a greater quality of life than the US does,
despite our lack of having "people can say what they want" written on a piece of paper. You're arguing an ideal and we are rebutting with a reality.
posted by gronkpan at 11:07 PM on February 25, 2011 [2 favorites]


Or: how would you like it if the government told you what beer you could drink? If VB was banned but Tooheys was ok?

Most governments already do a hell of a lot of telling us what we can put in our bodies, based on arbitrary cultural criteria.

Look, I want freedom of speech. I'm not anti-freedom of speech. But it is not the most important issue on the agenda. I would rather fight for a more open government, freedom of information laws, than waste my time on Mortal Kombat. Hell, I'd rather fight to get our indigenous population jobs, fight to establish a future-proof economic and environmental policy, or any number of things than waste effort on un-banning a game that anyone who wants could still get.

And yes, I am pissed off with the Labor government when it comes to Wikileaks, the internet blacklist etc. - I'm not giving them a free pass because they're not Howard. I'm just not as concerned about these issues as, say, the continued incarceration of refugee children, because Wikileaks will continue no matter what the Australian government does, and the internet blacklist will be about as effective as a sheet of soggy dunny paper.
posted by Jimbob at 11:10 PM on February 25, 2011 [2 favorites]


This is because we enjoy a greater quality of life than the US does, despite our lack of having "people can say what they want" written on a piece of paper. You're arguing an ideal and we are rebutting with a reality.

Lots of other things contribute to quality of life besides free speech, which may explain why the US scores lower in spite of its greater freedom of speech. All things being equal however, countries with more liberal free speech policies tend to be better places to live in, and the more, the better. The idea that freedom of speech needs to be balanced against other goods to achieve greater overall wellbeing is a myth.

Compare "Global Wellbeing Index" on the table you linked with the Global Press Freedom rankings published by Freedom House (page 8). All of the countries with a higher general wellbeing index than Australia also have greater press freedom (with the exception of Hong Kong, which is obviously a bit of a special case). The highest ranking countries by wellbeing (Finland and Denmark) are 1st equal and 3rd equal on the press freedom charts. Even for something relatively minor in the grand scheme of things like video game censorship, New Zealand (which permits Mortal Kombat) has a higher press freedom rating (9th equal, w00t!) than Australia (which bans it), indicating an across-the-board free speech culture.
posted by L.P. Hatecraft at 12:46 AM on February 26, 2011 [1 favorite]


The highest ranking countries by wellbeing (Finland and Denmark) are 1st equal and 3rd equal on the press freedom charts. Even for something relatively minor in the grand scheme of things like video game censorship, New Zealand (which permits Mortal Kombat) has a higher press freedom rating (9th equal, w00t!) than Australia (which bans it), indicating an across-the-board free speech culture.

And people who apply sunscreen more than 7 times a week are more likely to get skin cancer than people who don't apply sunscreen. I'll let you work out your own conclusion.
posted by gronkpan at 12:55 AM on February 26, 2011 [1 favorite]


Compare "Global Wellbeing Index" on the table you linked with the Global Press Freedom rankings published by Freedom House (page 8).

Causality? Once again, I'm a huge supporter of press freedom. Freedom of the press is certainly more important than whether Mortal Kombat 9 is allowed to be distributed. But such a correlation is somewhat troubling. Do countries have high wellbeing because of freedom of speech, or do they have freedom of speech because of high wellbeing? Certainly there is a correlation between democracy and wealth - does democracy create wealth, or do countries with greater wealth tend towards building democracy?
posted by Jimbob at 12:56 AM on February 26, 2011


And people who apply sunscreen more than 7 times a week are more likely to get skin cancer than people who don't apply sunscreen. I'll let you work out your own conclusion.

Yeah, correlation vs causation etc. But if you think its meaningless to compare how free speech and standards of living vary between nations, what was the point of your previous post doing just that between Australia and America?
posted by L.P. Hatecraft at 1:40 AM on February 26, 2011



Yeah, correlation vs causation etc. But if you think its meaningless to compare how free speech and standards of living vary between nations, what was the point of your previous post doing just that between Australia and America?


I didn't tie one specific statistic to my statement.
posted by gronkpan at 1:42 AM on February 26, 2011


Australians have access to political speech. If not a codified right, it has at least been confirmed via court judgements.
This means if other speech is impinged (like a video game) we can discuss it without fear. And if a majority in the community wish for change, change is likely.
The American right to free speech is really most important when applied to political speech, and American courts hold political speech to a stricter standard (i.e. protect its freedom more strongly).
So in Australia we have a computer game banned and a campaign to change the system so it will be remedied in time. In the US a blurry peak at a nipple causes scandal. *shrug* I don't see either place in immanent danger of totalitarianism.
posted by bystander at 4:31 AM on February 26, 2011 [1 favorite]


This means if other speech is impinged (like a video game) we can discuss it without fear. And if a majority in the community wish for change, change is likely.

Well, that's the problem, actually.

Civil rights are there to protect the minority from the majority. If the majority agrees that something is good then it doesn't need protection. The problem is when the majority agrees that something shouldn't be said, and then silences the unwilling minority.

In the US there are certainly problems with free speech. I won't argue at all that the FCC is insane about broadcast standards. But anyone can produce any porn they want and there's no government agency out there approving it or telling them to censor it. You can't show it on cable TV, and I agree that's bad, but you can sell it over the net.

Unlike in Australia or many other places where every production has to be run past an official government censor and either get approved or not.

Yeah, the question of whether or not Mortal Kombat can be sold is hardly earth shattering. But it's illustrative of a deep problem with protection of minority rights. Every government out there has problems with extending rights to minorities, mine included.

But if you start from the position that rights are dependent on the whim of a majority, rather than from the position that rights should be there **DESPITE** the explicit and loudly voiced opinions of the majority, I think things are worse for the minority.

You've just said that the right of a minority to speak is, and should be, entirely dependent on whether or not the majority can be bothered to permit them to, I find that attitude rather horrifying. The minority should be permitted to speak not even if the majority dislikes that speech, but especially if the majority dislikes that speech. Otherwise you don't have rights, except the "right" to agree with the majority.

Issues of civil rights almost always involve people who aren't particularly nice or someone you'd want to defend. Rosa Parks is the exception, most civil rights cases involve pretty nasty people. That's why the ACLU is the perennial defender of the Neo-Nazis, the KKK, and other vile scum.

If I don't believe in free speech for the KKK, who I hate with a burning passion, than I don't believe in free speech. Free speech is always about defending the unpopular minority opinion from an affronted majority.
posted by sotonohito at 7:06 AM on February 26, 2011 [3 favorites]


Okay just a clarification; if there's no "censorship" agency in the US, then who gives films the G/M/AO ratings or whatever they have? If there's no censorship agency, then why do I hear stories from directors about the care they've had to take in their movies to avoid a particular rating?

And if every individual creative, cultural output produced in Australia has to go before the censorship board, why have I been producing music, zines, blogs, games and videos in various forms for most of my life without ever running across them?
posted by Jimbob at 12:46 PM on February 26, 2011


In the US the Motion Picture Association of America, a private institution, rates films. It is the policy of some, though not all, theaters to refuse to show either unrated films, or films above a certain rating. This is not a government agency, and if the producers of a film so choose they may release the film unrated both to the theaters willing to show unrated films, or direct to video.

On the government side the Federal Communication Commission sets standards for broadcast and cable television as well as radio, and can levy fines if broadcasters show things forbidden by those standards (like Janet Jackson's nipple). I find this to be an abhorrent and direct violation of the First Amendment and the principle of free speech. Fortunately it only applies to TV, cable, and radio. The net and paper publishing industries are (currently, they didn't used to be and if the forces of evil have their way they won't be again) completely free of governmental censorship.

I'm hardly claiming that the US system is great, I'm in favor of (purely voluntary) rating for movies because it's convenient, but when theaters and other distribution channels refuse to show things of a particular rating, or unrated, then it becomes a defacto censorship board even if it isn't governmental. If that's a problem then I'm opposed to even purely voluntary ratings.

If I understand things properly, anything refused classification by the Australian government censorship board is illegal to distribute there, yes? Which brings us to the problem with Mortal Kombat, it's been refused classification and is, therefore, illegal to sell, right?

Not being Australian I have no idea how you've been doing what you're doing, I'd imagine you'd be in a much better position to tell me. But if the censorship board doesn't exist, or is no problem, then why isn't Mortal Kombat being sold in Australia openly?

IIRC, Australia's government also maintains a secret internet blacklist that was recently shown to include sites critical of the secret government blacklist. That doesn't look nearly as free as you make it out to be.

The fact that the laws aren't strictly enforced hardly makes them ok.
posted by sotonohito at 1:46 PM on February 26, 2011 [1 favorite]


No, doesn't make it okay, but I think the general Australian attitude to the government doing stupid shit like this is not "OMG the gubbmint is taking away our RIGHTS!", but rather "Meh, guess I'll have to go get it from the Pirate Bay." We just don't see the government as that big and scary, that all-powerful, that its decisions on these things actually matter, particularly in the globalized age of the internet. Our communications minister (as with the previous 3 at least) doesn't understand the internet. He actually thinks the blacklist will work. He actually thinks it will be effective in stopping child porn. He is completely deluded, therefore I don't perceive his policies as a real threat. The fact that these laws are "hardly enforced" doesn't make them okay, but it does mean I can afford to direct my attention towards things that have a tangible impact.
posted by Jimbob at 2:42 PM on February 26, 2011


If I understand things properly, anything refused classification by the Australian government censorship board is illegal to distribute there, yes? Which brings us to the problem with Mortal Kombat, it's been refused classification and is, therefore, illegal to sell, right?

Distribution is illegal, but possession is legal.

I'm not going to defend the Australian censor: I think it's a worthless position that should dry up and blow away. However, I will take a (democratic) government censor any day over a corporate censor, which is basically what the MPAA is. Why? Because a government censor works (not always consistently, I admit) to published guidelines, and their decisions are open to challenge. The MPAA do not publish any guidelines, and if you disagree with their decision you've got no method of challenging it, other than writing to them.

An R18+ rating for video games is currently limping it's way through the government bureaucracy. No telling what the final result will be but I'm hopeful that it will make it. If you want to know when the final decision is going to be made, you can always email the AG department.
posted by Ritchie at 3:28 PM on February 26, 2011


Distribution is illegal, but possession is legal.

It's not that simple. The classifications are made by a federal authority, but the rules about possession and sale are made at state level so they vary depending where you live.
posted by robcorr at 8:30 PM on February 26, 2011


So according to that link
for the average person in states and territories excepting Western Australia, it is not illegal to posess games that have been refused classification.
It goes on to say that Customs might seize your parcel if you try to get, for example, Mortal Kombat posted from amazon.co.uk for approximately AUD$60 plus shipping. The downside is you can't trade it in.

Hmm. I'm not sure why I shouldn't get all my games from the UK now, given that in Australia new releases retail for about AUD$100.
posted by Ritchie at 9:22 PM on February 26, 2011 [1 favorite]


The specific case of Mortal Kombat is a boring, non-interesting matter of the censorship laws catching up with modern reality. We'll have an R18+ classification for games in a short while, it's really nothing to get angry with, and if you are angry, you need to go buy some perspective.

The bigger question regarding censorship versus free speech and Australia's position "versus" the US's is a matter of an ethos of extreme individualism (the US position) versus a more communitarian position (Australia's). It's much more than jsut censorship, it runs deep insociety, reflected in tax laws and wealth redistribution and all sorts of things.

Americans can have their country, I reckon it's fucked, its inhuman and dehumanising, and you're welcome to it, if you want to criticise Australia's position on this ethical choice you need to go and do a lot of homework (which LiB hasn't done) to work out what's really improtant to you and your society ebfore you can mount an attack on it.
posted by wilful at 3:47 AM on February 27, 2011


Why can't I have both healthcare and the choice to play what videogames I'd like to play?
posted by Lovecraft In Brooklyn at 6:41 PM on February 27, 2011


Why? Trivially, because some bureaucratic processes have been help up by conservative politicians. You will be allowed to play some mind rotting crap to your hearts content in due time.

More fundamentally, you can't have free speech in this country because it doesn't help the public good, the public order, it's not an unfettered right and that's something that we collectively think is the right way to organise things. As has been explained to you many times already on this thread.
posted by wilful at 7:12 PM on February 27, 2011


Why can't I have both healthcare and the choice to play what videogames I'd like to play?
You can. Just not yet. The process of changing any regulatory instrument in Australia is labarynthian and glacial. For the most part, this is A Good Thing, because it puts a fine filter on stupid proposals that don't survive the public consultation and in-depth examination of how the change will affect various parts of society. To you and I, this change seems like a no-brainer but, if members of the population may be negatively impacted or have strong views about the change, they have a right to be heard just as much as we do. More than me, in fact, because I'm a bit 'meh' about the whole thing - it doesn't impact me in the slightest. There's no urgency about this change, there's no greater good to be served and the country has far more important things to worry about at the moment, like trying to figure out if we will all end up drowned, burned alive or picked up like Dorothy and hurled off the planet.

I think that, if you asked 1,000 Australians if they think they have free speech, the vast majority of them would answer 'yes, of course we do'. The simple fact is that, in reality, that's true, even if it's not written down somewhere. That's really the difference between the US and Australia on this issue - Americans think they have free speech because the constitution says they do, Australians have free speech because they can say whatever they want.
posted by dg at 7:51 PM on February 27, 2011


Ritchie: possession is legal, importation is not. Customs will confiscate it and may also refer you for prosecution.
posted by robcorr at 12:12 AM on February 28, 2011


Except that Customs doesn't open every parcel. Nor can they do anything about games which are electronically delivered.
posted by Ritchie at 6:56 PM on February 28, 2011


Realistically, they can't prosecute you either - they would have to prove that you imported the game and a completely plausible defence would be that someone sent you a gift and you can't be held responsible for their lack of knowledge of the Australian classification framework. They aren't going to prosecute someone in the UK for sending a single DVD in the mail.

The biggest risk is that you'll end up losing the DVD and have to try again.
posted by dg at 8:04 PM on February 28, 2011


You're right. They don't open every parcel. But they *do* search people's houses over imports of even small quantities of prohibited goods, and seize computers, and investigate credit card records. "I didn't order it" usually doesn't withstand scrutiny.

I'm a lawyer and sometimes I prosecute importation offences referred by Customs... but of course what I say on MeFi is not approved or endorsed by my employer etc etc etc blah blah blah.
posted by robcorr at 11:30 PM on March 1, 2011 [1 favorite]


they will seize and fine you up to $11

this is terrifying
posted by Lovecraft In Brooklyn at 5:26 PM on March 15, 2011


The Customs spokesperson said someone caught trying to import RCed games into Australia could expect a fine of up to three times the value of the product, or AU$110,000, whichever is greater.
Not sure how that equates to $11. Are you saying the game is only worth AUD3.66?
posted by dg at 7:24 PM on March 15, 2011


Federal govt says they'll change the Classification Act if states/territories don't come to agreement on R-rated games
Home Affairs Minister Brendan O'Connor says after a decade of debate, it is crunch time.

"We're becoming the laughing stock of the developed world, where we're the only country that doesn't have an R18 classification level for video games.

"I foreshadow that if there is not a consensus around this issue, the Commonwealth will certainly be considering other options because we cannot continue to have an outdated classification system that's actually, in my view, causing harm to young people."

The Federal Government says reforming the system will help protect children, inform parents and give adult gamers more choice.
So several people at the federal level are tired of this crap, don't want adults fined for importing games for their own use, and want it sorted out at a lower level within the next 6 months or else they'll sort it out at their higher level.

"Terrifying" is not the word I'd use to describe this, after reading the threads on Japan, Libya, Wisconsin and Portugal.
posted by harriet vane at 10:30 PM on March 15, 2011


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