The Fundy Post - Youth against Fascism
07 June 2005
The Fundy Post - Youth against Fascism
Since the last Fundy Post was published, the phones have not stopped ringing. The Watchdog story has appeared in Russell Brown's Hard News, the New Zealand Herald, the Dominion Post, the Sydney Morning Herald and the Melbourne Age, as well as being reprinted on several websites. What's more, our friends the Irish Humanists and Australian Rationalists are reprinting the article in their magazines.
As well as talk, there has been action. The lovely Judith Tizard, Minister for New Zealand Music (amongst other things) has been chasing officials and made an impassioned speech to the assembled bloggers and mediawhores at Russell Brown's Great Blend event; you should have been there.
So, you may be asking, how did Watchdog react? Managing director Peter Mancer would not speak to the NZ Herald, referring all questions to the Ministry of Education, but he told Rob O'Neill of the Sydney Morning Herald that the issue is overblown, adding that "the company makes no moral or political judgements when categorising websites," a statement which differs slightly from what he told Challenge Christian Weekly on 13 September of last year: "It is also good that we, as a Christian principle- based company, can use those principles in providing services to the schools." (http://www.challengeweekly.co.nz/Iss34-2004.htm if you want to look it up)
Mancer also told the SMH that "schools have the option to turn the filter off or to modify its default settings." but admitted that, of the 500 schools using Watchdog's service, only about 20 customise their filtering. "The rest accept the default service. They are busy enough not to manage their own filtering." Hardly surprising, given that Watchdog adds 2000 sites to its database every day; besides, these schools signed up for a service provided through the Ministry of Education and doubtless they thought Watchdog could be trusted.
Perhaps we can help Watchdog customers with their workload. If you are in a school or any other public body which is protected by Watchdog, you might find that your access to a perfectly legitimate website is blocked. When that happens, you will see text that will look something like this:
Cut and paste the text into an email message, send it to email@example.com, stating where you tried to access the website, and we will do the rest. Send your email to your system administrator as well, asking for the block to be removed; let us know what happens.
While we are at it, why stop at Watchdog? There are other internet filtering services and many use the same database from 8e6 Technologies or similar lists of banned sites. They all need some public scrutiny.
If you are at school or if you are using a computer provided for public use, you have a right to information. After all, it's not just about political opinions: the pregnancy and STD rates of New Zealand teenagers are some of highest in the developed world; the suicide rate among gay teenagers in New Zealand is appalling. There are many causes, but one of the most important is lack of access to advice and information.
In countries like the Netherlands, where teenagers can get advice freely and without prejudice, these statistics are all at the other end of the scale. The internet is a resource, where people can obtain information that they might not get from anyone they know. If they can't get it because their internet access is being managed by fundamentalists, then everyone should know about it.
The downfall of Graham Capill, former leader of the Christian Heritage Party, continues: at the time of writing, his sentencing for sexually assaulting an underage girl has been delayed while Police investigate other allegations made against him. His former party is in shock, so much so that they pulled all references to him from their website on the day that his name protection expired, apart from a statement by current leader Ewen McQueen. The CHP's priceless collection of Capill's admonitions and condemnations is gone for ever, the archive of outrage despoiled.
Fortunately, copies are kept elsewhere: Scoop has preserved Capill's numerous press releases for posterity. Simply go to www.scoop.co.nz and search for 'Capill' to harvest a wealth of his calls for boycotts, bannings and resignations.
One such release needs to be shared. On 30 September 1999, a CHP press release under Capill's name stated: Christian Heritage intends to file an appeal against a decision of the Film and Literature Board to essentially uphold the R18 certificate given to Lolita by the Classification Office. It quotes Capill as saying:
“That the story of an older man and his sexual relationship with a prepubescent schoolgirl has been passed by the Office of Film and Literature Classification is of concern not only to family-centred organisations but to the victims of sexual abuse... When society pays only lip service to protecting its children then we are in a very sorry state.
Either the government and the censorship bodies take their responsibility as protectors of the most vulnerable members of society seriously, and ban this film, or admit they gave up caring about New Zealand’s children a long time ago... What this country needs is not a film glorifying illegal sex with minors, but a government committed to putting the family first and protecting children from sex abuse”
Nabokov's Lolita tells the story of a man's sexual obsession with a 12 year-old girl. Capill pleaded guilty in the Christchurch District Court to one charge of indecently assaulting a girl under 12 which was representative of several incidents that occurred in 2001 and 2002. His victim was eight years old.
Points Mean Prizes
An announcement from the Maxim Institute:
Centre for Tomorrow's Leaders Tertiary Students' Essay Competition 2005
"We know that man is by his constitution a religious animal" - Sir Edmund Burke
The separation of church and state is foundational to the Western understanding of democracy. What role, if any, does religion (both personal and institutional) have in the political sphere of a society?
1st Prize $2000, 2nd Prize $1000, 3rd Prize $500 Maxim Institute will offer summer internships to excellent finalists.
Closing date: Friday 23 September 2005 Further details are available online at: http://www.maxim.org.nz/essay/.
We shouldn't quibble, I know, but quibbling is so much fun. The Maxim Institute is always going on about Burke, but they really should read him some time. This is what he wrote: "We know, and it is our pride to know, that man is by his constitution a religious animal; that atheism is against, not only our reason, but our instincts; and that it cannot prevail long" (Reflections on the Revolution in France, Part VI). Two hundred years later Burke is dead, the French are still revolting and Atheism is still around. If Maxim were at least to read a biography of Burke, they might find that he was neither a Baronet, nor a Knight and so was not a Sir, just plain Mister. As always, Maxim has shown its commitment to "accurate and timely research."
Nevertheless, two grand is not to be sniffed at and it would be satisfying if Fundy Post readers picked up some prizes; if you want to learn how to write like a maximite, go to the website and read the previous winners' efforts.
On the other hand, if essay writing is not for you, the Fundy Post is pleased to announce the inaugural Maxim Institute Student Poetry Contest. Entries are welcomed from any full-time student in a tertiary institution (or anyone else; we are inclusive and celebrate diversity) who is able to demonstrate the ability to write like a Maxim Institute staffer. Entries can be in any recognised poetic form (including doggerel), written from the viewpoint of a Maxim student essayist, on one of the topics below:
No generation exists in isolation. Our present culture, laws, institutions and values are all built upon the ideas that have held sway in the past. What role does Civil Society play in preserving and passing on heritage? Can progress and preservation of virtues in society co-exist, and if so, on what basis? Discuss with reference to New Zealand society.
Why do girls hate me?
Winning entries will be published in the Fundy Post and excellent finalists will be offered an internship in our think-tank.