The lamb roast roundup: Mums and censorship

Feminist criticism of the “It’s Time to Tell Mum” anti-filtering campaign has shown up on several blogs:

ZDNet Australia writer Josh Taylor picked up the story and contacted myself and Geordie Guy, vice-chair of EFA’s board, for comment in his article EFA apologises for ‘sexist’ anti-filter site.

[Geordie] Guy told ZDNet Australia the responses he received to his blog forced him to delete the entry.

“A couple of the comments that came in response to that were really abusive and I didn’t want to start or continue a fight, which is why the article was removed,” he said.

“We sincerely regret that the campaign offended some people,” Guy said, explaining that his personal musings on the blog were superseded by the apology from the EFA board. He said it was inevitable that the different approach to the censorship debate — and getting a comedian involved — would offend a few people.

“Needless to say, we didn’t set out to upset anyone and we don’t think mums are stupid — we think some mums are being treated as such by the government, who is playing on their fears without giving them the full story,” he said.

The EFA though have explicitly disclaimed any apparent apology in their own blog:

So contrary to reports elsewhere, like [Taylor’s piece], we aren’t apologising for the campaign – we’re happy with the way it turned out. Of course, we’d rather nobody was offended, and sincerely regret it. But offending nobody is only possible without any risk-taking, and a risk-free campaign is unlikely to break any new ground.

I’ve also transcribed the the Akmal Saleh video that’s part of the “It’s Time to Tell Mum” campaign.


The speaker throughout is Akmal Saleh.

[Akmal Saleh appears in a head-and-shoulders shot against a nondescript graduated light blue background facing the camera and speaks.]

Akmal Saleh here. Now do you remember a time when we didn’t have the Internet? A lot of people remember that time, mostly old people who’ve really got nothing better to do than watch Kerri-Anne Kennerley and Days of Our Lives.

I don’t watch any of these shows.

[Text briefly appears beside Saleh reading “I Don’t Watch Any of These Shows”]

but I did watch this show the other night called, um, Question Time and it’s the worst show in history, and uh and and this guy got up and started saying uh

[Saleh pulls an exaggerated serious facial expression]

“Mr Speaker” and the other guy said “shut up sit down” he didn’t say “shut up” and he said “order order order” and then I said “go on give me a pizza with the lot and garlic bread” nah I didn’t I didn’t that was just a joke just between me and myself.

Anyway he started talking

[Text briefly appears beside Saleh reading “He Started Talking”, Saleh resumes his exaggerated serious politician expression and begins speaking in plummy tones]

and he started saying things like “er, Mr Speaker, er, the government,er, intends to introduce, yeah, er, a filter for the Internet”

[Resumes normal tone.]

and I thought “this show is shit”

[Text briefly appears beside Saleh reading “This Show Is Shit”]

and then someone, my flatmate said to me “it’s not a show, it’s actually real.”

I thought “Is it? Real?”

Check this out.

[Text briefly appears beside Saleh reading “Check This Out”]

They’ve got a list of secret websites that they don’t want you to see. But I tell you something. The government should not have secrets like that. Only the Catholic Church is allowed to have secrets. Because, you know, they know God personally and everything. But that’s another issue.

And so I did what any good son would do.You know what that was? I told me Mum. [gets louder and more emphatic] That’s right, I dobbed the government in and that’s what you should do. But you know that was a bit forceful then, you don’t have to do it if you don’t want to. You know, it’s your choice, but I recommend that you tell your Mum about this.

Mums love gossip.

[Text briefly appears beside Saleh reading “Mums Love Gossip”]

You know, have you ever s— have you ever been to the hairdressers with your Mum?

[Assumes a high pitchy whiny tone]

“Oh look I’ve… Brad, Brad Pitt left Britney and Lindsay’s done [unclear: “a hammy”?] and and Daryl Somers has had a boob job and…”

[Resumes normal tone.]

They just, it never stops. So, I guess what I’m saying is if you tell your Mum they’ll tell other Mums and uh and uh and that would be a good thing.

All right now the next bit I going to say is a little bit serious OK? You ready? [pause] It’s not going to protect kids from looking at sites that they shouldn’t. It’s not going to stop criminals. And it’s going to block access to sites that really should not be blocked.

Here’s an example right.

[Text briefly appears beside Saleh reading “Here’s an Example, Right”]

There’s a poor dentist in Queensland who,uh, whose been blacklisted because he’s been caught [makes quote marks with fingers], uh, with pictures of children’s teeth. [Loudly.] He’s a dentist. [Normal tone.] You know, I would understand that maybe if it was a Rabbi who had a collection of children’s penises then yes! But it’s still, it’s still, I mean it’s work-related I suppose but ah.

What if I was blacklisted?

[Text briefly appears beside Saleh reading “What If I Was Blacklisted?”]

It could happen. you know, I’ve been to airports and I’ve seen the way people look at me I mean it’s getting to the point where I can’t walk into an airport dressed as an Arab with like wires hanging here and little red things that look, maybe look like dynamite and suddenly I’m a terrorist! You know? [very short laugh] That’s just racism!

The government is saying

[Text briefly appears beside Saleh reading “The governme[nt] is sayin[g]”, very slightly obscured by his torso]

that if you don’t agree with their Internet filter that you must be a supporter of child pornography. Which is just absurd. It’s like saying if you don’t like felafels then you must hate [short pause] Arabs! And you want them dead. Or, uh, if you don’t, uh, if you don’t fly Qantas then you m— must hate all people from Nigeria. Or, uh, or if you don’t, uh, put, you know, if you don’t like Vegemite on toast then you’re a [loudly] fuckwit. And of course you are because it’s so nice and tasty and it’s not everyone’s taste but I like it and it’s high in Vitamin B and it’s put and it puts the rose in every cheek and um I don’t know what that e— actually means but look

[Music begins playing over the speech and Saleh is shown continuing to speak for a moment but it is inaudible. The video cuts to him speaking in a different tone while the music continues.]

We all know that it’s Mums that do the best job of looking after their kids not the government. It’s time to tell Mum that Internet censorship is a bad idea.

[Music slows to a close, and the visuals cut to the “It’s Time to Tell Mum” logo.]

Categories: culture wars, gender & feminism, linkfest, parenting, technology

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6 replies

  1. I’ve said very little about this, but I’ve been quite troubled by EFA’s top-down approach to the anti-censorship campaign. As I was part of a group that tried and failed to get an alternative, more democratically-based campaign going, I don’t want to be a spoiler, but it seems clear that a democratic structure would have been far more likely than a closed one to recognise the problems with this current campaign before it went public.
    It seems to me that the most useful grass-roots campaign would be one that teaches people how to get around Net censorship, like the campaign Exit International were running in the Four Corners episode in Net censorship a few weeks ago.

  2. I think it’s worth noting that as of the 30th May (day after your last post on the campaign) the Twitter feed suddenly cut out the seriously sexist stereotyping (other than perhaps in re-tweets) and started to mention dads, parents and grandparents, too. I don’t think it in any way mitigates the earlier stuff or fauxpology, but thought it was a point of interest.
    [Thanks for taking the time to do the transcription too, btw.]

  3. More links:
    Goodbye, Electronic Frontiers Australia by sky at witty title pending: a point-by-point of some sexist aspects of the campaign, and a point-by-point reply to some of the responses to critique.
    Mary’s So simple, even your mother will be opposed post here (I know it’s in Related Posts, but it’s automated and it might not stay there)
    It’s hard to pick the most jaw-dropping moment for me, but I think it might have been when Colin Jacobs said that as civil liberties campaigners they will have nothing to do with a conversation about sexism. Every activist group needs to confront sexism, racism, classism and the other -isms within their movement, unless they only want to be a movement for misogynist rich white dudes and their apologists.
    Women aren’t empty gossip vessels to be your pawns and passive mouthpieces: we’re here and we have our own minds, opinions, and political voices. But – and let me make this very clear – when you make us unwelcome in our own movement, when you refuse to engage in conversations about sexism, or when you say there is “something wrong” with us for tackling sexism, or when you believe that being against sexism in the movement means you’re a Seekrit Censor-Lovin’ Troll, or when you call us “insane” or “whores” for expressing our feminist views, or when you speak of us as “females” as thought we’re biological specimens, or when you call us oversensitive and humourless and politically naive or ask us if we don’t have more important things to do (like cooking you a roast, perhaps?), or when you wish that certain women could be censored, we are not on the same side.

  4. There’s an (alleged) civil libertarian on the EFA’s thread, JE at #31, who, in addition to a lot of misogynist and ableist language, manages to use BOTH the phrases “by ANY MEANS NECESSARY” and “the ends do justify the means” in adjacent sentences. I think that comment is the most extraordinary thing I’ve seen on the Internet for quite some time.
    The rest is a +1 to Lauredhel’s comment above. Quoted for the win: “Every activist group needs to confront sexism, racism, classism and the other -isms within their movement, unless they only want to be a movement for misogynist rich white dudes and their apologists.”

  5. That ad is just not funny. I am dissapoint.
    And pretty much everything lauredhel said. (I’d say stuff myself but I’m having a lazy day.)

  6. Honestly, I’ve never seen anyone tell women to STFU so many times in one thread as EFA. It makes me sad that some of the young things campaigning so hard against a system that has the potential to shut down radical criticism of society… seem to have zilch interest in any criticism, however mild, themselves. In fact, any attempt to shift the boundaries on gender expectations seems to send them into a panic and they want to shut down the discussion. And they don’t seem to see the irony in that.

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