22 March 2010

Dangerous Closeness

In his article "Gefährliche Nähe" published on 11 March 2010 in German nationwide weekly quality newspaper "Die Zeit", historian and free author Bernd Ulrich comments on the current dispute on child pornography on the internet in Germany, which was lately triggered by recent discoveries of child abuse in convents, reform schools and catholic children's choirs. He asks whether our (i.e. the German) society drives into moral chaos and presents two indications for such a thesis, namely, on the one hand side, the cancelling of the blocking of child pornography websites by the German federal government and, on the other hand side, a novel rushing the best seller lists in which the main character is excited by child pornography.
During this abuse debate, but apparently unaffected thereof, the German center right government [christian-liberal coalition of CDU/CSU and FDP] decided to cancel the act on blocking of child pornography websites, which has only been set up before the latest federal elections in Septmber 2009 as a reaction on federal secretary Ursula von der Leyen's (CDU) confrontation with an extreme part of the internet community. While the internet geeks thought that website blocking was (technically) useless and the beginning of internet censorship, the secretary and her former grand coalition of christian CDU and socialdemocratic SPD, on the other hand, wanted to be able to block pertinent websites since deletion of content hosted abroad usually is impossible.

Now, what led to the change of opinion within the CDU? Was it a technical or legal innovation that facilitates the deletion of child pornographic content hosted abroad and thus rendered website blocking unnecessary? Something quite different has happened. In the 2009 federal election the "censorship" fightnig "Piratenpartei" received two percent of the votes, which alarmed the CDU enough to establish new priorities, according to which the circulation of child pornography via the internet is not as bad as the censorship fears of some internet geeks.
Apparently, the German federal government has surrendered to the self-appointed defenders of internet freedom which appears to explicitly cover any abhorrent material whatsoever. Up to now, neither the internet freedom activists the Piratenpartei and even less the governing center right coalition was able to coherently and convincingly explain why owing or disseminating printed media related to child pornography is a crime and blocking child pornography websites is "censorship".

The anti-censorship activists in the walk of the Piratenpartei tend to almost exclusively argue technically and to virtually avoid any moral or legal issues - in fact their only comprehensible (and true) argument is that internet blockings can easily be circumvented. One likes to add that this arguement does not have any weight at all, since it is the very nature of any legal provision that it may be circumvented - which is then called a contravention.

The pure technical argumentation of the internet activists appears to show a lack of interest in a workable solution for a social problem but rather discloses self-centered interests, i.e. an internet without (moral or legal) limits and, of course, without intellectal property rights. Talking technically, however, the President of the Federal Crimal Agency (Bundeskriminalamt, BKA) recently exlained that deleting content on overseas servers (i.e. the joint strategy of both the Piratenpartei and the German government) is virtually impossible - which does not come as a complete surprise, since the act on blocking of child pornography websites was based on exactly this technically finding.

As a second indication of moral deficiencis Bernd Ulrich identifies
the novel "Axolotl Roadkill" [that] was written by 17-year-old Berlin woman Helen Hegemann who comes from an educated milieu which torments its children with almost unlimited tolerance. These liberal adults can explain and justify everything they see and do. Consequently, Ms Hegemann wrote a novel in which every thought is teared up and every statement is shattered, with no action and no thought coming to an end. Some may find this interesting, some not.

However, the author did not consider this as a sufficient provocation but also had to intersperse scenes in which children are sexually abused and brutally tortured. [...] Most surprisingly and irritatingly, however, these child pornographic scenes did not play any role in a madly furious feuilleton battle of that book. Rather, the disputants concentrated on the question of whether or not plagiarism improves the novel.

And all that at the same time as elsewhere the abuse debate raged and the newspapers were full of news on padres downloading child pornography from the internet.
Obviously, hermetics is not a privilege of monasteries and boarding schools and indifference is not only an attitude of a dull and cynic society, since otherwise the irritating and disturbing contents of that novel should have evocated much more attention and emotions as compared to its sources.