Pumping Up The Volume

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In the early 1990’s a film was released to eventually gain a cult following, especially amongst detached, disaffected teenagers of the time.

That movie was ‘Pump Up The Volume, the story of a teenager trapped in the banality, mediocrity and monotony of life in suburban USA, rebelling against his parents, school and ‘the system’ . This was all done under the alias of ‘Happy Harry Hard-on’, a pirate DJ and, as we see throughout the course of the film, more the protagonists true persona than the meek, misunderstood teen we see in public.

The premise of the story was simple enough, but it’s timing unfortunate, catching the end of the ham-radio pirate DJ wave of uncensored free speech and shock jocks. It also arrived at the same time as the first common vestiges of the internet… now the vehicle for most amateur reporting, dissemination of (mis)information and ‘free speech’.

And now it’s Australia’s turn to fall under the boot of censorship.

It’s in that are of ‘free speech’ that Australians are now under attack from the very people elected to protect us from such draconian measures. Historically, Australians have elected governments in a sort of swinging pendulum reactionary method… an incumbent government goes too far with unpopular policies or inaction, and Australians vote them out, switching to the only alternative in a bi-partisan system. Often times, this just changes the names and faces, and very little else. Australians lack genuine choice when it comes to political representation at the top level… a sign that our system does not work and needs to change.

But in a truly insulting manner, a long tradition of newly established governments in this country, we have been sold a lie and now the truth of our choice has come to light.

It was recently announced that Australia will soon enact legislation forcing Internet Service Providers to censor the internet… thus removing any choice from the population in controlling our own use of this utility.

Now, before the conservative element out there begins to get bent out of shape about ‘what’ is being filtered, I am not advocating the proliferation of the material the government intends to block… quite the contrary. In point of fact, in a previous job, I was responsible for the company internet filtering system, enacting policy, reporting on breaches and finding ways to ensure that staff didn’t inadvertently get themselves into trouble. I understand the technology and the reasons behind using it and in many ways agree with its use…

In a corporate environment.

NOT in a mandatory, dictatorial and very ‘1984’ type way, which it will no doubt become. What begins with the best of intentions can so easily be corrupted into something more sinister.

Now, as I said, I don’t advocate, accept, condone or tolerate the material and behaviours that they intend to block… especially when it comes to children. But I also believe that it is a parents responsibility to protect their children, and a governments to support them in that protection. When parents fail in their duty of care, then yes, let the government step in, but in a way that influences only those affected… leave the rest of us to our own devices.

One aspect of this filtering that has not been addressed in any of the information I’ve seen so far is that of monitoring and reporting. It’s one thing to enact preventative strategies and policy when it comes to filtering, but what then happens to the requests that go through this system? What happens when a virus infects your pc and begins downloading all manner of ‘illegal’ material? Are you responsible? Will you be charged and have to pay for someone to prove your innocence? Will our system of jurisprudence change from ‘innocent until proven guilty’ to something playing out to the tune of The Cruel Sea’s Better Get  A Lawyer, Son?

Australians have been sold a lie by the Rudd led Labour government. We exchanged our chips and got Monopoly money instead, and the worst in all this is that as we progress forward, our political leaders are becoming more and more conservative… and in the case of the new Liberal leadership, more hypocritical (that’s right, Tony Abbott, you ARE a hypocrite).

And Australians are joining in on that hypocrisy. We point the finger at China and their government controlled internet, and scream ‘draconian’, yet we are embracing the first stages of the same here. We turn to the middle east and cry out ‘conservative religious fundamentalists’, yet our own leadership here is pandering to the religious minority on a daily basis.

If history, both modern and further back, teaches us anything, it’s that politics and religion have no place mixing and should remain separate. The separation of church and state is one of the most rational developments of western society, and in implementing this filtering and making it law, we are taking a step backwards on a very slippery slope.

I feel sorry for Australia… like the children we desire to protect, we are losing our innocence in a way that scares me. We have no ‘bill of rights’ to fall back on for security. We have no constitutionally protected freedoms, other than that of political choice… but when the choice is between two sides, is there really a choice at all?

And I shudder to think how things will go when the pendulum swings back.

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