Tagged: Censorship

Dennis O’Neil: “Dell Comics Are Good Comics”

Beany and CecilO bitterness! O shame! I devoted a lot of bandwidth last recently to blathering about Howdy Doody, a marionette who had his own, pioneering, television show, a kiddie show back when I was, in fact, a kiddie. Nothing wrong with that. No bitterness, no shame.

Howdy DoodyBut… This bandwidth-waster is part of an enterprise devoted to comic books and I neglected to mention that our little bestringed buddy had his own comic book. It was published by Dell, which seemed to like puppets since it also had Beany and Cecil Comics, Rootie Kazootie Comics, and Charlie McCarthy Comics. (Okay, Charlie was a ventriloquist dummy, but isn’t that a kind of puppet?)

Charlie McCarthyBefore I knew much about the business that put food on my table for about a half-century, I was even less aware of Dell than I am now. Actually, I’m not sure I knew what a publisher was, but there were these comics that didn’t feature Superman or Batman or any of the other costumed heroes that gave pleasure to warm afternoons when I didn’t have to endure the leaden misery of school. During those vacation days I read comic books and it is likely that I read some Dells, probably the ones about funny animals, the same funny animals that I sometimes saw at the picture show before the cowboy movie of the week began entertaining me. I doubt that I read any that featured Howdy, Beany, et.al. because I was getting interested in puppets and ventriloquism and wouldn’t I have remembered comics that combined my enthusiasms? Well, maybe not.

Rootie KazootieBut about these Dells… they were different. And I wasn’t sure why then and I’m not sure why now, though if I actually examined one I might detect what give them their specialness. (I mean, I must have learned something all those years that I sat behind editorial desks.)

Later, after the witch hunting 50s, Dell’s titles seemed somehow above the fray, and in a way they were. Instead of sobbing mea culpa and joining the comics Code Authority like most of the other publishers that survived the persecutions – there weren’t many – Dell chose to ignore the censors. “Dell comics are good comics” the company’s slogan reminded its readers. This genteel rebellion had no effect, apparently, on sales. Dell continued to publish for years.

There is probably a lesson to be learned in all this, somewhere, but I’ll let you ferret it out. Whatever it might be, it probably has nothing to do with puppets, the ostensible subject of the current effort, and maybe nothing to do with bitterness and shame, but that might bear further investigation.

Why do people want to engage in censorship, anyway?

Tweeks: The Graveyard Book Shouldn’t Get Buried (Week 4 #ChallengedChallenge)

It’s Week Four, which means we are at the half-way mark of the ComicMix Challenged Challenge. This week we take on The Graveyard Book Vol. 1, the graphic novel based on Neil Gaiman’s novel of the same name. This witty and compelling story was enhanced by P. Craig Russell’s graphic adaptation which includes amazing artwork by different artists in each chapter. We couldn’t help but love this book. We also couldn’t help but be confused as to why the CBLDF had to defend this touching book about a boy being raised by ghosts from being banned at a middle school. As middle schoolers ourselves, we don’t get it. We think maybe those who were so concerned with a few panels of blood missed the point of the story altogether.  Not to mention that for the genre and for our age group, this book is not in the least bit shocking. Watch our discussion about why this book deserves to be read by everyone who choses to do so.

Mindy Newell: 232.7° Celsius

fahrenheit-451-burning-books

“There is more than one way to burn a book. And the world is full of people running about with lit matches.” • Ray Bradbury’s opening words to his coda in the 1979 edition of Fahrenheit 451

Good friend and fellow columnist Martha Thomases’ latest column made me remember an incident from my childhood, back when I was in grammar school at P.S. 29 on Staten Island, NY. But more on that in a bit.

The autoignition point of paper – autoignition being that temperature at which a substance will spontaneously burst into flames – is anywhere from 424 to 475º F (218 to 246º C), dependent on the type of paper, i.e., thickness, density, composition, and atmospheric conditions. It is also the source of the title of Ray Bradbury’s 1953 dystopian masterpiece, Fahrenheit 451, which takes place in a future American society in which books are not just banned, but outlawed. Those who are found to be harboring not only have their books taken and burned, but their homes, too, are set aflame by “firemen” whose job is to search out and destroy any type of literature.

In this bleak Tomorrowland, America is a land in which E Pluribus Unum has been replaced with Ask Me No Questions, I’ll Tell You No Lies; those who live in this world are not individuals, but automatons, walking through life, but not living it, with no thoughts of their own.

What is both ironically amusing and extremely aggravating to me is that Fahrenheit itself has been subject to expurgation, censoring and banning. That’s right, a novel about the dangerous suppression of individuality was itself earmarked for the bonfire. Yes, I know, it is the height of absurdity, but it is true.

In 1967, at the height of the ‘60s social revolution, its publisher – Ballantine Books – released an edition for its high school books program which censored the words “hell,” “abortion,” and “damn,” altered at least 75 paragraphs, and changed character situations that were felt to be detrimental to the fragile minds of teenagers – a drunk man became a sick man, the cleaning of a belly button became cleaning ears.

Both censored and uncensored versions were available until 1973, when Ballantine decided that the public should read only the expurgated version. This continued until 1979, when Bradbury found out about it. Understandably, he went berserk:

 “Do not insult me with the beheadings, finger-choppings or the lung-deflations you plan for my works. I need my head to shake or nod, my hand to wave or make into a fist, my lungs to shout or whisper with. I will not go gently onto a shelf, degutted, to become a non-book.”

Lucky for Bradbury, noted and brilliant science fiction editor Judy-Lynn del Rey had recently been brought in to revitalize their science fiction line, and stepped in here as well. So the novel, in all its dystopian glory, has been back on the bookshelves, available to all discerning and thinking readers for 36 years. And no one has complained.

Oh, yeah?

1987: Bay County School Board, Panama City, Florida. Superintendent Leonard Hall institutes a three-tier classification system. Fahrenheit 451 was assigned “third-tier” status, meaning that it was to be removed from the classroom for “a lot of vulgarity.”

1992: Venado Middle School, Irvine, California. Students were given Fahrenheit 451 to read. All the “bad” words were blacked out.

2006: Independent School District, Conroe, Montgomery County, Texas. A tenth grade student was assigned to read Fahrenheit 451 as part of Banned Books Week. She stopped reading it after only a few pages because of the “bad” words and the scene win which a Bible is burned. Her parents demanded to that the novel be banned – this during Banned Books Week, get it? – because they said it was violent, portrayed Christians as yahoos, and insulted firemen.

All these attempts to censor, purge, and ban Bradbury’s tour de force ultimately failed. But stay tuned. The other major theme of Fahrenheit 451 is the manipulation of society through mass media and technology.

On the other hand, don’t stay tuned.

•     •     •     •     •

 “Having the freedom to read and the freedom to choose is one of the best gifts my parents every gave me.” • Judy Blume

Although I didn’t consider myself to be so, apparently I was one of those super-bright, obnoxious kids who love to read and are reading waaaaaaay above their grade level that annoy the shit out of Marians the Librarians – well, at least we did in the olden days.

So, like I was saying, I was seven years old and attending P.S. 29 on Staten Island, New York. So one day I go to the school library to search the stacks for something to read. I discover The Black Stallion by Walter Farley. Being head-over-heels with anything that had to do with Equs caballus – or is that Equs caballi? – I wanted it. Only it was on the highest bookshelf. I took a chair from one of the tables, dragged it over, got up on the chair, stood on tiptoe, and clutched the book in my hot, greedy fingers. I got off the chair and walked over to the checkout desk.

Marian the Librarian wouldn’t let me have it.

I cried all the way home. I even cried when I got into my house.

My mom wanted to know what was wrong.

“Oh, yeah?” she said. “Don’t you worry, Mindy.”

The next day my mom walked me to school. Only she didn’t drop me off in the schoolyard, she walked into the school with me and right to Marian the Librarian’s office.

“I understand you wouldn’t let my daughter read the book she wanted,” she said.

“Well, you must understand, that book is for eighth-graders,” Marian said.

“So?”

“Mindy is not in the eighth grade.”

“My daughter wants that book.”

“I’m afraid I can’t let her have it.”

“Don’t you ever tell my daughter she can’t read something. Ever.”

I was sent to class at that moment, so the rest of this is hearsay, but the way it’s been told at family dinners and gatherings over the years it seems that once I was out of the library my mother let Marian the Librarian have it. Stuff about Joe McCarthy and Nazis and book burnings and threats to go to court if she had to and a few choice “bad” words thrown in for good measure. Granted, the story has most likely been embellished since that day when Laura Newell, R.N. defended the Bill of Rights against one harried school librarian, but you get the idea – and of course I got the book…and any other book I wanted to read that was found in the library of P.S. 29 on Staten Island, New York.

My mother blew out a lit match that day.

Ray Bradbury, author of The Martian Chronicles, The Illustrated Man, Something Wicked This Way Comes, I Sing the Body Electric, Something Wicked This Way Comes, Dandelion Wine, The Fog Horn, and Fahrenheit 451 – and so many other timeless classics – died on June 5, 2012 in Los Angeles.

Judy Blume is the author of the classic young adult novels Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret, Tales Of A Fourth Grade Nothing, Freckleface, It’s Not The End Of The World, Forever, and so many other. Her first adult novel, Wifey, was published in 1978. Ms. Blume’s latest book is the adult novel In The Unlikely Event.

 

Glenn Hauman: Why You Damn Well Better Be Charlie Hedbo

censorshipSadly, I’ve started seeing the backlash. You probably have too. A lot of people are being contrarian and saying “I’m Not Charlie Hedbo” in response to this week’s shootings. The most prominent example is David Brooks in the New York Times, but I’m beginning to see similar comments from people I actually respect.

To which my response will be muted, because I’d rather not make this into a not-safe-for-work rant.

If you’re an advocate for free speech, you don’t always get the luxury of advocating pretty things that you approve of. You know – the nice stuff. Freedom of expression is not just limited to Michelangelo’s David and the pope who insisted loincloths be painted onto the Sistine Chapel. Sometimes you end up defending the words of pornographers. Or Nazis. Or Islamic fundamentalists. Or even Republicans.

And it’s the same with comics.

You don’t just get to defend Watchmen, Doonesbury, and Mad magazine. It’s not all Elektra: Assassin, Love & Rockets, Ms. Tree, Elfquest, and those issues where Green Arrow’s sidekick does drugs. If you’re committed to free speech, you have to defend Zap Comics and Mike Diana and Omaha The Cat Dancer and Howard Cruse and Urotsukidoji: Legend of the Overfiend and Swamp Thing meeting Jesus.

And yes, that means defending Charlie Helbo when they publish cartoons that tick some people off.

To say that the creators at Charlie Hedbo had it coming beggars belief. They courted controversy, they offended people. But they certainly didn’t commit capital offenses, and neither did the civilians caught in the crossfire, nor did the Muslim police officer who was shot doing his job to serve and protect the citizens of Paris. It’s bad enough when censorship is done with a marker, it’s horrific when done with a bullet.

The correct response to offensive speech is more speech, hopefully better speech, and perhaps even better behavior. And defending the right to speak of those who speak out even when they offend you, as you would want them to defend your right to speak when you offend them. Criticize their speech, but don’t censor it.

Because as we all know, the worst part of censorship is

 

 

Dennis O’Neil: Good Guys and Bad Guys

breyfogle_4Just because it’s that time of year – and you know what I’m talking about and don’t pretend you don’t – don’t for one second think that I’ve become some sentimental goo brain and if you do think that come over here and I’ll make you a damp spot on the rug. Or at least give you a stern look. (Or at least consider giving you a stern look at some future date, maybe in an alternate universe.)

But despite my loud and proud misanthropy, there are a few things, as we creep past the solstice, that make me believe that there’s really no reason to be ashamed of my species. Leading the list this week, if there were a list, would be the comic book community’s response to Norm Breyfogle’s misfortune. Norm, who I’ve long considered a storytelling artist, suffered what seems to have been a bad stroke that left his drawing hand disabled. I wondered how his colleagues would respond. Splendidly, is how. Within 24 hours, the comics folk had raised over $20,000 and flooded the emails with offers of help and messages of support. Norm has a long way to go – months of therapy and sundry other problems to be solved – but at least his fellow storytellers have given him a start.

Then there was the movie brouhaha. As most of you surely know, cyberterrorists threatened nine-eleven type action against any exhibitor who showed The Interview, a comedy about an assassination plot directed at North Korea’s national big cheese, Kim Jung Un. At first, all parties caved, including the flick’s producer, Sony. Ah, but now the happy ending. At virtually the last minute, over 200 smallish, independent theaters got exhibition rights and showed the picture over the weekend. And it was made available for streaming on three Internet venues.

This has very little to do with The Interview. Might be a good flick, might not, might be somewhere in between. But what’s important here is that those who championed the movie refused to be bullied. Anyone who’s had extensive dealings with bullies – teachers, let’s have a show of hands – will probably testify that bullies can’t be appeased. You can’t get rid of them by simply meeting their demands. They don’t really what they’re asking for, they want the power that got it for them. Give it to them and they’ll just want more. Under the threats, they’re probably scared and that’s sad and pitiable, but irrelevant. You can feel sorry for a rabid dog, but you still have to stop his attack.

A final note and then I’m gone for the rest of the year: Norm Breyfogle still needs help. There’s a link on the ComicMix home page. Please give him some. Oh, and if any of you even dare to accuse me of being a nice guy…

 

Mike Gold: The Internet – Meet Your New Boss…

Doctor DoomThe thrill is gone / The thrill is gone away / The thrill is gone baby / The thrill is gone away – Roy Hawkins and Rick R. Darnell

I was going to write about something else today. Actually, I had several topics to choose from. Then I had a conversation with Glenn Hauman, the invisible hand of ComicMix, and then this screed shot out of my fingers.

As this new medium flourished, I was excited about the opportunity for anybody to communicate in virtually all ways (print, audio, video; instantly, eventually, historically) and to do so directly without outside interference. As I’ve said before, I am a first amendment absolutist: people should be able to express themselves the way they want, in the form they want, using the language they feel most appropriate. The Internet, I felt, allowed all of us to communicate without these ridiculous and unwarranted barriers.

Sure, there’s a price to pay. There’s a lot of bullshit out there, options and outright lies presented as fact. And the rush to judgment that we see on cable’s 24 hour “news” channels (which, oddly, don’t offer very much in the way of news) is exceptionally prevalent. I literally come from the “If your mother says she loves you, check it out” school of journalism. But those are growing pains, and the outrageous lies and distortions generally are limited to sites where they wear their prejudices on their sleeves. I don’t except a eulogy about the three teenagers Hamas slaughtered in Israel to appear on an American Nazi Party website. Or vice versa.

I don’t want or need big business or the government – any government – to tell me what I cannot say… to the extent that there’s a difference between the two. But it didn’t take very long before big business did exactly that by banishing that which they find objectionable from their services.

Ironically, for me this started with Apple. They do not distribute magazines or books that they find violates their standards. Do they have the basic right to do this? Of course. It’s their tubes and wires. But they enforce these standards in a hypocritical manner. There is a ton of music, television and movies for sale on iTunes that Apple would not sell in electronic print form on iBooks, had that content been presented in that medium. And if the object in question is from a big name author or has an enormous amount of buzz about it, well, often it manages to be listed on their service anyway.

Does this differ from, say, Wal*Mart? No… except that Wal*Mart (et al) is consistent. If it doesn’t meet Wal*Mart’s standards, popularity or mass-salability doesn’t enter into it. Playboy could have an interview with Jesus Christ and Wal*Mart wouldn’t stock it.

And then we have Google.

Google may very well be the Doctor Doom of the Internet. They have so much information on each and every one of us that the National Security Agency actually tapped (taps? who’s to know?) Google’s files in their spying-on-the-citizenry jag. That’s bad and ugly and evil, but for the purpose of this particular column it illustrates their corporate culture.

If Google divines what you’re posting is objectionable, they de-list you. In fact, this almost happened to ComicMix. If you’re de-listed by Google, you are screwed. You are left alone in outer space, where nobody can hear you scream.

There’s a good graphic novel in that. But I doubt Apple and Google and their fellow travelers would allow you to use their tubes and wires to sell it.

“Meet your new boss,” Pete Townshend famously wrote. “Same as your old boss.”

And I won’t get fooled again.

John Ostrander: Shooting Off Your Mouth

Ostrander Art 131222This past week Phil Robertson, the patriarch on A&E’s Duck Dynasty (a show I will admit I’ve never watched) had an interview published in GQ (which I don’t read) in which he compared homosexuality to bestiality, among other things. And when he was growing up in the “pre-civil rights era,” he never saw an unhappy black person. Not one. “They were godly; they were happy; no one was singing the blues.”

All this got him into a spot of trouble. A&E suspended him indefinitely from the show. The Robertson family has said they won’t film more episodes without the pater familias. The show is the most successful “reality” show on television – or so I’m told; remember, I don’t watch it.

There’s pushback now from the show’s supporters and right-wingnuts like Sarah Palin. La Palin said “Free speech is an endangered species. Those ‘intolerants’ hatin’ and taking on the Duck Dynasty patriarch for voicing his personal opinion are taking on all of us.”

Predictably all the Fox And Friends folks, never ones to pass up the opportunity to be victims or martyrs, are also pretty darned upset. Jim Pinkerton on Happening Now (which definitely should not be confused with the old black sitcom What’s Happenin’) said we’re seeing “A Purge Of Southern White Christian Patriotic Culture Out Of TV.” Geraldo Rivera said it was political correctness gone malignant. On his radio show, Sean Hannity opined that Robertson was just expressing “old fashioned traditional Christian sentiment and values.” And there are various people saying Robertson was being censored for speaking his mind and whatever happened to “Free Speech” and aren’t liberals a bunch of hypocrites and so on.

Okay, as has been pointed out by others, this isn’t a censorship matter. Censorship involves the government prohibiting speech. This is a TV cable network, not the government. I don’t think it’s a “Free Speech” matter, either. Robertson spoke his mind and there was a consequence. The cable company acted to protect its own perceived interests. That’s their right.

Was it Hate Speech? No, I don’t think so. It was boneheaded. He had other thoughts including saying that up until the time of the Great Flood, everyone was a vegetarian. (The nuns back at St. Jerome’s Elementary School never mentioned that when I was growing up. Maybe I wasn’t paying attention; that’s possible.) It all comes from a very literal reading of the Bible and interpreting it within your own prejudices.

Did Robertson have a right to say what he did? Sure. Just as GLAAD and the NAACP had a right to respond. Just as Palin et al have a right to their responses. “Free Speech” doesn’t protect you from hearing things that you don’t like. I remember when the American Nazi party marched in Skokie, Illinois; it was allowed under Free Speech – as was a counter-demonstration by those who opposed them. Both came under protected speech.

This is mostly a tempest in a duck pond. All the episodes for the new season of Duck Dynasty have been filmed save one. What will happen is that A&E’s “indefinite suspension” will be that episode. If they’re smart, that episode will be the last episode and will cover the “furor,” it will be a “cliffhanger” and then Robertson will be back for the following season and that premiere will score even larger ratings for the show than usual. A&E will claim they made their point, The Fauxes et al will claim victory, Phil Robertson will have had his soapbox and all involved with the show will make a ton of money. That’s America.

To tell the truth, Robertson’s view on gays (or anything else) doesn’t really bother me. They’re not going to have much affect on anyone that doesn’t already agree with him. He’s preaching to the choir. Vladimir Putin’s views on homosexuality do bother me; he’s the head of state over in Russia and his views get made into policy and laws.

Just a little proportion on the matter.

MONDAY MORNING: Mindy Newell

TUESDAY MORNING: Jen Krueger

 

Mike Gold: Sex – Our Moral Dilemma

Gold Art 131127Regular readers of this space may have discerned I have an absolutist attitude towards the First Amendment: freedom of expression must not be abridged in any way or form. That doesn’t mean people or corporations shouldn’t be held responsible for what they say, just that they can say it.

As A. J. Liebling said, “Freedom of the press is guaranteed only to those who own one.” That’s obviously true, although the Internet has expanded our deployment of these freedoms exponentially. But the same attitude probably should be expected of retailers: is your local mom’n’pop candy store (yeah, yeah; nostalgia) obligated to carry the latest issue of Steamy Dwarf Sex? Probably not.

But let’s take this one step further. Do corporations that are publicly traded – public corporations – have the right to decline to offer whatever publications they dislike? If Apple’s bookstore and magazine stand doesn’t like, say, Boy’s Life, do they have a right to prevent their customers from getting it through their facilities?

That’s not an easy question to answer. Setting aside the completely ridiculous fact that in the United States of America corporations are defined as human beings, where does one “person” get off deciding what you get to read on your tablet… or hear on your Internet radio station… or see online? The Internet’s success was spurred by the availability of free pornography. The entire home video business was founded on the availability of porn in the solitude of your own home. So have various On Demand services. And where would HBO be today if not for the availability of free tits for the past 41 years?

(Yes, Virginia, there was a time when nary a nipple was permitted on the boob tube.)

Today, there’s much controversy about Apple’s bookstore and magazine stand service setting arbitrary “standards” that, by their very definition, cannot be evenly enforced. This policy has kept Matt Fraction and Chip Zdarsky excellent (in my opinion; this is not a review, although the book does offer the best recap page I’ve ever read) series Sex Criminals from being listed in their service. This story rightfully has garnered a lot of publicity, so I’ll use that as my example while promoting a worthy book that may be hard to find in some venues.

Sex Criminals is not a salacious book – but that is not the issue. A book’s “redeemable qualities” are completely irrelevant: that’s a standard that obviates freedom of expression. And Apple – as well as sundry other “public” corporations – has declined to distribute the title.

Outside of expanding opportunities for letting corporations determine what we can and cannot read through their efforts, the problem here is that Apple has established a standard that they do not enforce evenly. Their music service distributes all kinds of “explicit” stuff. So does their movie and teevee service. Same thing with iBooks. Their newsstand service distributes material that is truly salacious. So why dump on Fraction and Zdarsky?

Let me pose this question a different way: If Image Comics’ Sex Criminals was written by, say, Stephen King, would Apple refuse to offer it?

What’s Valley-Speak for “no fucking way?”

THURSDAY MORNING: Dennis O’Neil

THURSDAY EVENING: The Tweaks!

 

John Ostrander: Batman and The Gun, Revisited

Ostrander Art 130120In February 2002, almost twenty-one years ago, DC published a Batman graphic novel that I had written called Batman: Seduction of the Gun. It had its genesis two years earlier when John Reisenbach, the son of an executive of Warner Bros., was shot dead while using a pay phone. DC execs, themselves struck by the senseless act of violence, decided to address the issue of gun and gun-related violence in a special book. Batman was selected as the character best suited for such a story as he has witnessed his own parents shot to death when he was just a boy as part of his mythology.

Our own Dennis O’Neil was the editor of the Batman titles at the time and he approached me as the writer. I had worked with an anti-gun lobby at one point so he knew I was already conversant with the issue. Neither of us wanted to create just a screed against guns. Denny was clear: it first and foremost had to be a good story. What we wanted to say could be layered in but the story itself came first.

I agreed wholeheartedly. As I’ve said elsewhere, I prefer to write questions rather than answers. I believe in having a point of view, especially when writing on an important issue, but I prefer to lay the matter out (as I see it) to the reader and let them come to their own conclusion.

I also did research and found out that, at the time, government statistics suggested that one of four guns used in criminal acts in New York City (where the weapon was recovered) were bought in Virginia. It was one in three for Washington, D.C. Gangs from along the Atlantic Coast came into Virginia to buy guns by the dozens as Virginia had the loosest gun regulations perhaps in the nation. I worked all that into the story.

At the time, Virginia’s governor, Douglas Wilder, was trying to get a very mild gun control measure passed. It would limit gun owners to purchasing one gun a month. You could have belonged to the gun of the month club and still been legal. He heard about Batman: Seduction of the Gun and bought a bunch of them. He placed an issue at every legislators desk and issued press releases how even Batman was talking about the Virginia gun laws. The measure, against all odds, passed.

So – what has happened in the almost twenty-one years since Batman: Seduction of the Gun was published? Guns are more prolific, there have been more shooting in schools (as was depicted in the story), and Virginia repealed the One-Gun-A-Month law last year. The book could be published again today and, aside from a few continuity changes, be as relevant as when it was published.

All this has come to mind not only in the wake of the shooting of the children and teachers at Sandy Hook, CT, but in President Obama’s recommendations this week on gun violence and the NRA’s and the Right’s somewhat hysterical over-reaction to it. Comparing Obama to Hitler, Stalin, and Pol Pot because of these recommendations? Saying that Martin Luther King, Jr, would have sided with the gun nuts? How do you even start to have a reasonable conversation about guns and gun violence when it begins at that level?

The book was and is controversial. Friends and relatives who are gun enthusiasts hate it and have told me so. However, it is not, in my view, anti-gun. It does not, as I do not, call for outlawing guns. Aside from the Second Amendment debate, I think a prohibition on firearms would be about as effective as the prohibition on alcohol was or the prohibition or marijuana is now. It would just create a new revenue stream for the mobs.

Allowing military style assault weapons and 100 bullet clips, however, makes no sense to me, either. There are those who claim that the real intention of the Second Amendment was to fend off the Federal government. They are delusional. That was written when the gun was a musket. Today? Anyone who thinks their horde of guns is going to deter a government with guns, planes, ships, and drones is having a Red Dawn wet dream. No Amendment is absolute; you cannot libel someone, or shout “fire” in a crowded theater with the intent of starting a riot, no matter what the First Amendment says.

In the story Batman says, “No law passed can change the human heart or open up a mind that is closed. We must give up the guns in our hearts and minds first.” Art is one of the ways you reach hearts and minds. Story can do that, I believe. I look at things twenty plus years since the book was published and I have to wonder.

My hope is that someday Batman: Seduction of the Gun will be regarded as a quaint curiosity; my fear is that it won’t.

MONDAY: Mindy Newell

 

ERROR 451: This Page Has Been Burned

It’s just another average day of internet browsing. You’re doing your thing, checking the news, maybe taking a detour to your favorite webcomic. Then, WHAM (or rather, the internet version of said sound effect).

ERROR 451.

What happened? Did the servers overload? Did the connection crash? Is the address wrong?

No; this page has been burned.

Error 451 is a new HTTP Error status code proposed by Google developer advocate Tim Bray. The code would pop up the same way an Error 404 code does — except instead of being told a page could not be found, a viewer would be informed that the site is being censored.

The number is an homage to Ray Bradbury‘s Fahrenheit 451, which takes place in a dystopian future in which firemen burn books because the government has declared reading illegal.

According to Wired’s WebMonkey blog, the biggest advantage of the 451 code is that it would explain why content is unavailable — such as which legal authority is imposing the restriction. This would let visitors know that the government, not the Internet Service Provider, is the reason for the page’s malfunction.  Currently, 403 errors are most often used when blocking access to censored pages.

Error code 451 would pop up in situations such as the Indian government’s censorship of the site Cartoonists Against Corruption, which was blocked because its critique of the government was deemed “defamatory and derogatory.”

The biggest problem with the code, Bray admits, is that many governments are not fond of the idea of transparent censorship. So, if we’re lucky — or not? — this code may be popping up in our browsers in the future.

Please help support CBLDF’s important First Amendment work and reporting on issues such as this by making a donation or becoming a member of the CBLDF!

Becca Hoekstra is studying journalism in San Francisco, California.