Thursday, 23 January 2014

Illegal literature

If Board of Review Chair Don Mathieson had had his way, Into The River would have been R18. It would then be illegal for anyone, whether parent, guardian, or teacher, to provide it to someone under the age of 18. Your smiling censor is pictured below, receiving the ONZM in 2012.

Is Into The River on the syllabus for any Intro to NZ Literature courses at New Zealand universities?

Professor Farnsworth - Good news everyone! i've protected you from dangerous ideasIf it is, and if Mathieson had had his way, lecturers in those intro courses would have had to have pulled the book from the syllabus. It's not uncommon to find 17 year olds in first year courses. If any 17 year olds were in the course, you couldn't assign anything about the book without requiring somebody commit an illegal act. Sure, this stuff is rarely enforced, and it's hard to imagine a prosecution for a university library or bookstore giving a copy of an assigned text to a student. But completing the course requirements would require that someone commit an illegal act.

How did we wind up in a situation where either the OFL or its review board can make it illegal for a 17 year old to be given a book that is legal for adults to possess, regardless of whether the book is supplied by a parent, guardian, or teacher?

The original OFL review was really rather reasonable. They wrote: (HT: Edgeler)
There are many other novels widely available without restriction in New Zealand with similar sexual descriptions of an equivalent nature, many of them literary classics and coming of age novels, or popular fiction phenomena in their own right. This would make a restriction on Into The River arbitrary and unfair. It would create a widespread inconsistency in conditions of access to books of this nature.
I wonder what would happen if OFL were asked to review a couple hundred books meeting this description, with all of their reasonable decisions appealed to Mathieson's board. Would the stink get so great that somebody decides to fix the system? Or would we just be stuck with a stinkier system?

Might it possibly make sense that we have someone with less than a half-century between himself and the targets of his regulation heading up this kind of review board?

Mathieson also is the editor of a book on applying Christianity in the workplace. I wonder what his review board would say about selected bible chapters.


  1. Robin Olds, CE of the HRCThu Jan 23, 03:42:00 pm GMT+13

    The HRC is not paying anything in sponsorship for the meeting.

  2. I do wonder if the decision of the Board of Review will now filter into decisions of the OFLC.

    After the Board of Review reduced the rating of Saving Private Ryan from R16 to R15, films with "realistic war violence" now tend to get R15 ratings (absent other material).

    This may now filter through to other decisions, and more books with this sort of material may get R14s. I believe that's how the system is supposed to work.

  3. If I understood your earlier posts correctly, someone, including a private person, can submit books for inspection, right?

    Couldn't you submit the bible?

  4. We go through these medical stages. There have been culprits.
    Fat, Cholesterol, Carbohydrates, eggs, bananas,sugar, fructose,
    I went to my Doctor to get some drugs cheaper than the street can provide.
    He said we want to do as blood tests on you, I said ' you must be joking'

  5. Relatively few books get reviewed, but I suppose that that is also endogenous

  6. I dare ya.

    (Me, I'm neither a citizen nor a resident of NZ, and over here, we don't have this fun institution.)

  7. The submission would have to be accompanied by a short piece pointing out all of the objectionable parts of the publication. Happy to put it in if you want to help out with the legwork!

  8. Presumably because the HRC has funded some of the research to be presented at the meeting. Like most research funders we ask recipients to acknowledge their funding source. I wonder why you chose (mistakenly) to bag the HRC as a sponsor in your comments? I note there are the logos of two universities on the same flyer and yet you didn't mention their role as potential sponsors. I also don't understand your reference to the Ministry of Health. Are you (again mistakenly) somehow equating HRC with the MoH? HRC is a crown entity with an independent governance board, not a branch of MoH. Our decisions about what to fund are our decisions, not the Ministry's.Anyway, as your blog highlights it's certainly an interesting area, and there are polarised views. That's one of the roles of science - to test ideas, produce evidence and promote decent, informed debate. That debate is vital in allowing public and political decisions about such matters. As scientists and those with an interest in public policy we should be supportive of the debate - but irrespective of our individual views, lets try not to denigrate those people (and organisations) who are involved in the debate.

  9. The conference is promoted on the HRC website. Its materials are hosted on the HRC website. The HRC logo is on the conference's collateral materials, presumably with the HRC's permission as use of an agency's logo is typically restricted. I apologise for having consequently inferred that HRC supported the conference.

    I understood that HRC reported to the Minister of Health and that its board was appointed by the Minister of Health. You are correct, though, that this does not make HRC part of MoH. I will correct the post.

    I expect that Universities host all kinds of oddball conferences. This one looks far less like a serious bit of academic inquiry and rather more like an advocacy event targeted at building support for policies restricting sugar. The first day has keynote addresses from two of the world's most strident anti-sugar advocates. The second day is all about policies to restrict access to sugar. On academic freedom grounds, I wouldn't critique the Universities' involvement. But I wonder about what sure looks like HRC endorsement of an advocacy event.

  10. So, you've had the discussion about Gen 19:36 with your children? Why is this filth allowed in Godzone!?

  11. I recently looked at the SSB literature and was surprised at the physical effects of them on glycaemic load and therefore diabetes. The drinks are not innocuous.

    Having said that, all the usual arguments about personal freedom and responsibility apply. It does get tricky when public health pays for the damages, but doesn't it always?

  12. Sure. And I can see good cases for research looking at ways of dissuading kids from drinking too much of the stuff, or for reminding adults that more than a couple of cans a day is likely a bad idea. But banning the stuff by 2025? Class action suits? Taxing anybody who wants to buy it? Conferences with HRC branding and sessions on effective anti-sugar advocacy? The whole thing stinks.

  13. I totally think that section is encouraging young girls to get their fathers drunk and then have sex with them. The Bible should be R18 on the basis of that one section alone, never mind all the stuff about stoning people.

  14. Does it have to be *all* of them? Otherwise, one could probably find an internet page to plunder.

  15. Should be as tight a case as possible.