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sydney alternative media - non-profit community independent trustworthy
Friday, 23 May 2008
Perfect political storm over Sydney in sexualised child/art controversy
Mood:  accident prone
Topic: nsw govt

Yesterday we bought into the crikey.com.au report by veteran reporter Alex Mitchell regarding ex MP Orkopoulos sentenced for child sex, and illegal drug use convictions. Ork got 9+ years gaol and will get out (if at all) much thinner. We commented about Gandhi's 10 principles of non violence in particular openness as antitode to the infamous culture of secrecy in big politics breeding political, social and moral dysfunction. We referred to 'sunshine and fresh air never looked better'.

Today the Big Media have indeed gone big exposing a controversial art show:  Apparently the Sydney Morning Herald ran a smallish report yesterday in the wake of Ork's demise noting the photographic exihibition featured some naked adolescents. But today it's a really big front page Daily Telegraph story as well, day time tv, radio, the works.

It all reminds us of Clive Hamilton's crusade against sexualised children in retail advertising, leading to legal threats against him for inflammatory accusations. The legal threats have been withdrawn recently.

By incredible coincidence the usually (but not always) family friendly SBS Inspector Rex ran a drama script just last night about the tough subject of child kidnap and porn. The script writers did it very well and understated too getting the social problem across to the viewers with a child actor similar to the infamous UK Maddie kidnaping and probably murder which hit the global media. (To be honest we switched over for a while realising what a grim subject matter it was, too stressful.) The show had a happy ending appropriate to an 8-8.30pm time slot.

So what is innocent artistic representation as distinct from exploitation/predatory? We leave that to others to battle over at least for now.

What we want to comment about is the perfect storm of surrounding political context:

- Ork the ex MP's conviction and sentencing yesterday on the heinous charge of child sex/predation, former NSW Aboriginal Affairs Minister

- Linda Burney MP, as acting NSW Arts Minister (?) accused of travel rorts to Cannes, former Aboriginal Affairs bureaucrat and pollie now in seat of Canterbury close ally of Iemma in neighbouring seat

- sectors of Aboriginal society have the scourge of child molestation as a high profile tough problem to deal with in remote or isolated communities in a cycle of poverty.

- the mature audience for Bill Henson's photo show in East Sydney involving naked adolescent images tends to include so called (at least as a stereotype) 'Labor Luvvie' segment of the arts crowd which Burney/Sartor etc guard jealously as a constituency

- this arts constituency are largely gathered right now at the Sydney Writers Festival not so far away in The Rocks/Millers Point venue, and will be all a twitter about high level conceptual debates over what is art.

- indeed the ABC are running features about great and good writers from the writers festival, not least the tv news 2 nights back on The Ernies book sledging various public and media figures over sexism to women. This is an agenda likely to court revenge tactics in the big media. (We couldn't resist publishing about the Ernies' authors' mixed record on other matters of public/political morals.)

- As if to tempt fate, or rather bait ALP sympathetic 'arty farty' crowd at the Writer's Festival (eg Yvette Andrews/Meredith Burgmann authors of the The Ernies, Bob Carr and Maxine McKew tomorrow), the Daily Telegraph then ran a story front page about an entertainer accused of slutty behaviour entertaining the troops (as Bob Hope really did do with very different spin because he was a man?). Apparently it's all a right wing defence fantasy about the shapely woman who denies the trash talk completely. Didn't happen. Too much sun on the soldier boys perhaps.

Which all brings us back to the attack on arty nakedness albeit in highly expert techniques at the Bill Henson show. The technical expertise is no resolution of the moral controversy (eg recall Leni Riefenstahl's NAZI awesome propaganda films were quite morally bankrupt). Immense craft and talent is not a moral free pass.

It's not just about art folks. It's about right and wrong, and political context. All these threads twist and combine in a multi-faceted tsunami of big media interest likely to saturate the next several media cycles.And maybe that's just bad luck for those involved.

PM Rudd has bought into the issue too already in the last hour on daytime tv. Looking very much like a leader getting ahead of the curve ball. Bring on the sunshine and fresh air. A culture of openness and not just over child protection issues, for all politics (eg FoI) would be good.

Posted by editor at 10:34 AM NZT
Updated: Friday, 23 May 2008 9:46 PM NZT

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