Sunday, 15 January 2012

You Can't Read This Book.

You Can't Read This Book by Nick Cohen.

An admirably vulgar episode of South Park highlighted the absurdity of banning material in one part of the democratic world that was freely available elsewhere. In an episode entitled "Trapped in the Closet", Scientologists decide that the child character Stan is the reincarnation of L Ron Hubbard, the herder of credulous souls, who founded a sci-fi cult in the 1950s. Celebrity Scientologists John Travolta and Tom Cruise join the crowd on Stan's lawn in South Park that has gathered to worship him. When Stan tells Cruise he does not think he's as good an actor as Leonardo DiCaprio, but is "OK, I guess", the despairing Cruise buries his face in his hands. "I'm nothing," he says. "I'm a failure in the eyes of the Prophet!" He runs into Stan's wardrobe and locks himself in, allowing assorted characters to shout: "Tom Cruise, come out of the closet!" with all the false but funny innuendo that implied, for the rest of the show.
In the final scene, Stan refuses to become the Scientologists' new guru and renounces L Ron Hubbard and all his works. Hearing this blasphemy, Cruise comes out of the closet and cries: "I'll sue you… in England!" To make the joke complete, the Scientology episode was the one episode of South Park British television managers dared not show, in case they were sued… in England.

English broadcasters' fear of the law spared the producers of South Park an experience common to human rights campaigners and investigative journalists around the world: the bewilderment that came with receiving a letter threatening to initiate proceedings in the high court in London. Far from being a beacon of liberty, a place where people from authoritarian regimes or working for authoritarian corporations could hear arguments about their masters aired, England was liberty's enemy. Saudis who could not investigate a petro-billionaire in Riyadh for fear of punishment found that London punished exposés when they were printed elsewhere. Ukrainian and Russian journalists, who took no small risk when they confronted their native oligarchs, discovered that the English legal system was as willing as their native jurisdictions to punish them for insubordination.

I still recall the shame I felt when the legal director of Human Rights Watch in New York told me she spent more time worrying about legal action from England than from any other democratic country when she signed off reports on torture, political persecution and tyranny. In the late 1990s, her colleagues had collected eyewitness testimony and Rwandan government documents and named those who played a role in the Rwandan genocide. In 2005, one of the men named in the report threatened a defamation suit in the UK, although only a few readers had accessed the report online from Britain. Her colleagues had to go back to Rwanda, reconfirm facts and relocate sources and amend the report to avoid a full-blown legal case, even though the new Rwandan government was investigating the complainant and he had gone into hiding.

Very Interesting article in the Observer/Guardian Newspaper.

Made even more interesting by the fact that in Scientology, especially it's Sea Org, you are not allowed to read anything that is contrary to Scientology, it might actually make you use your imaginary "reactive mind".

And whatever you do, don't watch South Park's 'Trapped in the Closet', which is probably why so many people did.

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