Derryn Hinch: ‘I am genuinely hypocritical’

Derryn Hinch, the human headline, has stood up in court and said that he is “genuinely sorry” for breaching a suppression order and revealing details of the criminal history of a murderer facing trial.

But he also says what he did is morally right.

I think he is just being a big ol’ hypocrite.

If he believes he did the right thing, then he should get up there and say that. To suddenly be all contrite and apologetic in what looks like a rather transparent attempt to wriggle out of a punishment is just hypocrisy.

The laws were put in place by a government elected by the people. If I were to unilaterally decide I don’t like a particular law, I have no right to just go around breaking it. Especially if by breaking it I am going to have a negative effect on other people’s lives. I should either work to get it changed (through campaigning and so on), move somewhere else, or just suck it up as a side effect of living in an otherwise pretty good society.

There are exceptions, for example a law might be put up by a “bad” government against the will of the people. If I was darn sure it was a bad law, and I knew that most of the people were against it, AND I was a heroic person (which I am not), I might elect to break the law as a method of social change. The classic example is Gandhi and his “assault” (see what I did there!) on British oppression back in the 1930s.

The heroic part is how I know I’m going to go to gaol or get some sort of punishment. But I’ll take that punishment on the chin because it serves as a rallying point, and if the mood for social change is right it can be a spark that causes enough of a fire to make the politicians notice and change the laws. Then I’ll get let out of prison (hopefully) and get streets named after me and stuff.

If Mr Hinch believes that the law is wrong, and believes that society agrees with him, then he should stand up and say so. Otherwise he should not break the law in the first place, but campaign against it through other means. He had a radio show for crying out loud; it’s not like he didn’t have a voice of far more influence than you or I will ever have (unless you, dear reader, are a celebrity of some sort, in which case I’d love a little shout out in your Twitter feed or whatever!).

Anyway, we’ll see what happens. It sounds like the judge is intelligent enough to see this as fake genuine sincerity (i.e. he’s not a four-year-old!), so maybe Mr Hinch will have some time in gaol to reflect on how sorry he really is.

Free Bradley Manning! Or Julian Assange! Or something like that.

I am torn between feeling hate and pity for the misguided individuals who defaced a Melbourne statue with slogans such as “Free Bradley Manning” and “Free Julian Assange” and “Why do we allow ourselves to live in a police state?”

I mean, seriously, “police state”? Some dole-bludging wannabe hippie who has never stepped outside the sheltered existence of an incredibly free and non-corrupt country has this whacky idea that somehow we are in a police state because another country wants to prosecute one of its own citizens for an alleged crime committed entirely within that country?! Or is it because one of our citizens allegedly committed sexual assault on someone in Sweden and the Swedish government is trying to extradite him so that he can be charged under Swedish law? If I went to Sweden and raped somebody, would you expect the Australian government to protect me from facing charges for it?

If Mr Assange is innocent, he should go back to Sweden and be exonerated. If he is guilty, he should go back and face his punishment. Sweden is less corrupt than Australia, so it’s not like it’s a  big worry that he’ll get an unfair trial. USA and UK have an extradition treaty, so if the US wanted to get him for his wikileaking, they could have done it direct via UK rather than some convoluted system of him going to Sweden first.

It seems to me like he is just using his wikileaking as an excuse to avoid paying his debt to society (if any) for sexual assault, and his fans have fallen for it hook line and sinker. Some idiots just don’t seem to understand that people are not one-dimensional figures that fit into a box labelled “good” or “evil”; and just because they did a good thing, it doesn’t give them carte blanche to do bad things (well, apart from Roman Polanski).

Everything’s f**ked?

Melbourne artist Paul Yore is likely to be charged for producing child pornography.

I haven’t seen the picture in question, but apparently he pasted the faces of children onto some sexually explicit pictures as part of a big collage of all kinds of random stuff. It seems that that is sufficient to qualify him as a producer of child pornography.

I can’t be the only one who thinks this is a bit over the top. There is an important question here: Why do we have laws against child pornography? The answer should not be “because some arbitrary group who are not being forced to look at it thinks it is obscene”. That is just an excuse to impose one’s values on others, which is no different to preventing people from choosing a religion or watching Last Tango in Paris. The only acceptable answer to the question is: “to prevent children from being abused.”

Ok, so we (hopefully) agree on what we are trying to achieve. So why block child pornography at all? There are three possible reasons that I can think of:

  1. To produce it, one must abuse a child
  2. Possessing it may make a person more likely to abuse a child (this is a debated viewpoint, but let’s assume it is true).
  3. Possessing it creates a market for it, which may lead to bad people abusing children for profit to meet demand.

So, how has Mr. Yore’s collage hurt children?

  1. He did not abuse a child to make the collage.
  2. The so-called “child porn” bit is only a small part of a larger picture. Possessing it (in a gallery, no less) seems highly unlikely to make him want to abuse a child. If he had a house full of pictures solely of kids faces pasted to x-rated pictures that would be a different matter entirely, but unless the police find such a collection I’m going to assume he doesn’t.
  3. Do you really think people are going to wander into an art gallery in Melbourne, see this collage, and then rush out and start buying up child pornography? It is not presented in an erotic context, and it’s not like it is that hard to use a home computer to paste a baby’s head on an adult’s body.

So what we have here is a law designed to protect children being (mis)used to punish a man for producing a harmless piece of art that someone doesn’t like. It does not do anything to protect children, and in fact it probably has a slight negative effect: the more that society demonises paedophiles, the more likely they will be to hide their problem. Wouldn’t society be better if paedophiles could feel comfortable seeking treatment before they molested a child, rather than punishing them after? Not to mention the many horror stories of innocent people losing jobs, friends, even taking their lives, because of false accusations of paedophilia.

I try to have respect for the boys in blue, but acts like this don’t make it easy.

Who is sick of the childish comments about Roman Polanski?

Someone on Facebook drew my attention to this little gem.

It seems that Mr Polanski disagrees with male and female equality. Thank god he spoke out! After all, if we aren’t able to learn such valuable lessons from this bastion of morality, then we as a society have surely failed.

Which brings me to another point. Mr Polanski has copped a lot of flak for a certain scandal that occurred lo these many years ago. I must come to his defense, because I really feel that his decriers are failing to understand the complexity of the situtation.

Just imagine if he had spent years in jail for his crime. He may never have made The Pianist. That film was Great Work Of Art. He won an Academy Award for it, and his peers actually gave him a standing ovation at the awards ceremony.

So let me put it on record here that I fully support delaying punishment for child rapists for at least 25 years, to give them a fair chance to create a piece of art so great that people will say “Wow, that was totally worth raping a child for.”

Culprits may face costs of putting out reckless fires

As reported by The Age, people who start bushfires in Victoria (Australia) may be forced to pay the cost of extinguishing them. It then explains how putting out a large fire could cost millions of dollars.

Now I’m no expert, but it seems to me that the number of multi-millionaires starting bushfires is probably very small. So I’m curious to see how the policy would be implemented. The article references the Sentencing Act 1991, but the Act says that the court must “as far as practicable” take into account the financial circumstances of the offender. So they might squeeze a few bucks from them by that avenue, but not a lot in the grand scheme of things.

The article also mentions it opening the offender up to civil lawsuits. That is just going to lead to bankruptcy. I’m not so worried about the offender, but if they have a family then the family’s lives will be ruined too. Let’s assume it’s a bloke for the sake of pronouns (there is apparently a 6:1 ratio of males to females in the arson world, but I’m only talking about accidental arson so that figure is not applicable). So he goes to prison for a while and when he gets out can’t find a decent job, because who wants to employ a criminal? Meanwhile, his wife and kids are at home – no wait, their home got sold as part of the bankruptcy proceedings. The kids now have an unstable home life; they’ve lost their Dad (for a while at least) and have had to move into a rental house, maybe even changed schools. Their single mother is now working full time to support them, and probably struggling to make ends meet. It sure sucks to be the daughter of an angle-grinding enthusiast!

At the end of the day, maybe that’s not so bad. He did a bad thing and he got punished for it, with a little collateral damage which society is willing to accept. Even without the bankruptcy, the kids would still suffer. But I wonder how much of a deterrent seeking compensation will be? Let’s look at how this might play out both before and after the crackdown:

You are a man, living in country Victoria. It’s a 43°C day, hot, windy, and a total fire ban. You suddenly decide to do some welding.
Before: You think to yourself, “If I do the welding and start a fire I could go to prison! I’ll do it anyway.”
After: You think to yourself, “If I do the welding and start a fire, I could go to prison and go bankrupt! I’ll do it anyway.”

The main problem I see is not the strength of the deterrent, but in the failure of the man to accurately assess the risk of what he is doing. You can tell him it is dangerous, but that won’t necessarily mean he makes the mental connection that it really is dangerous. Humans suck at assessing risk! He has probably been welding for 20 years and never had any problems. Even if an errant spark gets out, he is probably pretty confident he can put it out. And maybe most of the time he can. But it is the one time in 20 years that he didn’t that is the problem.

So will the new sentencing guidelines help? I’m guessing that by themselves, almost certainly not. It is the marketing/advertising campaign that surrounds them that will have the real impact, so long as it is successful in making people evaluate the risk of their actions better and thus avoid dangerous activities on fire danger days.

82-year-old Australian entertainers living in Berkshire, London

I’ve seen several media reports lately of a recent arrest on suspicion of sexual offenses.

Let’s not jump to conclusions, it could be any 82-year-old Australian entertainer living in Berkshire, London.

It’s all a bit farcical really. It also raises several of questions for me:

  1. If the media aren’t allowed to name this person “for legal reasons”, why are they allowed to release so much information that it narrows down to just one person? Eventually a line is crossed where the person is identifiable, which defeats the purpose of the law.
  2. What if there are multiple 82-year-old Australian entertainers from Berkshire, and the wrong one gets vilified because everyone assumes the category is so specific that it could only be referring to a single person?
  3. What if the person is completely innocent? Named or not, there is now an 82-year-old Australian entertainer who has been permanently tarred with a tainted brush, even if he is innocent (as he must be presumed to be until found otherwise in a court of law). If he is guilty, let him be tarred with the brush after it is proven, not before. If an accused is believed to be at serious risk of committing further crimes…well that is what the bail system is for.

One of the issues with the type of crime in question is the extreme social hysteria towards it. For example, this article talks about at least one innnocent man who committed suicide on the mere accusation of looking at child pornography (when in fact he was innocent). Others have lost their jobs and/or wives. And the same thing could happen to any one of you innocent readers out there. Society needs to take a chill pill; we can still catch the monsters that ought to be punished, but we have to be careful not to throw out the baby with the bathwater.
With the right approach we may even prevent some of the abuse from happening in the first place.