Saturday, February 13, 2010

Dangerous Art

The Christopher Handley case (the Iowa man charged and convicted of possession of child pornography for his collection of lolicon manga) finally came to a conclusion with the sentencing hearing having concluded. The result, covered by many online and print outlets including Wired News, is six months jail time.

I'm not going to go into hysterics about the case, the conviction, or the sentencing. That's been going on for a long time by other bloggers and Manga lovers for a long time now. What I am upset about is this: though many are saying no legal precedent has been set, I think there has been. Every time a work or set of works gets labeled obscene, we all lose. It's that simple. Where are we when owning a published work can be equated with committing an illegal act upon a child? I know it's a slippery slope fallacy, but I'm wondering what's next...owning Adam Rapp novels is the same thing as being a child molester? I have a collection of Dennis Cooper novels--do I get brought up on charges of kidnapping, rape and mutilation? Do you see what I'm getting at? I personally may not like the idea of looking at [insert whatever particular thing one finds offensive based on ideological underpinnings], but the problem here is that a court of law decides that owning a published text that depicts [that thing mentioned above] is on the same level as committing the act.

I care about this for a number of reasons, not least of all because I write transgressive fiction. I have in more than one conversation I'm sorry to say had to deal with someone accusing me of writing terrible things as wish fulfillment...that Stealing Ganymede is somehow erotica. I deal with it, like most people who work in dangerous art, but I think we absolutely have to get serious about our conversations when a guy gets a conviction and jail time because of the Manga he wants to read. Do we then proceed merrily to locking up the gallery owner who purchases Charles Ray's latest piece? See what I mean?

Art, at its best, pushes buttons. I am very afraid to live in a country that begins prosecuting people because of their taste in and/or collection of art.

1 comment:

M said...

Because I love you and know we are allowed to disagree, I am posting my two cents.

I think there is a line we have to draw, and perhaps for me that is the line between ficiton and non fiction. If someone was molested or hurt in order for you to OWN that piece of art, then you need to be responsible for buying into the business.

The example I think of is crush videos. Naked women in high heels crushing puppies under their feet. If you own a crush video, your money helped support an industry where animals were tortured. End of story.

The problem, I know, is that there is a fine line between ficiton and non-fiction. What about computer generated images of child porn? If there is no real child, then is it porn? What about people documenting events? What about people who CLAIM to be documenting events but are really creating instructional videos. (Again, my example here is animal related because I am thinking about dog fighting videos.)

The question, I think, comes down to whether owning a text/item is inherently protected via free speech and unrelated to the production of said text or item. Or, do we hold people responsible for the texts they consume. If someone knowingly buys stolen goods, we hold them responsible--maybe not in the exact same way, but we still don't give them a pass.

My point is, in this particular instnace I don't know enough to make a judgement, but I do disagree that:

"Every time a work or set of works gets labeled obscene, we all lose. It's that simple. Where are we when owning a published work can be equated with committing an illegal act upon a child?"

Owning a snuff video, a video of rape or animal torture or child abuse is not okay. Those are real people and real animals being hurt.