Thursday, January 29, 2009

Joseph McCarthy: New Labour Hero?

Reading about the upcoming implementation of the Criminal Justice and Immigration Act, and its likely chilling effect on comics (and other forms of expression), I had a sense of deja vu.

Ah, yes. The 1950s crusade against comic books in the US, during the McCarthy era.

Intolerant, tiny-minded ignoramuses crusading against free expression, past and present.

I think we can all agree that child pornography, in any form, is unacceptable. But the Act's provisions are broad enough to cause a chilling effect on other forms of expression, long considered acceptable, and at times of artistic and dramatic merit (and what's wrong with just plain entertaining?)

What will happen to magazines like Viz under this measure? Surely Big Vern's serial suicides, and the activities of the Boy Scouse, will not be tolerable under the Act.

And yet, in the blunt and brutal (and hilarious) fiction of Viz there is surely more social and political truth to be gleaned than in many an issue of Labour-approved publications such as, say, The Grauniad.

It's been said that Labour dislikes Viz more than the Tories ever did. And one suspects that, as with the McCarthyites, the real goal of this legislation is to stifle social and political commentary of all kinds, based in a brittle intolerance of satire in any form... an intolerance common to those whose who are painfully aware that their activities do not bear close scrutiny, sometimes to the point of laughability.

During the US hearings, Willam M Gaines, the publisher of horror comics now considered classics, not only of comic art but of social and moral comment, printed the following brilliant pictorial analysis in one of his other publications, the early MAD magazine.

(click the image to see the entire thing)

The McCarthyite inquisitors were not amused. Given that it is Labour pushing the current restrictions, perhaps the ghost of Mr Gaines may be amused to see who it is that's out to ban comics in this case.

Incidentally, the wording of his analysis could easily be modified to reflect other forms of political intolerance: "It's not that they don't like free political expression for THEM. They don't like it for you!" "It's not that they don't like guns for THEM. They don't like guns for you!" and so forth. But I digress.

How wonderfully progressive the UK's Labour party is. The longer they stay in power, the more the UK progresses into the past.

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