Saturday, December 20, 2008

Behold, the Highest of Horses. I Call Her Stilty.

And yet, comic book bloggers are going to still complain about this image and that. It's inevitable. And implicit in those complaints is the idea that though these images and stories are "imaginary" -- they have a potential to negatively impact others. And if those images have a potential to negatively impact others -- that means they are not essentially "harmless."

There you have it. The core idea that fuels the fight. The idea that pictures have the potential to negatively impact others.

Break it down. Pay attention to what she says.

The idea that the images can impact someone. Not the certainty, not the fact written down, proved by science, no: the idea.

A potential to cause harm. Again, not a certainty, no, it might, if the stars align properly, cause harm. Maybe.

If those images can harm. Not that they necessarily will.

Valerie wants, so many people want, not just feminists, so many want to deprive you of something they feel is repellent. After all, you don't need it, do you, really? It's just your freedom. And they want to do it for what they feel are the noblest of reasons.

But they are the most ethereal of reasons, as well.

Let's be clear: we're not talking about the right to protest something. Valerie doesn't have to worry about going to jail because she spoke out against things she objects to. All she has to deal with are cranky bloggers. You want to talk hypothetical situations, harm and risks? I feel a need to remain anonymous because I am well aware that many people hate what I preach: drawn images should not be censored or banned by governments or moral busybodies. My risk of being pursued by some self-same busybody is far greater, since for some suspicion equals guilt, and association equals complicity. Because someone thinks drawn child porn is the same as real child porn, and because defending drawn child porn in some eyes means that I must like it, then I risk real persecution, should someone decide to make a call and point out where "the guy who likes kiddy porn" is.

No, I'm being silly? Tell that to Christopher Handly, or the guy who's going to jail for Simpsons porn.

Let's put it another way: Do you seriously think that the reductions in freedoms that resulted from the Patriot Act (or the equivalent in countries besides the USA) have made us safer, or, as propagandasts claim, it has preserved our freedoms?

Do you think, seriously, that jailing a guy who posesses Simpsons porn is going to make even one person safer? By what measure?

That guy is really in jail. And you cannot find one single person who you can point to and say "that person was saved from rape or child molestation because we banned such-and-such a work, or made this-and-this illegal".

Lastly, if we are saying that any drawn image is "okay" because it's only imaginary and not hurting anyone, should there be any complaints about racist imagery? For example, those who are against Memin Pinguin. Or how about Jack Chick? To rail about Jack Chick's portrayal of a number of groups of people -- homosexuals, Catholics, Pagans, etc. -- would be really railing against free expression, right? Even to be critical of the images undermines one's stated belief of "images are harmless." If the images are truly harmless -- why criticize them? Why not just live-and-let-live, like one big happy family of creative ideas in a free society?

Again, "criticize" isn't the issue. It's the seeming endorsement of jail time for cartoons. Should Jack Chick or whoever makes Memin Pinguin go to jail for hate crimes? Do the cartoonists who drew unflattering representations of Mohammed deserve the death threats?

I don't think so. Does Valerie?

[For the record, I am of the "even Nazis have a right to speak" brand of free-speech supporters. So I believe Jack Chick and others, though their ideas are terrible, still have the right to express those ideas, and always should have that right.]

Let me float an idea out there. If Valerie does not believe in "live and let live" when it comes to images, then should she be exempt? After all, if she doesn't believe in truly free speech, then that's a moral stance I disagree with. Do I think her writings won't let some of this stance bleed into them?

So do I think I or anyone else should read the forthcoming Cloak and Dagger miniseries? Do I really want to see Cloak and Dagger beating up evil cartoonists, busting up rings of Eros Comix readers? Should I propose and/or support a boycott of this series or any other she writes? Rack her up there with Frank Miller or Greg Land or the late Michael Turner or whoever else is on the hit list this week?

After all, that's how it works, right? Speak out against porn and panty shots. Pressure publishers to get your way. Drive out what you dislike, what you feel might cause harm, so that nobody else can have it. Because Cloak and Dagger might harm free speech. And all this is, in fact, within the bounds of Free Speech. And nobody would feel outrage that something might be taken away from them, because protesting and boycotting isn't really censorship.

Not really.

[Edited/Afterthought: You know, it just occurred to me that Dagger, depending on who's written and drawn her, has sometimes been depicted as a minor, wearing that costume with the dagger cut-out in areas precariously close to the danger zones. And does Cloak ever wear anything besides his cloak?

So you have a possibly naked guy hanging around with a barely-legal (or possibly not legal) teen in a daring, skin-exposing outfit.

So, hmmm.]


sloth the mighty said...


You already know the answer to this. At its most hypocritical, it boils down to "it's DIFFERENT when *I* do it!"

Basically, people talking like this believe, for good or ill, that their views are obviously the "right" ones, and that they would never write/draw/endorse something that was actually "wrong" in any way.

That's why I can't understand her and others ignoring Neil G's comments, because he's, you know, RIGHT and all. The Law is an unwieldy club that cares little for intention or expression. It's not a scalpel, it's a sledgehammer.

I brought up, perhaps nastily, "Identity Crisis." I know Valerie hated it, but I wonder, where is the hue and cry for imprisonment over rape, assault, and murder in these (and other) comics?

What of my earlier Stargirl example? IS a picture of her bound and gagged child porn? Could it be interpreted as such?

As to Cloak and Dagger, I'll be very interested to hear the "defense" should anything with Valerie's name on it cross that imaginary line. I have the feeling the excuse of preference will be either "I couldn't control the artist" or "editorial interference."

I could be wrong, maybe the book will never cross a line that will put it in the sights of the online bloggers. If it does, maybe Valerie will take the blame for any criticisms.

Somehow, I'm betting not, though. After all, she can't even argue honestly on her own blog with her comments without deliberately misrepresenting those who disagree with her.

Another great post. Stilty, Hee!

Take care,

Anon, A Mouse said...

You know, it just occurred to me that Dagger, depending on who's written and drawn her, has sometimes been depicted as a minor, wearing that costume with the dagger cut-out in an area precariously close to the danger zones. And does Cloak ever wear anything besides his cloak?

So, hmmm.

(This is good enough to warrant adding to the main post...)

Andre said...

Let rake a leap of faith here and say she is right and anyone looking at it is only a matter of time before there soul dies of porn cancer.

If you make the crime for drawn the same for real then the sicko's might as well go for the real thing right?

Scott (The Mad Thinker) Anderson said...

I agree completely.

Gene Phillips said...

I substantially agree with your take, but there's one factual error: the guy in the SIMPSONS porn case was fined about $2000, not sentenced to a jail term.

Of course he would have been in jail while awaiting trial if he couldn't post bond, so he probably did go to jail at some point during the accustation.

Anon, A Mouse said...

Well, that's something, Gene. Still, 2 grand is a stuff price for imaginary cartoon art.

notintheface said...

I don't wish to insult Valerie personally, but I will say that some of her arguments had holes I could drive the Starship Enterprise through.

Not the least of which was when in one breath she was claiming that the vast majority of people outside what she called the comic-reading "bubble" would agree with her, while in the next she was patting herself on the back for taking the courageous and unpopular stance. C'mon, Val, which is it?

Another sticking point was how she kept flitting between what's morally wrong and what's legally wrong, as if they were interchangeable. Can you possibly miss the point any further?

The most insulting part was saying that those disagreeing with her wouldn't be so quick to defend the rights of speech they didn't like or found offensive, when that's EXACTLY what they were doing in the FIRST PLACE.

Anon, A Mouse said...


I get the sense that, at least in part of her comments, she's addressing people she thinks are normally on her side, or that have similar causes, like, say, some feminists who protest cheesecake in comics.

It might be a valid argument to claim unfairness in that case, if you'd protest one supposed injustice but not the other.

But it isn't always clear if that is, indeed, the case, and if you're playing to a more general audience it does get a bit confusing.

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