Censorship of nude art: greed and lust for power in the name of child protection

Removal of photographs of works by Duchamp, Michelangelo and Caravaggio from an exhibition
Removal of photographs of works by Duchamp, Michelangelo and Caravaggio from an exhibition – from Newcastle Herald (1984)

What spirit is so empty and blind, that it cannot recognise the fact that the foot is more noble than the shoe, and skin more beautiful than the garment with which it is clothed?
— Michelangelo

In recent years, Pigtails in Paint suffered repeated attempts at censorship, and Poets and Lovers became a “collateral damage” of these attacks. Today I will discuss the first source of censorship, so-called “child protection” organisations.

Let us recall the facts. First: an editorial dated June 1, 2016 in Pigtails in Paint told how FSM, a German Internet watchdog organisation, pressurised their Internet provider in order to demand the removal of two posts entitled “Stolen Dreams and the Japanese School” and “Dream Girls,” claiming that they depict “child sexual abuse material” and are “potentially criminal” under German Criminal Code. The site had to comply in order to keep their provider. This did not help much, as six month later, that same provider suppressed the site, which had to find a new provider.

The argument is fallacious, there is nothing “sexual” nor any “abuse” in these two posts, and there was never any complaint against the site by a law enforcement agency (however, Russia blocks the site). You see just nude photographs of happy young girls made by artists. No decent-minded judge living in a civilised country could call that “pornography.”

Next: starting on August 31, 2021, and going on through September, the IP number of Pigtails in Paint was blocked because the so-called “Canadian Centre for Child Protection” (CCCP) reported as “child abuse image” an ethnographic photograph of a woman and a girl from an Amazonian tribe, which had appeared in an article titled “Native American Beauties: Part 2” published on December 21, 2017. Here, the accusation of “child abuse image” is completely ludicrous, as that image had been used in a postcard in Brazil many years ago.

Couvrez ce sein que je ne saurais voir.
Par de pareils objets, les âmes sont blessées,
Et cela fait venir de coupables pensées.
— Molière, Le Tartuffe ou l’Imposteur, acte III, scène II, vers 860–862

How can one see “sex” and “abuse” in innocent nudity? Possibly, those who are shocked have some sexual feelings while viewing such images, and they become afraid of them. Bigots are frightened by their own desires, and repress everyone in order to cleanse themselves from sin. A few years ago, during a debate on freedom of speech, a Turkish academic explained that the danger to freedom comes when people become afraid of themselves; because then they will call into power “strong men” like Putin or Erdogan, in order to “protect them” … from themselves.

Private watchdog organisations play a role of moral vigilantism, denouncing artists, harassing and threatening those who display their works (Internet sites, art galleries, etc.), in order to impose their own restrictive interpretation of law, based on moral fears. For this, they have found a very powerful pretext: “child protection.” They disguise themselves into serious humanitarian organisations with science-based policies and high professional standards. For instance, the article “How Radical Anti-Porn Zealots Became the Media’s Sexploitation ‘Experts’” tells us:

In 2015, the religious conservative anti-pornography organization Morality in Media changed their name to the National Center on Sexual Exploitation. Since their rebranding, with no discernible change to their background, membership, funding sources or mission, they’ve become go-to experts for the mainstream press on a variety of subjects such as sex trafficking, child sex exploitation and the dangers of decriminalizing prostitution.
[…]
Their name appears in dozens of mainstream press stories, often quoted or referenced as a legitimate source of information regarding the alleged damage that pornography and sex work causes society.

Of course, all this is fraudulent, they have a reactionary political agenda, their policies go against science, and their zealotry protects no one from any real harm or danger.

Beside controlling what is allowed in art and on the Internet, they have another goal: to be officially recognised by governments and so to get ever more subsidies from them. For this, they pose as “experts” and have a very clever tactic: expand the scope of of what is considered “child abuse” and submit ever more “reports” of it. In the case of the CCCP, their crawler Cybertip.ca went as far as reporting as abusive a sequence in the classical TV series Pippi Langstrumpf (see at 1 minute and 22 seconds). Indeed, they wrote to a site which posted a screenshot of this video:

Cybertip.ca is Canada’s national tipline for reporting the online sexual exploitation of children. Cybertip.ca has become aware of content depicted on your service that is sexual, harmful and/or abusive involving a child. A child is defined as a person under the age of 18. We believe the content is abusive and/or harmful to the child in the image, and violates the child’s basic right to dignity, privacy, and safety, rights that are afforded to all children under the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC). The content may also satisfy legal definitions of illegal material in some countries. It is our position that it is not in the best interests of the child(ren) depicted for the content to remain publicly available and we are requesting that you remove it from your service.

“Charity begins at home.” Being recognised by governments and receiving big subsidies, such organisations can then pay high salaries to their executives. An article in the St Petersburg Times dated January 25, 2010 revealed the huge salary, compensation and retirement benefits paid to the president of the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC), a private organisation that is officially recognised by the U.S. government, gets more than half of its money from U.S. taxpayers, and has access to the FBI’s missing, wanted and unidentified persons files. For more details, see also here and here.

Going further, the zealots of Internet purity could demand the eradication of any classic artwork showing juvenile genitals or buttocks. A prime candidate for this witch-hunt is Caravaggio, whose Amor Vincit Omnia represents a perfect prototype of “child pornography.” It seems indeed that he already suffered such censorship in Australia:

A spokesperson for the city council said that, as the artwork “David” depicted in the nude the figure of the biblical David at the time he slayed Goliath, when he was 15 years old, it was evidently breaching the law regarding child pornography.
[…]
The spokesperson said the same issue applied to Mr Caravaggio’s “Cupid” as the figure depicted was a male under the age of 18, and was clearly in some act of seduction of the viewer.

Then why not ban the Original Coppertone ad, this compound of bestiality and child sexual assault!

I will now present shocking images showing revolting things happening to children. But they are not sexual, so neither the images nor the things depicted will incur the censorious indignation of the FSM, CCCP and others.

First a child infected by the malaria parasite, whose spleen has been hugely inflated because of it. After WW2, it was found that the cheap and long-lasting insecticide DDT was very efficient against the mosquito that carries that parasite. So by spraying indor house walls with DDT, this disease was eradicated in North America, Europe and the USSR, and contained in other continents. But as farmers in Europe and North America had polluted environment by repeatedly spraying massive quantities of DDT in their fields, in the early 1970’s the USA moved to impose a total ban on DDT, not only for agricultural use, but also for indoor house spraying. At the same time, poor countries could not afford the best anti-malaria medication, artemisia. As a result, the epidemic rose in Africa and Asia, killing up to a million people every year.

Child with inflated spleen due to malaria
Child with inflated spleen due to malaria – from J. Gordon Edwards (2004)

Next, a ghostlike child suffering from a famine in Africa. Hunger and malnutrition remain the cause of the majority of childhood mortality across the world, with millions of victims. Moreover malnutrition in the first two years of life leads to permanent physical and mental impairment. While some countries are afflicted by famine, others undergo a crisis of food overproduction—from the point of view of the market, not of human needs. About this photograph, CBS News says:

Mihag Gedi Farah, a seven-month-old child with a weight of 3.4kg, is held by his mother in a field hospital of the International Rescue Committee, IRC, in the town of Dadaab, Kenya, Tuesday, July 26, 2011. The U.N. will airlift emergency rations this week to parts of drought-ravaged Somalia that militants banned it from more than two years ago, in a crisis intervention to keep hungry refugees from dying along what an official calls the “roads of death.” Tens of thousands already have trekked to neighboring Kenya and Ethiopia, hoping to get aid in refugee camps.

Baby victim of Somalia famine
Baby victim of Somalia famine (2011) – AP Photo/Schalk van Zuydam

Now I show children from Yemen, famished by a long and cruel war, which did not move very much the Western world, and has sunken into oblivion since the spotlight moved to Ukraine.

A Yemeni child suffering from malnutrition is weighed at a hospital
A Yemeni child suffering from malnutrition is weighed at a hospital in the northern district of Abs, in Yemen’s Hajjah province on August 18, 2018 – Photo ESSA AHMED/AFP/Getty Images

Rob Waugh writes in Metro, December 17, 2018:

Facebook is blocking images of starving children in the civil war in Yemen – claiming that the images of malnourished young girls are ‘sexual’ content.

The social network has repeatedly blocked images attached to a New York Times article about the country’s civil war, which has seen more than 100,000 people killed and three million displaced.

Reporter Shady Grove Oliver repeatedly posted a link to a New York Times article, and was repeatedly blocked by Facebook, even on appeal — on the grounds that, ‘Your post goes against our Community Standards on nudity or sexual activity’.

Here is the photo published by Nicholas Kristof in The New York Times, December 12, 2018, which was censored by the perverts at Facebook:

Abrar Ibrahim, a 12-year-old girl in Yemen who weighs just 28 pounds
Abrar Ibrahim, a 12-year-old girl in Yemen who weighs just 28 pounds – Photo: Giles Clarke for The New York Times

Now I show children killed by airstrikes of the U.S.-led coalition in Afghanistan. About the following photograph, Scientific American writes:

The lifeless bodies of Afghan children lay on the ground before their funeral ceremony, after a NATO airstrike killed several Afghan civilians, including ten children during a fierce gun battle with Taliban militants in Shultan, Shigal district, Kunar, eastern Afghanistan, Sunday, April 7, 2013. The U.S.-led coalition confirms that airstrikes were called in by international forces during the Afghan-led operation in a remote area of Kunar province near the Pakistan border.

Dead Afghan children after a NATO air strike
Dead Afghan children after a NATO air strike (2013) – AP Photo/Naimatullah Karyab

Also in Syria:

Children killed by U.S. airstrike on al-Gandur, Syria
Children killed by U.S. airstrike on al-Gandur, Syria, July 28, 2016 – from The Internationalist (2017)

The West is not the sole actor to blame, I also show a Syrian child wounded by shrapnel from a Russian bomb:

3 years old victim of Russian bombing in Syria
3 years old victim of Russian bombing in Syria (2015) – from Daily Mail

Our great beacons of civilisation, decency and protection of children (from sex and nudity) spend much more money for their armies than for the fight against hunger, malaria and AIDS in Asia and Africa.

I have absolutely no complacency towards Islamists, so I also show one of their child victims:

Pakistani child injured by a Taliban suicide blast
Pakistani child injured by a Taliban suicide blast (2016) – from Daily Mail

When poor people from Africa and Asia finally decide to flee hunger, poverty or war, they find the borders of fortress Europe closed, with walls and barbed wires to keep them out. Attempting to come through the Mediterranean, thousands meet their death there:

Child refugee washed up ashore in Turkey
Child refugee washed up ashore in Turkey (2016) – AFP

These horrors are not the concern of the FSM, CCCP, NCMEC, and others obsessed by the protection of children from sex.

Are there real humanitarian organisations devoted to helping children in need, Yes, you will recognise them, they care for children suffering from malnutrition, or needing a complicated surgical operation that their family can’t afford, for young refugees, for the education of girls in poor countries, for the social integration of blind or disabled children, etc. They only request your money, they do not attempt to censor art or the Internet.

This is a revised version of a post previously published on Agapeta, 2016/06/04.

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