Reforming the Committee on Evil Literature

The Committee on Evil Literature isn’t an unholy alliance of Iago, Moriarty, and Dracula out to illiter-ate the Superfriends in a very special episode about reading. It was a real government body whose effects are still being felt today.

Ireland has a history of being fertile soil for new writers, and then disgusting them until they have to leave. Two ways that Ireland’s historical attitude to writers has been a barrel of shit. Standard practice is restricting writers until they’re too safely dead to affect the status quo, then celebrating their corpses for tourism money. It’s gotten so bad that a Samuel Beckett-class Irish Navy vessel is being named the James Joyce. Which would seem like a tone-deaf attempt to hijack their names, until you realize that a naval vessel’s function is to leave Irish shores as often possible. and that’s a mission both writers heartily endorsed.

Irish censorship thinks printing peaked early with the Gutenberg bible. Censorship is used like a television remote, getting rid of anything they don’t like the look of, or might not like, or simply think is too loud or can’t be bothered with. We gained our independence in 1916 and didn’t make it a decade before using our newfound freedom to get rid of all this dangerous freedom.

The Censorship of Publications Board was created by the Committee on Evil Literature. Which is about half a step from the Committee Of I’ll Get The Petrol And Matches. The Committee was formed to investigate whether there were problems with immoral publications, and was the most efficient government body in history. They’d made up their mind before getting to the “Name” section on the committee registration form.

The resulting Censorship of Publications Board started with a professor of English literature, two members of parliament, a protestant priest and a catholic priest i.e two priests with very slightly different accents. And it only took three votes to ban a book. Which meant even mentioning the church was effectively an immediate ban, and as we all know, making sure nobody could criticize the activities of the church has just worked out bloody fantastically for generations of Irish people.

The bans were instantaneous. You could only appeal after the fact, giving the board the tower to starve writers into submission, or rather prevent them from even trying by scaring publishers away from anything that might end up as an expensively wasted effort.

The other big “no-no” was sexual health. A while back the government proudly announced that there were no longer any books banned for obscenity, which is technically true — the worst kind of true — because in Irish eyes, “obscenity” and “obscenity and mentioning anything to do with abortion” are legally distinct categories. And there are still a sheaf of books banned under the latter.

Those bans are so Irish: we’ll ban love, sex, and happiness if they even mentions something we don’t like. These books are still banned even though it became legal to distribute printed matter relating to abortion in 1992, and bans are meant to expire after 12 years. They specifically changed the law to make these bans endless. That’s the Irish attitude: even when something’s already illegal, they’ll take the time to make double-illegal, extra-illegal, effectively infinitely illegal, so illegal that it’s still illegal even after the original laws no longer apply. But they won’t take the time to fix it, because leaving things permanently screwed up by past mistakes is the Irish way.

That’s why ours is a country with an active anti-blasphemy law. In 2009 the Oireachtas noticed that embarrassing old blasphemy laws were still on the books, so they updated them into embarrassing new blasphemy laws. You can be fined €25,000 for “publication or utterance of blasphemous matter”, to which the only possible response is: Jesus Christ that’s embarrassing. Jesus Christ, personally, I am addressing you here on our global communication system to tell you that you are either stupid for letting this happen or stupid for agreeing with it. Or you don’t exist. Those are the only logical options.

Some claimed that the ban was a constitutional necessity — as if that was less problematic — but if it’s only there to dot constitution’s i’s, why is there a five figure fine attached? Why isn’t a single cent? Unenforced laws aren’t the same as no laws. Unenforced laws are unused weapons, like a loaded gun hanging over the fireplace. It changes the tone of every discussion in that room. That bit of backwards voodoo is going to sit gathering dust until they want to shut a website down, and then they’re going to bundle it in with everything else they can think of expensively terrorize somebody into shutting up.

Ours is a country where the national broadcaster paid money to apologize to the legal-mercenary hate group. RTÉ shoveled taxpayer money to the Iona Institute — whose sole function is preventing people from gaining equal rights — in a groveling apology for someone else calling them homophobic. A national broadcaster versus a lobbying group should be a battle for civil rights, not an immediate surrender. RTÉ made it humiliatingly clear that they had to choose between cutting a story or offending anyone who even had a lawyer’s phone number, they’d cut that story with their own fingernails in case someone sued before they found scissors.

That’s how you end up with the UN reminding an entire country that we’re still in multiple violation international human rights law. In 2014. And that’s why we need to reform the Committee on Evil Literature! When sexual health is accidentally infinitely banned, when divine spirits have more legal rights than pregnant women, and when our national broadcaster funds hate groups instead of fighting them, we need our own agency. Distribute more information! Say more things! Print and write and talk and share all the things they’d rather we kept quiet about. If I was rich the Committee on Evil Literation would be a publishing house with the coolest business cards of all time. As it is, we’ve got an internet. And I address you as fellow committee members when I say: we need to use it.


Further discussion of what you’re allowed to see:

 

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Other Embarrassing Payments By RTÉ

Ireland’s national public service broadcaster RTÉ recently interviewed gay rights activist Rory O’Neill, aka Panti Bliss. They asked Rory about homophobic people in Irish society, and obviously the Iona Institute came up, because they’re the most homophobic people in Irish society. They’re a mercenarily homophobic private company dedicated solely to removing rights from homosexual Irish people. Homophobia is their cúis aige chun a beith (a very Irish raison d’être altogether). The Institute made a legal threat to Ireland’s semi-state voice of public discussion, and that voice immediately squealed “I surrender”, censored its own interviews, and paid them eighty-five thousand euros of public money.

This was so horrifying that even TDs were able to see it was stupid, complaining about the payment in Oireachtas, and enabling the stupid waste of vast sums of money has been the Oirechtas’ sole function for over a decade. The resulting investigation has revealed several other problematic  payments and guidelines issued by RTÉ:

  • RTÉ publicly apologized to world terrorist organizations for their portrayal in the Die Hard movies.
  • Footage of the Berlin Book Burnings is now overdubbed with “Here we see our friends the Jolly Germans trying to keep warm over a particularly cold winter!
  • Reporters in the Ukraine must state that “everyone on both sides look like a grand shower of lads, I’m sure everybody’s right, I wonder if they’d like some free money.
  • Any lawyer who even looks at the RTÉ buildings receives ten thousand euros. And the stench of urine-soaked trousers if they’re standing downwind.
  • Forty thousand euros were sent to the hyena enclosure at Dublin Zoo after a broadcast of the Lion King. On being told Dublin Zoo doesn’t have a hyena enclosure, RTÉ officials hissed “sshhhhhhhh, they might hear you say that!” and threw other people’s money at the hyena-expert until she went away.
  • Excuse me, I’ve just received twenty thousand euros from RTÉ because I’m writing official-sounding mean things about them. I must ponder whether this will make me — and everyone else in the world — more or less likely to legally threaten them in future.
  • It’s expected that Ireland will have to raise taxes when the last surviving Nazi official finds out about all the World War 2 movies they’ve been showing. But at least not standing up against goddamn fascists is something Ireland has experience in, so RTÉ’s current behaviour is detestably understandable.

More dickhaters in The IONA Institute: In Our Nice Arseholes? and The Sixth Reason Homophobia Is Unmanly.

The IONA Institute: “In Our Nice Arseholes?”

The Iona Institute is the latest Irish attempt to build a time machine set for full reverse. Their publicly stated goal is the prevention of marriage equality, but they will sue you for calling them homophobes, because the further you can draw the bullshit battle lines from the real issue the longer you can hold back genuine progress. That being their sole mercenary function.

This private limited company’s job is to miracle up arguments that marriage equality is anything but the most basic of human rights, now that standing in a pulpit and scowling is ineffective. Their reports read like a schoolchild googling up references for an argument they’ve already written. Fergus Finlay points out how they compared the rate of reported Irish marriage breakdown to a time when divorce was illegal, Senator David Norris told the Seanad that they “knowingly” tried to mislead a constitutional convention about the superiority of biological parents (by quoting a study which specifically stated it could not be used for that purpose), and they’ll keep doing it because think that you can bury basic human decency under enough of a pagecount.

The Iona Institute’s head, David Quinn, has a fortnightly column in the Irish Independent. Because 2014 is a big scary number and jaysus, wouldn’t it be nice if it was a few centuries backwards. He complains that no-one can point to a homophobic comment by Iona staff, but that’s because actions speak louder than even the most careful of words. It doesn’t matter how politely you try to reclassify people as subhuman. He whinges that he doesn’t get any credit for recommending civil unions instead, because you don’t get credit for installing nice carpets in the compounds you want to send people who aren’t allowed to join the rest of society. Even America’s hatemongers evolved past the “separate-but-equal” bullshit, and that’s a country where people are still allowed to shoot an unarmed teenager of their least favorite race.

The Institute recently crowed about their “victory” over Panti Bliss, an Irish gay rights activist and drag queen who called them out on being blatantly homophobic. They protested being called “mean and horrible”, because nothing says “generous and pleasant to be around” like the constant threat of legal action. They got the statements cut from the televised interview and forced RTE to pay them eighty-five thousand euro. They turned down the right to make a statement in reply, instead taking the money and hampering debate, because that is this private limited company’s entire mission statement.

On the one hand you’ve got a man who takes on Irish pubs while wearing a dress for a living. On the other you’ve got a mercenary fundamentalist corporation who contact their lawyers to censor free speech. When Disney get round to a story about marriage equality that will be the exact plot. Because those arguing from authority to silence critics have always been on the right side of history. In that “most of them are extinct now”, which is the right side of history for such backwards hatemongers.

The Iona Institute masters of manipulation. They bullied Ireland’s allegedly independent national broadcaster into paying them for the privilege of never crossing them again in, in advance of next year’s national referendum on equal marriage. The term “Iona Institute” itself is a euphemism. They are homophobes, bigots, hateful oppression disguised as the voice of moral authority, and they’re named for an island of Irish religious history. Because all of those things are an unfortunate part of Irish religious history.

We need to restate them. We can’t let them hide hate behind the picture-postcard of a beautiful Gaelic island, nor can we let them spread hate in our own beautiful Gaelic island. Luckily I’ve discovered that their name is actually an acronym. In the same way that a prissy Irish mammy might complain about a daughter’s new hairstyle, wondering why she would cut it when “she has such nice hair”, the Iona Institute passive-aggressively complaining by asking why the Irish people would want to stick dicks “In Our Nice Arseholes?”

That’s “nice” in the provincial sense, of course: small, normal to rhyme with conformal, and never doing anything fun. The core principle of provincialism is that the potential vague uneasiness of people who hate you is more important than your entire life. Even when they have to use lawyers to enforce it. Why would any decent, normal, god-fearing, obedient little Irish people want to stick anything up any of their orifices? And why would a nice girl want to do anything with another girl? They just don’t understand it, and you don’t want to make a fuss, like, so just stop being who you are so they can pretend it’s 1600, there’s a dear.

This is a group whose head has commented positively on “natural” methods of contraception, when even the dumbest lay preacher knows that the only way to naturally avoid conception is to already be pregnant. A result natural methods 100% guarantee.

They want to externalize a semantic argument about the meaning of words, turning their homophobia a nebulous side-issue instead of the real and immediate oppression of real, long-suffering people. Homophobia isn’t something unfairly applied to them, it’s their entire mission. They aren’t sallying forth from some safe spot to meet us in the middle. Their starting position is toxic, their very stance poisoning the land they stand on and the country they hate in.

Until 1993 it was illegal to practice homosexuality in Ireland. I guess I’m just meant to feel lucky I was born unattracted to men. If Benedict Cumberbatch had been famous in the 80s I would have had serious trouble. Ireland allowed the Teenage Mutant Hero Turtles to sleep together in a sewer before its’ own citizens could sleep together in their own homes, and that fact will never stop humiliating us. But we can learn from it, and fight against it, and we can start by seeing things as they really are. And the IONA Institute are a crowd of miserable homophobes clenching against the wall, protecting puckered orifices and pockets stuffed with mercenary hatemoney, crying “In Our Nice Arseholes?”

See that every time you see their name. It helps. Because that’s what they’re doing: being every so proper about it, but being total arseholes.


Ireland should learn to defend itself against Donald Trump with The Trump Endurance Experiment. Or continue countering hatemongers with The Sixth Reason Homophobia Is Unmanly.