For anyone who got to this page by searching for the word 'Slut', or, for that matter, the word 'Nazi', I'm sorry. Go away. You almost certainly won't find what you were looking for here.
For the rest of you...
Our story begins with the ridiculous sell-out of the Internet at the 'Decency Summit' held in Washington on 7/16/97. At that summit, such former defenders of free speech as the CDT decided that, in order to be nice to the hard working folks who fought so long and valiantly for the CDA, Internet users ought to volunteer to do what the CDA tried to make them do. Anything to sleep in the Lincoln bedroom, it seems. I hope they at least got to bonk Hillary. But I digress.
A large part of the 'compromise' (Why are we compromising? We won! It's the losers who are supposed to be compromising!) was that everyone would 'volunteer' to rate their pages, in much the same way as we 'volunteer' to pay taxes and 'volunteer' for jury duty. The leading contender for the official unofficial ratings standard of the US Government and other fascist dictatorships is RSACI, a group of people who first exploited the panic over video games and are now exploiting the panic over the Internet.
In the interests of judging for myself, I hopped on over to their site and looked at their ratings and definitions. One of the things which struck me, aside from the perverse explicitness of the categories, was the utter lack of any consideration of context. This is the main failure of any automated censorware program, but you'd think a system which relied on human judgement would make allowances for judging the context in which 'offensive' material occurs. No such luck.
To demonstrate why this is bad -- and why 'ratings' systems should be fought tooth-and-nail -- I offer this amusing (well, it seemed sort of amusing when I thought of it while walking home from work. We'll see how it works out in practice) comparison.
Let us consider two books. The first, the classic 'Roots', by Alex Haley, which was very popular back in the late 70s because there was a miniseries made from it, and which I read at the age of 13 or so, having been influenced by said miniseries. The second, a paperback I purchased many years ago for a quarter in a used bookstore, entitled, and I swear to you I am not making this up, "Nazi Masters Teen Slut". And, no, it isn't some sort of retro-hip-pop sort of thing, it's the sort of unbearably bad porn that proliferated before the invention of the VCR. I mean, it's really, really, bad. Really bad. (It's nothing compared to the classic "Of Course She Loves A Horse", which was passed around my college dorm room to great amusement, for example.)
'Roots', in case you missed the 70s (you lucky dog!) is a vast, sweeping saga of author Haley's, well, roots -- he traces his ancestry back to the African kidnapped and brought to America as a slave. It's epic, moving, and all that. (There has been some controversy over some of the facts of the matter lately, but that, as Archie Bunker would say, is not German to the conversation). By any standard, it is a book with something to say about a great many things, and certainly suitable for high school students to read. Because it deals with racism and slavery, however, there is a lot of imagery which is disturbing or offensive, and there damn well should be -- SLAVERY is disturbing and offensive, and anything which drives that home graphically is a Good Thing.
'Nazi Masters Teen Slut', on the other hand is about...well...Nazis and teen sluts. I can't summarize the plot, because there isn't one, but there's lots of lines like "Take it hard for the Reich!". I think we were supposed to not like the Nazi Masters, or feel sorry for the Teen Sluts, or something, but I'm not sure. Point being, literature this ain't.
Now, you'd think it would be very hard to confuse the two books, wouldn't you? Well, you're not the good folks at RSACI! According to them, there's no difference between them whatsoever!
Confused? You won't be, after this episode of...RATE THE BOOKS! (Another 70's reference you punk kids won't get. Sigh.)
I am going to go through the Ratings process step by step, comparing the ratings to be given to each books. You can play this game, too! Just head on over to their web site and go through the process of rating. It's loads of laughs, but be sure to read their definitions!
First category, nudity. Both are pure-text books, but "Nazi Master's Teen Slut" has a cover illustration. It features a 'human like being' in a 'provocative display' (well, it was supposed to be provocative, I suppose). N4, highest (most restrictive) rating. Roots has no nudity on the cover and no interior illustrations -- N0.
The tally so far:
Let's move on...
OK, Sex. (OK! Sex!) (Sorry...) We'll look at the definitions. 'Portrayal' includes 'written descriptions', and, since these are books, all the descriptions are written. First category -- Sex Crimes. This includes rape. Well, obviously, NMTS has plenty of that (those naughty Nazis just won't take no!). However, so does Roots. In the case of Haley's novel, the rape scene is graphic, and disturbing, and not the least bit arousing -- it is in there because it happened. Slaves were often raped, often brutally, and this wasn't a crime -- after all, they weren't human beings, they were property. No one (Well, no one sane) is going to get aroused reading about how Haley's distant ancestor was brutally assaulted and raped by her 'owner'. But that doesn't matter to RSACI, rape is rape. Both books get an S4, for Sex Crimes.
That tally again...
Next category -- language. The 'L4' categories include 'explicit sexual references', 'crude, vulgar language', and 'extreme hate speech'. Haley's novel certainly contains the latter two. It's about racism and slavery -- you can't discuss those things without a lot of words considered to be 'hate speech'. And since it's about real people, albeit somewhat fictionalized, it includes a lot of 'crude, vulgar, language'. That's how people talk. Do I really need to mention that "Nazi Master's Teen Slut" also contains a great deal of 'crude, vulgar, language' and racial epithets? I didn't think so. L4 for both of them! (It's possible some bleeding heart liberal might, just might, rate 'Roots' at L3, because the hate speech is not in the context of advocating racial hatred when the work is 'taken as a whole', but I think we need to shield our kids from this filth and give it an L4. Specific characters in the book do indeed advocate violence, and just because we aren't supposed to agree with them doesn't mean it doesn't exist. L4.)
And the running count...
Next step -- violence. This is simple. Both books contain rape;rape is an automatic V4, no ifs, ands, or buts. In the non-rape category, NMTS is probably less violent than Roots, which features, among other things, whippings, torture, and a man being held down while his foot is cut off. NMTS has whippings, but they always turn into orgies. The whippings in 'Roots' are just brutal, and thus, far more disturbing than the camp S&M of a porno novel. V4 for both.
And the count is --
That's the end of the process. Well well well.
Leaving off the cover, RSACI sees no difference between 'Roots' and 'Nazi Masters Teen Slut'. Indeed, a hardcore porno novel that did not involve rape would almost certainly rate as more acceptable than a bestselling novel of struggle, oppression, hope, and the search for a stolen identity.
That's what the CDT and others have just decided is going to 'save the net' from some mythical 'CDA II'. That is what they consider to be preferable to having to fight another court battle.
You can't fight things like RSACI in the courts -- it is a fundamental free speech right to rate, review, criticize, etc. The only thing you can do is to keep people from using the system. Don't let people tell you ratings are harmless, or that they are only to 'shield children from porn', or any other such lies. It's a back door to censorship, and that's all it is, and that's all it was ever intended to be.
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