There has long been a conservative tradition of persecuting cultural avant-gardes with accusations of immoral conduct. Accusing contemporary artists of degeneracy has happened almost more often than mistaking pornography for art and erotica for pornography. The context always played a crucial role and the gallery managed to develop into a protective shelter where questionable imagery could co-exist with a stubborn public. And then came the net. The economy of fear with which official bodies implant the acceptance of rigid control mechanisms into the public brain is scary. Child-pornography is always the trump card to play.
Earlier this year Vienna's Public Netbase faced serious attacks of verbal abuse from the right-wing Austrian Freedom Party (FPÖ) and its leader Mr. Haider.
The Freedom Party spent a lot of effort, parliamentary sessions, press-conferences and -releases accusing the "Institute for New Culture-Technology" Public Netbase of running a (child)porn-network. In May 1998, Netbase gave a critical insight into the issues of censorship and sexuality in communication technology under the title "sex.net - sex & lies & internet". The programme can be found at http://www.t0.or.at/event/sex-index.html. The accusation was based on material found at the British Virgin Islands located at http://sex.net - no virtual, biological or physical relation to Public Netbase.
Historically the FPÖ, formerly called VDU (Association of Independents), was a postwar receptacle for people involved with the Nazis. There was a split in the party in the eighties when the more liberal faction started their own 'Liberal Party'.
This revamped party, headed by the 'modernising' Joerg Haider, today gains as much as 30% in general elections and managed to overtake the Christian Democratic conservatives in many parts of the country. Nowadays the Freedom Party tries not only to cater to (German-) nationalists but intensively seeks to build an alliance with reactionary catholic circles and most importantly tries to stylise itself as the new option for the "working class", targeting a group of traditionally social-democratic voters.
Mr. Haider has announced the beginning of a campaign against child pornography/child abuse and intends to make a publication of "degenerate art". (That is, of art works funded by public bodies which feature sexual and/or pornographic depictions or otherwise relate to this matter). The accusations against Public Netbase fit nicely into this programme of content control.
Kick Back Time! In July, Public Netbase held a press-conference at Depot in the Vienna Museumsquartier to counter the allegations. The accusations were easily dismissed as entirely without foundation, and it was announced that Public Netbase will take legal action against Mr. Haider.
And so they have. The net community is relieved to hear that the court put a sock in the FPÖ and Joerg Haider's collective gob. The court ruled in favour of the Public Netbase and hopefully there will be a way to live happily ever after? ...Hm... what is worrying is the fragile basis from which cultural institutions have to handle such allegations. It is impressive how skilfully Public Netbase managed to pull all the right levers. Still, this might be the right moment to throw the Cultural Terrorist Agency (www.irational.org/cta) into the debate.
Communicate, educate, organise...
(thanks to Public Netbase for extensive background information)
Micz Flor [email@example.com]