Thursday, December 02, 2004

Filming nativity plays

Newspapers operate to a strict annual timetable. A couple of months after stories about schools banning children from playing conkers come stories about councils banning parents from filming their children's nativity plays.

Someone on the uk.politics.censorship newsgroup has sighted the first one of the year:

Parents in West Dunbartonshire could be banned from photographing and videoing their own children at school nativity plays this Christmas.

The council last week imposed the policy in a bid to prevent pictures falling into the hands of paedophiles.

But outraged opponents have described the move as "political correctness gone mad".

Outraged opponents always call such moves "political correctness gone mad" - they know what is expected of them. The person quoted here is SNP councillor Margaret McGregor.

She is right, of course. There may well be a case for banning photography at these plays because people taking pictures get in the way of other audience members and do not enjoy the event properly themselves because they are too busy looking through a lens. But the reason given is dangerous nonsense because it plays to tabloid fears of a universal paedophile conspiracy.

It also underlines the paradox that years of public concern about child pornography has had the effect of making us see any image of a child as sexualised. As Frank Furedi says in Culture of Fear, Western art has traditionally seen images of naked children as symbolic of beauty and innocence. Today, not only are these images beyond the pale: we believe that pictures of children taking part in sports days or swathed in dressing gowns and tea towels in nativity plays are too sexual to be allowed to exist.

Worth noting in the original report is the fact that the Labour councillor who is quoted as defending the ban appeals to "data protection" in support of her case. This concept may soon come to rival "health and safety" as an all-purpose reason for stopping other people doing things.

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