Anarchism suggests that the forces of the state, capitalism and religion interact with each other to restrict liberty. Sometimes anarchist propaganda writes itself, when the state, capitalism and religion get all nice and chummy with each other and join forces to restrict liberty.
In this case, four major ISPs have decided to start up an “opt-in” system for viewing “adult material” as part of a “think of the children” initiative from the government and a Christian lobby group. They have also set up a website to make it easier for people to complain about things that are unsuitable for children, although the site does not facilitate complaining about a government which is thoroughly unsuitable for children and will put almost half a million children into relative poverty during their existence.
The “porn-blocking” system will be based on the principles of adult content locks on mobile internet, which is hugely problematic. SonniesEdge has written a fantastic post about what is wrong with this system. For gay teens, internet pornography can save them from unwanted outing and risk of violence. For young people everywhere, blocking “adult material” means blocking advice about sexuality, sexual health, abortion and, very importantly, information for trans teens that they are not alone. To block this content is dangerous. Such systems do block this important content: my phone wouldn’t even let me open the post in which SonniesEdge talked about these problems!
There are issues with feasibility for porn-blocking: the internet is a big place, and there’s a lot of content. Two options are available: the “baby with the bathwater” option, where an overzealous internet filter also merrily blocks out innocuous websites about birds with slightly rude names or common names, so most people opt-in for adult material because it’s really annoying not to. The other option is a lighter filter which is rendered thoroughly useless by the fact that most porn gets through anyway. At any rate, either is useless. You can find anything on the internet if you work hard enough.
There will be ramifications from such policy, and for a system so geared towards “family values”, problems will arise within the establishment-sponsored nuclear family. What of relationships where one partner wishes to opt-in to see porn, while the other does not want hir partner watching porn? Furtive porn-wanks are rather harder when the internet bill differentiates between whether you get the porn or not.
I don’t believe porn is inherently misogynistic or racist or homophobic or transphobic. The thing is, most of it is. You have to work hard to find porn that isn’t somehow oppressive. By my own value system, I would rather not have my theoretical kids stumbling on material of that nature, lest they internalise somewhat that set of beliefs–and statistically, given the abundance of oppressive porn, that’s the stuff they’d be bumping into. I still think the porn block is an utterly rotten idea.
The problem is not that the big evil internets are corrupting our children. The problem is that we live in a world that allows oppressive porn to be the default, the dominant, the mainstream. The problem is patriarchy, the problem is kyriarchy, the problem is prejudice, both benevolent and hostile. The problem is that capitalism sees these things as a wonderful way to make money and reinforces these horrible beliefs, making itself richer while conditioning consumers to buy further into these values.
Capitalism is cleverly playing both teams in this little porn-blocking escapade. Its Ronald MacDonald head smiles benevolently and vows to protect the kids. Its Hugh Hefner head leers and asks a young woman if she would please bleach her anus so she can look just like all the other porn stars. Both become stronger: if they block the internet, young people will have a far harder time accessing information about why the mainstream porny view of sex and sexuality is so incredibly off, and what sex and sexuality can be. And that’s far more dangerous than accidentally stumbling on a close-up of improbably double penetration.
The solution is not to block the internet. The solution is to block the means for oppressive, artificial power structures to thrive.