Viewpoint: The Best of Intentions / Self-Censorship

Chalk circles and numbers left on the road mark the start of a police investigation into the City of Hamilton's 9th homicide of 2007. What is the intent behind this street photograph? Is it to promote violence or to make a statement that violence is a real aspect of urban life?

Well, excUUUUUUUse ME!

Life is full of people’s attempts to go through it with the best of intentions that go awry.  People who are inclined to view a glass as half full will be understanding of someone’s efforts to do the right thing.  Of course, there are those who will often see a glass as half empty.

When I launched the MOF website, I had built it with a home page featuring the following disclaimer . . .

Terms of Use: This is an art web site which contains some images depicting nudity, sexuality, violence, coarse language and other subject matter which is meant for mature viewers and may be offensive to some. Although this is strictly a visual arts site, it is the intent of the provider, owner and creator of this site to take some responsibility in protecting impressionable and vulnerable young minds from subject matter within which may be unintentionally harmful by using this webpage as a clear warning to all who enter this site, either directly through this page or by by-passing it. You are advised to be of legal age in your country of origin to view and possess the images and literature published on this website or have consent from a person, parent or guardian who is responsible for your safe and decent exposure to potentially mature content.”

“By entering this site you are indicating that you understand the laws and standards of the community to which you are transporting any adult material and that you will assume all the liability for violating such laws and standards by entering this site. If it is against the restrictions of your community, you may not allow any minor to view or read any of the adult material or images found by accessing this site. By entering, you are releasing and discharging the provider, owner and creator of this site from any and all liability which may arise. You must understand and acknowledge that you may be in violation of local and federal laws if you breach any of these terms and conditions. You may not bookmark any of the pages found on this server whereby this warning page is by-passed.”

“By entering this site I solemnly declare and affirm as follows:

“I am an adult, being of at least 18 years of age or a person with permission from someone who is at least 18 years of age and is responsible for my wellbeing. I am not a member or employee of any law enforcement agency or individual accessing this material to use against the site operator or any person involved in the production of the content of this site. I will not redistribute any adult-oriented material within this site to anyone. I believe that such material does not offend the standards of the community in which I live and is not illegal.

Being that I was launching an art site, as stated; not a pornsite or site featuring gratuitous violence and social hatred nor a place where people may engage in dialogue about killing one another, entering suicide pacts or luring people’s children into exploitative situations, I knew well ahead that I had no obligation to put that disclaimer on my home page.  I did it anyway out of genuine concern for the minds of those; especially the young, who may be susceptible to distorted views of  images and writings.  I was just trying to do the right thing.

My site does not feature gratuitous violence but as I may publish a photograph  I took of two men actually beating each other up on a city street as an illustration of real life circumstances I know that there are those who would still view the image as a glamourizing of violence.  I will not show an image of people penetrating each other with their sex organs and sex toys but because I would show a commissioned painting of a nude woman posing next to a statue of Bacchus, I know there will be someone who would favourably or disfavourably consider my fine artwork as no more than pornography.  Its reasons like these why I published the disclaimer.  I wanted to protect people from any harm that may unintentionally arise from viewing my art and reading my prose.  After all, the appreciation of artistic and literary output is highly subjective to opinion.

A woman, apparently from the City of Burlington, ON, posted a classified ad on the Kijiji website in search of a wedding planner/caterer and a wedding photographer.  My wife happened to see the woman’s ad and answered it by advising her to go to the MOF website.  Word-of-mouth (or e-reply) is still a reliable form of advertising and sure enough, the woman went to my site.  It seems the woman didn’t get past the home page to see the type of work I do because she actually spent time and energy sending me the following rant in an e-mail:

“omg really!  i just opened your link and the first thing I saw was a warning about the site containing adult nudity and violence etc… ummm NO THANKS!  you think I want to hire you to do my wedding?”

No, I didn’t respond to the woman’s e-mail.  I just filed it with a shake of my head and my toungue in my cheek.  I redesigned my home page; eliminating the disclaimer altogether, and I posted this blog page for anyone who might be curious.  Now all I have to do is put some examples of fine art nude photographs and a painting of medeival knights in a sword duel on my site, and wait for the day that someone angrily accuses me of producing illicit porn and promoting violence.  Oh well!

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