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The question of morality has always been a tricky one. On a personal level, all too often we are keen to educate others about how they should behave while keeping a number of skeletons in our own closets. Coming out of the closet is scary because people do not want to hear the truth if your truth is different from theirs. They do not want to know of your set of morals if they don’t align with theirs or a common, and a socially fashionable view. “Hell is other people”, and that is true about pretty much everything. We will never be happy with others, especially if we are unhappy with ourselves, and most of us are.  People will always try to get you out of your closet and fit you into a box, and – if you do not fit in it – you will be misunderstood, mistrusted or maybe even hated.

A box is certainly much more uncomfortable than a closet… So, why would you ever come out? How moral is it to be moral, and does it give us the right to judge others?

On an international level, it gets even more complicated. Thankfully legal boundaries are there to define what is acceptable and what is not, and UN approval is required to invade other countries. Phew. But what about issues, like the freedom of speech? Why do we think that our policy of “laissez faire” better than a regulated regime of other countries? Perhaps it is mere laziness? It is hard to regulate the internet – so why even try? Let’s just label it “infringement of freedom of speech”, and we don’t have to do anything about it.

It is hard to find criminals – let’s just put everyone else under a mass surveillance and call it “anti-terror protection”.  And what about Damian Green? Is that the way a democratic country should behave? It gives other less democratic countries the opportunity to say: clean your own house before you start telling me that mine is dirty.The motion raised at the fringe event yesterday called “The Snoopers’ Charter and Freedom of Speech. Does Britain lose its international moral authority?” addressed this issue. It is exactly what is going through Putin’s head when he has David Cameron waving his finger at him for the journalists in Russia being silenced, or opposition put into prison.

Fraser Nelson, speaking at the event, who has eloquently called Snowden an “anti-western saboteur”, said it was really sad that now we have ”to take lectures from Putin”, whose track record of freedom of speech in his own country is appalling. On the issue of Snowden, others disagree calling him pro-American, but the overall opinion on the motion was that Britain does not lose moral authority. Nobody has really explained why not.

The Russians are naturally worried. The Russian Embassy political rep Sergey Nalobin asked panel a question about Putin’s and other global leaders’ communication being intercepted when they were in London. Was it okay?

Nobody has answered the question. All the attempts could be distilled to: “Do not give us lectures.” Dominic Raab MP attempted to do so with his beautifully passionate five-minute attack on Russia’s own track record, but he did not provide an answer, either. Everything he said was very fair, he mentioned the Sergey Magnitsky case and corruption, and, sadly, Russia’s attitude to human rights and freedom of speech indeed leaves much to be desired. But he did not answer the question.

He spoke with far too much moral superiority and disdain to someone he called “Putin’s employee”. Yes, he is Putin’s employee but it doesn’t mean his question should be dismissed. In my view, if you know all the answers and are not prepared to respect the other side, do not do a debate, do a speech, and do not take questions from the audience. It is just as much of a dictatorship approach if you are not prepared to listen or treat the opposite side of the argument with respect.

Let me answer Nalobin’s question. With all due respect to my country of origin, I’d say: “Yes, it is fair to intercept global leaders’ communication. All countries do it, and Russia certainly does it, too.” Has Britain lost its moral justification? No, it hasn’t. It has been compromised but not surrendered. The fact this is being discussed is thanks to the revelations, but nobody is gagged. The fact that Cameron consulted Parliament before taking a decision on Syria and acted accordingly, was the brightest recent example that democracy exists in the UK. It is the best example of how democracy should work. It shows strength, not weakness.

I deliberately started this argument with how morality looks on a personal level, because countries are made of people, and the issue of morality also starts from how they view it as individuals. At the end of the day, the best summary of the whole thing was given to me privately by one of the panelists: “We are all hypocrites.” I don’t want to identify who that was but that is the best and the most honest answer to the motion in question.

THE INTERNET: PORN AND PREDATORS

A conference event that has “porn” in its title is bound to be well-attended, even if it’s a fringe. “Porn, Perverts and Predators: Who in their right mind opposes Internet regulation?” was the motion with Paul Staines, John Whittingdale MP, and Nick Pickles on the discussion panel. Somehow it has even touched upon the issue of “dogging” in public places, like, for example, parks. How on earth do you regulate that? Impossible.

I couldn’t bring myself to Google “child porn” to see whether something pops up or not. I feel like it might somehow destroy my love of people if I see child abuse. I know it exists but I don’t think I can cope with graphic details of it. But I do think that people with a thicker skin should supervise this sort of thing. It will be the right thing to do.

However, Nick Pickles from Big Brother Watch warned against regulating the Internet as it sets an example to the rest of the world, including paranoid countries, like China, where people do not have the same sort of free access to the Internet resources as citizens of other countries. They will thus get that elusive “moral justification” to regulate their Internet. “Our approach to this may well be copied by undemocratic countries”, he said.

But how do you protect children, or anyone really, without some sort of regulation in place? You can Google something totally innocent without wishing to be exposed to sex, when all these indecent images pop up just by association with a sex toy of some sort, like it was the case when a very old grandfather of someone from the audience Googled cucumbers… It is just as distressing to an old lady as it is to a child, or someone with firm Christian or Muslim beliefs.

Also, following the logic of those with a “let it be” approach, does it mean we should allow hate-fuelling books to be sold in shops or hate preachers allowed to speak publically in mosques? In the same manner, perhaps we should abolish the regulation of drugs, and not arrest people. I don’t think you will find a lot of supporters of that. This debate has become a debate of those who are pro-regulation and anti-regulation regardless of what the issue of the regulation is.

While advocating freedom in other areas of life and journalism in particular, Paul Staines, aka Guido Fawkes, has been uncompromisingly intolerant of allowing his children some privacy. He said he will only give them “an illusion of privacy” while fully controlling what they do online. He said: “I will not let my children roam around a red light district unsupervised, and in the same way I will not let them roam around the internet unsupervised.”

I do not judge his approach. That is his parental choice, and it might save his kids from being exposed to the filth of the web (although no guarantee that they won’t see what he doesn’t want them to see when they stay over at friends’ houses etc – that is when you wish therwas regulation of some sort, your children are out of your control zone). But what about the so-called bad parents, who don’t care enough to supervise their children and too lazy to bother installing any sort of values in them? I wonder who will look after them if parents fail and the state is afraid to act.

Not all porn is bad, and I would be cautious allowing the Government into all areas of the web. Porn is often viewed as something that suppresses women but that is not a good enough reason to ban it. Moreover, porn could be a force for good, if you look at it from a different perspective. Personally, I found that it has liberated me. Yes, I watch porn (and yes, I still blush when I say this word, even in writing). I will probably get shy and avoid answering this question if you ask me in person, but here is my little online confession: I find it has helped me find out what I actually like in bed.

It has helped me experiment, and it doesn’t matter anymore whether my partners in the past were experienced or not. I don’t even need many partners as I have already found out, thanks to porn, what it is that actually turns me on.  I see a good side of it, providing that women are involved in it through their own choice. However, men should learn not to convey the disrespectful attitude to a woman, if that is what she enjoys, out of the bedroom into their day-to-day interactions. I think that is where many men struggle. But that is their problem, not the problem of these women or porn. Rapists could be rapists regardless of what they watch or not watch. As John Whittingdale said, speaking on the subject: “Porn doesn’t make rapists.”

Another good point was made on the issue of the real cause of this problem. The internet should not just be filtered – people who are doing bad things should be arrested.

“It’s law enforcement that we want,” said Nick Pickles.

John’s conclusion and an answer to the sceptics that it is impossible to regulate the web due to technical reasons, was the one I agree with most: even if we manage to regulate 70-80% of the ugly traffic it is still worth doing. We have to start somewhere, and do it alongside with the law enforcement

FREEDOM OF EXPRESSION OR ABUSE?

There were a lot of protestors outside of the Tory conference centre on Sunday shouting “Tory scum”, and one has even spat on Tim Montgomerie. Why do such protestors have no respect for the democracy that has given them that very right to protest? Their behaviour and acts of physical violence – yes, this sort of physical and very personal aggression towards another individual is violence – is utterly anti-democratic.

Tim, like all of us, has the right to have whatever views he wants to have. There was uproar about Iain Dale pushing an anti-nukes protestor. Why is it deemed acceptable, and not being reported, that a protestor has behaved this way to a Tory journalist? Tim doesn’t go around feeling sorry for himself but this incident has to be reported and condemned because he should not have to go through this. Shouting “Tory scum” at people attending a conference is also abusive, and an act of intimidation of one group by another. It is never nice or fair, even if you try to laugh it off.

71 comments for: Marina Kim: Morality, freedom, porn – and my little online confession

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