Michael Eriksson's Blog

A Swede in Germany

Archive for November 2013

More on censorship

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For good reasons, yet another post on censorship:

Firstly, I recently encountered one of the funniest jokes I have ever seen (courtesy of the German poet Heinrich Heine):

The German Censors  ——  ——  ——  ——  ——
——  ——  ——  ——  ——  ——  ——  ——  ——  ——
——  ——  ——  ——  ——  ——  ——  ——  ——  ——
——  ——  ——  ——  ——  ——  ——  ——  ——  ——
——  ——  ——  ——  ——  ——  ——  ——  ——  ——
——  ——  ——  ——  ——  ——  ——  ——  ——  ——
——  ——  ——  ——  ——    idiots    ——  ——
——  ——  ——  ——  ——  ——  ——  ——  ——  ——
——  ——  ——  ——  ——  ——  ——  ——  ——  ——
——  ——  ——  ——  ——  ——  ——  ——  ——  ——
——  ——  ——  ——  ——


While at the first glance not being remarkable (funny and clever, yes; remarkable, no), this joke continued to grow the more I thought about, another aspect revealing it self before I had finished laughing about the previous aspect—keeping me going for five to ten minutes.

For those who do not see the deeper jokes (or have finished laughing), consider e.g. how the remaining message (whether deliberate or accidental) is simultaneously revealed and proved by the act of censorship, how it can be possible to circumvent some types of censorship through a form of stenography relying on the uncensored parts of a message containing the right information, or how the censors blot out almost an entire message yet fail to suppress unwanted communication.

An interesting question is how a censor should handle a situation like this (given that he does censor at all, which I consider unethical): The author of the original message (presumably) never says that the German censors are idiots, which implies that the censor is unlikely to have a legitimate reason to censor the remaining words—after all, the configuration is accidental, the words are disconnected and obviously do not belong together, and there is nothing worthy of censoring in each of the fragments alone. (Assuming that there is no suspicion of a deliberate trick on behalf of the original author and assuming that there are no specific rules against e.g. messages discussing censorship or using potentially insulting terms.) On the other hand, the result is disastrous (from a censoring point of view) and the censors might become a laughing stock, should a wider publication follow.

Secondly, I have recently been reading Salman Rushdie’s auto-biographical “Joseph Anton”. (Half of it to be specific: I have too much to do at the moment, but hope to be able to finish the rest during the week-end.) My advice to anyone who considers censorship justified, be it with regard to literature, news reporting, or the comments on a blog: Read this book! Chances are that you will change your mind. If nothing else, please take away the realisation that your opinion on what is justifiable censorship (resp. what is to be censored because it is sacrilege, an affront to the good sense, obviously wrong, sexist, …) is just your opinion—and that thousands upon thousands of people have been even more convinced that censoring this book would be a far lesser crime than writing it. Indeed, some have been so convinced that people have been killed over the issue of its publication and distribution. How little worth, then, is there in your conviction.

A specific interesting point is Rushdie’s actions and reasoning around the film “International Gorillay”: He explicitly addressed the British Board of Film Classification to change their minds and let (!) the film receive its certification, despite the story consisting of the hunt for and execution of a caricature of Rushdie. The film got more than its fair chance—and it failed disastrously and well-deservedly.

Here we see another possible take on censorship: Either a work has a value and we should not censor; or it does not and we might be better of letting it fail on its own (lack of) merit.


Written by michaeleriksson

November 9, 2013 at 12:41 am

Freakish coincident in soccer (and Sweden wins a medal)

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Soccer is normally a sport I find boring and tend not to follow. However, the ongoing U17 World Cup has caught my attention through the rarity that my native Sweden has done exceedingly well—the bronze medal here is arguably the best a Swedish team has managed since 1994. (When they won a bronze in the, obviously far more prestigious, “adult” World Cup.)

Now, this would not be of any major interest to most non-Swedes—but the almost absurd circumstances could be:

The tournament was divided into two stages: First, a group stage where twenty-four teams divided into six groups tried to qualify for the next stage. Second, a knock-out stage between the twelve teams who placed first or second in their respective groups supplemented by the four best third-placers.

Sweden did poorly in the group stage, scoring one victory, one draw, and one loss—and qualified as one of the best third-placers.

In the knock-out stage, they met Japan in the round of sixteen—a team coming of a flawless 3–0 record in the group stage. To everyone’s surprise, Sweden won 2–1.

This was followed by a quarter-final where Honduras was beaten 2–1. (While Honduras’ record was no more impressive than the Swedish, they had at least been second in their group, trailing only Brazil.)

Combined with the success of the other two teams (Mexico, Nigeria) from Sweden’s group, this led to the very weird situation that all three teams stood in the semi-final—three out of four, while the other five groups between them had one team left (Argentina, an undefeated group winner).

After a 3–0 semi-final loss against Nigeria (following a group-stage 3–3 draw), the Swedes went on to take their clearest victory of the tournament against Argentina (4–1)—ensuring that all three medals landed in the same group, eventually in the exact order of the group placings. I cannot recall seeing something like this ever happening (although it bound to have over the many championships in various sports). The most I have seen is two teams from the same group going in the medals on a few occasions. (Which in a weird coincidence was the case in 1994, where Brazil and Sweden finished first and second in the same group and went on to win Gold and Bronze respectively—Sweden’s only loss in the tournament being against Brazil. Other parallels include the easy, 4–0 instead of 4–1, Bronze-match victory, and that the respective tournament winner only ever failed to win one match—drawing against Sweden in the group stage.)

Written by michaeleriksson

November 9, 2013 at 12:39 am

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