I agree that the design of johnhowardpm.org was visually similar to the
official site that hosts the speeches of the PM, and that this
similarity was intentional. The purpose was to make the noble words I
put in the mouth of John Howard seem convincing, if only for a moment.
Without this visual reinforcement, the notion that our PM was being
honestly self reflective about the human costs of going to Iraq, and
that he “was looking into his heart”, even expressing doubts, etc,
would have been dismissed out of hand.

An enormous number of people believed the mock speech – which you can read here – to be true (and
were thrilled, they say) and many more wanted to believe it. On a
second reading, however, or with a bit of playing around, it is easily
apparent that johnhowardpm.org operated in a satirical zone. Would the
human John Howard really have linked to anti-war sites?

The explanation by Melbourne IT for its blocking is specious. Yes,
johnhowardpm.org
was visually similar to the official site, just as The Chaser’s CNNN
was
similar in tone and design to the real thing … so? If my site was
pretending to be a well known bank or consumer brand asking for $$$,
Melbourne IT might have a case. But to rip an Australian site off the
air
because of a phone call from a public servant is pathetic.

Melbourne IT pulled the plug and made no effort to contact me, until
last Friday, a breach of ICANN rules. According to Tim Longhurst they
had previously denied blocking johnhowardpm.org. Those who appreciate
both the tradition and techniques of satire, parody and text
deconstruction, as well as their effectiveness, may not be so easily
lulled by assurances that the whole issue is merely one of “the look of
the page”.

Peter Fray

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