As some day it may happen that a victim must be found,
I’ve got a little list, I’ve got a little list
Of society offenders who might well be underground,
And who never would be missed, they never would be missed!
— W.S. Gilbert

Attn: Stephen Conroy, Communications Minister:

Stephen, the job of Chief Internet Censor and Keeper of The Secret Blacklist is an important one and can’t be left to some nut loaf with questionable qualifications or skanky proclivities. I mean, Australia is a club everyone wants to get into and you’ll be needing a Saint Peteresque door b-tch to scan the appetites, aggravations, beliefs, causes, predilections, hobbies, habits and grudges of everyone in the queue. A door b-tch with morals and politics that coincide with your own. Mine don’t at present, but will for the right sum.

As well, and this is where you get lucky, Minister, there is a blessed synchronicity between what sort of country I believe Australia should be and what sort of country she actually should be. Isn’t that a happy circumstance for a Chief Censor? You won’t find another candidate whose views on how things should be match the way things really should be as closely as mine. So if you want the country moulded by an invisible hand, Stephen, and I notice you do, then I’m the guy.

The whining fools and civil libertarians on the letters pages don’t realize what a salutary force censorship can be when delivered by a guy who knows how to treat a nation right. They’re petrified they’ll get some schoolmarm with controlling urges and festering prejudices in the job and the whole blacklist will devolve into a lowdown grab for the minds of the electorate. But I think when they see it’s me you’ve hired, a good egg with a serviceable Utopia in his mind’s-eye, they’ll relax and let totalitarianism take its course.

So move fast, we’ve let China, The United Arab Emirates and Thailand get the jump on us here. You and your IT geeks at the Australian Communications and Media Authority get your hardware in place for the secret filtering of internet sites and give me a call. Because not only am I up for the job, I have form as a censor. Last year I squirreled away eighteen copies of my latest novel beneath the ironing pile in the spare room so my daughters wouldn’t be shaken by the gutter-language and pubescent m-sturbations contained therein. No one in my house irons and the pile looms and sways as dangerously as Molly Meldrum at an awards ceremony. You enter that room at your peril. See, you can trust me, Stephen, because any man prepared to ban his own book knows a thing or two about riding roughshod over freedom of speech.

And have no fears on the intelligence of the citizens. They’re as stupid as you think. They’ll never catch on that p-edophilia is the Trojan Horse inside which a much larger censorship of the internet will be delivered. And there isn’t a prettier Trojan Horse on the market than p-edophilia. We simply announce our secret blacklist contains ten-thousand kiddie-p-rn sites. What type of career kamikaze is going to rail against a suppression like that in the name of Freedom of Speech? Not even dear old Bob Brown will have the cojones to stand up in the House and try and differentiate between the expurgation of filth and a secret blacklist as contagious as Ebola while the people outside roar for the blood of sickos and brandish torches.

And Stephen, I hereby pledge to try not to exceed the boundaries of my charter by gagging the million other divergent rascals out there who deserve it. (There is a charter, isn’t there, Stephen? Not that I’m suggesting there should be, of course. You and I both know there needn’t be any rules for a secret blacklist.)

I’m aware that in the past good, honest censors who have begun by silencing only those voices they’ve been told to silence, those voices least defensible, most mangy and in need of extermination, have at length been beguiled by a sense of their own importance and started believing they are relevant, necessary, important, indispensable, even heroic. And soon enough these good, honest censors have set about silencing political dissent, religious belief, sexual difference and backbeat music. Well I’m not a guy likely to get carried away and begin adding Free Tibet sites to the secret blacklist without the Chinese contact — you just give me the nod. Rest assured.

Though I know that in my role as Chief Censor and Keeper of the Blacklist I will be performing as a moral philosopher and a social engineer, probably brilliantly, I will expect no acclaim, my post being a covert one. I will push on doing my duty, quelling voices I guess you find unfit to be heard and striking down graven images I suppose might offend your eye, knowing I will be granted a dacha in the taiga when I have secretly made Australia in your image.

Small organisational matter, Stephen: I will need a large staff. Probably two P.A.s, three blue-haired churchgoers and a masseuse. And a liquor allowance. My God, I’m going to have to scour scads of p-rn and I refuse to do it sober.

The staff will be needed because blacklists grow, Stephen. Especially secret ones. They grow like stink. Not only will the p-rnographers be changing their web addresses as fast as we can add them to the secret blacklist, but our list of proscribed mindsets is bound to get longer, not because you and I are becoming dictatorial, but because censorship is like exploration in that there is no foreseeable endpoint. You and I are Burke and Wills setting out into a hostile blankness, the dark side of humanity.

I mean, for instance, there will be people who denounce the secret blacklist. They must go on the secret blacklist. There will be people like those dangerous anarchists at Wikileaks who expose the secret blacklist. They must also go on the secret blacklist. I notice (having read the secret blacklist on Wikileaks) you’ve included a boarding kennel and a dentist in the mix of banned sites on your existing secret blacklist. Good work, as far as it goes. People should take their dogs on holidays with them. A puppy is for life, not just for Xmas, Stephen. And dentists, well, glorified upside-down proctologists really. So let’s press the dump button on dentists as well. It’s a beginning.

I just need your guidance, Stephen, on a conundrum squatting in the husk of my conscience. It’s this: In my capacity as Chief Censor of the Internet and Keeper Of The Secret Blacklist, if there were a website dedicated to damning you a dangerous fool for wanting to fine people $11,000.00 a day for visiting sites that they didn’t know were blacklisted because the blacklist itself was secret, well… should I block this site? Because, Stephen, right now, before hearing from you what we think about this, I’m inclined not to.

Peter Fray

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