NYCC Panels: From the Other Side of the Table, Part 2: CBLDF – Defending Manga

October 18th, 2011

Anime News Network has covered this panel in some detail,  so I’m not going to repeat what they said. For background of what the CBLDF does, how they came to be in existence, and how they are involved in the current Canadian Border case, please read the ANN article. Crystalynn did a great job in covering it.

I am a comics collector since, quite probably, before most of my readers were born. As a kid, there was that ever-present Comics Code Authority stamp on every comic I bought, signifying that a panel of censors had passed this comic as acceptable for me to read it. As an opener for the panel, Charles discussed how the CCA was a response by the industry to allegations of comics “harming youth” (does that sound familiar? Bill 156 was passed for the same reason.) As a child I was also subjected to stories of some kid, somewhere, throwing themselves off a roof, thinking they were Superman, and how, obviously, comics were bad for kids. My Dad was a comics reader, so there was never an assumption of the innate harm reading a comic could inflict on me in my household – but there were in others. I knew plenty of kids whose parents would not let them read a comic book, because comics make kids crazy or violent.

As I got older, Heavy Metal music was going to turn me into a Satanist, computer games would make me violent, etc. etc. As Charles pointed out, the persecution by adults of entertainment for children is pretty much a constant refrain. And now…manga is being targeted. Of course it is, because it’s popular among kids and their parents do not understand it. And, by extension our government, which is always the parental force for an adult life, also does not understand (and therefore, fears) manga.

The CCA was developed to protect publishers, CBLDF began to protect retailers who were targeted for selling comics. The battle, as Charles noted, has shifted to people purchasing manga – the readers. Us.

The CBLDF has a long, rich history with the creators of comics, but this new case brings them to new territory – the manga community. I am working with them to share resources and information in the manga community and hoping that we will all hang together, as Benjamin Franklin said, or we will assuredly hang separately.

Let me reiterate a few key points about the Brandon X case:

His personal electronics were searched. This is legal – both Border Patrol and TSA have the right – and imprimatur – to do this. (That this is legal is another issue, but one we should consider addressing with our government officials.)

2 comics were labeled as offensive.

He was detained and questioned and is now facing jail time.

That is what we know.

The content of the comics does not matter. This is something Charles repeated several times, and I agree with him completely. Comics are Art. Art is protected speech and comics are, and ought to be, a free form of expression.

Reading or drawing a comic is not a crime.

There are no “children” in comics. These are pictures. Not people. That was the point of my essay. A picture of a thing is not the thing itself.  If I draw myself robbing a bank, I have not actually robbed a bank – or even necessarily desired to do so. Fumi is not real. Yumi is not real. They are not “children,” any more than Clark Kent is an “adult.”

A thought is not a crime. If I do actually imagine myself robbing a bank, it is still not an actual crime.

We cannot and must not treat thoughts as crimes or punish them as crimes if we wish to live in a free society.

For those of us who read Yuri, this is not someone else’s problem. Hanjuku Joshi has adorable art. So does GIRL FRIENDS.  They also have situations that, should they be real-world depictions of things, might get you in trouble with a postmaster or a TSA agent. Think about it. However, they are not real depictions, they are lines on paper. No “children” exist in either. There is only Art there, and your imagination. Thoughts, words, images. All completely innocent and crime-free.

So, this weekend, I handed out stickers that looked like this:

And then I (and Melinda Beasi, Ed Sizemore, Richard Beaubien, Lissa Pattillo and CBLDF interns Lily and Michelle and lots of other folks who helped us this weekend! ) explained this case and why it’s so important to the manga community. Readers of manga and doujinshi are not publishers, not businesspeople. We are individuals who need to stand up for freedom of expression. That’s what the CBLDF is doing right now, for a single individual.

Don’t get afraid, get active. Please support the CBLDF, and please feel free to share this image and the story with your manga-reading friends. The more of us who stand up against this particular form of tyranny, the stronger we are.

Freedom of expression is something I will passionately defend to the end. I hope you’ll join me in this effort to protect ourselves from fear and ignorance. CBLDF is hoping to develop educational materials to assist us all in opening productive discussion with institutions that need training on the topic. When these materials are available, I will be sure to share them with you.

Thanks so very, very much to the CBLDF’s Charles Brownstein and Alex Cox for allowing me the opportunity to get involved in this issue and to all of you who attended the panel, asked good questions and got us all thinking about what we can do to help. Thanks also to Deb Aoki, whose comments were leavening and thoughtful.

My last word is this – when we are all old, can we just *not* bitch about kids’ entertainment being a harmful influence? That would be kind of refreshing, I think.

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3 Responses

  1. eli-la says:

    “A thought is not a crime.”

    Obvious comparison, but you know what this reminds me of?

    George Orwell’s 1984.

  2. Hounti says:

    I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but apparently Animenewsnetwork has disabled hotlinking. So the picture you’ve put up of the convention has been disabled and replaced with one of those blocked place-holders for this post. Would you be able to change it?

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