For those that have not heard, Sydney is about to be invaded by Catholics for "World" Youth Day. This is a minor annoyance for getting about in Sydney, and could mean things get really hectic at work. Philosophically I'm opposed to organised religion and politically I'm opposed to the Church's usual anti-gay stance but until last night, this event was pretty much just an excuse to wear my priest robes to Hellfire.
Last night I read about the new laws that have been introduced, essentially making it a crime to annoy or offend Catholics.
I shit you not. The media have dubbed them the "Thou shalt not offend" laws, and it essentially means the police (or even a member of the State Emergency Service or Rural Fire Service) can order you to desist from anything they consider to be "annoying or inconveniencing" to the people gathering for the World Youth Day events. Refuse to do so and you can be hit with a $5500 fine.
To put this in perspective, if I was to flash someone in public at any other time in Sydney I'd be looking at a fine of $1100. But during WYD I could be fined $5500 for just wearing an anti-catholic t-shirt or handing out free condoms.
Our Ratbastard Premier, Morris Iemma, is trying to downplay the significance of his little monstrosity of a piece of legislation.
"People have the right to protest; they can do so ... peacefully and lawfully," Iemma said, according to the Sydney Morning Herald.
Right, Iemma, you prick - except you just made a law against it.
The Police Commisioner, Mr Scipione, has given us his assurance that these draconian police powers will only be used to clamp down on serious criminal offenders and not as a censorship of free speech and peacful protest. Oh, well, that's ok then. It's not like our Commisioner was ever anything but fair and even handed when it comes to things like censorship. I mean, here is a man who understands the role of the executive branch of law, who wouldn't appoint himself as arbitrator of what is or isn't offensive, and who would defend free artistic expression, isn't that right, Bill Hensen?
I would like to think that this will blow up in their faces. I hope that Australians are not so apathetic about their freedoms that they won't go and break these laws just for existing. So I've been thinking, WWCD? (What Would Chaser Do?)
Unfortunately I lack Chaser's film crews, gauranteed large audiences and imagination. I'm sure they would do something very noticeable, very funny and which exposes these laws for the farce they are. I just wish I knew what. I'm open to suggestions, but here are a few of my ideas:
Have an offensive t-shirt under a cover. Charge people $1 each to look at it, with the promise that when I've raised $5500 for the fine I will wear it.
Hold a church-style fundraiser for the $5500 fine. A bake sale, home-made jam, some bric-a-brac or second hand clothes. Completely staffed by little white-haired ladies, of course.
Have an offensive placard covered by 5500 informational brochures about human rights and free speech. Or 5500 condoms. As people take them they gradually uncover the anti-catholic slogan.
Arrange 1100 people wearing contrasting clothes into a "human sign" spelling out an Anti-WYD message. They can't fine all of us. And even if they can, that works out at $5 each - affordable dissent!
In fact, forget being anti-catholic or anti-World Youth Day: Morris has shown us that we have a bigger enemy now; he should have had the foresight to make it illegal to annoy him. Bring on the "Fuck Iemma" t-shirts! (Although I'm sure those laws are on the books, and the thought police not far behind).
I have already seen these t-shirts advertised:
"$5500, a small price to pay to annoy Catholics"
"We close 300 roads so 300,000 can close their minds"
"Absinence makes the church grow fondlers"
"POPEC 08 - veni, vidi, vexi"
"Abstinence: it didn't work for the Virgin Mary"
"Is my freedom of speech annoying you?"
Any other creative suggestions greatly appreciated
Last but not least, a fitting youtube video: