Monday, May 10, 2010

Back to School: Lectures and Bus Rides – Day Two in Ireland

Oliver Stone’s psychedelically-murderous road film Natural Born Killers helped lift censorship bans in Ireland. OK – not really – but surely brought attention to the matter.

Prof. Roddy Flynn explained this example during a lecture to the communication students of Point Park University. Flynn, a young, bearded professor at Dublin City University, explained that the Irish Film Institute and a major national television station had requested to play the movie, but could not due to threats from the Department of Justice.

The government did not have the legal grounds to prevent the film from being screened. The simply flexed their muscle and handed down their stamp of disapproval, which was enough to scare both organizations into pulling the film. Flynn said that it was eventually shown in Ireland on the BBC.

The fight over Natural Born Killers was a throwback to censorship bans prior to 1996. Legislation was passed in Ireland that year that acknowledged the issues inherent in attempting to block the content of foreign sources. If the Irish couldn’t control the programming on British channels, then why were they wasting time and energy holding an iron fist over their own?

“How do you police the Internet or the international press?” said Flynn.

Coincidently, regulation pertaining to protection of the content published by Internet Service Providers was passed in the United States in the same year. Ireland may not have been directly inspired by the U.S. Communications Decency Act, however, the same freedom of information flag unfurls in both.

After class we trotted down the hall like school children and piled onto the bus. Our driver Vlad’s hair still looked like a pristine Kentucky waterfall (two-for-two on mullet references). We drove back to our apartment, ate lunch and then filed back out to climb onto another bus – this time with Dublin Bus Tours. This double-decker bus allowed us to hop on and off at different stops to see the sights. We rode the complete loop around the city, which went by the National Gallery, the Parliament House and, of course, the Guinness Storehouse. The later being the hardest attraction to have to pass up and save for a later day.

I jumped off to check out St. Patrick’s Cathedral with a few other students. The building was impressively decorated and had a massive arching ceiling that reminded me a bit of Westminster Abby in London. The stain glass was intricate: melted sand pressed into images bursting with color. A little old man vomited all over the church floor not long after we approached the altar. I hope it wasn’t a sign from a higher power displeased with our actions from the previous night.

We left the church and made it back to the bus for a freezing ride back toward home. Tonight we’ll be climbing back on the big, not-so-yellow school bus to head to be in the audience for RTE’s The Frontline.

To be continued tomorrow in part II: Reflections from the Frontline and Adventures in PR.

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