When I was in Australia, alongside conversations about “The Australia Tax” were conversations about the R18+ designation. It’s sort of like the ESRB’s M rating, but with a spoiler and sick rims. It’s been fraught almost since the get-go. But even designating something be made exclusively for adult consumption wasn’t enough to secure access to Grand Theft Auto V at some stores.
We discuss digital delivery often here, what it was purported to mean for consumers, what it has actually meant, but it never occurred to me that digital delivery could be a hedge against censorship - and that is precisely what we’re talking about. People like to say that it’s only censorship when an agent of the state kicks down your door and burns your printing press or whatever. That bit about “agents of the state” isn’t anywhere in the definition of censorship, it’s just something censors reflexively say whenever you make the clear-eyed, wholly observable assertion that they are fundamentally opposed to art.
They say they aren’t censors because censorship is bad. And they’re not bad. So they can’t be censors - that’s really the extent of it. But there’s nothing there. Poke this framework once and it flies around the room, farting, like a balloon.
Like other “signals,” this is one that can’t be stopped. All that’s happened is that these Targets and K-Marts gave people a reason to shop elsewhere, or to push three buttons on their home console, or click a few times on their computer, whichever one happened to be easiest at the time. That doesn’t mean I’m okay with it, just that gesticulations like this one to The Gods of The Day are ultimately empty rituals and free societies cannot long endure them.