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United Kingdom Censorship

Content Most Foul: the British Library's Nanny Filter Blocks 'Hamlet' 107

Posted by timothy
from the censorware-is-the-right-word dept.
An anonymous reader writes "A man using the British Library's public wi-fi found that access to an on-line copy of 'Hamlet' was blocked for 'violent content'. Now, it is true that 'Hamlet' is pretty violent (8 murders, including one before the play starts, plus one suicide). But the heavy-handed irony of a guardian of British cultural heritage censoring the greatest work of British literature is just too blatant to be ignored. Library staff initially didn't seem too interested in fixing the problem, but in the end they adjusted the filters."
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Content Most Foul: the British Library's Nanny Filter Blocks 'Hamlet'

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  • Not So (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward

    ... the greatest work of British literature ...

    Not. Both King Lear and The Tempest are better plays. Hamlet is, however, likely the best vehicle for an actor to present himself.

    1st Psot?

    • Re:Not So (Score:5, Funny)

      by radiumsoup (741987) on Thursday August 15, 2013 @02:08PM (#44576403)

      Anon, Anon C., you should have posted non-anon.

      /+5 cometh for thee (or something like that)

    • Re:Not So (Score:5, Insightful)

      by dkleinsc (563838) on Thursday August 15, 2013 @02:16PM (#44576495) Homepage

      The old joke: Hamlet is a lousy play because about half its lines are cliches.

      Not that Bill didn't write some other great stuff, but the fact remains that Hamlet is more influential than Lear or The Tempest or Richard III.

      • by Anonymous Coward

        Brevity is the soul of wit.
        Conscience does make cowards of us all.
        Dog will have his day.
        Hoist with his own petard.
        In my heart of hearts.
        In my mind’s eye.
        More in sorrow than in anger.
        Neither a borrower nor a lender be.
        Primrose path.
        Something is rotten in the state of Denmark.
        The lady doth protest too much, me thinks.
        There’s a divinity that shapes our ends.
        To be, or not to be: that is the question.
        To the manner born.
        To thine own self be true.

        Contrast with, oh, Pulp Fiction:

        Zed's dead, baby.
        It's th

        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by Anonymous Coward

          The line is: "Do you see a sign outside that says 'Dead nigger storage'?".

          Get it right man.

        • by TheCarp (96830)

          On the Shakespear side I always liked "The heads of maids or their maidenheads, take that how thou wilt"; because nothing is as classy and high brow as opening your play with jokes about raping or murdering the women of the family you have a rivalry with.... far be it from shakespear to not include some entertainment for the rabble, every penny counts :)

        • Re:Not So (Score:5, Interesting)

          by mbkennel (97636) on Thursday August 15, 2013 @04:13PM (#44577669)
          JULES
          My coinpurse is the one
          With "Blasted Oedipus" stitched upon it.
          I pray you, open it and count its hoard.
          How much find you?

          PUMPKIN
          I guess at ten times five score sovereigns.

          JULES
          That sum is yours; add it to thy purse.
          Consider, if you add to that
          The balance from our innkeepers' till
          And the tally of what is in the others,
          It may be thought a sum
          That any would be glad of.

          VINCENT
          Sirrah, I pray,
          Let not these ruffians rob thee,
          Or I may slay them for the spite.

          JULES
          O, thou shall not, thou cur!
          Be still, be silent and stand down!
          They do not rob me, nor is it a gift;
          It is payment for a purchase.
          Knows’t thou what I purchase, friend?

          PUMPKIN
          I know not.

          JULES
          Your life. If I give it to you thus,
          Then thou and I are spared
          My need for vengeance for thy thievery.
          I pray, do you often read the Bible?

          PUMPKIN
          Not regularly.

          JULES
          There is a Scripture verse; I did commit it to my brain.

          Ezekiel 25:17. "The path of the righteous man is beset on all sides by the inequities of the selfish and the tyranny of evil men. Blessed is he who, in the name of charity and good will, shepherds the weak through the valley of the darkness, for he is truly his brother's keeper and the finder of lost children. And I will strike down upon thee with great vengeance and furious anger those who attempt to poison and destroy my brothers. And you will know my name is The Lord when I lay my vengeance upon thee."

          I have for years recited thus. If thou didst but hear,It was as clear a sign of your demise As found in any witches' scry.
          Yet never had I ponder'd its intent; T'was simply fiendish sounds I could thus speak/ Before I dealt my foes the final stroke
          That sent them on to God's Own Realm../ But just this morrow hence, I saw such things/That lead me to reflect upon my words
          And divine what the meaning was therein./Perchance, I guessed, you are the evil man,And I the righteous man. As for the shepherd, Methought it could have then stood for my blade../Anon, perhaps the righteous man is you;I then may be the shepherd, and the evil and the selfish Is all that stands about us in this world. Such is a pleasing thought. But such is also false.
          In truth, you are the weak. And I, the tyranny of evil men.Yet, henceforth, I assure you, I shall try In all my ways to now become the shepherd.

          [Jules lays down his sword. Pumpkin and Yolanda run off. Jules takes a sip of his ale.]

          JULES
          Anon, my ale is warm.

          [He pushes it aside.]

          VINCENT
          My friend, mayhap we should depart.

          JULES
          An excellent idea, my friend;
          And so, let us be gone.

          [Vincent throws a coin on the table and Jules grabs the chest. They exeunt.]
        • by c0lo (1497653)

          Contrast with, oh, Pulp Fiction:

          There [wikispaces.com] you have it.

          Zed's dead, baby. - Zed's dead./Rest easy, love, the rascal's truly dead. [wikispaces.com]

          It's the one that says "Badass Motherfucker." - With “Blasted Oedipus” stitched upon it. [wikispaces.com]

          $5 milkshake? What, does it have bourbon in it? - Tis laced with spirits, to be sure! for sweet cream / from e'en the fines't cow could not be so dear. [wikispaces.com]

          Do you see a sign outside that says "Dead nigger disposal"? - Didst chance to read a sign which beckoned out,/ "Dead Nigger Storage" declaring my trade? [wikispaces.com]

      • That's one of those fancy book-learnin jokes there. Not one of those flatulence-based knee slappers.
      • Re:Not So (Score:5, Funny)

        by nukenerd (172703) on Thursday August 15, 2013 @02:53PM (#44576923)
        The British version of this joke is about an American seeing the play, and complaining afterwards that the writer had merely strung a load of quotations together.

        Oops, this is an American web site.
    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward
      Does it also block it if it's in the original Klingon?
    • Re:Not So (Score:4, Insightful)

      by interkin3tic (1469267) on Thursday August 15, 2013 @02:34PM (#44576669)
      Rule 18.1: if you admit to liking some popular work of art, be it a song, a painting, a book, a movie, a videogame, or a play, and do so on the internet, someone will immediately criticize it. "Overrated" has a 50/50 chance of being used.

      Observe. (ahem) The Beatles were a pretty good band. They had good songs. Like "Hey Jude." That was a good song.

      ...
    • Re:Not So (Score:4, Funny)

      by M. Baranczak (726671) on Thursday August 15, 2013 @08:08PM (#44579447)

      Both King Lear and The Tempest are better plays.

      The Tempest is merely a British remake of Gilligan's Island.

  • “One may smile, and smile, and be a villain. ”

  • Why... (Score:5, Funny)

    by Impy the Impiuos Imp (442658) on Thursday August 15, 2013 @02:14PM (#44576469) Journal

    > "Library staff initially didn't seem too interested in fixing the problem, but in the end they adjusted the filters."

    Nooooooooooo! They were trying to get kids thinking it was forbidden to them.

    • Sounds like they were somewhat apathetic / tired of the problem. But then, if you're dealing with a populace that prefers home trepanning / self-lobotomization (censorship), I suppose it's difficult to get too worked up after a while...

      • This is the part that shocked me.

        When there was a big push to include content filters in our local library system, the Board said, "Okay. But it's going to be strictly optional for anyone over the age of 12."
  • by Rob the Bold (788862) on Thursday August 15, 2013 @02:15PM (#44576483)

    TFA's a little short on detail, but why are they blocking violent content in the first place? I assume they have some reason to do so. And if that's the case, should it matter how old or famous the unacceptably violent work is?

    Bottom line: if Hamlet fits their definition of inappropriate content, should they make explicit exceptions for particularly famous and important works, or should they evaluate the overall filtering/blocking objectives and rationale as well as the mechanisms and algorithms implementing those restrictions?

    • but why are they blocking violent content in the first place?

      They don't want you to read the world news.

    • I'd generalize it more to "Bottom line: censorship is always an annoying, stupid waste of time."

      In protest, I'm going to play fallout new vegas today and murder EVERYONE in it. Dogs, women, men... and I'm going to fire ineffectively at the immortal children.
    • by SoTerrified (660807) on Thursday August 15, 2013 @02:39PM (#44576719)
      This, in a nutshell, is the real problem with censorship, even well intended. If you have a human doing the censoring, you'll get personal opinions influencing your judgement. (Example, see the judge who prevented parents from naming their child 'Messiah' because "There is only one true Messiah".) If you automate it, you get pieces falling through the cracks like Hamlet. Now, in this case, they were able to reverse the censorship because everyone knows Hamlet. But suppose this wasn't already well known? What if this was the first work of a new author? And you saw it, thought it might be interesting, but it's blocked. Are you going to 'know' it's not really something that should be censored? Are you going to know that it's a mistake and get the library to do something to fix it? Nope. A potentially ground-breaking work like Hamlet gets buried, never to see the light of day instead of becoming a classic for the ages.
      • by nbauman (624611)

        Example, see the judge who prevented parents from naming their child 'Messiah' because "There is only one true Messiah".

        Or Jesus.

        • Example, see the judge who prevented parents from naming their child 'Messiah' because "There is only one true Messiah".

          Or Jesus.

          Not in Mexico.

        • by Macgrrl (762836)

          I go down to Speaker's Corner I'm thunderstruck
          They got free speech, tourists, police in trucks
          Two men say they're Jesus one of them must be wrong
          There's a protest singer singing a protest song - he says
          'they wanna have a war to keep us on our knees
          They wanna have a war to keep their factories
          They wanna have a war to stop us buying Japanese
          They wanna have a war to stop Industrial Disease
          They're pointing out the enemy to keep you deaf and blind
          They wanna sap your energy incarcerate your mind
          They give you Rule Brittania, gassy beer, page three
          Two weeks in Espana and Sunday striptease'
          Meanwhile the first Jesus says 'I'd cure it soon
          Abolish monday mornings and friday afternoons'
          The other one's on a hunger strike he's dying by degrees
          How come Jesus gets Industrial Disease

      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by flayzernax (1060680)

        Pardon me if I'm going to hitch on to your +5 insightful. This whole idea of censoring and removing decensatizing violence from our cultures is all wrong.

        In cultures with high levels of violence. People manage just fine. Violence happens and it does not create a mass stampede of stupidity. People are able to resolve their issues with no problem.

        When you brainwash people and the only way they know how to deal with anything "dangerous" or "aggressive" is to seek authority. This is when you get serious psychol

        • by Jedi Alec (258881)

          While a lot of what you say sounds like it makes perfect sense...do you have anything to back it up? Studies? Data? Actual examples of countries or communities that have done this?

          Or is it just ideology? Which is fine, when it isn't being advertised as fact...

          • Life experience and personal experience. Yes its opinion. Its based in some fact. I do not have a laundry list of citations. I think it would require a great deal of research to make a "white paper" arguing for my point of view. I won't. Take it or leave it and use my idea as the basis for your own opinion.

            The best place to look is pediatric psychological journals or child mental health for starters. The first 10-15 years of our life has a drastic impact on what our later lives will be. Its a very unscienti

    • TFA's a little short on detail, but why are they blocking violent content in the first place? I assume they have some reason to do so.

      They do - it's because they are your betters. All they want is to keep you safe, and in order to do that they have to protect you. This is that.

      And if that's the case, should it matter how old or famous the unacceptably violent work is?

      I don't think that this should matter anyway, personally, but then again, I'm an American so I'm only used to my freedoms being suppressed in subtle ways.

      Bottom line: if Hamlet fits their definition of inappropriate content, should they make explicit exceptions for particularly famous and important works, or should they evaluate the overall filtering/blocking objectives and rationale as well as the mechanisms and algorithms implementing those restrictions?

      IMO we can "should" all day long...I think that they "should" realize that censorship is a waste of time that does more harm than good. They *won't* realize that, but I think that they *should*.

    • by kawabago (551139)
      Because they can! They're also blocking access to Medical Marijuana information. Want information on sexing hatchling chickens? Sorry, sex is banned. Want information on the French Revolution? Sorry, insurrection is a banned subject. These tools are instituted with the goal of preventing children from seeing pornography but they end up being used to squelch anything out of the ordinary. That is how a society dies. Censorship is slowly strangling ours.
      • by mwehle (2491950)

        These tools are instituted with the goal of preventing children from seeing pornography but they end up being used to squelch anything out of the ordinary.

        Several years ago I would have thought this was hyperbole, and then found AT&T's parental control filter blocked my son's smartphone from accessing lego.com. The prohibition might have been based on the violence shown by the Dragon Knights to the Castle Knights, but my guess was it was because of the "leg" in "lego".

        • . . . my guess was it was because of the "leg" in "lego".

          I guess polite people build things with "limbo".

    • by Hatta (162192)

      Why are they blocking any content at all? Because they are small minded fools, that's why.

  • by turgid (580780) on Thursday August 15, 2013 @02:17PM (#44576499) Journal

    Brannagh had a huge Hamlet.

  • The next book to be censored will be Ezekiel.
  • Hamlet (Act 3, Scene 2)....

    QUEEN GERTRUDE: Come hither, my dear Hamlet, sit by me.
    HAMLET: No, good mother, here's metal more attractive.
    LORD POLONIUS: [To KING CLAUDIUS] O, ho! do you mark that?
    HAMLET: Lady, shall I lie in your lap?

    Lying down at OPHELIA's feet

    OPHELIA: No, my lord.
    HAMLET: I mean, my head upon your lap?
    OPHELIA: Ay, my lord.
    HAMLET: Do you think I meant country matters?
    OPHELIA: I think nothing, my lord.
    HAMLET: That's a fair thought to lie between maids' legs.
    OPHELIA

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Maybe this blocking idea isn't so bad after all! ;-)

    • by Anonymous Coward

      Beat me to it. The Bible and Koran are for more violent and objectionable than any Shakespeare work.

      • The Bible and Koran are for more violent and objectionable than any Shakespeare work.

        Especially when you get past the sermon on humankind's futility in "Ecclesiastes" and hit the fifty shades of grey that are "Song of Solomon".

  • by Anonymous Coward

    They're doing it deliberately. If the nanny state wants violent things blocked, then that includes Hamlet.

    If they want Hamlet, they have to give up their censorship BS.

  • OMG that's so funny. Porn filters blocking great literature.

    What would the bard say?

    "With this bit I damn thee..."

    "She censored well but not wisely"

    "O, reason not the need!"

    "Art made tongue-tied by authority." (had to look this one up)

  • What about the Bible (Score:4, Informative)

    by Jason Levine (196982) on Thursday August 15, 2013 @03:51PM (#44577475)

    If they think Hamlet is too violent with 8 murders and one suicide, what about the Bible? That thing's full of people killing other people for various reasons. Heck, the exodus from Egypt alone kills all of the Pharaoh's soldiers while the Israelites celebrate on the shore. (To be fair to the Israelites, they did just escape from slavery. Seeing your former slave masters drowning as you escape to freedom is cause for celebration.) Is the Bible censored too? Do we need to come up with a child-friendly version of it?

    "And so, as Lot escaped Sodom and Gomorrah, God came down and... gave them a very stern talking to.... then Lot's wife looked back and... got really dizzy so she had to lie down for a bit..."

  • Juliet was 14 years old.

  • This makes sense, since we were told was boring, and that its work should be consumed as alternative media [slashdot.org] to remain entertaining.
  • I wonder what other great works of literature are being blocked by this system because they are too violent. Some others that come to mind as possible candidates are:
    Beiowulf
    The Song of Roland
    The Canterbury Tails
    The Divine Comedy
    Le Morte d'Drthur
    The Three Musketeers
    One Thousand and One Nights
    The Iliad
    Grimms' Fairy Tales
    Epic of Gilgamesh
    There are plenty of others that I could add to the list but these are some of the most widely known stories in western societies and are part of our cultural herit

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