Wednesday, 29 October 2008

Shooting the Past

One of the great advantages of the web is the ability it gives you to alter pages in real time, removing mistakes, correcting grammar, deleting or adding material. It is a facility I make use of all the time, perfectionist that I am. But this flexibility has its downside: it permits a certain slipperiness in presentation, manipulation, and for blink-and-you-miss-it revelation that can subsequently be denied. Stalin would have loved it.

The Brand/Ross furore - which may be entering its closing stages with the news tonight that Russell Brand has stepped down from his Radio 2 show (while Ross, who dominated the proceedings and deserves most of the blame, remains merely suspended) - has presented many such opportunities for stealth editing.

Georgina Baillie, whose deal with the Sun is said to have been negotiated by Max Clifford, is making the most of the publicity which she could not have expected - and which, having watched the Satanic Sluts Extreme in action, I doubt would otherwise have come her way. The need to control her public image will, I've no doubt, have been dunned into her by Machiavellian Max. Repeat visitors to her MySpace page will have noticed some subtle changes. The profile picture has changed: etherial, rather than gothicky. Gone, too, is the salutation with which Miss Baillie greeted visitors, which consisted of a string of swear-words. Instead it says simply "Voluptua thanks so much for all of your support". Altered, too, is the description of her status as "swinger": now she claims to be "in a relationship". Though presumably not with Brand.

The slogan "Manipulative? Moi?" remains, however. Perhaps we should pay more attention to it. (I assume the reference is to punchline "Pretentious? Moi?" famously uttered by Sybil in an episode of You Know What). She also remains of the opinion that "pole dancing is the best exercise in the world, after sex". And she still likes pretty men with tattoos.

Videos of several Satanic Sluts performances are also available on the site. But Georgie would seem to be editing her back catalogue. An earlier entry concerned her first film role, in a short entitled "Australian Vampire in London", which she describes frankly as "shameful" and "humiliating" and invites people to come and laugh at it. She refers modestly to her "cheesiest, worst and most fake "Aussie" accent EVER", the "tacky special effects" and her "porno standard" of acting. "In fact you might say it's SO bad that it's actually good!" she concludes. "But I'm not gonna get too ambitious here".

On the other hand, she notes, the film was downloaded thousands of times, was featured in Bite! magazine and "launched my alternative modelling career, which led to me joining the "Satanic Sluts", which led to me going to the casting for "Redemption tv", which I got!"

Her big break, then. Except if you click on the link to YouTube, you get a message saying "this video is private". Now that she's in the public eye, Miss Voluptua is perhaps developing more advanced thespian ambitions. Sorry Georgie, it's still available here.

Miss Baillie is still a novice at the web-editing business. Not so the Daily Mail, whose coverage changes so fast it can be hard to keep up. It was the Mail, on monday evening, which first alerted the Heresiarch to Miss Baillie's alter ego of Voluptua the goth vampire stripper; and the Heresiarch being the Heresiarch he was most grateful to the guys at Associated Newspapers for pointing this out. Indeed, the Heresiarch's own mouse quickly found its way to MySpace (the Mail's information having come mainly from Bebo) and a rather better selection of photographs, one of which appeared in this space. Strangely, the next morning the Mail's coverage had changed to reflect this new source of information, and a couple of the sentences in the report seemed remarkably familiar. I'm not suggesting the Mail lifted them directly from the Heresiarch's influential blog, but it wouldn't be the first time.

Other of the Mail's emendations on the website might be rather more significant than its real or imagined debt to Heresy Corner. The initial online report contained a selection of photographs of Georgina/Voluptua in various erotic poses; by the next morning, they had been replaced with others. And the new images were, from an aesthetic point of view, undoubtedly superior. Among those that disappeared was this one, which looks like a still from a low-budget horror movie. Thankfully, it was collected and stored by Clair Lewis of CAAN, to whom I am indebted.



There has been speculation on a messageboard that the Mail might have withdrawn the image (which it claimed to have found on Georgina's Bebo site) after being advised of a possible incompatibility with section 63 the recently passed (though not yet in force) Criminal Justice and Immigration Act. This, as regular Heretics will know, creates a new offence of possessing "extreme pornography", which is defined as an "explicit and realistic" image of various actions produced for the purpose of sexual arousal, among which are "acts which threaten a person's life". According to the explanatory notes, "this could include depictions of hanging, suffocation, or sexual assault involving a threat with a weapon".

Is this such an image? Doubtful, I think: the law requires that "a reasonable person looking at the image would think that any such person or animal was real". A question for debate, should the clause ever reach court, might be whether it is merely the person, or the act, that a reasonable person must think real. In any case, I don't think the picture is either explicit or realistic. Otherwise Parliament would inadvertently have criminalised most of the output of Hammer studios.

It would, of course, be deeply ironic if the Mail, which championed Elizabeth Longhurst's campaign to introduce an extreme porn ban following the murder of her daughter and presents itself, not always convincingly, as the voice of decent, outraged Middle England, fell foul of the provision. Dacre in the dock? Few, I suppose, would weep at such an eventuality, however remote (about as remote as Ross losing his multi-million-pound salary, methinks). Still, that the question can even be asked demonstrates the extreme subjectivity of the law our wise legislators have seen fit to pass.

To further muddy the waters, the
website of the Satanic Sluts - a large collective of debauchees and rock chicks of whom Baillie's quartet is a mere subset - contains a large collection of photographs some of which might well fall within the act's definition. This one, for example (warning: it's pretty gruesome). Though it must be said that none of the photos I have seen look particularly realistic, many are a lot more disturbing even than Mr Brand's hair.

UPDATE 31/10/08: Popbitch was yesterday claiming to have images of Georgina/Voluptua taken from a hardcore lesbian S&M video. As they comment acerbically, "it seems that Voluptua might know something herself about humiliation". One of the other participants bears more than a passing resemblance to Woman C from a certain court case a few months ago, though I can't confirm this. Having scrutinised the picture closely, I have established that it is, indeed, Georgina: her tattooed buttock, prominent in the stills, can be glimpsed in this image from her Satanic Sluts profile. Digging deeper, it does seem that Voluptua has recently entered the porn industry: a messageboard points to this site, which in turn appears to be a thinly-disguised puff for, this membership porn site. Both these sites are very much NSFW, by the way. Obviously.



There are two ways to interpret all this. It might be that the chance of mainstream celebrity has led Baillie and her handler Max Clifford to embark on a campaign to sweep the web clean of evidence of her sleazier activities. It hardly befits her new image as the innocent victim of Brand and Ross's prank. On the other hand, Voluptua might actually be intent on continuing her porn career, in which case recent events take on a whole new complexion. It has to be said that Georgina's stance as outraged victim has attracted a considerable degree of scepticism in some well-informed quarters.

Meanwhile over at MySpace the alterations continue. Some of the more explicit photographs are no longer available. Today Miss Baillie is wearing a long black dress - very Halloween - and greets visitors with the information that "Voluptua is performing with Satanic Sluts Extreme and Ace Mafia Sunday November 2nd at the Monarch in Camden!" It could be the hottest ticket in town.

NEW REVELATIONS

12 comments:

mark said...

"A question for debate, should the clause ever reach court, might be whether it is merely the person, or the act, that a reasonable person must think real."

I think the clause specifies only the person being real, not the act - they were careful to say "person or animal", but not "act". The threshold for the act is "in an explicit and realistic way". We might describe a scene in a film as being "realistic", even though we would never think that it was for real.

"Otherwise Parliament would inadvertently have criminalised most of the output of Hammer studios."

Indeed, that's how stupid the law is for being so vague. Though note that the law does have a clause criminalising screenshots from legal films. (Frank Fisher speculated that they did this in response to people pointing out how the definitions could include films - http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2007/jul/06/getyourtanksoffourporn .)

Yes, I agree that the fact we can ask these questions shows how bad the law is - people do not want to risk being prosecuted, even if they think they'll be safe. Thus there will be chilling effects, and even if someone is ultimately found not guilty, it'd be an ordeal to be prosecuted and go through an "extreme porn" trial.

I hope that courts will rule in a very restrictive way such that all such staged images remain legal, but it's not clear that this is what the Government intended - the sites that Graham Coutts visited were all staged acts, after all.

In practice, I'm not expecting someone like the Daily Mail to fall foul of the law, though showing that images such as these are published in mainstream media could perhaps prove a useful defence, as well as showing how problematic the definition of the law is.

[Posting anon, as OpenID login doesn't seem to be working atm]

WeepingCross said...

Does the legislation attempt to outline any way of working out whether an image has been created for the purpose of sexual arousal, rather than merely being used for that purpose after the fact? Of course there's some deep element of sadomasochism in a great deal of violent Christian art, to say nothing of artworks which use the tradition as their starting point - compare for instance the classic treatment of Judith killing Holofernes by Caravaggio (http://digitalrightsmanifesto.files.wordpress.com/2008/04/judith_beheading_holofernes.jpg) with the camp modern one by Holger Maass (http://www.podgallery.com/index.cfm/hurl/imageid=7826/action=showimage). Does the legislation go into any of these areas, or is it all simply deemed to be obvious?

~ said...

No... the picture might be against the law.

The MPs realised that saying that pictures/films of *simulated* sexual violence was legal would be a major loophole.

The law says *all* images/videos of sexual violence that would lead to death or permanent disability is illegal. Whether make-believe or real.

In the case of a goth cutting a damsel in distress' throat... because they are pretty ladies it is probably against the law as it is "sexy".

If it were two ugly actors cutting, then it would be ok (see "Reservoir Dogs" "Ichi the Killer" etc)

valdemar said...

The image would be illegal because it shows two young women who some would say are attractive? Others - gay men, and most women - would not be aroused by the image, surely? The law is an ass for - yes, here it is - trying to specify what constitutes a tasty piece of ass. Badabing.

Graham Marsden said...

The last image you link to (pretty gruesome) may well fall foul of the so-called Extreme Pornography legislation because:

"it appears to have been produced solely or principally for the purpose of sexual arousal."

and it is:

"an act which results in or appears to result (or be likely to result) in serious injury to a person’s anus, breasts or genitals".

In other words, anyone who has looked at that picture is now "in possession" of it because it's on their hard drive!

Of course if *everyone* who had looked at that image turned themselves in...!

The Heresiarch said...

Fortunately, the law doesn't come into force till January. But it's not an image I'd advise anyone to download.

From a personal point of view, I must admit to complete bemusement that anyone could find such an image sexually arousing - the frisson produced by the contemplation of horror and death being, in my experience, different from that produced by sexual desire. And I would be faintly troubled by anyone who was turned on by it. I assume it's faked - it looks faked - but some people are into self-harm so one can't be too sure.

As for the main picture, Valdemar, I've seen worse on Buffy.

Graham Marsden said...

The Heresiarch said...

> I must admit to complete bemusement that anyone could find such an image sexually arousing [...] And I would be faintly troubled by anyone who was turned on by it.

Err, but that's exactly why the New Labour Thought Police want possession of images like this made illegal!

They are "troubled" by the idea that someone might get turned on by it, so they've introduced this law just in case someone is "turned on by it" because there is, theoretically, a possibility that they will then be inspired/ induced/ incited into doing something nasty!

Let's hear it for CrimeThink!

John B said...

More Baillie-related, err, 'action' (NSFW): http://www.popbitch.com/tshirts/

septicisle said...

Yeah, I was about to mention that. Don't know where it's from or whether she is actually getting penetrated by our strap-on wielding friend, but that looks decidedly like hardcore porn and rather more difficult to explain for her PR merchants.

The Heresiarch said...

@ Graham Marsden, I'm well aware what the Gvt thought they were doing. I find a lot of things "faintly disturbing" without wanting to ban them, however.

Guy Bradley said...

Im surprised this image of Ms Baillie hasn't been mentioned anywhere: http://salvationgroup.com/satanic/sluts/087a.jpg (from her profile on Satanic Sluts: http://salvationgroup.com/satanic/sluts/voluptua.htm). Katy Perry took some heat for posing with a kinife recently (http://www.dailymail.co.uk/tvshowbiz/article-1079598/Outrage-singer-Katy-Perry-poses-knife-look-edgy.html) but apparently its fine to do so if youre simulating throat slitting naked in a bath of blood?

Anonymous said...

Reading through the 1st nsfw site, I think the owner is having a whale of a time exposing Georgina for what she really is, rather than being a 'puff' for the membership site. The 'the plot thickens' post was quite an eye-opener, as is your article.