Exhuming an anti-comic book law to punish a gory website - Macleans.ca

Exhuming an anti-comic book law to punish a gory website

Jesse Brown on the revival of rarely-used legislation in connection with the Magnotta case


Once upon a time, America was terrified of comic books.  In the ’50s, crime and horror comics, the kind pumped out by the glorious schlock imprint EC Comics, became a target for moralizing lawmakers. A psychiatrist named Fredric Wertham lent pseudo-scientific credibility to funnybook phobia in 1954 by writing Seduction of The Innocent, an influential screed against lurid comics that led to a Senate subcommittee on juvenile delinquency. The scrutiny lead to formal self-censorship within the industry. With the Comics Code Authority in place, EC died, and its publisher, William Gaines, changed the format of his humour book MAD from a comic to a magazine in order to evade the rubber stamp of the CCA. As silly and as destructive as the funnybook witch hunt was, it never resulted in anti-comic laws being passed in the United States.

In Canada, however, an anti-comic book law was already on the books, and remains in place today. In 1949, after a murder was committed by a couple of kids in B.C. who happened to be comic readers, Section 163 was added to the Criminal Code, criminalizing anyone who “makes, prints, publishes, distributes, sells or has in his possession for the purpose of publication, distribution or circulation a crime comic.”

Titled “Offences Tending to Corrupt Morals”, Section 163 also makes it an offence to sell or advertise abortion methods, “exhibit a disgusting object” or publish information about restoring sexual virility. In other words, it’s one of those loony old laws that few people remember or obey, and which police never enforce.

Almost never, that is.

Edmonton’s cops themselves can’t remember ever charging someone under Section 163 until yesterday, when they charged Mark Marek with corrupting morals for hosting Luka Magnotta’s alleged snuff film on his Best Gore website. Best Gore (which remains online) is a website dedicated to awfulness. Videos of accidents and murders and war atrocities are submitted, posted, and discussed by a community of, well, how would you describe them? Some would call them perverts, sickos and freaks. Some of them call themselves truth-hungry realists who refuse to turn away from the realities of human atrocity. I might call them a bunch of self-serious pseudo-goths who really need to get dates. All of the above and more are likely accurate, since there are millions of them: Best Gore is wildly popular, and gets 15 million page views a month.

Last summer, after he first came under scrutiny by the authorities, Marek gave the CBC show Day 6 an interview in which he defended his site, and pointed a finger back at the cops, claiming that members of his community linked the video to Magnotta four days before the police were on the case, at a time when Magnotta was allegedly still in his apartment with victim Lin Jun’s body. According to Marek, a Best Gore user tried to tip off Montreal police, but was ignored. You can bet Marek will bring this up again in order to invoke the “in the public good” defence, which can nullify all of the moral corrupting behaviour described in section 163.

I’m curious about the impact this case might have on freedom of expression online, should it go to trial. Canadian law has yet (to my knowledge) acknowledged the distinction between pre-moderated user generated content, which a website owner vets before posting, and post-moderated user content, which is automatically published and then taken down if problems arise. A broad finding against Marek could be a problem for YouTube, Twitter, and many more sites that host a magnitude of content that couldn’t possibly be pre-moderated. And if Marek is found guilty, what of the thousands of other gory videos his site hosts, or the millions of questionable videos hosted by other sites?

Of course, it’s entirely possible that the case will be thrown out of court before things get that far. Marek’s website is to certain modern sensibilities what comic books were to a nervous 1940s establishment: a gross aberration to be surgically removed by any means necessary. Ironic then, that today’s police have found support for their witch hunt using yesterday’s pitchfork. It seems possible to me that they just didn’t like Best Gore and charged Marek with whatever law they could find. A thinking judge might agree.

Follow Jesse on Twitter @JesseBrown


Exhuming an anti-comic book law to punish a gory website

  1. I’m trying so hard to give a shit…nope, not going to happen. I’m not sure there’s a slippery slope argument here. This shouldn’t be allowed to be entertainment.

    • All you people crying “censorship” will really have a problem when this gets completely out of hand with crimes being committed for your sick entertainment (not that it’s not happening now but it’s certainly not mainstream) and the government decides to crack down on EVERYTHING because it’s totally out of control. This has nothing to do with morality. It was a CRIME the victim is REAL and his parents and loved ones still exist. Go away with your outrage.

      • Entertainment? While some may find the site entertaining, I don’t. Yet I have continually visited that site as a news source. Stay in a coma if you like, but it should and is offensive what militant terrorists are doing all over the world, and the site highlights the many REALITIES that are taking place throughout the world. Maybe you don’t want to think about it, but maybe you should ask yourself why we are seeing mass murders/beheadings in various countries such as Mexico, the war in Syria and the children who are being killed, and the many other posts that show what’s really going on. the site is unapologetic in its presentation of what is happening right now on this planet! Of course you don’t want to know, you want to stay asleep, go shopping, pretend that everything is wonderful. Well it is not. I can say this, I have become a much safer driver after viewing some of the gory auto accident videos! I won’t travel to any of the areas where death has become a norm but is never reported in the news. No this site is NOT entertainment, in as much as corporate globalist driven war is not entertainment and this site highlights this more than it could ever be accused of glorifying any of the circumstances presented. Entertainment? Hardly.

        • You don’t need to see this stuff to be affected by its content. It is YOU who is desensitized if you need to see it to get it. Sorry.

          • Annette your comment made no sense to me whatsoever. I am in no way desensitized, on the contrary I am quite the opposite of that. I wouldn’t even be aware of various subjects had I not viewed that site. So how would I ‘get it’ had I not been educated about these subjects? And yes I want to know what’s really happening around the world, even the stuff that isn’t rainbows and cupcakes. No it’s not fun stuff. It’s hard to view it. It’s horrific. Most people seem to be living in a dream world concerned only with what they are force fed by the establishment media. Some of us, want real information. I find people like you to be desensitized because you don’t seem to care about what’s happening in the world. I find THAT to be insensitive. You are happy to moralize for everyone else, happy to make judgments, marginalize, disenfranchise other people who don’t agree with your world view. I respect your right to remain ignorant and asleep (though I do find it offensive) but I do not respect when people push their biases, perceptions, shame, and personal opinions at others as if they are entitled to do so. Whats happening here is an example of that. if you want to get upset or offended at something, this site features plenty of cases for you that are worthy of your disgust and focus, rather than the site itself. The mainstream news isn’t presenting this stuff because mainstream news is not about waking people up. We can change this world for the better, but in order to do so we must acknowledge and address the situation rather than hiding our heads in the sand. No it isn’t me who is desensitized.

          • You make so many assumptions on what “most people” are about. It’s not laziness or not carrying “most people” are too busy raising families and busy being civic minded to focus on all the horrors in the world. I’m not moralizing. I’m only judging the murderer but I have no sympathy for the owner of this website.

            Now, if this law starts being used wholesale, then we have a problem. I do fear sites like this are going to give the gvnt ammunition to use it more, sadly. And, that is a problem. Give the creeps an inch, they take a mile and ruin it for everyone.

          • I am a single parent raising a family. I make time to educate myself. It’s not that hard. Trade the time you are watching American idol or honey boo boo for something REAL. I don’t focus on the horrors, that would indeed make me hostile and depressed. But you better believe that I’m not willing to pull the wool over my own eyes. I want to know what is going on because I have a child growing up in this world. The government has been taken over by globalists! They want to see America destroyed in the name of their one world government. Theyve already taken the entire road forget about a few miles. It’s time to wake up and deal with what’s been going on while we were sleeping.

          • WTF does globalism have to do with this video? Buddy, you’re rambling. Peace out.

          • Apparently you are not familiar with the videos on the best gore site. MOST of the videos there, outside of the auto accidents and tourist murders, concern the wars and political events that are taking place in various countries, as well as videos concerning the drug wars happening in Mexico. There are many videos concerning the world wars, nazis, militant Muslim extremists, and the Zionist occupation. Who do you think is driving most of these conflicts? THAT is what globalists have to do with this. It seems to me that this issue is a bunch of crap. They are using this magnotta video issue to attack the gore site, but in my opinion the real issue is the sites politics. Pure and simple.

          • It would be nice if you didn’t get a choice in deciding what I choose to view in my own personal time Annette. Yes people died but news stories moderated by nanny state twits like yourself do not report everything, I happen to want to know what I am not told about.

          • Nah, I want my gvnt to say that acts of violent crime cannot be viewed as entertainment. It’s in no one’s interest for this to be viewed – unless you are investigating this crime or you are otherwise intimately involved. If it’s legal act have at it. I might not agree with your choice of entertainment but I don’t care what you want to view.

  2. And again, we have censorship…..leave the web alone!

  3. And when it moves offshore and becomes popular because of its notoriety the whole legal crap will be exposed for the ineffectual BS it is.
    Prohibition never works. Did the world learn nothing from the 30’s the war on drugs etc?
    Laws should be there to protect the weak from the strong and the predatory, not to enforce morality; but instead it does the opposite.

    Prohibition laws enrich criminals and put the vulnerable in jail, history should be our teacher.

  4. Luka Magnotta posted pictures and videos of himself torturing and killing animals. People who were disgusted and concerned eventually found out his name and address and reported information of his crimes. The police did not do anything. Magnotta graduates from torturing and killing animals to a person, not surprising. What is surprising is that after the story came out the name Luka Or Luca became very popular with expectant parents. Good taste and morals are subjective. The internet should not be e free for all for every sicko on the planet.

  5. It’s not, in any way, like a comic book.

    Fiction. It’s a thing.

    Hope he’s prepared to pay for the therapy of people whi saw this video.

    • Therapy? Why would anyone need therapy when the masses are constantly brainwashed to be desensitized to what is happening in the world. Have you watched any of the MTV videos lately? Video games? Get real mostly civil.

      • MTV videos? Clearly, you don’t watch MTV.

        And one tires of the assumption that kids can’t differentiate fiction from reality. The “desensitization” argument is the very thing the Comic book censors used to justify their regulations.

        You’re arguing against my argument against the conclusion of the article by arguing against the conclusion of the article. You haven’t thought this through, have you?

        • I study the entire music industry including MTV. clearly YOU arent watching MTV, or you have blinders on. many worldwide videos (there are artists in various countries we dont see yet they have the same messages in their videos) seek to normalize militarization of society for one thing. Why else would Britney Spears, Rihanna, beyonce, and a long list of other ‘artists’ depict time and time again swat teams and military agents in their videos? Since when to kids like swat teams mixed in with their music? You may want to take a MUCH closer look at the music industry before you decide it is benign. The music industry sexualizes children. Between the sexualization of children and the glorification of a police state, MTV and other entities in the music industry have an agenda that goes beyond selling music to young minds. Humans are very impressionable and easily programmed. I’m living in a brainwashed society that is more willing than ever to hand over freedom out of fear, fear that has been programmed into people via the media. Show police militarization enough to kids and they grow up thinking its normal to live in a police state. there is plenty of discussion on this topic and plenty of evidence to back up what Im stating here. just watch the videos and you too will be scratching your head asking yourself why they are putting specific imagery throughout various videos to the point that fans discuss how the artists are stealing each others ideas. no kids, its not that so and stole it from so and so, the companies behind the making of all the videos are putting the same symbols and messages throughout multiple artists work. they want to get their point across. Our perceptions are absolutely being managed. Perception management is a billion dollar business. some people are not as programmable thank goodness but many are falling for the lies. I understand it to be a very fine line we are talking about here. We do need to give a damn about what young minds are exposed to. On the other hand, I don’t appreciate censors who try to limit what information ADULTS have access to. This is probably where you assume I am confused. No, it is not that I am confused. There are healthy boundaries that should be established and maintained (mostly by parents but corporations should be held accountable) when it comes to the well being of children. Children are preyed upon by corporations. We are all meat to them. Useless eaters to use the words of Henry Kissinger. They aren’t going after this site for the murder video, that’s just the story. They dug deep to find something they could use.

          • “seek to normalize militarization of society”

            And then I stopped reading.

          • MTV has done more to normalize teen pregnancy than the militarization of society.

          • Who watches MTV anymore Grandma

  6. Hope this hideous faggot gets what he truly deserves in prison. I doubt they’ll let him apply his makeup before they fuck him like all the gruesome porn featured on his website.