Australian Police Raid Bookseller Over Copies Of A Book First Published 24 Years Ago

from the thus-transferring-legitimacy-to-a-single-citizen's-complaint dept

Considering the sort of potentially-offensive content the average Internet holds, it's almost charmingly quaint when this sort of thing happens.

Mr Lake said the police were very gentle when they arrived and asked that the book be removed from the shelf.
Mr. Lake runs Imprints Booksellers in Adelaide, Australia. The book at the center of the "gentle" raid was originally published 24 years ago.
[American Psycho], by American author Bret Easton Ellis, has been classified R18 under national censorship legislation since its release in 1991, requiring it to be sold in plastic and only to those aged over 18.
So, what happened? Two things. First, a new edition was published featuring a foreword by Irvine Welsh -- someone who's no stranger to plumbing the depths of humanity. This edition -- which arrived roughly 24 years after the original classification and sans the sealed plastic covering -- was noticed by a local citizen, who then got her third-party outrage on.
He said the raid occurred because somebody complained to police after reading in a weekend newspaper column that the book was being sold by bookshops without plastic wrapping.

"I had a phone call from a lady on Tuesday who was quite aggressive and questioned why we were selling this classified product out of its wrapper," he said.
As per usual, it's the squeaky busybody that gets the grease, despite the book being a good couple of decades past the point of its original outrage and being surpassed in terms of graphic violence several times over, including in plenty of unwrapped books sold by the same booksellers.

Music (mostly) blog The Quietus has probably the best description of what likely went down in the this "gentle raid" over the most shocking novel of the early '90s.
Imprint Books in Adelaide (AUS) was ‘gently raided’ by – some apparently very polite, possibly even contrite, hopefully totally fucking embarrassed – police officers for displaying unsealed copies of Bret Easton Ellis’ 1991 satirical (adjective: sarcastic, critical, and mocking another's weaknesses) novel American Psycho.
Now, while Australia -- a nation of adults constantly being treated like children (and paying far too much for the "privilege"…) by their government -- has earned a reputation as a busybody in its own right, it's highly doubtful these police officers were very thrilled with this assignment. But ignoring the complaint was likely out of the question. Anyone sufficiently motivated to ring up both the bookshop and the cops because of something they read in the newspaper is the sort of person who won't let the issue go until it's been resolved to their satisfaction. So, rather than just blow off the misplaced concern, they apologetically and gently "raided" the bookseller. No doubt this was followed by a surreptitious reconnaissance mission by the complainer to verify that the complainee had been sufficiently cowed.

As for the bookseller, he made the sort of assumption anyone would make when the latest edition of a 24-year-old novel arrived without the protective R18 shrinkwrap.
"We just assumed the classification has been lifted," he said.
Because that would make sense. But no, the R18 is still in place and people with nothing better to do but read newspapers and make angry phone calls will continue to put local law enforcers in an unenviable position: Do you raid the bookshop and look foolish? Or do you answer call after call from aggrieved locals until you finally decide to raid the bookshop and look foolish? When your choices are this awful, the best course of action is to just get it over with.

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Filed Under: american psycho, australia, books, bret easton ellis, free speech, offensive content, raids


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  • icon
    Ninja (profile), 29 Jul 2015 @ 4:03am

    Anyone sufficiently motivated to ring up both the bookshop and the cops because of something they read in the newspaper is the sort of person who won't let the issue go until it's been resolved to their satisfaction.

    It is also the sort of person that supports such kind of censorship and the law by itself without critical thinking. It's the sort of person that makes the lives of parents and kids alike hell just because they think they saw the kids out unsupervised. That the poor are poor because they are lazy. That providing affordable health for everyone is Communism or something. Etc etc etc.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 29 Jul 2015 @ 5:27am

      Re:

      I can't help but feel that the person who made the complaint didn't feel really justified and satisfied being that the SWAT team wasn't used to go into the book store with guns blazing ala S.A.S. style and cause some property damage before the book was removed.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Rekrul, 29 Jul 2015 @ 6:54am

        Re: Re:

        I can't help but feel that the person who made the complaint didn't feel really justified and satisfied being that the SWAT team wasn't used to go into the book store with guns blazing ala S.A.S. style and cause some property damage before the book was removed.

        No, that's how American police would handle it.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • identicon
          Anonymous Coward, 29 Jul 2015 @ 1:46pm

          Re: Re: Re:

          In America we would also seize all the bookseller's assests until such time as forensic accountants could determine if any profit had been made from the sale of the improperly displayed books.

          After that we would file a lawsuit against the assets themselves so the police can keep it all under the asset forfieture laws.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • icon
          Atkray (profile), 29 Jul 2015 @ 6:08pm

          Re: Re: Re:

          I can't help but think US law enforcement would have used a flash grenade and then charged the store owner with arson and destruction of evidence after they burned down the building.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

          • identicon
            Anonymous Coward, 29 Jul 2015 @ 8:12pm

            Re: Re: Re: Re:

            I think you missed the bit where the owner would be shot while resisting arrest (trying to stop the fire).

            reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • icon
          Blackfiredragon13 (profile), 30 Jul 2015 @ 8:10am

          Re: Re: Re:

          Oh god no, don't be ludicrous in thinking us Americans have gone soft! No, we'd probably start with a tactical carpet bombing, followed by soldiers- I mean police officers- storming the area with tear gas and in full combat gear, arresting and shooting anyone found to be alive while labeling them terrorists, spies or pedophiles depending on the books they were near. After which we'd seize all assets of the bookstore and its company and refuse to confirm or deny anything.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 29 Jul 2015 @ 9:05am

      Re:

      And this is also the sort of person who believes in an invisible man in the sky that loves you but if you make a wrong move you burn forever.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 30 Jul 2015 @ 4:20am

        Re: Re:

        Actually, the complainant was a Catholic (it was radio presenter Peter Goers), but apparently he did it to encourage disrespect for the censorship laws.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    TheResidentSkeptic (profile), 29 Jul 2015 @ 4:07am

    On the upside

    Thanks to the publicity, sales are probably way up...

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 29 Jul 2015 @ 5:13am

    that's the sort of woman who would report her neighbours to the police for thought crimes or acting outside the norm.

    Or the type of informant that got hundreds of people killed when rounded up to be purged by their government.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 29 Jul 2015 @ 5:23am

    Where was the swat team and the dawn raid... oh wrong country.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 29 Jul 2015 @ 5:38am

    Police officers. For a book. Described as a raid. For a book. Couldn't possibly been handled by sending someone in plainclothes to talk to the owner.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 29 Jul 2015 @ 3:55pm

      Re:

      It seems that the "raid" was just some (SAPOL almost never venture out alone, no matter how trivial the task is) uniformed plods who came in politely.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 29 Jul 2015 @ 5:44am

    Hang on, Hang on

    This is South Australia we're talking about here. That says it all.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Thrudd, 29 Jul 2015 @ 6:19am

    So?

    So what happened next?
    Did they take the book out into the street for a public burning?
    Did they follow up with the complainant and do a psychological assessment to determine if she needed to be taken away or given a position with customs and excise?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 29 Jul 2015 @ 6:24am

    and as usual, the easy answer for this nosy woman, dont fucking look in the shop, was ignored!

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Mike Read (profile), 29 Jul 2015 @ 6:38am

    D'you reckon the raid was only "gentle" because people kept shushing them?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 29 Jul 2015 @ 7:27am

    Credit to the Australian cops on this one

    Whether they had a choice or not in following up on the complaint, I'll at least give them credit for handling this much more gently than Americans would. From the sound of it, there wasn't any collateral damage at all.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 29 Jul 2015 @ 7:32am

    I, for one, certainly hope that the people of Australia can sleep better at night knowing that this lady is making sure that all the right books have their mandated plastic wrap.

    It must be so wonderful to have so much free time at her disposal to monitor such a deep, pressing issue, where children, nay, the entire Australian society faces collapse due to a piece of missing cellophane.

    I mean, we need to support the plastic wrap industry, right? If books aren't wrapped in plastic wrap, then jobs are lost, poverty ensues, radical Islam takes hold, and the terrorists win.

    I hope this fine upstanding bastion of society truly understands her role in making not only Australia safer, but the entire world safer.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Pixelation, 29 Jul 2015 @ 7:46am

    It's only common decency to wrap those books in a condom to keep people safe...

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 29 Jul 2015 @ 10:58am

      Re:

      I do however wonder why the vendor didn't just get a shrinkwrap machine (likely already has one) and wrap all the on-display books on the spot, in front of the officers. That's really the only thing that needed to be done, wasn't it? For bonus points, he could add a label on the front of the wrap stating "Book wrapped locally by mandate of the authorities, due to content considered provocative 25 years ago".

      I bet they'd sell pretty fast then :)

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 29 Jul 2015 @ 7:47am

    Right then and there, I would have snapped a picture of the complaining customer, posted it in the store window, and proclaimed: THIS WOMAN IS BANNED FROM THIS STORE.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 29 Jul 2015 @ 7:51am

    countries not worth living in...

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 29 Jul 2015 @ 8:30am

      Re:

      I considered copying and pasting a list of countries, but that would be way too long. So short list:
      Any country on Earth.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Josh (profile), 29 Jul 2015 @ 8:30am

    While in the US

    The swat team would have been sent it, flash bangs and tear gas deployed. The news would have considered this a success and politicians would applaud our police departments for the diligent effort they put forth in keeping America clean.

    Not to mention the thousands of $ for overtime.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    G Thompson (profile), 29 Jul 2015 @ 12:06pm

    for those wondering.. Queensland.. another state of Australia has BANNED the book from sale (actually all R18 Classified publications - which is basically all nudie mags other than Playboy and Penthouse) since 1991 too.

    Though QLD is a strange fucking wacked out place. Sorta like Florida with bits of Texas thrown in.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Despairing Floridian, 29 Jul 2015 @ 1:48pm

      Re:

      I am a Floridian and am very upset with all the hate directed towards my messed up state. It is simply that the rest of the country exports their senile old people to this state that puts us all on edge and there is only so much that an individual can take before cracks start to show. So please instead of insulting my unfortunate state, please apologize and thank us, we deal with the senile so you don't have to.

      Aussies seem like great people but the stress from a land that is out to murder you in any way possible causes some people like this lady to go a little nutty is the only thing I can think of for some of the ridiculous things i hear coming from down there.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Kronomex, 29 Jul 2015 @ 3:31pm

      Re:

      You can still buy American Psycho in Queensland because I purchased a copy (the book shop ordered it in for me) about 2 years ago. It can only be described as technically banned. The novel may be satirical in nature but I thought it was a load of overblown rubbish and the film wasn't much better.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 29 Jul 2015 @ 5:50pm

      Re:

      Though QLD is a strange fucking wacked out place. Sorta like Florida with bits of Texas thrown in.
      New South Wales and Victoria can be put in the "even more wacked out" group.

      Watching the stuff-ups made in Queensland over the years, I have observed that both NSW and Vic both have a mentality of laughing at QLD and then saying that the situation being laughed at could NEVER happen in either of these states. Then a number of years later, even worse happens in NSW and Vic.

      Queensland does get its dopey pollies, but NSW and Vic get much more corrupt and dopey pollies.

      It's like the old gerrymander that happened in QLD - it was always attributed to Old Joh, but the reality it that it was set up by the Labour Party and when the workers migrated from the country to Brisbane, it left the conservatives behind and this changed the balance of power.

      I still remember the shenanigans that went on in the financial systems in QLD in the 70's and the NSW and Vic pollies saying it would NEVER happen in their states and then in the 80's, an even bigger messup happened in Vic with the State Bank and other Building Societies. I was one of the lucky one that had transferred all of my accounts out of the local banking system into the major national banks.

      I was told 6 months before it hit the fan that trouble was coming and to move my funds, so I did. I managed to not lose anything, but I know of people who lost much.

      NSW is known for its corrupt politicians and dubious police. Vic is known for its incompetent politicians and its religious love of Aussie Rules football teams. NT is known for it boozing, SA for its incomprehensible idiocy. QLD for its backwardness. WA for its remoteness.

      But the full reality, despite the pollies and other difficulties, this is still the greatest nation on earth and the best place to live bar none.

      Once this land gets into your blood, there is no other place on earth to call home.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Nop (profile), 30 Jul 2015 @ 1:31am

    I remember when the book was first published in Australia, back in about '84. It could only be sold in over 18 premises (typically adult books shops) & was shrinkwrapped, with an warning sticker on the wrap.
    When I read that these guys had been busted for it, I guessed that the censorship dinosaurs went back to the original classification rules from '84, & used that as their excuse to satisfy the puritans who reported it.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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