Ofcom, the UK regulatory broadcasting agency, has ruled that the Derren Brown program "Something Wicked This Way Comes," which aired on Sunday morning, December 6, 2015, breached two provisions of the Broadcasting Code. The program, based on Mr. Brown's 2006 stage show of the same name, breached Rule 1.13: “Dangerous behaviour, or the portrayal of dangerous behaviour, that is likely to be easily imitable by children in a manner that is harmful…must not be broadcast before the watershed…unless there is editorial justification” and Rule 1.14: “The most offensive language must not be broadcast before the Watershed." The agency received five complaints about the program.
Mr. Brown, a well-known illusionist and mentalist, used the "F" word several times during the program, at a time when children were likely to be watching. He also demonstrated several tricks which Ofcom deemed were likely to be dangerous if children imitated them. For example, he used a plastic bag to cover his head, and he walked on glass. He did show that these tricks did not harm him, but the Ofcom regulators found that because the program aired during the period when children were watching, and the network (UKTV) did not attempt to justify the airing of the program during that time period, the airing of the content with its explanatory material did not outweigh the danger to children. It did acknowledge that the network aired the program by error in the time period and that the network is putting safeguards in place to prevent such a mistake from happening again.
Rostam J. Neuwirth, University of Macau, Faculty of Law, E32, has published Law and Magic: A(nother) Paradox? at 37 Thomas Jefferson Law Review 139 (2014). Here is the abstract.
In the past, paradoxes and similar rhetorical figures that are summarized by the term “essentially oxymoronic concepts”, have been frequently applied to describe mystical experiences or, more generally, “change” that represents the uncertain or the unknown. Thus, their usage has primarily been a privilege of the arts, literature or the occult sciences. Today, however, essentially oxymoronic concepts are increasingly permeating scientific, legal and other public discourses as much as advertisements or daily conversations. Concepts like “globalization paradox”, “co-opetition”, and “piracy paradox”, products labeled “ice tea” and “Sports Utility Vehicles (SUVs)”, and films entitled “True Lies”, are just a few examples that testify to this wider trend. Their usage appears especially prevalent in attempts to scientifically describe and understand the often complex relations between two or more different phenomena or fields. In this regard, the relation between law and magic may be no exception, as it can also be framed by, or gives rise to, several paradoxes. For instance, in early history, and later, in the context of colonialism, laws have often outlawed magic as “witchcraft” or “charlatanry”, based on the belief that their character is irrational, as opposed to the rational character of the law. Paradoxically though, contemporary laws and legal practice still maintain a high degree of rites, rituals and rhetoric, similar to those that have been applied in magic. Similarly, as Jerome Frank has remarked, despite the law’s focus on certainty, it striking to see how often “magical phrases” are used in its language. The apparent contradictions in the nature and language of the law are therefore taken as an opportunity to cast some light on various issues that link law and magic in order to gain some insights about the nature, origin, and role of law generally.
Download the article from SSRN at the link. The article forms part of the conference papers from the Law and Magic symposium held at Thomas Jefferson School of Law, June 2014.
Reacting to the Supreme Court's 6-3 ruling in King v. Burwell, Senator Ted Cruz proclaimed,
Today, these robed Houdinis have transmogrified a federal exchange into an exchange, quote, 'established by the State...This is lawless. As Justice [Antonin] Scalia rightfully put it, without objection, words no longer have meaning.
Since Justice Scalia has referred to the statute as "SCOTUScare" (or SCOTU-scare, depending on how you want to read it), scare-y, magic, Hallowe'en-y language seems to be the order of the day. Carre-y on.
From the mailbox: I've received a copy, courtesy of the authors and publisher, of the wonderful Droit et surnaturel (Issy-les-Moulineaux: lextenso, 2015), edited by Jean-Christophe Roda, a professor of law at the University of Aix-Marseille. This volume collects the papers from a conference held jointly by the University of Aix-Marseille, Centre de Droit economique and the School of Law, University of Aix-en-Provence, September 27, 2013.
It contains 2 introductory surveys and 10 essays by leading scholars on various areas in the subject of law and magic: here's what it contains--law and exorcism, by Herve Lecuyer of the University of Paris II, the supernatural and contract law, by Frederic Buy, of the University of the Auvergne and Marie Lamoureux, of the University of Aix-Marseille, criminal law and the supernatural, by Philippe Bonfils, of the University of Aix-Marseille, occultisme and family law, by Vincent Egea, of the University of Toulon, belief and civil responsibility, by Julien Theron of the University of Toulouse-I, magic and IP, by Nicolas Bronzo, of the University of Aix-Marseille, and numerology and symbolism in the Code of Civil Procedure by Emmanuel Putman of the University of Aix-Marseille (I have to show that one to my civil law colleagues here at LSU--well, I have to share the whole book with my civil law colleagues, frankly), witchcraft law three hundred years after Salem, by Jean-Christophe Roda, of the University of Aix-Marseille, and law and sorcery by Louis-Daniel Muka Tshibende of the Catholic University of Lyon. There is also a concluding essay by Remy Cabrillac of the Faculty of Law, University of Montpellier.
A treasure trove of scholarly writing on this subject.
By what power or authority an assembly undertakes to make paper money is difficult to say. It derives none from the constitution, for that is silent on the subject. It is one of those things which the people have not delegated, and which, were they at any time assembled together, they would not delegate. It is, therefore, an assumption of power which an assembly is not warranted in, and which may one day or other be the means of bringing some of them to punishment.
One of the evils of paper money is that it turns the whole country into stockjobbers. The precariousness of its value and the uncertainty of its fate continually operate night and day to produce this destructive effect. Having no real value in itself, it depends for support upon accident, caprice, and party, and as it is the interest of some to depreciate and of others to raise its value, there is a continual invention going on that destroys the morals of the country.
It was horrid to see, and hurtful to recollect, how loose the principles of justice were let, by means of the paper emissions during the war. The experience then had should be a warning to any assembly how they venture to open such a dangerous door again.