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21st March 2021

The current tsunami of misinformation and disinformation often seems untameable. With any attempt at control called controversial and countered with cries of cancel culture. So the apparent success of one secret Soho cabal which has been engaged in just such control for over a century with relatively little pushback seems worthy of examination, and that’s where Jim Cliff comes in. 

Jim Cliff pictured with collegaues at the BBFC.

The British Board of Film Classification, for it is they, was Cliff’s professional home at a time when, to keep pace with changing public opinion, they shifted their focus from censorship to classification guided by regular public consultation. While far from perfect, as Cliff will doubtless point out, this does seem to be a template that could help shape a way out of the infodemic.

Cambridge Skeptics

 
Ban This Sick Filth! Behind the Scenes at the British Board of Film Classification
with Jim Cliff
Thursday, 25th March 2021 at 7:00pm
 
 
For over a hundred years, a small, secretive group of people in Soho have decided what you can see in UK cinemas and, more recently, on video and DVD. Who are they, how do they make their decisions, and why was Monty Python's Life of Brian banned in Torquay until 2008? Jim Cliff explains the origins and methods of the Board, and offers insights into his time as an examiner, the shift from censorship to classification, and how a cut he requested in 'Lilo & Stitch' led to an offshoot of the Pizzagate conspiracy theory almost 20 years later. 

Jim Cliff was a BBFC Examiner from 2001 to 2009, during which time he classified over 7000 films, videos and video games. He is now a freelance video producer and host of the Fallacious Trump podcast.

So, I've Been Thinking...
Stitch Has a Glitch
 
When Disney animated classic Lilo & Stitch (2002) made its appearance on the Mouse’s new streaming service Disney+ in 2020 fans immediately noticed something amiss around the 20-minute mark. The scene with Lilo hiding from her older sister in a commode with a curiously placed pizza box for cover seemed distinctly off, so what was going on here?
This wasn’t the first time Disney+ viewers had noticed strange changes to their favourite films, unconvincing CGI hair extensions covering Darry Hannah’s highly offensive butt crack in Splash (1984) and Greedo’s pronouncement of the apparent epithet “maclunkey” courtesy of eternal tinkerer George Lucas in Star Wars (1977) are obvious examples, but this change seemed somehow different. 

The most obvious explanation is to attribute the large number of fans remembering this scene differently to how it apparently actually played out to interference from alternate realities à la the Mandela effect. As with any good explanation the contradictory claims from fans this side of the Pond, who failed to notice any change, are clearly just further evidence in support of the hypothesis. 

The curious combination of a young girl and a pizza box, however, pointed to something far more nefarious at work, at least for those conspiracy theorists ever keen to connect the dots. So, the apparent edit quickly went viral with hashtags #pizzagate and #savethechildren linking it to the core tenet of QAnon that there is a global cabal torturing and sexually abusing children in Satanic rituals. 

The fairly easy to uncover truth is, however, that the edit had originally been made way back upon the film’s UK release to appease British censors afraid that the scene could encourage dangerous copycat behaviour of hiding in dryers by young viewers. The BBFC examiner who requested that change now being revealed as none-other-than this week’s SITP Online guest Jim Cliff. 

Chris Gyford, Cambridge Skeptics

SEE ALSO
 
Banning virginity testing won't stop the violation of women’s rights, but protecting human rights will make such tests obsolete, writes Galina Limorenko for The Skeptic.
While most nutritional supplements are probably not worth your time and money, not everything on the vitamin shelf should be dismissed, writes Pixie Turner for The Skeptic.
If the public are to make well-informed political decisions, there needs to be a policy of zero tolerance for deception, writes Brian Eggo for The Skeptic.
CATCH UP
 
Join SITP Online guest Deborah Hyde to discover what a creature from East European folklore was doing in rural Cumberland in the latter half of the nineteenth century. This event, which was streamed live on 18th March, is now available for catch up on the SitP Online YouTube channel.
In case you missed it, and we've seen the viewing figures so we know you did, you can now catch up with the pilot for Cambridge Skeptics Live on our YouTube channel.
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We are a coalition of UK-based Skeptics groups. Formed as the COVID-19 pandemic brought our country to a standstill, we are working to deliver high-quality online events focusing on Science, reason, and critical thinking. Every Thursday at 7 pm BST, you will find us presenting live-streamed talks, all for free – you don’t even need to create an account. Simply open up twitch.tv/sitp. Take a look at our events, past and future, we’re sure you’ll see a lot of content you will find interesting.
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