You may be forgiven for imagining that the internet has made censorship impossible; the ability of the State to determine what is suitable for people to see, watch, hear or read has become infinitely harder now that there are no hard borders to the global electronic interconnect. Customs officers breaking open timber cases to find Swedish pornographic magazines, or the Lord Chamberlain banning a stage play that implied the involvement of the British government in the death of General Sikorski, or the dangers of a QC's wife or servants reading of the libidinous activities of a gardener, seem distant history.
Sex and violence, separately or together, seem to have a visceral attraction. The most revolting and realistic computer games that encourage players to run riot in an orgy of rape, slaughter and criminal carnage are amongst the best sellers and are found in high street shops; the most explicit pornography imaginable can be scanned by schoolchildren from their bedroom computers. Perversions so utterly repugnant that few would have been aware of them a decade or so ago now seem commonplace because of the web.
And then of course there is the blurring of the roles of producer and consumer. This blog is an example of what is termed user created content, but current affairs commentary is at the bland end of what is being 'created'. Everyone with a cameraphone is now a porn producer; onanism was once a rather solitary activity, but now it seems to be something to be shared with any web user who may stumble across it. Fantasies of rape and sexual violence are acted out in words and images, real footage of real violence, of guns and muggings and beatings, are uploaded to Youtube by British teenagers, including mobile phone video footage of a gang beating a man to death (they were later convicted). It seems there are no limits any longer.
Voices that are raised in objection don't bother with any of this stuff. They reserve their condemnation for racism, homophobia, holocaust denial or climate change scepticism. You could forgive ordinary people from imagining that it's OK to publish a violent sexual fantasy about a girl group so long as it wasn't racially motivated, it was free of anti-semitism and the murderers recycled the victims' body parts through an anaerobic digester.
This case will be an interesting one to watch, and in particular the case for the defence. And citizens who imagined that nothing could deprave or corrupt them any more than they are already will now no doubt seek out the offending publication and share it with an audience vaster than the author could have imagined. Sigh.