Friday, 3 October 2008

A case to watch

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.


Blue Eyes said...

Fascinating! What harm does writing such bizarre stuff actually do though? As long as it doesn't fall into the minds of vulnerable readers such as kids? Surely any reader has the choice of whether to re-enact any of that stuff or not - just like any other porn or violence?

Yokel said...

I share your concern about the abuse/overuse of the freedom that is provided by the Wild West nature of the internet as we have known it so far.

But I fear thin ends of very fat wedges! It seems that the Government's attempts to toughen up the Suicide Act will inevitably mean further censorship than we already have, and then user generated content generally is due for the microscope.

The infrastructure for censorship of the UK's internet use is already in place. All it needs is for the Internet Watch Foundation to "spontaneously decide" that other material must be added to their list of banned sites, and the system is up and running by administrative diktat. After all, it has already expanded into the racial hatred field from its original kiddie porn brief. Soviet style, just like a lot else in this country today.

I have no problem with restricting the material that does cause serious harm or praises seriously aberrant behaviour (gangsta rap should go the journey too, in my opinion). BUT once our political class get a taste for banning, they will not know how to stop, for it will feed their addiction to yet more levers of power to control.

Whatever happened to individual self control, encouraged by responsible parenting, to help prepare people for a nasty old world out there? And then coping with it?

Newmania said...

I am also concerned about the acceptance of pornography but to me this is pretty harmless given that it is clearly fantasy.


Anonymous said...

While I'm in general agreement with this piece, I'd love to know the titles of games which allow you to rape.

See, I'm a 15-year video game addict. I've completed 26 Xbox/PS3 games in the past 12 months alone. But I have never ever seen a game that features rape, much less allows the player to do it.

Generally speaking, video games tend to be very cheerful in their depiction of murdering men. They are extremely skittish about letting you hurt women. Just do a straw pole and find out how many games have you killing terrorists, gangsters, cops, prisoners or whatever. They are almost always male.


Newmania said...

They are extremely skittish about letting you hurt women.

Thats a new take on equal opportunities good old Nick.

Raedwald said...

Nick -

I was thinking about GTA, which I've never played. Clearly my memory of the rape thing was playing up - an online statement says:

"In the games, players can solicit "services" from prostitutes by driving their cars slowly near them. No sexual acts are in clear visible view, but during the "transaction," the player regains health and loses money. Though the player cannot actively rape prostitutes in the game, a possible rape is alluded to once during the storyline of Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas. The prostitutes, like every other character, are also subject to homicide at the hands of the protagonist."

Ah, so that's OK then.

Raedwald said...

Yokel -

Coming from a generation when the possession of a copy of 'Oz' at school would merit suspension whilst 'Mayfair' was the sign of a healthy lad, I'd never advocate blanket censorship - other people claiming to know what's good for you is anathema. And subject to change; I suspect any school's attitude to those two publications is now completely reversed.

The fact that stuff is repugnant to me is a personal opinion. I'd hope that people agreed with me, but wouldn't force them to.

Newmania said...

Yes tricky at the boundaries though is it not . I do not think myself the avaiablity of suich material is the problem so much as the market for it and the appalling asttitude to women it all implies .
I have speculated as to why this might be before .

PS Just picked up your comment on Hayek , thanks

Anonymous said...

I'm in no hurry for gaming to embrace rape. I am in a hurry for non-gamers to get straight on what ideology modern gaming is pushing. It's approximately this:
- Killing men is always and everywhere great, so long as they are nazis, terrorists, or generally have a foreign accent
- US/UK is always the right side of the global war
- Men should wear crazy body armour but no helmets
- Birds should never ever have armour around the stomach or thighs
- Inventive ways of killing men are particularly humorous

I'll readily accept that gaming is promoting some very weird attitudes, of which a bit of the old ultra violence is rather disturbing. But get this. It's MEN who they want you to kill. The sexism is very pro woman. I'd much rather be a sex object than the tapestry for a joyful torture.


Yokel said...

Raedwald - I think we are adopting similar positions, but just looking in different directions about what may/will be the outcome.

I don't like a lot of what I see around me. Much of it is wrong, very morally wrong. But I also see the State deciding that it is best placed to do what individual conscience should have been educated to do. Embedding censorship at the heart of UK governance is one way to help the Police State into existence right here.

Unless we, the British, have a dramatic change of heart at the next two elections (EU & UK) we are going to find out how well Stalinism fits the UK. By the time we decide we don't like it, it will be too late.