The Judge RANTS!
You Can't Buy. Better?
I've always tried to hold the view that anyone is entitled
to hold any opinion whatsoever on whatever subject, and
be able to express that opinion peacefully, be it in words,
music or images. It doesn't matter whether I agree with the views
expressed or not; even at its most venal, it's nothing other than
enlightened self-interest. After all, if I tried to stop someone else
expressing their views, they would feel justified in trying to do the
same back to me, and I'm not bloody well having that.
Similarly with things like banning books, plays, movies, songs,
whathaveyou. What is out there must remain out there. Yes, even
Kampf. I've read it. Quite, quite barking for the most part. But
I credit most of my fellow humans with the intelligence and good sense
to see that for themselves. The only people who could possibly be taken
in by it are those already highly susceptible to its twisted reasoning.
The other problem with censorship, as I see it, is twofold:
- Who do you get to do it?
- How do you get them to stop?
1. has usually been dealt with in the UK by handing it over to
various groups of that section of our class-bound society known
generically as The Great And The Good. This almost invariably comprises
people who went to the same schools, the same universities, and into
the same sorts of career. That this system has worked just about
tolerably well is down to nothing more than a degree of
conscientiousness on their part, rather than anything codified in
statute or guideline. This means that when they do get it hideously
wrong, there's little you can do except write to the papers or to your
MP. This sometimes works, but it's a pretty hit-and-miss way of doing
In less happy lands, however, 1. is usually seen as the duty (or
pleasure) of the State, and is carried out entirely in line with the
political exigencies of the day. In such countries, protesting doesn't
do much good, unless you have a taste for martyrdom (which would be
pointless anyway, because your plight would not be known by the public
for precisely the same reason).
2. follows on from 1., in that wedges can have very thin ends
indeed, and you have no idea how thick they can get. It can be all very
well if a body (or group of bodies) is set up to make sure that, say,
hard-core pornography does not become available to minors. It becomes a
problem if that same organisation then indulges in what, in the modern
trend for discordant language, is called 'function creep', and decides
that fully-grown adults shouldn't have access to it either.
This is perhaps an extreme example, but the tendency of groups charged
with controlling what we may see, read or hear to quietly expand their
remit is an observable fact, and the manner of their doing so may be so
subtle, so gradual, that by the time they've done it, it is a fait
accompli and cannot be stopped, let alone be reversed.
What is more dangerous still is when these bodies come under the
effective domination of people with ideological axes to grind, be they
political or (in this supposedly post-ideological age) religious. Worse
even than that is when such people band together outside of
that formal structure and campaign (often with a sound volume way out
of proportion to their membership or public support) to censor whatever
it is that they are offended by. The sheer fanaticism of such people is
difficult to counter effectively except by naked ridicule, and that's
not always possible if the corporatised media live in fear of reprisal
from these groups (there's a passage in Heinlein's Stranger In A
Strange Land which describes this process).
Which is why I find this
story particularly worrying.
I mean, I don't particularly want to buy the DVD anyway (leaving
aside the teensy-weensy technical difficulty of not even having a DVD
player), but I certainly wouldn't want to stop anyone else from doing
so. I certainly don't see why a tiny bunch of bigoted zealots should
stop them in any case.
It's bad enough having politicians censoring things without your grocer
trying it on as well, so the following has just gone from Mental Towers
"I note with concern a report in The Independent which
says that your company has withdrawn the above item from sale under
pressure from a small group of religious activists.
"I'd be grateful if you could confirm the following:
"a) that the DVD has been withdrawn from sale or display in your
"b) that this was as a result of complaints from the organisation
calling itself 'Christian Voice',
c) That only a handful of complaints was actually received.
"If any of the above are totally or substantially correct, please
could you explain why your decision to remove this particular item was
taken in the face of so few complaints, and those from such a tiny
group of people of known extreme views? Would you give in so quickly to
such a small group of activists for any other cause?
"Does your company intend to rescind this decision and return to
stocking this DVD, or does it intend to continue to accede to the
unreasonable demands of a tiny group which is seemingly dedicated to
preventing the vast majority of us from making a free choice?
"I think it only fair to state that if this decision is not
reversed, I will find it very difficult to continue shopping at
Sainsbury's, as I do not believe in supporting censorship of most
sorts, but especially this kind.
Thank you for your attention."
We should always bear in mind that from controlling what we are
allowed to read, hear or watch, it is only half a step further on to
controlling what we say. From there, it is only half a step further on
to controlling what we think...
...and the next step down that line leaves us standing at the gates
of the gulag and the gas chamber.
I'll let you know what, if anything, I get back from Sainsbury's.