Thursday, August 31, 2006

Banning violent pornography - should it be done?

A difficult issue to address. The understandable campaign by Liz Longhurst, following the death of her daughter, to make the possession of violent porn a crime appears to have been successful according to this piece from the BBC.

The questions which arise from this issue seem to me to be twofold. Firstly from a liberal perspective should we be banning people from viewing this sort of material in the first place and secondly will this ban stop the sort of terrible events which happened to Liz Longhursts daughter from happening to someone else?

On the first score my instinct is always against the banning of anything. Yes if we know that something will definitely have an adverse affect on others then it should be made illegal. Murder or violent assaults on others clearly fall into this category. However, watching violent pornography does not fall into this category. If this was made consensually then who has been harmed? It may not be everybody's cup of tea but if all involved are acting with consent then to my mind there is no issue. It may be good populist politics to ban this sort of thing but it does not make much sense and it does not make good reading to see Liberal Democrat MP's rushing out to support and the ban as Sandra Gidley did here. To quote her "You cannot look at this sort of material and not be affected" Hmmm. Well I assume that a fair number of people do look at this stuff or it would not be there. So I also assume that she believes that these people are likely to rush out and commit violent murders? To think I campaigned to get her elected in the first place.

This brings me on to the second point and perhaps the more fundamental one. Will this law prevent violent murders such as that perpetuated upon Liz Longhursts daughter? I don't believe so and I cannot put it better than by quoting the piece that Gavin wrote on The Whiskey Priest. He wrote "Ban violent pornography and deaths won't suddenly stop, they might change in character, the people perpetrating them might use different methods, but they won't stop because it's not the pornography that is making them do it - it's something else. It's something that isn't present in the other people that watch violent pornography and don't go and murder people - and we should find out what that is and tackle it." Absolutely - lets find out what the key to this is and try to tackle rather then implementing knee jerk laws. That would be a far better way of reducing violent murders in the future. Otherwise we might as well start down a long road of banning things because they might cause someone to commit murder. Alcohol anyone?


Nicola said...

Thank you for a well balanced piece of writting on this thorny issue. It is good to see and hear considered thoughts that are not fired by the very emotive issues that seem to cloud this dicussion in other places.

budgiebird said...

If the case for banning possession is so strong, why not push for it to made European law? After all, if it gets passed, that is where the appeals against the early convictions will end up anyway.

The answer to that, of course, is that the case is NOT strong enough.

Anonymous said...

Actually, the government does admit in its consultation paper that it did at first seek to internationalise the issue, seeking to achieve a multilateral ban with other western countries. They were unanimously turned down. Hence now this unilateral dash for censorial glory.
What is remarkable is that the unanimous rejection by all other western countries they contacted didn't make the Home Office think, that theirs might be a bad idea.
Given that minister Vernon Coaker has since agreed that the definitions published so far are not likely to be used as a basis for what to ban, the country is still left in the dark as to what material is to be deemed 'extreme'.
This is 'extremely' worrying. If the govrenment itself doesn't know what it seeks to ban, we are heading blindly into the legal unknown, toward legislation which even professors of law have objected to in written responses to the consultation.

Anonymous said...

What is even worse about this proposed law is not simply that it can show no evidence of harm, but that the law itself will definately cause harm.

A sex -offence trial and all that it includes is a horrendous ordeal.

Typically an accused parent would be required to live away from their children until the trial is over (upto two years), once charged the local newspapers wil get their details and run the inevitably lurid stories, it is routine that the accused will lose their job, thugs may well attack the family home and harrass the family of the accused, who may have to move far enough away that they are not recognised.

Marriages break up, families are traumatised and some find the ordeal so bad that they commit suicide, all this before the trial even begins.

How can any Liberal seriously support this?