Sunday, 24 October 2010
The Chatterley trial raises the question of whether censorship is ever justified. It is interesting that although Lady Chatterley's Lover was banned in Britain between 1928 when it was written and 1960, it was obtainable abroad during those years by anyone with the means. So, the conclusion would be it was less a fear of the corruption of morals than the fear of the implications of an elicit liaison between the classes that kept it on the censored list. Britain in these years was seeing the slow but steady dismantling of its class structure. Change always brings fear; the social unrest that manifested during the 20s and 30s might have been inflamed by such a book. The working class might get ideas above their station. I've no doubt the Establishment were running scared of revolution.
Were they right? Can the morals of the characters in a novel be a risk to society?
Interestingly it tends to be sexually salacious material that is targeted rather than violence. I've read many books whose characters carry out the most loathsome acts and hold the most loathsome opinions. American Psycho, springs to mind. The inner thoughts of a psychopath who tortures and kills for entertainment is about as loathsome as it's possible to get. If we're concerned about morality shouldn't books like that be banned? But they aren't and no one suggests they should be.
So why is sexually explicit material more damaging to us than violence? That's not a rhetorical question, I'd really like to know.