Wednesday, January 27, 2010

The child is father to the man

Not much to disagree with in Aaro's assessment of the Edlington case (score a prediction point, btw), but I note with interest the coda ...

The second point is about our insouciance. The violence in Edlington that day has been described as “unimaginable”. But it has been imagined, over and over again, by the makers of horror films and violent television.

Imagined by them, sold by them, seen by millions, including children, and therefore reimagined over and over again. Such evidence as exists shows that “vulnerable” people may very occasionally take these as prompts to act out fantasies. Is it beyond our wit to reduce the amount of this stuff in offline circulation, and to express a little more intolerance towards it, rather than the giggly indulgence we currently allow? It turns out not to be quite such a private vice after all.


Echoes, oddly of Sam Aaronovitch's campaign against American horror comics.

46 Comments:

Blogger FlyingRodent said...

For some reason, I can recall Aaro making a point about the unintended consequences of liberalism back in about 2002/03 when he was at the Guardian - how you can't even do an innocent image search on the internet without a lot of pornographic filth* appearing on your screen, and shouldn't this give us something to think about? IIRC, it was posed in the let us challenge our smug, Islington presumptions and received wisdom manner we all know and love, even those like me who live about four hundred miles away from Islington.

Obviously, I'm not Googling "Aronovitch + Pornography" at work - or ever, for that matter - but it didn't seem to occur to him that internet porno might owe more to market forces than public permissiveness. After all, I've never heard of any porn stars offering public-spirited bouts of free sex for the homeless. I've always assumed their primary motivations were financial.

*This isn't the phrase he used, but there might be nerdy kids reading or something.

1/27/2010 10:49:00 AM  
Anonymous Phil said...

Given the chronology, ITYM "the man is father to the child".

1/27/2010 10:56:00 AM  
Anonymous organic cheeseboard said...

The violence in Edlington that day has been described as “unimaginable”. But it has been imagined, over and over again, by the makers of horror films and violent television.

This just isn't true. I can't think of a single film where children force other children to perform sexual acts on each other. Definitely not on TV! The Bulger attack, too, iirc included acts that had no basis in film or TV.

Such evidence as exists shows that “vulnerable” people may very occasionally take these as prompts to act out fantasies.

I'm with aaro up to here - disturbed people do react in very strong and often horrific ways to violent and sadistic works of art or entertainment and this is often ignored in simplistic 'they have no influence' versions of events such as that peddled by Mark Kermode.

But...

Is it beyond our wit to reduce the amount of this stuff in offline circulation

What good would that do if it's all available online? Won't people who want to watch this stuff just download it? and where's the boundary anyway? I can download the latest 'Saw' film onto my PS3 or PC more or less instantly. but anyway...

and to express a little more intolerance towards it

afaict the films being blamed for this are the Saw films (critically derided from day one) and the Chucky films (plus ca change, and hardly tolerated by people who enjoy good cinema). How much more intolerance does Aaro want? demonstrations calling for them to be banned? or just a few more blustering columns like this?

rather than the giggly indulgence we currently allow?

Is this Aaro's JC 'we', or something else? Does Aaro giggle while indulging the films himself? What does this even mean?

It turns out not to be quite such a private vice after all.

sledgehammers and nuts springs to mind. But this does all fit into the general Decent discomfort at the online world and what it might mean for art and, indeed, pornography.

1/27/2010 11:29:00 AM  
Anonymous skidmarx said...

DA made an appearance on Newsnight last night, debating the Iraq inquiry with Philippe Sands. His first foray was to say that if Saddam had had nuclear weapons and there had been no civilain deaths in the invasion there would be no argument about the legality of the war, which seems doubtful in a couple of ways, but mostly seems to show that with false premisses one can prove any conclusion.
He then said that the interpretation of international law is endlesssly "flexible"(I can't quite remember the qualifying phrase), that as Philippe Sands had said that the Kosovo intervention might be legal he couldn't possibly claim the Iraq War wasn't, and that there is no court to judge these matters. When Sands pointed out that 50 or so countries, including Azerbaijan have legislation allowing arrest for such offences, and that Pinochet was arrested extra-territorially, his response was "But Pinochet was arrested here, not in Azerbaijan".

1/27/2010 12:06:00 PM  
Anonymous bubby said...

Agreed. Aaro was absolutely abymsyal on Newsnight last night. His arguments were pitiful. He genuinely appears to believe that if you have enough bluster people won't notice that you are talking complete bollocks. He really was taken to the cleaners by Sands.

1/27/2010 12:19:00 PM  
Blogger Andrew Bartlett said...

So sickening fiction has sickening real world effects?

How much worse must be the effects of sickening adumbrating?

1/27/2010 12:33:00 PM  
Blogger FlyingRodent said...

Just watched that interview - a triumph, if hooting and snorting in derision is your thing.

Dave's given his impression of Sands' arguments before, mind...

And yet I have some problems with other aspects of (Sands') approach. One is that, at important moments in his arguments about the law, I find that I have ceased to care as much as he wants me to about whether this or that action is, strictly speaking, legal. Instead, I find myself more concerned about whether the action is right.

http://bit.ly/9fHkiQ

...Which is fair enough, if that's his opinion. It makes Aaro a rather odd choice to discuss the legality of the Iraq invasion, though.

1/27/2010 12:43:00 PM  
Anonymous organic cheeseboard said...

At least Nick Cohen can't complain that nobody has directly asked Sands his position on legality in an interview any more - one of nick's mates has now done it, with 'spectacular' results. except Nick probably will still moan.

And do Decents seriously think that Iraq in 2002 = Kosovo in 1998?

1/27/2010 01:42:00 PM  
Anonymous Louis M said...

Sands made a bad choice of countries where Blair could be arrested by picking Azerbaijan, a country were Blair has just recently been on a vist by presidentual invitaion.

1/27/2010 02:08:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

disturbed people do react in very strong and often horrific ways to violent and sadistic works of art or entertainment

Maybe, but the cries of moral outrage remain rather selective: the case of the individual murdered by a man obsessed with the movie version of Queen of the Damned (which isn't even a good vampire) didn't produce anywhere near the level of tutting that surrounded, say, Reservoir Dogs (no related deaths to speak of).

DA ought to know that holding bits of popular culture you don't like as 'responsible' is a lazy populist trick that always bites the writer on the bum in the end (especially if the owner of the paper you write for is producing it: '24', 'torture', 'Bush administration', anyone?).

[redpesto]

1/27/2010 02:31:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

'vampire film' - gah

1/27/2010 02:32:00 PM  
Blogger Chardonnay Chap said...

disturbed people do react in very strong and often horrific ways to violent and sadistic works of art or entertainment

@Redpesto: 'The Catcher in the Rye' which contains no violence that I can recall, and whose narrator day dreams about protecting children (by catching them if they stray near a cliff, IIRC) seems to have inspired the murder of John Lennon and a few others. (Trust Wikipedia to come up with the goods!)

To put it another (ie lolcat) way, disturbed person is disturbed.

It wasn't hard to guess what DA would write about. I think I owe Alex a pint for his pointing out that I was miles out by assuming that Aaro would be liberal and rational. I really thought he would stick it to the Tories, because they're being ridiculous about this.

I'm not a horror film fan myself, but that's partly because I've seen so few of them. Mary Whitehouse thought 'Dr Who' should be banned as horror. Doctor Who, which she upbraided for scenes of "strangulation - by hand, by claw, by obscene vegetable matter". "Tomb of the Cybermen" had pretty much the plot of 'Alien' (without the anti-capitalist bits; it was, after all, broadcast at tea-time), the main substantive difference being that you didn't know who would survive in 'Alien', but it was a good bet that Pat Troughton would get through, but I don't think it did me any harm at all. I've never tried to take over the world and turn everyone into robots. I'm not saying that I wouldn't if I had the chance, though.

1/27/2010 03:55:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

CC - okay, you got me. I think my point about the selective examples still stands though.

[redpesto]

1/27/2010 04:11:00 PM  
Anonymous Louis M said...

Being a massive horror film fan I can say that I have never been enclined to burn policeman in giant wick men, stake people who look like christopher Lee through the heart or make violent vampire love to well endowed German B movie actress's, but who's to say I would'nt given the change.

1/27/2010 04:32:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

CC - don't bother, mate. I tried to take over the world and turn everyone into robots in 1994 and it turned out to be a total waste of time with hardly anything to recommend it. It's a lot more difficult than it looks, trust me. Were I you I'd take it right off your "things to do if I get the chance" list.

A Friend

1/27/2010 04:34:00 PM  
Anonymous Louis M said...

'wicker men' and 'half a chance'

excuse the spelling, getting a bit excited.

1/27/2010 04:34:00 PM  
Anonymous Der Bruno Stroszek said...

It's worth pointing out here that there seems to have been a bit of a shift in the arguments against violent media over the last decade; I don't think Aaronovich, or anyone else currently making the same argument, would disagree with the idea that media violence only really corrupts one in a million people, but they would then say that's one too many, and there should be tighter censorship because of it.

This rhetorical strategy seems to have developed as a result of the previous pro-censorship argument being laughed out of court - people really did used to think someone could be a sweet little angel until they saw their first Tarantino film, at which point they would suddenly think "Cor, killing looks like great fun!", in a flick-of-a-switch change from sanity to lunacy that never, ever happens outside of superhero comics.

David Kerekes and David Slater's excellent, now sadly out-of-print book See No Evil: Banned Films and Video Controversy has some astounding newspaper clippings from the golden age of this argument, including a magnificently intemperate Mail report on the rapist Michael Fairley, "a quiet, non-smoking teetotaller with a wife and three children... turned into a monster by the most disgusting hardcore pornography imaginable".

1/27/2010 06:23:00 PM  
Anonymous Chris Baldwin said...

"Is it beyond our wit to reduce the amount of this stuff in offline circulation, and to express a little more intolerance towards it, rather than the giggly indulgence we currently allow?"

I damn well hope it's beyond our wit! Christ! Is David Aaronovitch turning into Mary Whitehouse now? What he is proposing must never, ever happen, or what is liberalism even for?

1/27/2010 08:37:00 PM  
Blogger Chardonnay Chap said...

Sorry, RedPesto, I was repling to your quotation (I still haven't actually read the article), not to you. I wasn't trying to gainsay you; I agree with what you said.

Chris Baldwin: too right!

1/27/2010 09:15:00 PM  
Blogger ejh said...

even those like me who live about four hundred miles away from Islington.

I think it's less a place than a state of mind, or even a nation, but one carried around in the heads of the people who live in it, much as was the case with the Navajo.

1/27/2010 10:02:00 PM  
Anonymous Alex said...

"I think I owe Alex a pint for his pointing out that I was miles out by assuming that Aaro would be liberal and rational."

Well he very nearly was until the very end.

All the best political columnists are built with fuzzy logic, fuzzy logic which is used right near the end of any article, where none but the elitist Ivory leaguers will read to.

I wonder what Aaro will make of Goldsmith's testimony. The guy said the case for legality and the case against were pretty equal, but he had to make a choice, and so he essentially tossed a coin in his head to determine what his advice should be. I always thought legal advice was supposed to be definite, and if it couldn't be, you should err on the side of caution. Apparently not.

1/27/2010 10:02:00 PM  
Anonymous organic cheeseboard said...

'disturbed person is disturbed' - this is of course true, and I was going to cite The Catcher in the Rye. My only point was that art does sometimes have a negative influence on people who are disturbed, and that's often missed in debates on the subject. I'm certainly not with Aaro on this.

Not least because his suggestion - banning - is even less workable than it was, say, 10 years ago. He only wants to ban offline circulation which makes the entire thing futile (once again, ageing Decent in 'not understanding the internet or popular culture' shocker); and he seems to want, more than anything else, to stop people treating horror films like Saw with 'giggly indulgence'. But what's the alternative? does he want all reviews to carry big caveats where people discuss how the film might affect mentally disturbed people?

And all this evidently doesn't apply to porn anyway. An Aaro column from just last year:

http://bit.ly/11k79F

i don't think we even need to take this article seriously. I mean, in the recent past he's been paid to review No Country for Old Men for newsnight review, which is pretty sickeningly violent in places (indeed that was enough to repel Nick 'Whitehouse' Cohen).

1/28/2010 08:54:00 AM  
Blogger Bruschettaboy said...

Looking through a few Google references to the CPGB/Sam Aaronovitch campaign against horror comics, I see that it was based on a species of Yank-bashing! SA was keen to defend hearty, vigorous native British culture against an ersatz, "commercialised" American modernism that had nothing to do with the "true" Americanism of Whitman, Emerson and so forth.

A quick glance at the Guardian letters page reveals that this way of thinking has proved to be of more lasting influence on the British liberal-left than nearly anything else in 50s Communism. I can't decide what I think about it myself, but the kind of intellectual puritanism and bluff hearty-English-common-sense tendency might be at the root of the Decent hatred of the postmodernisses.

1/28/2010 11:29:00 AM  
Blogger ejh said...

Also see

I recall reading a very good book on the comics scare but unfortunately I'd damned if I recall the title. I'll try and look it up tonight in my library-cum-Land That Time Forgot.

1/28/2010 11:58:00 AM  
Blogger ejh said...

Ah yes, I do remember, it's Martin Barker's A Haunt Of Fears.

Short bibliography

1/28/2010 12:22:00 PM  
Anonymous Phil said...

ejh - Martin Barker, Haunt of Fears?

The CPGB's line on popular culture did lead them to some odd places, and to some positions which it's quite hard not to call English-nationalist, reactionary or both.

But I don't think Decency is a good fit. Since I started singing folksongs I've come to feel genuinely ambivalent about some of the CP's campaigning for real culture - i.e. I genuinely don't think it was all bad. The key thing is the ratio of positive (promotion/celebration) to negative (denunciation); if there's enough positive to focus on you can pass over the negative. One thing Decency has never been good at is accentuating the positive, except in the form of "we celebrate X and Y, and denounce all those who fail to join us!".

1/28/2010 12:30:00 PM  
Blogger cian said...

Oddly Nick Cohen made what sounds like exactly the same arguments as DA on radio 4 last night (PM). Like literally the same bloody arguments. Is there a memo going round, or something? Think it was against Phillip Sands, though I had a toddler screaming at me, so I missed the intro. Nick Cohen was so obviously winging it in the manner of a man down the pub with strong opinions, but a weak grasp of the facts. So no change there.

1/28/2010 02:11:00 PM  
Blogger cian said...

On the effects of violent culture. Its not really as clear cut as people want it to be. What exposure to violence seems to do is shift people's norms of what is acceptable behaviour (which would fit generally with the literature, that most of us take our normative behaviour from everyday sensory inputs/experiences). There's been some very good research looking at this, with what looked like (to me) strong experimental controls, and its hard not to conclude that (for example) the kind of pornography popular in the US is not a great thing to have widely available. If you want to increase the number of people committing violent, or sexual (rape), offences - then increasing the number of violent/sexually (particularly violent sex) explicit movies is probably a good way to go about it. The effects are subtler than the Daily Mail would have us believe, but no less insidious for that.

What you do about it is another matter, but Mark Kermode's argument doesn't survive serious analysis.

1/28/2010 02:11:00 PM  
Anonymous organic cheeseboard said...

On Aaro and pop culture - iirc this this wasn't covered by the blog but still... 'I can no longer go along with the tyranny of water-cooler expectation' is his conclusion.

What strikes me as odd is that Aaro tries to present himself as outside popular culture, yet he's a regular guest reviewer on the most middlebrow of middlebrow TV shows, Newsnight Review, and he's trying to suggest banning works of art he doesn't like. How does all this fit together exactly?

1/28/2010 02:45:00 PM  
Anonymous dsquared said...

and its hard not to conclude that (for example) the kind of pornography popular in the US is not a great thing to have widely available

yes it always surprises me how many civil libertarians try to make the much-too-strong case for zero causal link at all. You only have to consider the policies of people who actually live with this at the sharp end - in prisons and sex offender facilities, they definitely don't allow the inmates unrestricted access to pornography

1/28/2010 03:33:00 PM  
Blogger Chardonnay Chap said...

in prisons and sex offender facilities, they definitely don't allow the inmates unrestricted access to pornography

I really don't follow your point here. The point of prison is to restrict freedom: it's not just taking people out of circulation; it's supposed to be punishment. They don't allow inmates access to cars, though if I were in prison, I'd really want to go for a nice long drive. So? Ditto meals cooked by Jamie Oliver, but no one claims there's a causal link between eating Michelin starred meals and rape... Prisoners aren't allowed access to things because that's what happens in prison; no other reason.

1/28/2010 04:07:00 PM  
Anonymous Martin Wisse said...

From the way this discussion is going there might be a little Sam Aaronovitch in all of us, considering the last few comments.

Both sexual and violence porn are more widely available then ever, yet violence has gone down steadily the more available it became.

The tabloids may be worrying about the link between rap music and knife crime, but as that nice comfy BBC 4 documentary series on childhood games showed, in the fifties somebody could jhave his throat slit open with a razor blade in the morning and have children playing in his chalk outline in the afternoon...

1/28/2010 06:36:00 PM  
Blogger Chardonnay Chap said...

Yes, Martin, I'm completely with you here. I'm not a Mark Kermode fan, but, well, he's more right than his opponents. OK, I'm not sure about the correlation = 0 thing, but I don't think there's any reliable evidence that there is a correlation in any sense. I've actually read some of the early (1960s) research papers on violence on television, and they were incredibly unconvincing.

To support Martin's point, I'll also observe that the Japanese consume a lot of violent literature/comics/films and yet Japan isn't a violent place. How much porn or films of any kind were available in the old Soviet states like Chechnya or the former Yugoslavia or Rwanda? Terrible places for violence, I hope you'll agree. I'm pretty repelled by the violent scenes in Tarantino that everyone knows - the ear in 'Reservoir Dogs' and Bruce Willis, Butch v Zed, the other guy, and the Gimp in 'Pulp Fiction', but those weren't graphic: you saw very little violence. 'Reservoir Dogs' actually reminds me of Jacobean tragedy (gratuitous violence, great dialogue, everybody dies) especially Women Beware Women. I could really bang on all night about violence in Shakespeare. What's actually the point of Cornwall's gouging of Gloucester's eyes in King Lear? It's pretty much torture for its own sake, and this is taught in schools (at taxpayers' expense!), broadcast by the BBC (ditto), shown at the National Theatre (ditto again). Hamlet, MacBeth, Romeo and Juliet; they're not disquisitions on moral philosophy interrupted by sword fights.

I've seen two versions of 'Oedipus Rex': both partly courtesy of HM Revenue. Ted Hughes at the Edinburgh Fringe, and Igor Stravinsky at the ENO. I could live without either Hughes or Stravinsky, as it happens, but there's some pretty awful self-mutilation (and parricide) for you.

I knew a man once did a girl in./Any man might do a girl in/Any man has to, needs to, wants to/Once in a lifetime, do a girl in.

Ban this filth now. The same writer, in what he titled a 'sermon' and which seemed to aimed at teenagers ('The young are red and pustular') if not children also wrote, "And at the mensual turn of time/Produced enervate Origen." Origen [was rumoured to have] castrated himself. (Don't try this at home. Not that I imagine you want to.) There's a really nasty image, and some pervert (who was once allowed to teach kids!) thinks it was a high point of civilisation.

Me? I still like Dr Who. And this:

My dad eventually walked in with a goofy grin on his face, and started a long spiel. "That is about the best movie I have ever seen. I mean, just great. Josh, you are going to absolutely love it. Wall-to-wall action, doesn't let up, I mean, really, probably the best movie I've ever seen. It'll be your favorite too, I guarantee it!" So, I asked, will you take me? "Oh, absolutely not. Too much cussing."

1/28/2010 07:11:00 PM  
Blogger cian said...

1) I don't know of anyone who has argued that there is a simple, monocausal, relationship between violence and access to violent films. So that's a straw man.

OK, I'm not sure about the correlation = 0 thing, but I don't think there's any reliable evidence that there is a correlation in any sense.

There is good, reliable, experimental psychology data that demonstrates that continued exposure to violent films has an effect on the individual's propensity to violence (attitudes to, how they respond to it, tolerance of and how likely they are to commit it). Similar stuff on porn. Its fairly recent and ongoing research (last 15 years) and I'd say its of high quality. I don't know of any evidence for books one way, or the other.

Experimental data is normally seen as the gold standard for this kind of thing, as it allows you to control the kinds of variables (which for violence is a huge set) that make finding correlations in social stats difficult (or in this case impossible. You have one data set that's almost impossible to quantify, another which is unreliable and inconsistent across time and cultures). Its hard enough proving anything about gun ownership and violence, and that's a much stronger affect, with better data sets.

Neither I, nor (I think) DSquared, was arguing for censorship. So fuck you very much for implying otherwise. Its a problem, media violence (much like alcohol and drugs) has a corrosive effect on society. There seems to be good evidence for this. Arguing that it is completely and utterly safe, is much like arguing that drugs are completely safe, or harmless. Or cars are completely safe and harmless. They aren't. Deal with it. Maybe the positives outweigh the negatives, maybe they don't. Maybe, like so many of these kinds of phenomenon, it depends upon who you are and the place you occupy in society.

1/28/2010 07:55:00 PM  
OpenID splinteredsunrise said...

Hardcore porn was actually readily available in Yugoslavia, though most of the Soviet bloc countries cracked down very hard on it. Some people have tried to suggest that watching buxom turbofolk singers on TV predisposed you to become a nationalist paramilitary, though I've never found that theory very convincing.

It's like the Columbine thing. I don't believe teenagers are going to turn into mass murderers because they watch Heathers. But I can well see that a psychotic teenager who fantasises about killing his classmates might become obsessed with Heathers, copy Christian Slater's style or even take encouragement from it and kill someone - the important thing, though, is that you'd be talking about someone who's psychotic in the first place.

So I don't think Kermode is entirely right, but he's more right than the other side of the argument.

1/28/2010 09:31:00 PM  
Blogger Chardonnay Chap said...

So fuck you very much for implying otherwise. Its a problem, media violence (much like alcohol and drugs) has a corrosive effect on society.

First, I like D2; I just happen to think that his argument on this point was, to put it politely, unclear. It did look to me as if he was arguing for censorship. His argument, to me, just begged to be rephrased as "You only have to consider the policies of people who actually live with this at the sharp end"... some offenders get flogged so badly they need months to recover, others have hands amputated; really nasty offenders have their heads chopped off... centuries of tradition have taught us this is the only way... This is glib argument from authority. It neither works as logic nor in practice. Thank you for at least not attempting to provide arguments to the contrary.

Thank you also for your arguments contrary to mine. Violence in Japan? Er, no. Porn causing violence in recent history? Er, no. It has a "corrosive effect on society"? What is this society of which you speak? If I think of the countries with extreme liberal laws (the Netherlands, Scandinavia; in this respect, Japan), I think of good, free, rich, successful societies. "Corrosive effect" implies society was better in the past. When? When wife-beating was acceptable? When racism was normal? (See "Till Death Do Us Part, etc.) Was life better in the 60s? I really don't think so. You sound like Melanie Phillips. "Fuck you very much"? I thank you for your good wishes. Have a nice guilty wank in the dark.

1/28/2010 09:40:00 PM  
Anonymous Alex said...

cian, you start out with:

"Its not really as clear cut as people want it to be."

Then suddenly, you change your mind:

"What exposure to violence seems to do is shift people's norms of what is acceptable behaviour"

"its hard not to conclude that (for example) the kind of pornography popular in the US is not a great thing to have widely available."

"If you want to increase the number of people committing violent, or sexual (rape), offences - then increasing the number of violent/sexually (particularly violent sex) explicit movies is probably a good way to go about it."

"The effects are subtler than the Daily Mail would have us believe, but no less insidious for that."

"Mark Kermode's argument doesn't survive serious analysis."

"There is good, reliable, experimental psychology data that demonstrates that continued exposure to violent films has an effect on the individual's propensity to violence"

"Similar stuff on porn."

"its of high quality."

"Its a problem, media violence (much like alcohol and drugs) has a corrosive effect on society."

"There seems to be good evidence for this."

"Deal with it."

I see a lot of assertions, and no evidence for any of them. Truly, the term "argument by assertion" was invented for you. When someone (CC) disagreed with you, I thought you would've taken the chance to back your claims up with data. How wrong I was.

And as far as I can tell, the evidence is not so clear cut. A starting point perhaps:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Violence_and_the_media

But I'll say this: the fact that across the developed world, crime rates have been falling, and yet all the while access to violent media has skyrocketed, means that I'm leaning towards "little to no effect" for now.

1/28/2010 10:12:00 PM  
Anonymous Alex said...

"Violence in Japan? Er, no."

Call this the "Kamikaze-Lolicon theory" of psycho-sociology.

1/28/2010 10:26:00 PM  
OpenID splinteredsunrise said...

Or again, the traditional folk theatre in Bali includes extraordinarily violent dramas. Is Bali known for being an especially violent society? I think not, Suharto notwithstanding.

1/28/2010 10:29:00 PM  
Blogger Bruschettaboy said...

I was actually trying to talk about the small number of genuinely pathological cases - I don't think it's possible to do the big-population analysis. But if you talk to a clinical psychologist specialising in sex offenders, and suggest to him that you're going to make a present of a bunch of violent pornography to some of his cases, you're going to get an earful. It's commonly observed that violent pornography plays a big part in the development of diagnosed and captured sexual psychopaths, so it presumably also does in those who remain at large.

Of course, maniacs are only a very small part of the population of rapists, so this can't be generalised to any large-scale generalisations. But I don't think the strong no-harm-at-all position is tenable.

1/28/2010 11:45:00 PM  
Anonymous Alex said...

Couldn't it just be the case that violent rapists happen to like porn as well as raping?

"But if you talk to a clinical psychologist specialising in sex offenders"

This seems to both be anecdotal, and an argument from authority.

Also, your point doesn't make sense. Surely what we're talking about is people accessing violent stuff before they do the violent thing. You're talking about giving sex offenders (people who've already committed crimes) violent pornography. That doesn't seem relevant.

(Btw, psychopathy is something that people have from birth. I know you were using it in the colloquial sense, but it's one of my pet peeves.)

1/29/2010 01:39:00 AM  
Anonymous darkhorse steak tartare said...

Who says there isn't porn in prison? I distinctly remember that one corner of Fletch and Godber's cell was adorned with cut-out pin-ups of buxom beauties.

Slightly apt verification - momarse.

1/29/2010 12:10:00 PM  
Anonymous dd said...

yes, there isn't a blanket ban on pornography in prison, but judgements are made based on the type of pornography and the type of prisoner, depending on their assessment of whether it is harmful for that sort of person to have that sort of pornography - the legal basis for them being allowed to make these sorts of judgments was a lawsuit involving Dennis Nilsen.

1/29/2010 12:30:00 PM  
Anonymous magistra said...

The different results of widespread pornography availability in Holland/Scandinavia as compared to the UK suggest that the problem isn't simply porn, but it's porn in a particular cultural context. In particular, more liberal cultures tend to have far better sex education for children (and far better treatment of children generally - Holland has been shown in studies to be the best place to be a child). In contrast, in the UK you can have situations where the knowledge boys have of sex is largely from porn, and sometimes pretty nasty porn. (I can't find the article at the moment, but girls pressured into having 'facials' by their boyfriends, because they think this is normal behaviour). If you're not been taught from an early age that sexual behaviour should include respect for others, then widespread availability of porn does become a major problem.

Given that the internet means it's practically impossible to restrict teenagers' access to porn, we ought as a society to be thinking hard about how to tackle this aspect from the other end and make boys (and girls) see the difference between harmful and enjoyable behaviour. But we won't, because the mere suggestion of sex education in schools has too many people hyperventilating that you're going to be corrupting the innocence of five year olds.

1/30/2010 08:12:00 AM  
Blogger Andrew Bartlett said...

The problem with the "good, reliable, experimental psychology data that demonstrates that continued exposure to violent films has an effect on the individual's propensity to violence" is that whatever effects viewing violent (or pornographic) films in a controlled environment has, this is absurdly abstracted from the way they are viewed in society. As magistra writes "the problem isn't simply porn [or violent films], but it's porn in a particular cultural context. In particular, more liberal cultures tend to have far better sex education [and all the rest] for children". Not only does this work on some kind of interactional level - porn/violent films viewed within a mass of other social factors, of which the existence/access to/style of porn/violent films is a part of, perhaps even an epiphenomena of - the 'disrespect' in US pornography that magistra mentions is a part of the general cultural trends of (Anglo-)US culture - there appears from sport, to politics, to TV, to be an obsessions with coldly humiliating people, with 'owning' other people, with the virtue of selfishness. But it is also that the viewers of the porn/violent films are constituted by these societies before they even come to the porn/violent films - certainly before they come to them in an experimental setting. It reminds me of the old joke about studies of the psychology of economic - 'of course they find that people are selfish bastards, their experimental cohort was a bunch of American economics undrgraduates!'.

1/30/2010 10:45:00 AM  
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2/01/2010 07:27:00 AM  

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