Not Saussure

October 9, 2006

Violent Internet Porn (III) Hang ’em and flog ’em (provided they don’t enjoy it)

Filed under: Blogroll, civil liberties, UK — notsaussure @ 8:02 pm

welcome.jpgI’ve previously written here and there about the Home Office’s latest wheeze,

to make the possession of violent porn punishable by three years in jail.

(assuming they can find the room, of course). The BBC goes on to explain,

It is already a crime to make or publish such images but proposed legislation will outlaw possession of images such as “material featuring violence that is, or appears to be, life-threatening or is likely to result in serious and disabling injury”.

Home Office Minister Vernon Coaker MP said: “Such material has no place in our society but the advent of the internet has meant that this material is more easily available and means existing controls are being by-passed – we must move to tackle this.”

As I’ve argued, this seems a wholly unnecessary and objectionable piece of legislation. In general, I take the view that people should be allowed to do what they want to unless there’s a good reason to stop them. Then, by all means, use the full weight of a well-defined law to stop whatever it is, but no such reason and no such law seem to present themselves here. Pornography involving children is rightly banned because it making it almost inevitably involves a serious sexual assault on a child, and that’s something we clearly want to discourage. And, while I accept that it’s doubtless possible to manipulate images in order produce such pornography without actually committing a criminal act (or what would be one if it took place here), the evidential difficulties that excluding photoshopped jobs would cause are such that it’s reasonable to ban the lot.

No such arguments apply here. Violent images on screen are tributes the film-maker’s illusionary powers, as we all well know. Nor, at least prima facie, does the argument that this sort of of material encourage violent sexual assaults stack up.

On the contrary, as Mr Coaker says, ‘the advent of the internet has meant that this material is more easily available and means existing controls are being by-passed’. Well, where’s the sudden increase in the sort of crimes that we’d expect to see as a result of wider access to what Mr Coaker’s colleague Martin Salter MP calls ‘sickening internet images, which can so easily send vulnerable people over the edge’?

If the available evidence proves anything, surely it proves that people can find themselves with ready access to images of all manner of strange sexual practices without being impelled to rush out and try them out on unwilling victims; that is, that people are a lot more mature and sensible than politicians like to give them credit for.

There’s an organisation Backlash been formed to fight against these proposals, with which the government is apparently determined to press on as soon as it can find the time. It’s got an excellent website, including a QC’s opinion (by Rabinder Singh QC, from Mrs Recorder Booth QC’s Matrix Chambers, no less) on the ECHR implications of the legislation. It’s unnecessary, ill-thought-out and potentially criminalises vast numbers of people, ranging from folks into consensual BDSM to Goths to folks who like trash 1970s horror movies. More on this in a later post.

They encourage you to write to your MP, and have some unusually good specimen letters on which to base your own efforts.

They have a wiki going and also have a blog at blogging for backlash — which has declared today, October 9th, ‘blogging for backlash day’ (at horribly short notice; if this seems rather rushed it’s because I only found about it at 17:30!). This has a collection of very interesting-looking links, including, I’m pleased to see, The Devil’s Kitchen in top form.


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