Thursday, August 31, 2006

On the proposed ban on violent pornography

Jonathan Calder and The Whiskey Priest both highlight the government's proposed ban on violent pornography, which has been enthusiastically welcomed by the Liberal Democrat spokeswoman Sandra Gidley MP according to this BBC report.

Where to start? Given the horrible circumstances of her daughter's death it is quite understandable that Liz Longhurst would campaign for such a ban and that many politicians would want to support her. Even the most entrenched opponent of censorship must feel at least a twinge of sympathy and recognise that they would be batting on a sticky wicket in opposing this. For the Liberal Democrats to do so would risk making us appear simply cranky rather than principled defenders of free speech.

My problem is that when issues like this arise our party spokespersons act as uncritical cheerleaders for banning things rather than as questioning and sceptical voices. Such a ban is not going to end violent crime and probably won't stop the really determined from accessing banned material. Questions are already being raised about whether it will be possible to enforce the ban effectively (see BBC report cited above). Liberals, surely, should at the very least be the least gung ho! of the parties for a measure like this.

It's another example of the problem I have repeatedly highlight both here and elsewhere - the gap between our professed principles as expressed in the abstract and the stance we take in practice when confronted with hard issues.

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