Monday, 26 January 2009

Moral Posturing

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Japanese PornographyImage by balaam via FlickrToday a new law is in force, specifically Part 5, Section 63 of the Criminal Justice and Immigration Act 2008. This law is vague, unworkable and an embarrassing waste of our all of time, and no doubt the courts in future. More serious than this however, is that it anyone possessing pornography that is judged "extreme" is a criminal.

First I must be clear that I am not interested in possessing images of bestiality, necrophilia or damage of sexual organs for my personal arousal. BUT I pose a set of questions for your consideration.
  1. Should the fact that you are interested and source certain freely available images for your own personal enjoyment, in the privacy of your own home, be illegal?
  2. Who defines extreme? Furthermore, who defines pornography? *I note from the Act that this is at the discretion of the judge!
  3. What of the persons appearing in the image(s)?
  4. How is the law to be policed?
  5. Are those interested in pornography more inclined to commit murder or "extreme" acts themselves as a result of viewing?
  6. Is there not a difference between actual and appearing to be "extreme"?
Time for some background. This law was courted by David Blunkett whilst he was Home Secretary. He was a fine politician, and a seemingly humble man of high morals. But let us not forget a career ending sex scandal that brought things crashing down around him. That aside, this all comes in response to the tragic death of Jane Longhurst in 2003. Now, I do not for one second make light of the circumstances of her death. However, I do think that whilst we should be protected from those who are evil killers, unworkable, disproportionate lawmaking is not the answer.

Lord Wallace of Tankerness had this to say during debate in the HOL:
"If no sexual offence is being committed it seems very odd indeed that there should be an offence for having an image of something which was not an offence."
What concerns me is that the average person goes about their business, and rightly so, oblivious to the implications of such laws coming into force. At face value it ticks all the social objection boxes. It appeases those on the moral high ground. Labour can bleat about moving us forward, socially, morally. Personally, and like many others I have no interest in what the law "protects" us from. It is just another scary step when there are laws introduced, that are not definitive and potentially could criminalise any one of us for looking at an image. Thought police, anyone?

What am I getting at here? Everyone remembers the knee jerk Terrorism Act. A piece of lawmaking which could see any one of us locked up, for weeks, or indefinately if the government had its way. Essentially it is not about protecting us, it is about control. The Terrorism Act will not prevent the next atrocity as much as the government would want us to think that. Just like the terrible murder of Jane Longhurst may not have been prevented had this new Act been in force. (Her murderer, Graham Coutts, was into strange extreme pornographic websites.)

The rather unfortunately named Dr Chris Cocking made the following comment on the BBC's coverage last April:
"Despite popular assumptions that watching violent images 'causes' aggression, the evidence (around 1000 published studies) that it does is contradictory and far from conclusive. It is one thing to say that a deeply disturbed and dangerous person may seek out violent pornography to fulfil their deviant fantasies: however it is an entirely different matter to say that normal, well adjusted people will be inspired to commit violent crimes if they watch such images. If we wish to avoid such tragedies happening again, we should take a wider look at how people become so disturbed that they lose the ability to judge right from wrong and commit such atrocities."
So I sit here in wonder once more. Instead of dealing with the real issues here, we as a society will instead embrace this thoughless law. And, unfortunately, the next time there is a sex crime, some thinktank will breathe in deeply and ponder just how this could have happened. But some overpaid, out of touch inner party member will not be allowed to think that perhaps prevention is better than cure. More vague laws conveying unknown power, more censorship, more confusion. Roll on the first totalitarian Western state.

Some interesting articles should you want some further reading & background:

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