We still believe in censorship today. It's just that we're too hypocritical to call it censorship, and talk instead of "inappropriate language" in regard to gender or ethnic stereotyping, and of the need to have our "awareness raised". Bah humbug, says Ladenson, in so many words. At the same time, we are so permissive and civilised, à la Jenkins, that you can find de Sade (Moors murderer Ian Brady’s favourite bedtime reading), with its catalogue of child rapes, sexual tortures, mutilations and murders, in any high-street bookshop. And all thanks to such highbrow defenders as Simone de Beauvoir, who hailed de Sade for "his ability to disturb us": the bog-standard defence of every shlocky writer or artist going nowadays. Just because some great works of art are disturbing does not mean that a disturbing work of art must be great. A pretty simple principle, although one that still seems to elude the understanding of many a contemporary Brit artist.
Ladenson isn’t fooled. Our knowing sniggers at Victorian prudery hardly suggest that we have attained any greater maturity ourselves, while de Sade sits freely and unexpurgated on our bookshelves "as a reassurance that ours is a culture that has shed the pointless repressions of the past and fully embraced transgression as an absolute . . . Ours is an age all for subversion, as long as the ideas subverted are other than our own".
Friday, January 05, 2007
Subversion and Censorship
Via Mere Comments, an obvious but necessary skewering of our time's schoolmarmish pro-obscenity, anti-censorship postures: