Timothy Stanley, University of Oxford historian and occasional blogger for
The Daily Mail
The Daily Telegraph, peers out at the internet (from within the internet) and decides he doesn't like what he sees. The problem? That old moral panicist's standby: pornography.
Over in the UK, British Prime Minister David Cameron has just introduced a rather overextensive anti-porn "crackdown" which forces Britain's four largest ISPs to filter pornographic material unless the user specifically opts in. Acting pretty much at the behest of something called the Mothers' Union, Cameron is also taking on billboards, aggressive advertising, sexualized tween clothing articles and, well, just about anything any concerned parent can dream up, thanks to the brand new Parentport website, where parents can go to file complaints about "any TV programme, advertisement, product or service they feel is inappropriate for children."
Stanley seems to be ok with all of this (as well as its obvious potential for abuse), referring to it as a "modest" proposal. He expresses dismay that so-called "conservative" commentators find this to be "injurious to liberty," while dropping what may very well be the quote of the day:
I am confused as to why such people use the label conservative to describe themselves. The single purpose of conservatism is to protect what is good about the traditional order. The internet is a threat to the traditional order and so it is not our friend. The North Koreans understand that, even if we do not.
At this point, many of us are getting up to open windows and doors and turn on the fans in an effort to diffuse a bit of the irony hanging in the air. Stanley has just used the internet to badmouth the internet. Fair enough. People do this all the time. But to drag North Korea in as some sort of example of The Way Things Should Be Done? It's too much. For a British citizen who writes about politics (often in a dissenting manner) and who travels freely between "London, Oxford and Los Angeles
" to refer to a country where dissent and attempting to leave the country are frowned upon (and by "frowned upon," I mean "punished with lengthy imprisonment, torture and death") as being somehow "smarter" is downright incomprehensible. (And deplorable.)
But he's not done yet. Stanley pursues the familiar "gateway" theory. Much like our beloved drug warriors constantly remind us that marijuana is the "gateway drug" through which all drug users pass en route to wasting their lives away in badly lit PSAs, Stanley is here to tell us that pornography is the "gateway," um, "thing" that leads to pedophilia and serial killing.
Internet pornography is an obvious example of how permitting one variety of perversion invariably leads to greater and more terrible crimes. The internet turned pedophilia from a private sin into an organized crime. It put people in touch with each other who would never have otherwise met, allowing them to pool resources and share victims. It gave predators access to kids through forums. It also used mainstream porn as a gateway drug. By introducing younger and younger models into erotica, it blurred the lines between childhood and adulthood. People who previously would never have had access to material by which to test their inclinations were now goaded into more and more depravity ("If you enjoyed that, you'll love this..."). Its the expansiveness of the internet that makes it so ripe for regulating.
If you can fight your way through that paragraph without having your eyes roll out of your head, re-read that last sentence. "Because the internet is big, something should be done." It's nice to know that someone is out there encouraging politicians to grab ahold of something they can't possibly control and make a lot of "thinking about the children" noises until their approval ratings go up.
Porn is definitely evil, though. That much Stanley is sure of:
Nowadays, all a child has to do to access some muck is to log on to the family computer. Within seconds they can see videos of whips, goats, origami and tantric projection - the whole T&A.
In Stanley's mind, Cameron's proposal doesn't go far enough:
I would go one step further and suggest that it's time to give back to local authorities the power to outlaw the sale of pornography altogether.
Like heroin, porn has been proven to be addictive.
Now porn is no longer marijuana (a.k.a. "the gateway drug"), but rather the destination itself. And that destination is? You guessed it: Murdertown!
On an existential level, pornography objectifies human beings, reducing them to the status of commodities. There is no need to engage with them as real people because the sexual stimulus is entirely one sided. This encourages the viewer to regard the subject as less than human.
Yes yes yes. We picked this concept up over at PETA's porn site
. What else?
That objectification has lethal consequences. Porn addiction is a common trait among serial killers. The murderer Ted Bundy detailed his experiences thus: "I would keep looking for more explicit, more graphic kinds of materials ... until you reach the point where the pornography only goes so far. You reach that jumping-off point where you begin to wonder if maybe actually doing it will give you that which is beyond just reading about it or looking at it."
Troubling. Could porn actually lead to pedophilia and serial killing? Given porn's ubiquity on the "under-regulated" internet, you'd think the world would be filled with nothing but murderous pedophiles. Of course, there's no reason to refer to correlation and causation as identical (they're actually fraternal twins), no matter which side of this argument you're on. (That means you too, Stanley.)
So, without a doubt (in Stanley's mind), porn is bad and something draconian needs to be done about it. Unless, of course, you're talking about the good old days of porn when it came (sorry) in magazine form and needed to be smuggled about in paper bags and trenchcoats. Those were the good old innocent days, eh Stanley?
When I was a child, getting access to filth was bloody hard work. The best source was The Daily Sport, a silly old rag that featured saucy stories... All of this contact with nudity was fleeting and furtive. The joy was less in the seeing than the getting.
Oh. I see. When you're nostalgically viewing your mental Kinetoscope (in Rose-Tinted Nostalgia-Vision™
), porn was just "dirty magazines" and free of the serial killer training material that is so prevalent today. Boys will be boys, I guess. Except not anymore, apparently, because according to Stanley's back-of-an-envelope calculations (Porn + Internet = Bad) they'll just grow up to torture household pets when not idly sexting naked shots of themselves to their Facebook friends.
Well, Mr. Stanley, no wonder you're behind the Prime Minister's proposal. Anyone who's cool with the ISPs collecting a list of opt-in perverts at the behest of the government and who supports the implementation of a nationwide snitch line to keep people from being offended can most likely read your post with a straight face, somehow missing the irony, hypocrisy and unintentional hilarity its steeped in. I, as a fan of free speech and someone who "frowns upon" [see definition above] handing over control of the internet to various governments entities, cannot.