"There's a danger, when making films, of romanticising violence. I know only too well what the other side of violence looks like and I wanted to show that other side in Get Carter...
"Violence has consequences and you don't often see that in movies. It's a sort of pornography: people are struck time and time again and the next time they appear they just sport a bit of Elastoplast, not even a black eye or missing teeth. If you were a real victim of the violence you see in some films, you would be in hospital or dead. In Get Carter you see the effect of one whack, although we never cut to the gore. I'm worried by the sorts of computer games kids play these days when their characters smash someone over the head and there's no blood - what sort of generation are we bringing up? And I'm amazed at what you can see on television even before the watershed. People seem to glory in it and that scares me."
- From his autobiography "The Elephant To Hollywood" (pp. 153/155)
That was published in 2010, so written probably a year before; things have moved on.
Some may make a libertarian issue of it, and argue that research shows no connection between commercially-produced fantasies and actual violence. I doubt that and think that a general review of such research is overdue. For British obscenity law is about the effect, not on people generally, but on people who are susceptible. The Internet allows echo-chambers to develop, drawing together the like-minded into isolated groups with propaganda and exciting visuals, grooming the select audience into an ideological drift towards committing atrocities (why else beheading videos?) Then there are the many cases where people "gee themselves up" by consuming pornography, spurring themselves into action; it's a feedback-loop process and we can only hope to control one end of it.
I'll admit that policing the Internet is a can of worms, especially since we are seeing censorship on a political basis in e.g. Facebook and Twitter. The Dark Net, though - are there not many rats'-nests in it to be cleared?
But at least we can start looking at TV programming. The "nine o' clock watershed" is a joke - many children stay up far longer than their teachers. The BBC's principal channel can scarcely wait to cross that time-border before screening the obscenities of "Killing Eve", which combines appalling murders with shots of the villainess not merely unmoved but instead joyfully observing her victims' suffering, a pleasure we are invited to share as voyeurs.
Similarly, computer games are age-rated like movies, and it's nonsense. A child can easily get hold of them for private enjoyment, but fathers and older brothers will often play alongside and think there is no harm because they don't see anything happening in their home as a result.
What if pre-watershed TV soaps like "Eastenders" showed a fist fight and followed through with a hospital visit where the doctor explains to a white-faced roughboy that no, the brain damage isn't going to get better. Shots of remorse, helpless apology, the long-term damage caused to the victim's family (people giving up work to take on the role of carers; separations and divorces as the weight gets too great...)
Propaganda? We have that already, in the other direction: desensitisation, glorification of the power of violence. The State and the movie industry has long done this to make war acceptable; now we are fermenting micro-wars among the people. Look at the developing gang culture in Britain, and the soaring rate of knife crime.
JS Mill argued for liberty, but acknowledged that liberal values can only exist in a society that has learned restraint. If we allow the culture of self-restraint to rot, we will see harsh behaviour restrained by harsh oppression.