‘The big education for me is that civilisation is fragile and can be destroyed in a heartbeat' - Jeremy Brade, former peacekeeper in Sarajevo.

Monday, October 29, 2018

Pornographic violence

Michael Caine, who came from the London slums and later served in Korea:

"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.

5 comments:

Demetrius said...

Back in my Army days, rather a long time ago, I did extra special training because I was in a high security job with a general by the Elbe. What is in TV and film these days is very dangerous nonsense. A long time ago Richard Hoggart warned us about the media trend and potential consequences and now we are paying the price and it is getting higher and higher.

Sackerson said...

JD comments:

Glad you posted that, I think it is necessary. Not enough people have woken up to it yet.

I have posted this before, from Alan Watts -
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jgqL9n6kZc8 "..... we are a culture devoted to the actual destruction of life"

Alan Watts had a public radio talk show during the 1950s after he had moved from England to San Francisco and the various videos on YouTube are recorded from those radio shows (the pictures are added by whoever uploads the videos)
Watts died in 1973 but he recognised that the fifties were when nihilism began to dominate our cultural life. It wasn't the sixties as the 'clever' commentators like to suggest, it began after the second World War and took root in the fifties. (I believe the sixties were a reaction against such nihilism but that reaction was very quickly co-opted and perverted by that nihilistic culture; but that is just my observation having lived through those times.)

Another contributory factor, and an important one, was identified by Fritz Schumacher in his book "A Guide for the Perplexed" published in 1977. In his conclusion he wrote "... the modern experiment of living without religion has failed." That is a very uncomfortable truth for this secular, materialistic world.

Paddington said...

Try teaching martial arts to children who have never been hit or hurt at all.

Sackerson said...

@Paddington: please elaborate!

Paddington said...

They have never been hurt, so they go hell for leather, and act totally surprised at the slightest contact.