"Why Defend Freedom of Icky Speech":
He points out that it's very difficult to draw dividing lines. He's mostly interested in comics, but there are movies like "The Baby of Macon" and "A Clockwork Orange" which contain graphic rape scenes. Some people might find these movies pornographic, some artistic. But you need to be very careful who you give authority to to draw these lines
Another point is that some people strongly object to things like homosexuality. If companies easily stop distributing content based on protests, maybe movies like "Brokeback Mountain" would be the victim of fundamentalist protest.
Free speech isn't just an excuse: it's an important principle. If you believe in free speech as a principle, you can't just defend speech you like, you also have to defend speech you find objectionable.
Second, it's strange that the word "profit" keeps appearing here. We live in a capitalist economy. Most production, most services, most distribution takes place with profit involved. Why should profit make things more or less offensive?
Suppose two S&M fans make a rape porn video themselves, and upload it to the Internet entirely for free, with no profit involved. It's hard to see why this video is better or worse than a for-profit video.
One curious thing about mainstream economics is that there is very little discussion of companies/firms/corporations. Most economic models prefer to deal with a large number of individuals instead. In theory, this should be the most efficient kind of market.
Yet in the real world, most economic activity is carried out by firms, especially very large corporations.
One effect of this is that these large corporations have a hegemonic power. The effect of decisions by a few senior managers of large corporations can have a vast impact on society.
If we look at how censorship has taken place in the real world, it's very often implemented by the hegemonic power of corporations, not by government.
The "Hays Code" that notoriously censored the US film industry with its often arbitrary rules (including odd-shaped swimsuits that had to conceal the apparently-obscene female navel) was an industry standard, created in response to (mostly Christian) pressure groups:
The Comics Code that censored comics, and the British Board of Film Classification, are also corporate/industry bodies, not implemented by the government:
The Internet Watch Foundation, which censors the Internet in the UK, is a similar body, a registered charity funded by corporations, not a part of the government:
This has controversially censored Wikipedia pages as well as actual porn sites:
It's not a radical new idea to use the hegemonic power of corporations to implement censorship: it's common practice today and has been in the past. But is it a good idea?
Based on history, it doesn't seem that it works terribly well. In practice, it often results in bland, homogenous art; where anything that is offensive to any loud group is banned: homosexuality and navels as well as rape.
It doesn't seem to me to be very democratic either, to give corporations such power. If free expression is so important, why leave it to pressure groups exerting power on corporations? It's hard to see why this more democratic or accountable than official government censorship, which at least comes from an elected body.
Third, it's not at all clear that rape porn actually does any harm. Actual rape is a bad thing: it's an act done to someone without their consent, which violates their right to control their body. Simulated rape, as in porn, takes place between consenting adults, for a viewer who consents to watch it.
You're extremely vague on who this porn harms, and how it harms them. You talk about "sexting", but it's hard to see a link there. Why should rape porn in particular increase "sexting"? Why not non-rape porn? Should that be banned too?
You talk vaguely about a "fear / hatred of women", but does porn really encourage this? Do cultures with a lot of restrictions on porn, such as Victorian England or modern-day Saudi Arabia, really have a better attitude to women?
In summary then, this is a bad idea for the following reasons:
- It impairs the right to free speech
- It provides a mechanism for censorship that historically has been abused and overused.
- It puts the power of censorship into unaccountable, undemocratic hands.
- It attempts to forbid something which has not been demonstrated to be harmful.
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