Censors at odds

In November our front-page article dealt with the Lord Longford report on pornography, and stated our case that all censorship is against the interests of everybody but the ruling class.

David Holbrook, a member of the Longford committee, has produced a new book called The Masks of Hate in which psychiatric examination of some popular present-day writers is used to make an argument for their perniciousness. His targets include the James Bond novels, Iris Murdoch, Harold Pinter and Kingsley Amis.

What is interesting is that Kingsley Amis also contributed a chapter to the Longford Report, advocating censorship as Holbrook does. Among his recommendations was to ban books which are “not unsuitable because of anything : just unsuitable”. Holbrook finds Amis’s writings unsuitable because they are “devaluing human nature” and “present false solutions”. Perhaps a duel with blue pencils at ten paces is imminent.

However, this demonstrates one or two things. First, that what amateur censors really seek is not “social good” but the removal of what they dislike. Second, their failure to realize that governments impose or approve censorship on political grounds, and only to a very minor extent on theoretical (e.g. psychiatric) ones. And third, that proponents of social reform in general terms are unable to foresee its detailed application and outcome. Both Holbrook and Amis believe, of course, that more extensive censorship laws would be used to prevent the working class from seeing their bêtes noires; but The Masks of Hate serves to show that if it happened they might find their own books deemed “just unsuitable”.

R. B.

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