Plus ca change, c'est la meme chose


A little bit of interesting history. We used to have, here in the UK, an official of the Royal Household who determined what might be shown to us proles on the stage. The Lord Chamberlain's office included the responsibility to:

so that he could only prohibit the performance of plays where he was of the opinion that "it is fitting for the preservation of good manners, decorum or of the public peace so to do".

Of course we did away with all that fuddy duddy nonsense with the Theatres Act of 1968. The Earl Peel now has no such responsibility or power.

Yes, of course we did away with all of that fuddy duddy stuff, there's no one able to limit what the proles may see upon the stage or screen:

Seventies comedies would not be allowed on television screens today because they were so racist and offensive, the outgoing head of Ofcom has said.

Ed Richards, who stands down as chief executive of the media watchdog at the end of this month, said programmes from a previous generation were no longer suitable for today’s more enlightened audiences.

What it is that we proles may be shown seems to have changed a little, the August Personage who gets to decide it seems to have changed, but it does still seem to be that the bien pensants of the day get to decide what may or may not be shown to the populace.

Haven't we all had such a radical expansion in freedom and liberty, in cultural expression?

Not that we're in favour of racism, sexism or whatever, particularly. It's just that we can't help thinking that an actual free market in these things would work rather better. If people didn't like what was being shown then they wouldn't watch it and it would quickly fail and be taken off the air. And at least in the Lord Chamberlain's day they were very clear about this: you may not show these things because people would like them too much. The modern censorship is making the opposite argument: you may not show them because no one would like them. But if that is so then we don't need the censorship, do we, because something that no one likes won't survive. We thus suspect that the censorship survives precisely because those censoring know that the populace does not share their views.

How very liberal, eh?