A more legitimate literary objection to censorship is its implicit portrayal of a reader as the sort of person who jumps off a cliff when asked. Notions such as “obscenity” or “abasement before the west” make literary language a tool of subversion and ascribe to the novelist the hypnotist’s capacity for making a previously obedient or prudish member of the public throw stones or unzip. In censorship’s official, airbrushed view of the reading experience, dispositions are imposed, not reinforced. As J M Coetzee argued in Giving Offence: Essays on Censorship, “it is a feature of the paranoid logic of the censoring mentality that virtue, qua virtue, must be innocent, and therefore, unless protected, vulnerable to the wiles of vice.”
That paranoid logic is the pressure-relief valve that allows nominally liberal-minded people to blithely engage in their own form of censorship. Ambiguous art and unsettling concepts are fine for properly socialized, educated and civilized people like us, of course, but the rabble, well, I’m afraid they just can’t be trusted with them. Misanthrope that I am, though, I somehow have faith born from experience that the masses are not quite the impressionable blank slates that all these clucking mother hens would have you believe. And thus I can only shake my head sadly at Tauriq’s absurd logic here. You know, if we’re going to play this ridiculous “X degrees of separation” game, Nirvana is actually “responsible” for more sexual assaults than Robin Thicke. Why, it’s almost like there’s no clear, linear cause-and-effect relationship between the “message” of art and its effect on the audience.