So it's finally happened - somebody finally took objection to something hideous (and no doubt atrociously written) published in the KOBO store, and the proverbial excrement has hit the fan. (For those who are not familiar with the story, KOBO the WHSmith e-Book platform has withdrawn all independently published titles from its store in wake of abusive, rape-pornography, being discovered and they will only be reinstated once 'checked' for content.)
It was only ever a matter of time until this happened. The rise of the e-book and self-publishing platforms allowed the masses to publish (and read) whatever they wanted - and what they wanted wasn't always 'good' - and certainly not what The State would 'like' us to be reading. Now this post could easily go off at a tangent about the whole philosophical debate about what in truth is 'good', or indeed, what is 'truth', but I'm going to avoid that. (I hope.)
You see the thing is, human beings are essentially base and driven by dark desires (now, I'm not talking about every individual, but collectively, as a species - just check-in with W.M.Golding for the whole philosophical low-down.) It is an unsavoury and saddening fact that human beings are deeply flawed creatures (a history littered with human atrocities and our over burgeoning prisons attest to this.)
Left unchecked, humanity en mass returns to its primal desire-driven self - and the KOBO debacle is a case in point, a veritable Lord of The Flies scenario. Left to its own devices with no moral checkers, people write and publish rape-porn, and incest porn, and all other manner of material that we would rather never entered the human conscious - but it does, and we have to face up to the fact that such publications do not 'make' our society, but merely hold up a mirror to the society that already exists.
Of course, the moral panic is that this mirror has been reflecting back into the cosy-domestic arena of WHSmith; the middle-class bastion of media consumption. A quaint heritage brand mainly funded by consumers of the Daily Mail, Delia Smith Cookery Books and mothers buying school equipment; it's not the place where radical subversion normally takes place. It's not the sort of shop where you come out carrying your goods in a plain paper bag and check the street before you leave through the side door into some stinking Soho alleyway; and it is this very fact that has disturbed 'us' the most; the pervasive sense of 'evil' now running through our high-street social structure.
So what to do? What happens when we are suddenly face to face with the ugly and dark (and more prolific than we'd like to admit) side of human nature? Will banning these books really stop people thinking such things? Of course not. It will return this kind of subculture underground - maybe even channel it into real life scenarios rather than contained within the fantasy sphere. It is foolish to believe that sweeping up and hiding all these horrible little dollar dreadfuls will clean up society.
However, perhaps the debate should not be, as most posts have been, about the evils of Sate censorship, but rather we should be asking ourselves, why is society continuing to create individuals who appear not to have the internal self-censoring morality? What makes a person imagine such horrors? What makes an individual not only imagine them, but feel the desire to outwardly express them? But these questions won't be asked because we don't want to face the answers; it's easier to pretend that this is all some ethereal, almost biblical evil rather than a direct consequence of our own society.
And these issues are not new: they are not the consequence of this particular society. This isn't some disease of the post-modern age. The Marquis de Sade was there way before those 'evil little indie e-Book publishers', so it is wrong to believe that this 'evil' is the result of electronic publishing or internet access, or any other ridiculous argument. It's the result of human beings.
No matter what my own personal desires are for a world full of happy, healthy, 'good' people, who love and are loved, my desire for human autonomy and freedom from State control outweighs them. As a result, I have to live with the understanding that the price of freedom for all, is exactly that - for ALL (even for those who want to publish such disturbing horrors.)
And this is why, after much consideration and with a very heavy heart I have to say that I will sign the petition to allow human beings the right to write and read whatever they want - because if I don't where do the censors stop?
As my mother would say, "It's all very disappointing."