We are developing the social individualist meta-context for the future. From the very serious to the extremely frivolous... lets see what is on the mind of the Samizdata people.

Samizdata, derived from Samizdat /n. - a system of clandestine publication of banned literature in the USSR [Russ.,= self-publishing house]

Samizdata quote of the day

Pornography is the canary in the coal mine of free speech. It is the first freedom to die.

Myles Jackman

Quoted at the end of this Adam Smith Institute blog posting by Charlotte Bowyer

17 comments to Samizdata quote of the day

  • The sexiest canary in the coalmine. (Which, ironically, sounds like the sort of film these new regulations would ban.)

  • PersonFromPorlock

    I have wanted for a long time now for the Congress to authorize 500 million dollars to subsidize the making, by a major film studio, of a comedy-drama about bright and attractive young people who murder major film studio executives in amusing ways… and get away with it.

    If the project is ever taken up, then I’ll believe that someone actually believes that speech by itself has no evil consequences. But I suspect that’ll be the only half-billion ever passed by Congress that keeps its virginity.

  • In reply to the person from Porlock: Whiskey Tango Foxtrot?

  • Very retired

    No, it’s not.

  • PersonFromPorlock

    In reply to Leslie Bates: my point is that those who speak know there are things better left unsaid, and images better not shown the public.

    Most pornography is harmless; but do you really want child abusers (for instance) to arouse themselves with kiddy porn? How about rape or snuff movies? Even if computer generated, such things can only encourage those so inclined to delude themselves they’re ‘normal’ and that acting on their impulses is normal behavior.

    I’m a little conflicted in the case of computer-generated porn, but I can certainly see a practical case for its censorship.

  • Lee Moore

    I must be missing something. Aren’t there already all sorts of laws against “hate speech” ? And laws banning employers from writing down what they think of their employees and sharing their views with other employers ? And laws banning mention of juicy details about people coming up for trial ? And so on. What is all this stuff about canaries in coal mines ? The coal mine is already carpeted with dead canaries.

  • Roue le Jour


    Most pornography is harmless; but do you really want child abusers (for instance) to arouse themselves with kiddy porn? How about rape or snuff movies? Even if computer generated, such things can only encourage those so inclined to delude themselves they’re ‘normal’ and that acting on their impulses is normal behavior.

    Wrong question. The right question is, do you authorise agents of the state to rummage though peoples’ private papers and do violence to them because they own an arrangement of computer generated pixels?

  • Laird

    Lee, the coal mine is indeed carpeted with dead canaries, but the first one on the ground was pornography. We can all thank Justice Potter Stewart for that. To mix metaphors, once that camel got its nose into the tent there has been no stopping its advance, as it went on to spawn “hate speech” laws and other illegitimate progeny.

    And no, PFP, I don’t accept your premise. You seem to believe that innocently gratifying secret desires, even ones you deem perverse, necessarily leads to physically gratifying those desires. There is no evidence of that, and even if there were denying people such pleasures merely because of a few bad actors is the very definition of an objectively bad law. It’s the same argument made to deny everyone the right to own firearms because a few people use them badly. Its a slippery slope (another metaphor!) from which there is no retreat.

    So I’m perfectly happy for “child abusers (for instance) to arouse themselves with kiddy porn”; it keeps them from abusing actual children. (However, I have no problem at all with prosecuting the creation of kiddie porn, since that is a gross abuse of the children so used.) Computer-generated pornography, no matter how offensive you may find it to be, should be completely off-limits for censorship, since by definition no one is harmed in its creation. The First Amendment means nothing if it doesn’t protect offensive speech, and it’s far too important a right to be subject to exceptions merely to protect your tender sensibilities.

  • thefrollickingmole

    This is all part of the ongoing fight between peoples private lives and the governments never ending quest to “know” everything.
    The USSR failed not because of its economics so much (that was a big part of it) as the fact it couldnt “know” what its subjects innermost thoughts, opinions and desires were. Now we have over a decade of peoples opinions, tastes, habits and perversions all stored on government databases, all given away for free, a trove of blackmail, advertising and ‘push” material just waiting to be used.

    If the old USSR had as much information as we have given away Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn would have been revealed as a bloke who clicked on “chicks with dicks vs porno midgets from Sodom” and been set up for public ridicule before he published a word.

    While I dislike porn on other grounds, I dont deny people the right to practice their perversions in private, thats the whole idea of private life vs public.

    The government isnt only intruding on what can be consumed by people in private, its storing every bit of data it can suck in of people private lives for future use. And it worries me.

  • Lee Moore

    Laird – that may be the US history, but I don’t think it’s been the UK history. Porn used to be pretty illegal in the UK, but people could go round saying pretty much what they thought about other things (except perhaps the third item on my list – pre trial reporting. And government secrets of course.) Then porn got itself legalised in the 1960s and 1970s. Porn banners became figures of fun, hooted at in the street. (This was when the left, including especially the BBC, thought sex was great and prudes were squares.)

    Long after that we started getting hate speech laws, and Data Protection Acts and all the stuff of the progressive free speech banners. And porn was untouched – until now.

  • pete

    When we employ hundreds of thousands of unnecessary busybodies we can’t expect them to stop interfering in our lives.

    We’ve brought this on ourselves by using the public sector to provide amenable employment for middle class people.

  • Josh B

    Seriously, “Myles Jackman” would be an awesome screen name for a porn actor.

  • Rich Rostrom

    If the gas level in a coal mine becomes such that a canary would die, then shortly afterward, the gas level becomes such that the miners would also die.

    Pornography was illegal, or at least subject to censorship and repression, throughout the 19th and early 20th century. That canary died, over and over again. But general censorship of speech and publication did not follow. The miners didn’t die.

    Slippery-slope arguments are sometimes valid, but this one seems especially specious: many societies have been on this slope, but in general they go up, not down.

  • Alsadius

    PFP: Statistically, access to porn lowers rates of sexual violence. I would far rather that people who are into it watch rape porn than actually rape someone. Wouldn’t you?

  • Maximo Macaroni

    Porn, like all other luxuries, did not die in Nazi Germany or Soviet Russia. It was merely restricted to and heavily patronized by the elites. But I do not think that access to porn reduced the rate or intensity of violence in the SS or the KGB.

  • Paul Marks

    And one time I would have mocked the quotation – pointing out that porn was everywhere whilst other freedoms were dying out.

    However, I would not be wrong to mock the quotation – as the P.C. brigade have shown their colours as regards “Page Three” and everything else.

    If things so mild can lead to demands for bans then we are dealing with very nasty people indeed.

    And they will not stop at “porn” – statements of OPINION are their real target.