EVEN if it has not or not yet— achieved some of its main objectives, the Longford Report on pornography has already chalked up one type of success that will not easily or quickly be eradicated. This is to focus public attention in general, and specialised attention from varying particular areas. On the whole field which it set out to explore.
Those quarters which are highly critical of the Report's main findings are he:ping, indirectly. to further its baeic aims by the limelight which they contribute to its aftermath. One of the most notable of -recent contributions has been that of a pamphlet published this week by the National Secular Society and written hy Brigid Brophy. It is entitled "The Longford 1 hreat to Freedom."
The essay is the text of the speech delivered by Miss Brophy at a meeting held at Conway Hall in London in October to make its protest against the alleged Longford threat. It is very lively in stylie, witty and, given certain premises. well-argued. Were it not for certain unnecessarily derisive phrases it could be said to be a civilieed and intelligent commentary on a theme with which most thinking adults are now responsibly concerned.
The author doubts the Longford thesis that pornography is addictive. but goes on to Claim that "even supposing that the Longford Committee had guessed right, it is still totally unreasonable to suppress something merely because it is addictive, when 1he nehliriion itself causes no harm to anyone." (Italics added.) Herein obviously lies the main point of contention between the two opposing theses.
The contention is irmaossible to resolve in a few words — if at all. But the ministers of religion throughout Britain have a very different answer to these sort of questions than many fashionable social commentators and reformers, however able and sincere. These ministers, these men and women of various communions. work day by day among the ordinary people of the country. They know such people's innermost secrets, sexual problems, hidden tragedies, dark inhibitions, and, it may even be, haunting perversions. If only some very ordinary priest. say, could, for one day, break the seal of confession and tell sumething of what he knows at a mass rally, the Brophy theory would not 'look quite so neat. tidy and cold-bloodedly final.
Miss Brophy also attacks the Longford findings because -of their views on the impact of advertising. She examines their argument that advertising must influence social behaviour since, if it did not, manufacturers would be wasting an enormous amount of money.
Tlhe flaw of the argument, she claims, is that manufacturers are not advertising some general commodity such as. say, chocolate. but one particular brand of chocolate in preference to some other brand; the d.-sire to eat Chocolate is already there, independently of the advertising. And. so. says Miss Brophy. with pornography.
This argument, surprisingly, ignores one ef the best known "open secrets" of present day commercial life in Britain. namely, that with the existence of huge montreolies accounting for the ultimately joint ownership of a very wide range of apparently quite different "brand" products. the main purpose of most really large advertising is to stimulate greater and greater demand and taste for the product in general, be it chocolate, detergents. O,hacco, etc, The particular brand In fact chosen by the consumer is, in the final analysis, of relatively small significance to the vast financial einp:re ultimately benefiting from the whole operation.
And so, we would venture to submit, with pornography. And even Lord I.ongford's critics now seem to agree that the vulgar display and advertising of pornographic material on its present repulsively large scale. particularly in big cities, is a hideous abbera(ion of our modern age that can be of no possible advantage to anyone but that large and predatory band to whom pornography. arid the publicising thereof, is very big business indeed.
Meanwhile — thanks to serious concern by both "friend" and "foe" about the vast and often murky pool whose former protective ice has been smashed by the Longford Report — the debate continues.