Thursday, February 25, 2010

Pornography and liberty

In an article today in the Mail and Guardian, MultiChoice's general manager Jackie Rakitla is quoted as saying: "At this stage we're doing research to determine the extent of interest in porn, and we're looking at the feasibility of implementing such a service."

Understandably this controversial announcement caused great controversy in society between conservatives and liberals others in between.

Permit pornography or forbid pornography
One's position on this issue depends on the perceived effects pornography has on society (positive) and personal value-judgements about what such effects are desirable or undesirable in society (normative). Reading on these issues can be found on Wikipedia.

Each person's liberty and freedom are affected by society's decisions on the extent to which, and the manners in which, pornography is permitted or forbidden. In my uninformed view, South African citizens should afford Multichoice the right to screen any shows its customers are willing to pay for, subject to the protection of all South Africans' constitutional rights.

Perhaps a debate on this issue is relevant to a blog about liberty. Relevant questions are:

    What are the effects on society of permitting pornography in its various forms? What are the effects of forbidding such pornography?

    Which of these effects are desirable and / or undesirable to society and therefore to what extent should pornography be permitted / forbidden?

    What are South Africans' constitutional rights on this issue?


  1. Proof that Internet porn prevents rape, by Steven E. Landsburg.

    Too bad your average South African rapist isn't a DStv subscriber.

  2. I didn't want to make that point - do we really know the socioeconomic profile of rapists in SA? Perhaps rapists are often DSTV subcribers? *Rueful lol

  3. Well if the average rapist IS partaking in the wondrous joy that is satellite television, then there REALLY, REALLY isn't any justice in this world.

  4. Julian - that link you posted is really interesting.

    Galen - by and large I completely agree with this post. Let people watch what they want as long as no-one is harmed.

  5. Thanks David. So the more interesting question is: if pornography and violent television were indeed proven to increase crime, do you think that's a good reason for them to be prohibited?

  6. @Dave what does the Constitution say on this issue? Is a dedicated porn channel legal or does it infringe on conservatives' rights?

    Interestingly, the controversy around a dedicated porn channel may dissuade Multichoice from offering it for now - too much bad publicity.

  7. Ministry welcomes porn channel decision

    Multichoice doesn't explicitly say so in its press release, but I believe the survey results themselves were irrelevant to this decision. Multichoice just could not stand the bad publicity, regardless of whether subscribers on the whole would or would not purchase the "adult content" channel.

  8. Regarding your link to Wikipedia. Wikipedia is constantly updated, so when you link to it, or use it as a reference rather link to the revision you have used. You can do this through a permalink, which can be found on the left hand links column. for instance the permalink for the article you linked to would be

    While it may seem like a subtle point it is very important to for creating traceability of ideas and imbuing a respect for online sources in the intellectual community. I believe Wikipedia to be an invaluable repository of human knowledge, but it does have to be used correctly.

    Good Post, glad to have you contributing to the contemplative landscape.

  9. Thanks for the advice, James.

    It's really depressing how senior government ministers, the FPB and Solidarity all indulge in sloppy and emotional thinking when discussing this issue. Just look at their statements from these articles:

    Ministry welcomes porn channel decision

    Film board welcomes decision on porn channel

    I could explain why this outcry was so disproportionate, but the comments below these articles do a much better job.

    P.S. Galen, just so you know, I think your link is supposed to read "Multichoice scraps porn channel".