Friday 2 December 2016

Kenny weighs in on the great moral panic of 2016... porn

Published 06/11/2016 | 02:30

Rising: Enda Kenny managed to tack in 1916 into a debate about porn
Rising: Enda Kenny managed to tack in 1916 into a debate about porn

So, has it come to this? I mean, really, come on - we're reduced to this?

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The 'this' in question was Enda Kenny's bizarre and Fr Ted-esque insertion of himself into the current debate about online pornography.

I suppose, in a way, it shows that we have come some distance from previous generations, where no self-respecting leader of the country would ever even admit to having heard of such a thing, let alone demanding we all sit around and discuss it.

Frankly, I kind of preferred it the old way. For starters, Kenny's blundering intervention was doomed to immediate mockery from the moment it came out of his mouth.

In a speech which could have been lifted from The Simpsons, he spoke of: "Older generations who just can't reach into the spheres where young minds are being, in some cases, corrupted and tainted, by an avalanche of this kind of material."

He also, bizarrely, tacked on the Rising, saying: "There has to be a discussion about this in terms of families and children and the kind of society that is evolving in the start of the second century since the Rising of 1916."

The ghosts of 1916 have been summoned so often in the last 18 months they must have travel sickness by now, but I doubt any of us ever thought the leaders of the Rising would be invoked in the battle against porn. Although, having said that, I can't help but feel that Pádraig Pearse's internet history would have been an interesting thing to see.

The point, ultimately, is that this is none of Kenny's business.

He is not the moral arbiter of the nation - no politician is.

It is not his job to raise children - that still falls with parents.

Also, given the fact that we have a genuine national emergency on our hands with the garda strike, mucky movies are low on everyone's list of priorities.

But it's a handy distraction because if Kenny is one thing, he's proved that he's a survivor and no politician ever lost votes trying to foster a moral panic.

It's easy for anyone to say that we have to think about the children and their tiny, precious minds.

But what do the campaigners want to do?

There will always be anti-porn people who hate it for a variety of reasons - be they religious, political or simply the fact that they find the whole thing utterly icky. That's fair enough.

I doubt anyone argues that online porn should be watched by everyone.

Also, most normal adults don't really care about your kids and what they are watching.

Sorry, I know the responsible thing is to clutch my pearls and wag my finger at people and say that no child should be exposed to pornography.

The thing is, I don't care. It's hardly a great way to find out about sex but they're not my kids and they are none of my business. In fact, I find it amusing that the people who tend to resent any comment on their parenting skills are usually the ones who demand the State step in and start banning websites.

For starters, they can't. Not that they shouldn't - they can't.

For all the current talk about no-borders, the internet is a truly borderless hinterland and a rough one at that - but short of going down the Chinese route, it's simply impossible to ban it.

And that's a good thing.

If we remove the silly issue of State regulation - because it can't happen - then we're left with some far more interesting questions.

I once debated the issue of porn with an unreconstructed, hardcore Catholic who still seemed to be reeling from Vatican II. She reckoned, for some unfathomable reason, that porn was the greatest threat to this country's moral fabric and then, wonderfully, tried to blame it for child abuse by clerics.

The fact that a) that was simply historically incorrect and b) if more priests had access to porn, there might well be fewer lives ruined by abuse, understandably infuriated her, but didn't elicit a rational rebuttal.

There's much to despise about modern pornography, from the bland uniformity to the often ignored element of female pleasure and then there are the sicker niches, which test anyone's commitment to free speech to the limits.

But just because you don't like something doesn't mean others won't and if you try to ban what others enjoy, you can't complain when they decide something you like is no longer acceptable.

As ever, there are two factors to take into the equation - the right of adults to watch what they want versus the rights of parents to stop their kids watching a Ukrainian gangbang on their phone.

Ultimately, that's the parents job. Some will be more liberal than others, but that's a conversation to be had between them and their kids and it's up to them to set the limits for their own children, not the rest of us.

Back in the 1990s, the moral panic of the day was about drugs and when Noel Gallagher said taking them was as normal as having a cup of tea, people accused him of destroying a generation. It didn't happen.

Sound familiar?

That's what will happen with porn - a generation that grew up with it will be less obsessed than their parents are, that's for sure.

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