29 JANUARY 1972, Page 19

Sir: David Holbrook cannot be ignored. It is not only

Britain, but the people of the entire Western world who are now being conditioned to accept erotically motivated sadism as an increasing component of life; as something not to be controlled and redirected into constructive and creative channels, but to be freely enjoyed and indulged in. The trouble is, of course, it is a process which de-grades responses and behaviour from former levels. It is degrading and goes on degrading until the rock bottom

point is reached whereat gratification is derived solely from cruelty, torture and murder. There are no dividing lines at all between mass media voyeurism and Brady Yet what do we do? The arguments for censorship are selfdefeating, and the anti-porn people really must face this. Not only is censorship virtually impossible to apply effectively, not only does it raise unanswerable objections from those who would defend freedom (for if the sensuality of the Weimar Republic led to the horrors of Nazism it can be argued with equal force that the ` puritanism ' of the Russian revolution led to the abominations of Stalinism) it also presumes the existence of widely accepted standards as a basis from which to operate. Yet where are those standards today? If censorship in a mass society is impractical because it is ineffective and rapidly leads to absurdity, any attempt from above to recreate the old standards now destroyed would simply lead to the most extreme and intolerable forms of authoritarianism.

Many people see this dilemma and tend to conclude that there is nothing that can be done. I think they are wrong, just as I believe Holbrook is wrong to treat this problem in a vacuum, for the problem itself has its origins in the destruction of community life which has been perpetrated by the giant impersonal forces of corporation-takeover-and-merger capitalism and by the equally vast and impersonal forces of over-centralised government.

Morality is a qualitative aspect of personal relations between people, the chief aspect of a centralised mass society is that people are more and more dependent on vast institutions they do not and cannot control, and less and less dependent on each other at the personal level. And the essence of the mass society is that people are isolated, anonymous and largely helpless digits, ripe for conditioning and exploitation by those who get their hands on the instruments of the mass media in order to make a fast buck. This is the origin of the dynamics of the phenomena of not only mass porn, but of the whole spectrum of vulgarisation and debasement which, otherwise inexplicably, dominates the twentieth century. The people of former ages managed to keep these forces under some degree of constraint because people by and large lived in communities rather than mass societies.

Contrawise, it is of the essence of a community that its life is dominated by the relationship factors of its members and on an unspoken guest to make those relationships agreeable, responsive and acceptable to the more decent promptings of human nature; guilt and shame for bad acts have their counterpart in the genuine (or assumed!) pride in having a good reputation. The anonymity of a mass society makes such considerations irrelevant by reducing us all to the same relationship level of a barrack room or a jail yard.

When Jesus said, "Love thy neighbour," he surely, one must assume, supposed one had a neighbour to love. Dare one suggest that the answer to the historic phenomena of the moral squalor of the mass society is for multitudes of people to respond to the contemporary challenge to recreate genuine community life as the only viable means whereby civilisation has ever been able to prosper on this planet, before that squalor destroys us utterly.

John Papworth 24 Abercorn Place, London NW8