Bring back the Index!

I’d like to second this comment by JMSmith:

We have a duty to defend holy things and should not confuse forgiveness with simple cowardice. Our best weapon is the economic boycott. It got us the Production Code back in 1930. The laity are not nearly as well disciplined now as then, but it doesn’t take vast numbers to effect change. What is wanting, as always, is leadership, beginning with revival of the Index Librorum Prohibitorum.

11 Responses

  1. The Production Code was a disaster. So many great daring films were being made before then, whereas afterward so much had to be watered down in order to get around the stupid censors. And don’t even get me started on the great literature that was included on the Index. It’s philistine nonsense like this that makes me glad Christian conservatives have little actual influence these days and likely never will again.

  2. Drieu — he’s just playing dress-up. Like 10 year old kids run around pretending to be Harry Potter, knowing full well that they are not, or 25 year old kids run around pretending they’re Hitler, when they know they are not. Bonald is a 40+ year old kid pretending he lives in the 12th century. Let him.

  3. It certainly was a disaster for the smut peddlers and gore mongers. But even if we set aside all moral and religious objections, one can argue that the Production code saved Hollywood from itself. Film is the natural medium for representation of sex and violence; people like mediated experience of smut and gore; and so the market and the industry will, if left to themselves, roll into the gutter together.

    Both you and Anchorman fail to see that a modern Index would function for traditional Catholics much as the New York Review of Books or New Republic functions for modern liberals. A man who confines his reading to works approved by those papers, and who abstains from any volume they condemn, will very likely make it to his grave with his liberal sentiments intact. A modern Index would, in fact, be far more modest than the secular reviews, since it would only prohibit works works that are likely to corrupt the ordinary soul. It would only set the outer limits of a Catholic’s literary life, not propose the whole syllabus.

    Through most of its history the Index banned books for faithful Catholics, and although this may have reduced the market for banned books, it did not prevent freethinkers from printing, selling, and reading them. Certainly this is what any modern Index would amount to. It would simply state the conditional imperative: “if you wish to remain a faithful Catholic you should not read/watch/listen to X.”

    This has nothing to do with “philistine nonsense” or pretending to live in the 12th century. It recognizes three things (1) art is powerful, (2) the heart is wicked, and consequently (3) the heart can be seduced to evil by art. A philistine in Arnold’s definition is insensitive to art, and so would see no need for an Index.

    Do you think that, say, William Burrough’s Junkie might just possibly have been an evil book that seduced and destroyed people? Has English literature improved since the lifting of the Chatterly ban?

  4. “It certainly was a disaster for the smut peddlers and gore mongers”

    Yeah, as evidenced by all those graphic torture scenes and unsimulated sex in 1920s films! Oh wait…

    And as someone who has actually read Montaigne, Rabelais, Bruno, Stendhal, Balzac, Flaubert, Gide and other authors that were listed on the Index, you’ll have to forgive me for not seeing how those authors “corrupt the soul” as your Christ cult would have us believe. And no, they were not the reason I became an atheist. I became one when I was 7-years old, which was around the age I decided Christianity was ridiculous.

    William Burroughs is crap. Not because he advocates drug use, but because he’s a bad writer, like all of the Beats. Only people who cannot sort good writing from bad take him seriously. The decline in literary quality over the past half century has nothing to do with Christian morals and everything to do with the democratization of art and the erroneous contemporary belief that anyone’s judgment is as good as the next person’s. Hell, even many Catholic authors (Maurice, Greene) had ceased taking the Index seriously by the twentieth century and would run afoul of it themselves.

  5. A stronger objection is that denunciation will be seen as a badge of honour. Do you really want publishers and film studios splashing “BANNED BY THE VATICAN!!” all over their publicity material?

    My old French teacher used to say that he and his friends always used to check in at Strasbourg Cathedral before going to the cinema as students because the films that were being condemned by the Catholic Church were always the best ones.

  6. Drieu,
    As you are not a Christian, you would not of course accept my account of “corruption of the soul.” But as an apparent lover of literature, you would, I suppose, agree with the statement that literature shapes the soul. If it’s more than entertainment, it has to do that. If some literature is, indeed, “improving,” some has to be “corrupting.” By corrupting I mean simply, tending to change the reader into a lower or less desirable sort of person.

    All literature is didactic, and it operates by making the proposed good beautiful and lovely, the proposed bad ugly and repellant. This can be done with varying degrees of art, but all fiction is at some level a morality tale and a political statement. A good writer could make child sacrifice attractive, a good film maker even more so. As a Christian, I am, of course, disposed to expect that evil will be seductive and to doubt my ability to resist that seduction unaided. Without a lively sense of the power of seduction, I don’t suppose an Index would make much sense

    Reggie Perrin,
    Since the “forbidden fruit” phenomena takes its name from a scriptural story, we Christians are hardly unaware of it. But think of it this way. Let’s say I mix up two pitchers of drinks, one filled with orange juice, the other with orange juice and tequila. As I’ve forgotten to buy grenadine, I have to leave the house; but since my children are home, I tape a note to the alcoholic pitcher that reads: “Don’t drink this one!” I am, of course, drawing attention to the fact that it contains alcohol, but can I in good conscience do otherwise?

    Like everyone, I’ve read books and seen movies that have left a permanent stain on my soul. Would an Index have lead me to some of those books? Sure. Would it have kept me away from some others? You bet!

  7. “The Production Code was a disaster…”

    And yet 1939, near the height of the Code’s influence, is considered one of the greatest years in American cinema. Do you think its films would have been even better with obscenity, sex scenes, and Tarantinoesque criminal worship?

    Politics is a higher art than cinema. The creation of a stable social order for the lower classes is more important than the creation of “great film” for aesthetes who aren’t as artistic as they like to think.

    It took me a while for me to admit it, but it’s more important to set an example than to indulge “artistic” tastes. If art helps create a culture of unsustainable hedonism and bastardy, we all will have less time and money to spend on art. If art makes us more carnal, we will be more blind to the spiritual, or even the merely rational.

    Let’s not forget we already live under a de facto production code. Various ethnic, feminist and gay interests have significant veto power in Hollywood. Look at the ideological incentives for filmmakers in the California tax code, or in the affirmative action/diversity sections of the Screen Actors’ Guild web site and contracts (stereotypes are forbidden!).

    The old censors forced writers and filmmakers to be more creative and indirect in their use of sensuality and violence. The new censors force them to be more rigid and blatant in their multiculturalism.

  8. Drieu:

    And no, they were not the reason I became an atheist. I became one when I was 7-years old, which was around the age I decided Christianity was ridiculous.

    The Herod Effect strikes again. Drieu, you need to take an honest look at yourself: doesn’t it seem likely that when a 7-year-old finds something “ridiculous” that it is, in fact, the 7-year-old that is ridiculous?

  9. Why is everyone in italics?

    bonald, please delete those who make personal attacks on yourself. It just brings down the tone and quality of the site. Disagreement and discussion is fine, but personal attacks should be beyond the pale.

  10. Hi Justin,

    Thanks for pointing out the italics problem. I usually view comments through my “Dashboard”, so I don’t see the same view as the rest of you.

  11. I’m the culprit, so far as the italics go. I thought I’d figures out how to use html tags; but, like the Sorcerer’s Apprentice, I was clearly in over my head. Not the first time, I’m afraid. Apologies to all.

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