Tuesday, August 05, 2003

'I TOLD YOU SO': Theodore Dalrymple measures the decline of British manners from Lady Chatterley to Marilyn Manson. Yes, my precious ones, you know and I know that Marilyn isn't British, but let's not let the fact that he's not stand in the way of a good argument. Not that it is a good argument - Dalrymple correctly identifies that DH Lawrence wasn't a very good writer, but completely misses the point of the Penguin case - they weren't trying to publish Lady Chatterley's Lover; it was about re-issuing it in paperback. The case was not about the book; it was about whether the book should be read by the masses, a totally different proposition. It was a democratisation of the erotic, and if Dalrymple thinks a 'guilty' verdict in the Chatterley trial would have meant the arresting of a chain reaction which lead to Marilyn Manson's ringpiece, he's living in a city of his own imagination. That case merely recognised that you can't have two levels of culture; that mass production meant that there was no longer an elite and a mass. If it hadn't been paperbacks, it would have been videotape, or CD-Rs, or the Internet, which brought forward a test case. The control over what was produced was slipping - and let's not forget that more than stopping bums and fucking censorship and obscenity rules were there to stop the political order being questioned - and the Chatterley trial was an acknowledgement of that.

Dalrymple could have spent his time more wisely, wondering just why Manson - by all accounts a clever man - chooses to waste his hard-won freedoms on making pop videos about - hee, hee - goths taking over cheerleaders birthday parties or pretending to have sex with cold meats instead of doing something useful with his art. But to pretend that Mazza is in some way an emblem of what our culture produces is to give him the sort of over-importance which usually only his only ego would accord him.

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