Is it possible that the reason that the Government prefers censorship over law enforcement is that they are trying to respect the Principle of Least Farce?
This is the principle which states that when confronted with a moral panic, a Government should choose the option least likely to cause farce or, if all options will cause farce, the one likely to cause the least farce.
Consider the three incidents today:
- the man arrested for posting a link to an extremely distasteful video **
- the man sentenced for depicting a scene of incest within "The Simpsons" family
- large parts of the UK losing access to the visual depiction of the cover art of a 70's German heavy metal band
And consider the case of the Henson art gallery seizures.
I would argue that of the 4 cases, the one that generated least farce was the one that did not involve law enforcement. Annoying yes, but farcical, not so much.
And with that, perhaps we understand why the Government is so reluctant to use law enforcement in issues of moral panic.
Strong, principled governments demonstrate leadership by dousing moral panics thereby allowing law enforcement to concentrate on the prosecution of real crimes.
Weak, unprincipled ones exploit it. But that exposes law enforcement to the possibility of being placed in farcical prosecutorial positions. Understandably, they don't like it. Which leaves the Government with but one weapon in its kit bag - censorship. Less farce, less fuss.
Governments that refuse to bow to moral panics could protect law enforcement agencies from being exposed to the need to pursue farcical prosecutions. This would improve law enforcement effectiveness and reduce the need for censorship. By caving into moral panics, the Government creates the conditions that make technical censorship seem like an attractive policy option. Even if it doesn't totally eliminate the possibilities for farce.
** or perhaps not. Apparently the clip has aired on US television so it can't be that extreme.