To the Editors of The Crimson:
Like many advocates of censorship, Jeffrey Bell seems to worry only about how works of art depicting violence and "explicit sex" will corrupt other people not how they will corrupt him. He can presumably take care of himself, and so he can admire Rosemary's Baby as art without any adverse consequences to his state of mind. But he favors the "total suppression" of that movie because he believes that it has contributed to "the cult of Satanism." Apparently he wants to protect other people, less mature than himself, from their own impulses. His insulting paternalism is evident throughout his essay.
"The concern of artists, quite rightly, is art," Mr. Bell says charitably. But he adds, "The concern of government is or should be the negative social consequences of media..." This sentence is especially ominous at a time when the Nixon administration is intimidating the media. Yet Mr. Bell's argument would be ominous under any circumstances. He does not take art seriously; he does not take freedom seriously; what he takes seriously is a vaguely defined concept of "social health," which in practice means the repression of what our rulers wish to repress and the encouragement of what they wish to encourage.
I am against all censorship, except in cases like libel, because I believe in individual freedom of expression. Of course the censorship that Mr. Bell envisions might succeed in its own terms--temporarily, at least. But they are shabby terms. Mr. Bell seems to want above all a safe society, and he has discovered that art can be dangerous. This is nothing new. As a poet in one of Yeats's plays says to the king against whom he is asserting his rights, "When did the poets promise safety, King?" Peter Wirth Teaching Fellow in Gen. Ed.