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As usual, I find myself in complete agreement with Hadley Arkes :

Even when we accept capital punishment, we have long backed away from staging executions as spectator sports. And even in this age of coarsening sensibility, we have continued to ban cock-fighting and comparable blood sports. We’ve thought it not wholesome or salutary to cultivate among our people a sadistic satisfaction, a tendency to take pleasure in the agony or torture of human beings—or even animals. The simple root of the matter was reflected a while back in a report in the New York Times of a writer who had gone to see a film in which a woman was dismembered with a chain saw. Behind him, somewhere in the dark, he heard a man moaning, “yeah, yeah.” The reporter confessed to a certain uneasiness about leaving the theater and encountering the same man on the street. He should have been even more uneasy with the recognition that this fellow could have stood in relation to him as a “fellow voter”—a man with whom he was willing to share power over his life.

[ . . . ]

As Berns observed, a community cannot be indifferent to the ways in which its people find their pleasure. That concern will have to be reflected in the laws, which is especially important for republics or popular governments. When the people furnish their rulers from their own ranks, the character of the people cultivated in the local “culture” becomes even more important. I’ve never known an artist who has thought that the arts were matters happily empty of moral significance. They uniformly seemed to assume that a place with a more vibrant culture of the arts would be a more vibrant and better place. They all readily assumed that the arts can ennoble. But if the arts can ennoble, it follows that they can surely also debase.

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