can't we say that the production, screening and viewing of the ultra-nasty stuff seriously desensitizes us to the extent where we can convince ourselves that everything is fair game except for snuff films?
I've has this kind of discussion before, and the question of desensitization is usually always brought up; but rather than being confined simply to what is tolerated onscreen, as your post does, Tribe, the question is usually extended to what we will tolerate from people in society as well. In discussions like this, the question of "desensitization" to violence is usually posed along moral lines: whether a lack of sensitivity to onscreen violence correlates with a lack of sensitivity to actual violence, and whether that makes the viewer either more disposed to commit atrocities or more inclined to apathy when confronted with genuine atrocity or even with immoral actions. The arguer opposed to desensitization, in my experience, says that desensitization does
produce moral apathy and that certain violent movies are pernicious because they make society more tolerant of atrocity, violence, immorality, ect.
My response is to point out that those who are against desensitization might in fact be absolving people of their individual moral choice by insisting on an idea of "innocence" against that of "experience" which, philosophically, admits to a desire for external moral control. Desensitization to violence always becomes a generality, since no one against it is in any position to decide specifically what people should or should not be desensitized to. In the argument, desensitization itself becomes either good or bad rather than any specific act in a specific movie. Now, what the position of someone against desensitization implies is that it is the desensitization itself which corrupts morals or induces moral laxity and not any subsequent choice by the viewer. One is more likely to be apathetic or permissive of immorality because one's 'innocence' has been violated, or at any rate more likely to make the wrong moral choices because one's watched an immoral act onscreen X amount of times. This amounts to saying that morals are not a decision but a reaction, and that what should be protected is not our ability to make clear moral decisions based on a rational consideration of the evidence, but that what should be protected is an inviolate state that preserves our ability to be knee-jerk about moral issues. According to the desensitization argument, our apathy or tolerance for real-life immorality comes not from our choice to accept such things but from whether or not we have been exposed to visual representations of it in the first place. The argument raises the moral difference between someone who can get away with commiting a crime but chooses not to commit that crime, versus someone who doesn't commit a crime because he knows he would not get away with it, but if he could, would. Neither commit a crime, but whose decision was truly moral? Morality, for me, does not come from preventing the possibility of people behaving immorally, and therefore I cannot abide by the idea that movies of a certain level of violence should be opposed because they might desensitize a viewer to their contents. Morality begins
with experience; if you cannot choose, then you have nothing to be moral about.
Now, regarding specifically A Serbian Film, I'm not arguing that we should all force ourselves to watch it as a duty to our own morality. What I am saying, however, is that we are not going to be made moral, and our society's morality is not going to be preserved, by banning the movie, or more broadly, by insisting that there are certain acts whose representation we should never be exposed to. Morality should not work that way, and I think we should keep in mind that the anti-desensitization argument is about what choices you should or should not be capable
of making rather than what choices you just plain should
I admit I haven't addressed whether such violence is justified, but I have tried to show what arguments do not make it unjustified, in my opinion at least.