"The activity of taste," Hannah Arendt once observed, "decides how this world, independent of its utility and our vital interests in it, is to look and sound, what men will see and what they will hear in it." In our own time, however, taste has no public resonance at all; rather, it has been drastically reduced to mean little more than individual whim or consumer preference. In consequence, judgments about which things should appear in public, speculation about the common good, as well as deliberation about moral and aesthetic matters, have increasingly been relegated to the obscurity of the private realm, leaving everyone to his or her own devices. And in the absence of considered debate about the good, the beautiful, and the true, the public sphere has degenerated into a stage for sensational displays of matters that people formerly would have considered unfit for public appearance.
- From The Repeal of Reticence; A History of America's Cultural and Legal Struggles over Free Speech, Obscenity, Sexual Liberation, and Modern Art by Rochelle Gurstein