Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or
prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of
speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to
assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.
First Amendment to the United States Constitution
Censorship has been at the top of the news recently.
We just had the ‘Milo Debacle’ at UC
Berkeley which has a lot of liberals defending free speech. (On a semi-side note, I truly
believe that those 100 ‘demonstrators’ were Milo plants, stirring up trouble to
get Milo sympathy and air time on mainstream media, sadly, it worked).
I’m liberal, I love free speech, I also believe that I get to use speech to fight hatred,
bigotry, ignorance, etc. I also
know that the First Amendment is about the GOVERNMENT restricting my speech,
not my fellow citizens restricting it and believe me, there are a LOT of people
who would LOVE to restrict my speech (probably starting with my daughters).
So, is calling out a book, movie, t.v. show for racism, hate
speech or homophobia (to just name a few), censorship? Nope. I don’t understand why people are so gung ho to say that
bigots can speak up but for us to speak up against them is suppression
(especially we liberals, we are so busy trying to make nice – yeah, ‘make nice’
got us a fascist President, but I digress)
Last fall I was at a publishers’ presentation night with
various publishing reps showing us their top choices for Fall and Winter. I started flipping through a book
called Bad Children’s Books, a parody of the often treacly, old fashioned
covers of the classic Little Golden Books for children.
Having the maturity level of an adolescent, I kept giggling
and showing pages to some of my co-workers. My favorite was Woody Wakes With a Woody, showing a little
boy with, um, you know, a ‘tent’ when he wakes up in the morning. (I told you I
had the sense of humor of an adolescent).
There was a raffle at the end of the evening and if your
number was called, you could choose two books. I immediately picked this one, with the intentions of
reviewing it the next day.
I brought it to my Shut Up and Write group and before we hit
the ‘shut up’ part, I was showing everyone this HILARIOUS book. Then, I turned the page to an
illustration of a little girl in a burka holding a ticking bomb and offering it
to a little boy. The title was
Happy Burkaday Timmy! We all
gasped, we could not believe what we were seeing.
It was incredibly offensive, hurtful, shocking and, in my
opinion (and I get to have one) unacceptable.
I vowed immediately to write a scathing review of the
book. However, being the Queen of
Procrastination, I didn’t do it immediately. I did send it out to a couple of groups that I’m in. One is
my own Bay Area Children’s Literature List and another is the Child Lit
listserve. Thank goodness people on those lists are not the procrastinors that I am and negative reviews were written and an outcry was raised.
The author, who writes under the pseudonym Robert Gackley (but, is children's book author/illustrator Bob Staake - this is public knowledge) asked Abrams (the publisher) to stop publication of the book. It was not withdrawn from bookstores, but more copies would not be made once it was gone.
Gackley is quoted as saying "The book is clearly not being read by some in the way I had intended –
as satire – and, more disturbingly, is being misread as the very act of
hate and bigotry that the work was meant to expose, not promote. For
this reason, I have asked Abrams to cease publishing the book.”
Let's look at this. Is Gackley owning that he crossed a line? No, he doesn't believe that he has. Does he at least feel bad that it is hurting people? No. Look at his language "not being read..." "being misread" Let's call this what it is, it's 'blame the victim' language. It's "I didn't do anything offensive/wrong. It's those humorless people who aren't smart enough to read my book in the correct way."
As a woman and a Jew, I can tell you that this is what ALWAYS happens when 'jokes' are made about a gender, race, religion etc. It's not that the joke is offensive, racist, bigoted, sexist etc. it's that the offended person just 'doesn't have a sense of humor'.
Or as Abrams says “taking elements of the book out of context and failing to recognise it as an artistic work of social satire and comic parody”.
Again, blaming the humorless victims. 'ARTISTIC work?!?!" so now, those of us who are offended are just uncouth as well as humorless. Wow....
Abrams also released this statement:
“At Abrams, our books and our publishing house have never, nor will
ever, stand for bigotry or hatred. Those misrepresentations, aspersions,
and claims surrounding the book, and the attempts to promulgate them,
fly in the face of the values that our company and our employees hold
Oh, okay, as long as you say that you don't stand for bigotry or hatred, I should believe you. Hmm, do you also think I should believe Trump when he says that he's not Anti-Semitic and that his Executive Order is not a Muslim ban?
Just saying it doesn't make it true Abrams.
Recently, Simon & Schuster has come under fire for
giving Milo (see above) a quarter of a million dollar advance for a book he
hasn’t written yet. Milo is a
dangerous hatemonger who incites violence against transgender people, among
The publishing/literature world blew up. Some saying How DARE Simon and Schuster
do this? Others saying, CENSORSHIP
to those who objected.
Let’s visit this again. It is not censorship to disagree with the contents of a book
or movie and to call out that book or movie for its racism etc. To question a publisher for publishing/promoting racism and bigotry is not only acceptable, it's necessary.
Note: Since I wrote this, S&S has cancelled Milo's book since he came out in favor of pederasty. I appreciate they did this, but they also sent the message that transphobia, racism and doxxing your critics (Milo puts personal information about his critics out on the internet, thereby putting them in danger from his followers) are COMPLETELY ACCEPTABLE.
Again, especially at this terrifying and unsure time in our country's history, it is our duty to speak up, to shine a light on bigotry and hatred.
To read more, I HIGHLY recommend these blog posts that really nail the issues: https://americanindiansinchildrensliterature.blogspot.com/2016/12/about-anti-vaccine-kid-in-bad-little.html
And, this article has some brilliant thoughts, stating the issues so much better than I can: