Saturday, December 10, 2016

Bad Little Bloggers

Book Riot “editor” Kelly Jensen attacked pseudonymous author Arthur C. Gackley and his publisher Abrams Books, writing: “Abrams, along with Gackley, and the editorial team behind this – who are all listed right in the copyright page of the book – should be ashamed to publish and promote this kind of racist dreck. We don’t live in a world where humour like this is acceptable.”

I don’t know what Book Riot is (apparently it’s a blog), nor do I know who Kelly Jensen is but based on her statement she has no business writing about books, let alone advocating censorship of them. Fortunately, she is misinformed in her politically correct view and we do indeed live in a world where humor of any kind is acceptable. Humor, especially satire, is often employed to focus attention on matters of social or political concern. It’s not supposed to be politically correct, and if it is, it’s probably not doing a good job of contributing to the social debate.

I echo the National Coalition Against Censorship’s statement: “We support Abrams’ decision to publish this, or any other book, even if it offends some readers. We urge the company not to accede to pressure to withdraw the book, but to stand for the proposition that it is the right of authors to write as they choose and of individuals to decide for themselves what to read.” Political correctness and censorship are anathema to all writers and readers. A writer whose work contains nothing offensive to some potential reader is not worth reading; and a reader who is “triggered” by leaving her comfort zone should retreat back to her “safe space” like an ostrich sticking its head in the sand ignoring the world.

I have not read Gackley’s book, Bad Little Children’s Books. I don’t know if it’s funny or utter crap. The marketplace will decide whether the book is actually humorous or so offensive that no one will wish to purchase it. That decision must be made by the readers in a free society, not by self-appointed guardians like Kelly Jensen, who must change her title from “editor” to the more accurate “aspiring censor.”

While the publisher appeared willing to fight this tyrannical attempt at censorship, according to the NCAC: “The author, however, decided it wasn’t worth it after receiving thousands of angry messages, and has asked the publisher not to reprint the book, which is nearly sold out.”  NCAS said the book garnered positive reviews when published in September, “however, in early December a blogger attacked the book as racist in a post that sharply criticized the author and Abrams. This provoked widespread criticism of the book and its publisher on Twitter and other online platforms, with critics calling for the book's removal and a boycott of the publisher.”

Free expression means standing up for all speech including that whose content we might not agree with or approve of. Artists and writers require an environment free of censorship. In a world in which Mein Kampf is found on library shelves and Robert Mapplethorpe’s photographs are displayed in museums there is surely room for Bad Little Children’s Books.

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