Censorship

Tanaqui tweaver at imbolc.ucc.ie
Wed Jul 5 00:18:16 EDT 2000


[EstairM - or is it Esther?]
 
The issue of ghastly hate-literature is tricky: perhaps we should just shoot
those who write books inciting people to murder? Kidnap members of the Man-
Boy Love Assoc.? And leave their minority-interest books invested with
martyrs' glamour which would be their only positive quality?

Oops. I've been infected. Some liberal come and give me a stern talking-to,
persuade me to respect the rights of other human beings...
 
+ If there is anyone  who is firmly, 100% against all censoring could discuss 
+ the tough ones mentioned above, I'd be grateful.

My argument would be that hate-literature only validates the hate-filled. I
would imagine that it is extremely unlikely to lead to mass hatred of anything
but the books. Then I recall the research I did for Attica Cybernetics' CD-ROM 
for schools on World War Two. One of my less pleasant duties was trawling 
through Imperial War Museum archives... I found one bemused lady recounting 
with horror how, when she was a kid, she used merrily to sing <cue bit of 
German singing> - which she translated as "The ills of the Fatherland 
will be cured when the blood of Jews runs in the streets". (BTW, I was not
popular with my bosses because I didn't integrate my research properly... i.e.
I presented primary materials which were sometimes contradictory, certainly
embodied divergent opinion and I didn't fill the disc with a unifying 
explanation for them. My timelines of critical events were historically 
verifiable, but I didn't interpret the primary sources enough for GCSE kids. 
And the primary source bit about evacuating people from nuclear detonation, 
when an Ally reached down to help a Japanese person aboard a boat and drew up 
only a detatched glove of skin... ewwww) 

I don't think it helped that I defended myself from _Areopagitica_. And pointed
out that the glove-of-skin was paired with the Allied explanation of how the
Nagasaki and Hiroshima "demonstrations" had avoided the wholescale slaughter
seen in the Pacific Rim countries. The Japanese who dropped in the jungles
weren't happy soldiers. I think a full-blown description of gas gangrene might
have been worse.

Still I would argue that German singing kids weren't drawn into evil by _Mein 
Kampf_. It's not an alluring book. It seems to be more the shining images of 
Hitler Youth, a renascent social drive towards conformity and the terrible 
pressure of general poverty in Germany which pushed the nation into consensual 
madness. Today, the consensus of the vast middle class is against the burnt-out 
remnant neo-nazis.  Society <cheers Ven> has progressed.

My sort of book is more the _Cryptonomicon_ type, with Avi developing his HEAP
(Holocaust Education and Avoidance Pod). Avi's point is that educating the
aggressors (what Root in the book would call the people of Ares) is less
productive than empowering the possible victims, who we are to hope become
Athenians. Neal Stephenson understands moral ambiguity and the moral imperative.
That's distressingly rare. And anyone who can interpolate chunks of Intelligent
library Agent exposition of Sumerian myth as a new ploy in cyberpunk (_Snow
Crash_) is a Great Man.
 
+ If we try to protect "weak" segments of society, do we get 
+ politically-correct and brainless censoring that would ban Huckleberry Finn 
+ for the word 'n-word'?  

More critically, what do we do with the Hugh Lofting book which has Doctor
Doolittle "curing" a black person - temporarily, for safe passage. That edition
can no longer be bought, although it's still in the Bodleian (yay!).

That's non-PC in a far more fundamental, socially embedded way than a piece of 
terminology, which is as fluid as language. Terms of alleged abuse are so
frequently reclaimed now - although I don't quite see what was ever wrong with
"queer". Why is "deviant" still pejorative?

*Can* we protect weak elements? Or can we just equip them (us?) as best we can,
then hope? Certainly the idea of culling them belongs to our aliberal past,
along with censorship. I devoutly hope that the we have realised that consensus
does not imply accuracy, anyway, and that the criteria for cutting out material
are not fixed elements of some ordained system. 

Awaiting more input,

Tanaqui

"The rich despised the songs I wrote which told the poor their worth
 Told the shy to speak and told the meek to take the earth
 But my downfall came from being three things the working classes hated:
 Agitated, organised and over-educated"    Momus  _I Was A Maoist Intellectual_
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