Tag Archives: Hans Christian Andersen The Emperor’s New Clothes

apologias for censorship

 

 

Ross Douthat, ‘Do Liberals Care if Books Disappear’

 

Alyssa Rosenberg, ‘The Great Dr. Seuss Hysteria’

 

 

A couple of weeks ago I posted on Facebook the following op-ed by New York Times columnist Ross Douthat:

 

Do Liberals Care if Books Disappear?

The Dr. Seuss cancellation illustrates all the problems that they used to have with censorship.

The New York Times

March 6, 2021

 

Theodor Geisel, known as Dr. Seuss, was an author of illustrated children’s books.

 

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This led to the following exchange on Facebook:

 

Roger W. Smith

I always thought censorship was a bad thing, but now we are being told it’s often a good thing. And if you ban some books by an author but not all of them, that’s not censorship. And here I was choosing whom to read on the basis of what I thought of the book as a literary work, monograph, etc. But now I find that certain works are contaminated and may not be available any longer. Who decided that? The self-appointed cultural commissars. Have they actually read the banned authors? Want to guess? We are dealing with philistines posing as trustees of culture. How many of them, do you think, are familiar with what Milton had to say about this 400 years ago? Or have a clue as to who Milton is?

“This week I learned from a different kind of liberalism that only easily triggered rubes care when offensive books are made to disappear. … often the Seuss cancellation was dismissed as a boob bait for Fox News viewers and a move to which only someone sunk in white anxiety could possibly object. … Plus, we were told, it’s only six books. And is Seuss so great anyway?’ ” — Ross Douthat

This is the very definition of sophistry (what Douthat is identifying).

But since Fox News types are crying censorship, it (censorship) must be okay now. The establishment approves of it, so it has suddenly become not okay and impolitic to object. It’s a matter of choosing the “right side,” and that means the book banners. How suddenly things change. It’s hard to keep up with the expectations of correctness our superiors have of us benighted, querulous intellectuals. They don’t care about out reading habits.

 

a reply from an acquaintance of mine

We aren’t burning books. No one is banning Shakespeare. or Moby Dick. Or Robinson Crusoe or Joyce or Twain. This is all just unnecessary fear.

 

Roger W. Smith

So it’s okay to ban “lesser” authors? Who decides who will escape banning by the self-appointed censors? And which books by the “transgressors”? I like Henry Miller and got pleasure from reading him. He insults Jews and other races and religious groups; and it’s worse with his portrayal of women. I fear Tropic of Cancer may be headed for the dustbin. Miller is very unlikely to achieve canonical status and he seems to be a good target for the censors. When they get around to it. They have a lot of vetting to do. I wonder if Porgy and Bess and the King and I (those Asian stereotypes!) will survive the cut.

Seems like you know which works are bannable and which are privileged and safe from harm. You see, most kids never heard of James Joyce, but they do know and like Dr. Seuss.

 

a reply from an acquaintance of mine

No one is banning any authors.

 

Roger W. Smith

Oh, and I should have pointed out that while Joyce observed that Defoe was what we would probably call today a white supremacist with racist, imperialist views, he thought Defoe was a great author and Robinson Crusoe a great book, as do I.

 

Roger W. Smith

You are so off base here, it isn’t funny. Liberal, PC, cancel culture types can’t see or admit what they are doing: banning books? I do (see it). I have been researching the author Theodore Dreiser in the 1930s. He had a lot of cockeyed, wrong opinions. That didn’t stop the Nazis from burning his books in their public book burnings. You can’t see the danger and the harm being done here? Ross Douthat says it all. Why not ban some Shakespeare? Just “a few” plays — The Merchant of Venice and the Taming of the Shrew. Why not Moby-Dick? Isn’t Queequeg a stereotype of a pagan infidel? Let’s get rid of Robinson Crusoe for the sin of Defoe’s preconceived opinions, which, as James Joyce noted, are represented in the character of Crusoe, the quintessential smug proto-English imperialist, who while he values his servant (read, slave) Friday, treats him with condescension. Said Joyce: Defoe “is the true prototype of the British colonist just as Friday (the faithful savage who arrives one ill-starred day) is the symbol of the subject race.” You better get to work. There is lot of stuff for you to comb through. I thought you loved literature for its own sake. And, yes, children’s books are literature.

 

a reply from an acquaintance of mine

Liberals had nothing to do with the decision not to reprint certain Seuss books. This is a tempest in a teapot.

 

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Another long time acquaintance copied and posted the following on Facebook:

No one is cancelling Dr. Seuss. There are 6 books that HIS OWN ESTATE are ceasing to publish because of overtly racist content.

They are using them as a way to say “this is the heritage that we came from, and we have learned and are doing better now.” 6 books out of hundreds isn’t cancelling, it’s learning. It’s like when you rocked whatever horrible fashion was trendy when you were 13, and at 30 you’re like ”phew, glad I got over that tragic look!”

Dr. Seuss, and most of his work, is alive and well. NOT cancelled. 6 books are no longer being published.

It’s the right thing to do.

— “No One is Cancelling Dr. Seuss (or Mr. Potato Head),” MediaChomp March 5, 2021

 

No One is Cancelling Dr. Seuss (or Mr. Potato Head)

 

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I had previously read and posted a comment on the Washington Post site re the following op-ed by Post columnist Alyssa Rosenberg:

The Great Dr. Seuss Hysteria of 2021 shows how silly and unimaginative adults can be

The Washington Post

March 3, 2021

https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/2021/03/03/dr-seuss-hysteria-2021-shows-how-silly-unimaginative-adults-can-be/

in which I stated: “Too bad. Ms. Rosenberg just doesn’t get it. This is Jesuitical sophistry, a weak apologia for the banning of beloved children’s books. I loved them as a young reader. My sons and relatives’ children did. I am a liberal Democrat and a writer myself. Who is she to be opining about what kids should enjoy?”

 

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Hans Christian Andersen’s story “The Emperor’s New Clothes” has always held a place in my consciousness.

Its penetrating insight.

Everyone admires the emperor’s new suit of clothes as he parades down the street before assembled onlookers. A child finally speaks up and says, “”But he hasn’t got anything on.”

Why did it take an innocent child who “didn’t know better” to state this truth?

(1) Because he (the emperor, that is; not the child) was the emperor. (2) Because everyone had been assembled to admire his magnificent new costume; and they were compelled to buy into this.

 

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The defenders of censorship, in this case (they vehemently maintain that it is not censorship), have similarly put on blindfolds. They have decided overnight that censorship in some instances (a “lesser” or minor author; some but not all of that author’s works) is copacetic. Why? Because the people with “correct” views and lifestyles have ordained it.

But here’s the key thing: Fox News commentators and the extreme right have raised a hullabaloo about this very case. Well, if it offended them, it can’t, a priori, be offensive. It’s “a tempest in a teapot.” What’s all the fuss about? (They say, pompously).

Censorship used to matter (until it seems like just the other day) to so called liberals. But their opinions are subject to modification when they see who is lined up on which side; and then scurry to the other one while suddenly deciding it’s not so important if a few beloved children’s books are banned after all. (Oops, I misspoke. They are not being banned! They are … what is the euphemism?)

 

posted by Roger W. Smith

   March 2021