Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Banned Book Week, censorship vs. criticism

This is Banned Book Week, a time to recognize (and read) some of the nation's most challenged books. The list is often surprising: topping last year's was a series called Captain Underpants, and classics like Beloved, To Kill a Mockingbird, and Of Mice and Men regularly feature.

It's easy for me to roll my eyes and wonder how people could really think that challenging those books is a reasonable step, but Kyle Cassidy points out that if we're criticizing these attempts at censorship, we should also be critical of censorship efforts that prevent some books from ever reaching shelves.

It's a sensible point, but the examples he raises give me pause: the cancelled tell-all from a juror on the George Zimmerman case and also cancelled Kickstarter-funded Above the Game, a book about creepy (and arguably illegal) seduction techniques.

Kickstarter (in one case) and the juror's literary agent (in the other) responded to online criticism and protest against their respective projects. One could argue that these entities, in responding to public criticism, were merely acting the way business-oriented entities should. Nobody is required to represent a project (or client) that they believe to be unprofitable or objectionable, and nothing prevented the authors from publishing their projects elsewhere.

So, in a free and open society, what avenues are required to be available to give someone a voice, even if their message is objectionable? Banning criticism is another form of censorship, and yet criticism will inevitably lead to some projects being cancelled or amended, and not necessarily without good reason.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.