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Censorship: Trying to "Save" People From Books
Editing digital books to "save" people only makes things worse
I loved reading when I was a teen. I read a lot of Nancy Drew mysteries and I also read a lot of Hercule Poirot stories. In college, I remember taking a mystery class and reading through Sherlock Holmes to do a report on the stories as a series. It was a lot of fun for me.
I also love watching what is considered “dated” shows and movies. I remember watching black-and-white movies in college. My roommate wouldn’t watch them without color. But I like seeing what the world was like through other generational “eyes.”
When a show or film is made, they have no idea what the future will look like. I know it’s not perfect, but you can have a sense of what the world felt and looked like to people during those times. You can watch people who had phones, but not cell phones by watching movies that came out at that time. I like watching shows and movies from the 70s and 80s. Each time period has its own feel to it. But I also like binge-watching shows from the late 90s also. It’s interesting to watch the progression as the internet became more used and cell phones turned to smartphones, etc. I remember laughing while watching a show talking about “Asking Jeeves” a question because AskJeeves was what people used before the word “Google” became a verb.
In this day and age, it’s really nice to watch older shows (even late 1990s) to get away from the craziness of the current age. It’s like a mental vacation to go back to when people weren’t so judgmental and were way more relaxed and had more fun. But, as I said earlier, I’ve always enjoyed older entertainment for curiosity's sake of what it was like here on earth before I was born.
I understand when a book, movie, or tv show was written about or during a specific moment in history that some people will be treated unfairly, or we may have what is considered today to be more harsh ways of referring to others. But I was told, “Sticks and stones may break your bones but words will never hurt me.”
I wrote about how we are the ones who offend ourselves here. It’s people’s beliefs that cause them to become offended or hurt by words. If you don’t care or if you don’t think it’s true at all, why would you be upset?
I also wrote about the benefits of stressful situations here. One of the main benefits of stress is that it creates mental toughness and post-traumatic growth. (C. L. Park, L. H. Cohen, and R. L. Murch, “Assessment and Prediction of Stress-Related Growth.)
When you hear things you don’t like to hear enough, you get a thick skin and it no longer affects you, just like a tree gets battered around by storms and becomes stronger.
I’m writing this because I saw an article saying that they’re re-writing Agatha Christie novels, like the Hercule Poirot ones I grew up on. I know it didn’t hurt me. It was written during a time period where that was how a writer would describe people and situations. I know that if someone read it and somehow got offended they would have the opportunity to develop a thick skin and it wouldn’t hurt them any longer. It’s just a book.
I also know that re-writing books is equivalent to burning them. This is what we call #digitalbookburning. And our society is telling people to search for things to offend them. They have the desire to be upset. Critical Race Theory doesn’t ask “Is there racism here?” Critical Race Theory asks, “Where is the racism?” They have a faulty premise that says there must be racism in everything. So they teach people to look for it everywhere and to be offended by everything.
That means our society is now teaching people to be thin-skinned, fragile, and weak. They teach people to look for “victims” everywhere and try to “save” them by changing the books (the “persecutor” in this case). If you need a book to be edited to “feel safe” you are too sensitive. It’s time to get some thick skin.
Are We Erasing Our Progress With Censorship?
Before I end this post, I want to mention a fantastic comment from the article about the censoring of Agatha.
“This is just so wrong. Surely readers are able to enjoy and appreciate a book while acknowledging the prejudices of the times it was written in, and that the story takes place in. It’s a way to realize how we have grown in tolerance and understanding. Rewriting (censoring) is tampering with the author’s voice!”
If you change the past by editing books, new people born into this world will not be able to easily go back and see the world through the older generation’s eyes to see all the changes we have made since then. This is a very important point because we have changed so much from when those books were written, but if those changes are not seen, people will feel as if others are still as oppressed as they’ve “always” been, rather than being able to see how much freer and more tolerant people became.
Some of the changes were about the descriptions of the ethnicity of other characters.
“For example, in the book Death on the Nile – published in 1937 and recently remade for the big screen by Kenneth Branagh – references to “Nubian people” have been removed, as have several references to non-British characters’ physiques. The word “local” replaces “native”
A line in Christie’s debut novel The Mysterious Affair at Styles which has Poirot commenting on a character being “a Jew” has gone.”
Another comment mentioned how removing the descriptions of other ethnicities could be seen as a form of “white-washing.” If someone read the new version they could come away believing that Agatha never really had other ethnicities if they really simply removed her descriptions of the characters.
You could see how changing this could cause new readers to think Agatha was being even more insensitive. Furthermore, suppose a person heard that this was the less offensive version and never read the original. In that case, they could also come away from it thinking that the original was much worse simply because they imagine the worst. If I told you something had to be changed so people didn’t get offended you would think that book must have been really, super offensive to warrant that, right?
Well, from what I read as a child none of Agatha’s books seemed offensive to me. So I am surprised they even bothered. But that won’t be the viewpoint of someone who never read those books, right?
Readers are not “victims” who need “saving” from authors from generations past. I wish they would stop trying to “save” us as it’s only making people weaker, and making them more prone to asking for censorship.