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Genesis of a Historical Novel

Monday, April 07, 2008

don't read this

Back to the grind. It's a wintry day out there: rain falls from a dark-gray sky. I lay awake for a couple of hours before the alarm went off at 5:30, so am feeling a bit unfresh.

Nonetheless it's a new week, and our health is improving. I'm almost back to normal after the heavy-duty cold that passed through our household. Kimmie lags behind me in her journey back to wellness.

Although I've been following the story of the creation of my old TV show The Odyssey, I think I will leave off that for awhile. There's more to tell, but I'm finding that I want to talk about other things again. For those of you who have been following it, thanks for reading, and check in from time to time to see when I pick up the thread.

Last night, on the CBC weekly current-affairs magazine show Sunday Night, there was an interview with American comics artist Art Spiegelman, famous as the author of Maus I and Maus II, a telling of the Holocaust story with the Nazis portrayed as cats and the Jews as mice. I've long wanted to read it (have just ordered these book on Amazon.com). I've always liked comics, and have been a cartoonist myself.

The main topic of the interview was censorship. Spiegelman, as a sometime underground or alternative comics artist, has been censored. He described an instance of censorship to do with a cover painting he did for an issue of Harper's magazine. The cover featured familiar caricatures of various ethnic groups, such as a big-nosed Jew, an angry Arab, a minstrel-show black, and others. There was also a drawing of the naked torso of a woman. The Canadian editor of Harper's asked whether Spiegelman would put black bars over the nipples and genitals of the female body, since these couldn't be shown on a magazine cover in Canada.

Spiegelman, a chain-smoker of cigarettes, laughed. He thought that the naked woman was the least objectionable thing he had drawn on the cover. He thought that the censorship bars over the nipples and genitals was a funny image, and used them for the American edition as well.

Spiegelman is articulate and, to me, inspiring on the subject of censorship. He's opposed to it in just about any form (as am I). He talked about the furor over the publication of editorial cartoons featuring Mohammed in Denmark in 2005. He, like many other people, had to find the images on the Internet since they were widely censored, not just in Muslim countries, but also in Western countries with presses that are supposedly free.

Indeed, the CBC censored itself during the furor, and even during last night's interview used a distorted graphic to "show" the Danish cartoons. Three words sprang to my mind: craven, cowardly, cringing.

I was unpleasantly surprised to hear from Spiegelman that the Canadian big-box bookstore Chapters-Indigo refused to carry that issue of Harper's (even with its decorously censored female torso). As Spiegelman pointed out, that put him in the same category as Adolf Hitler, since Chapters-Indigo also refuses to stock Mein Kampf. Luckily, independent booksellers were there to provide the information people wanted, and that issue of Harper's apparently enjoyed better than usual sales.

Evan Solomon, Sunday Night's cohost, invited feedback on the piece, and I felt moved to provide some. I wrote this comment:

Censorship is the hallmark of an unfree society. Self-censorship is the hallmark of a society that doesn't even want to be free.

Art Spiegelman was an inspiring breath of fresh air--cigarettes and all. He is a self-responsible adult speaking to other self-responsible adults. Let him speak, I say--and let everyone else speak too.

This is a topic about which I feel actual passion. The institutionalized, coercive hypocrisy that goes by the name political correctness is a symptom of a society that, as I said in my comment, doesn't even want to be free. If you can control people's thoughts, their minds, you have automatically controlled their bodies as well.

So I'm against it. The issue with the Mohammed cartoons was fear of backlash. To keep the peace, to stay safe, the cartoons were suppressed in many countries. But I hold with Benjamin Franklin:

Those who would give up Essential Liberty to purchase a little Temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety.

I'm afraid we're going to get what we deserve.


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2 Comments:

  • Well, can't wait for the next part, heh.

    I've never believed in the whole "Political Correctness" thing myself, seemed really stupid in my opinion. And censorship is another thing I'm not into. Sure, I understand the censoring of adult material so children won't hear or see it, but in the "adult" world, we can handle that and all different sorts of opinions people have, even the crude ones.

    "If you can control people's thoughts, their minds, you have automatically controlled their bodies as well."

    I'm actually reading 1984 now, and everyone has to be careful of their thoughts and all, heh.

    By OpenID Squall635, at April 09, 2008 10:41 PM  

  • As I understand the idea you have expressed: censorship (suppression) opposed to the idea of freedom of expression as the opportunity to SPEAK FROM YOUR OWN JUDGEMENT, what you really think.

    Russia today. I'm not good at or well informed in politics, but, as I see, there is no political censorship in the press and media as such in Russia today. For example, journalists are free to draw a cartoon of the President or any other politician -- and nothing will happen, just some (readers) like it, some don't. They are free to criticize the policy as well.

    In the USSR there was censorship. Some films were not shown for this or that reason, some artist banned. Some people were helped.
    But some artists tried to find the other way of expressing what they wanted to. For example, one Pushkin expert, who is now over seventy, I think, told about his experience: if there had not been for that censor he probably would not have found that that other way to rounsd cencorship, because it forced him to search creatively.

    By Blogger Liza, at April 10, 2008 2:02 AM  

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