Discussion in 'Community' started by Darth Punk, Jul 7, 2020.
By the way, do we know whom the letter is talking about in these examples:
There are plenty of death threats on social media; that's one aspect that is deeply worrying. Rushdie isn't the only artist to receive death threats, but in his case it came from a state, not individuals. If I'd received death threats, I'd be a concerned party too.
I know there is a huge difference here, but some people are conflating the two; idiotic, prejudiced comments by the likes of Rowling, and legitimate concerns about censorship of art. I see quite distinct debates here forming some sort of weird, homogenous mass.
We had a debate here recently about the merits, or otherwise, of continuing to consume the works of 'controversial' artists (writers, musicians etc); and I think the general consensus was that if the works gave you pleasure that's fine; it's up to the individual, and that it would be problematic to just throw out half your book or music collection because the artist was a dislikable or reprehensible individual. I don't care what anyone says, I'm not throwing out the works of Charles Dickens.
That does not say anything about my moral or political persuasions, merely that I am, like many avid readers, prepared to sample the broad. Though of course I have my limits... I remember seeing a copy of Mein Kampf on a bookshelf in a second-hand bookshop in Belgrave, and I almost visibly recoiled at the prospect of reading it. Not a chance... But again that is a personal choice.
I come at this, by the way, from the position of an aspiring writer myself; and I know from talking to published authors and aspiring writers alike, that you can write with sensitivity and respect and still be virulently attacked for what you write. As far as I can tell, that letter reflects that the fringe interests that will attack anything regardless, are gaining in power and having influence at higher levels. It is not a reaction against legitimate criticisms, and the letter makes that clear IMHO.
No, but this letter dropped yesterday, so I’m sure it will be unpacked by everyone over the next few days.
If I had to take a shot on who the editor is I’d say James Bennett (resigned over an opinion piece he publish by a right wing US senator calling for a military response to civil unrest in the New York Times).
@CairnsTony I've read both of Hitler's books, but it had nothing to do with a consumer's logic...
I do get your meaning, though - I'd have to "burn" a lot of my library to remove the work of writers with a racist past or similar. But autodafés aren't my thing. I leave them to the Nazis.
That said, a person's opinions having a consequence on their intellectual or atistic career is how things have worked for a very long time. And if the current crop of signatories don't like that this is how society functions, well, that's what both politics and revolutions are for.
It is impossible to separate art from artist. I am firmly of the opinion that, at some level, one will always seep into the other. I mean, I can't look at Harry Potter the same way, especially considering how Rowling's own views have pretty clear parallels in the books. And it's not the fault of the people pointing it out and, rightfully, shaming her for it. It's her fault for having to be told in the first place. Because, here's the thing, some things can and should be publicly shamed. Not everything needs to be a ******* debate.
I suspect the first example is James Bennet resigning as editorial page editor from the New York Times over the Tim Cotton op-ed, the journalist being banned from writing on a certain topic may be the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette being accused of barring Alexis Johnson from covering the Black Lives Matter protests recently, the professor being investigated may be the UCLA lecturer that is being investigated after a lecture about the history of racism against African Americans included an uncensored version of Martin Luther King's Letter from Birmingham Jail, and the last bit about heads of organizations could be a whole lot of things, it's a bit tough to tell which, and if they mean something very recent or not. The University of Massachusetts Nursing Dean may be what that last one was about, as she's alleged it was over a particular phrase's use in an email she sent out (link shows most of the email).
That's all speculative on my part, so I may be wrong on any or all of them.
Yes I know that. My concern is based on private discussions I have had with writers. I don't think this is so much about what a reasonable minded individual may say in reaction to a writer's abhorrent comments, more that this is filtering up to levels where they are finding themselves being told by publishers and the like that they can't write about 'such and such', when before it was OK. And when governments talk about censorship of art, often as a direct consequence, I always worry.
I'd be quite happy if the likes of Rowling had her bloody Twitter account cancelled by Twitter, because I think she is doing active harm to a group of people that do not warrant it. But then she is not representative of all other artists; but she gets all the attention. She is one individual expressing controversial comments; she is not remotely representative of the greater whole, and I doubt her comments had anything to do with the letter, but they do coincide with it. Unsurprisingly she is a signatory however, and so the whole thing is tainted by her very presence.
Tainted indeed. Author Jennifer Finney Boylan was a supporter of the letter, but recanted when she realised JK was a co-signatory.
I dunno, sounds like cancel culture to me :\
Yeah, I can imagine a scenario where some writers would have refused to sign for that very reason.
FTR, if I had been a successful author by now, I would have refused to sign for that reason too; not because I disagree with its main tenets (censorship in art is a genuine and legitimate concern), but because I know that a lot of people would take it as support for her views. With her absence, we probably wouldn't even be having this debate.
I’ve never liked your creepy avatars - so, reporting this post.
Rick and Morty is a very offensive show to me, as my IQ is not high enough to understand it. Reported.
Honestly, I really don't see the point of JK Rowling being on that letter because this doesn't seem like something she has necessarily represented, certainly not on the level of most of the names that I recognized, and it does really mischaracterize the letter as "Rowling is upset people disagree with her" in a way that would be much harder without her on it.
Indeed. Her very presence is muddying the waters IMHO. I really don't think this is anything to do with her comments. I think she is a signatory for that reason though.
There is, and has been for some time, a wider debate amongst artists and, in my direct experience, writers about censorship in art. We discuss this stuff all the time. Irrespective of some current controversies, there are legitimate concerns based on our personal experiences, with literary agents, in critique circles, and with publishers for example, many of which do not see the light of day in public circles.
That seems more like an issue with capitalism than it does with the current social norms though. People can still write whatever they want. The issue is that other people don't see it as profitable.
I don't think it's opinion at this point, I think everything focusing on her being on that list means that it's basically objectively serving as a distraction. I don't know if there was a misestimation of if her name would give this extra attention or what.
Though I do somewhat amend my statement that I don't see why she'd be on something like this more generally, as looking more through who's on there, there are other general fiction authors and the like that I'm just not familiar with (most of the names I know are either journalists or non-fiction writers who I can see having their day-to-day work more directly impacted by this)
I wouldn’t be surprised to see some on the list distance themselves from her.
Cancelled by association and all that
The two are interrelated. People won't buy a book by an author who espouses racist ideas and with good reason.
This is really not about legitimate grievances, such as racism, homophobia etc. No publisher, literary agent, or author, that I have had direct dealings with, is going to be wringing their hands over not being able to promote a racist biopic, say. They just won't do it.
TPTB, in a lot of traditional publishing, rather than self-publishing, are concerned about offending people, full stop. Even if those concerns are, in some cases, unfounded. Of course books like American Dirt still get published, so it does depend on the individual publisher; some publishers are jumping at their own shadows; others are clearly not. The point the letter makes IMHO is that entirely reasonable debates get shut down; and the knock on effect is that publishers, editors and so on are scared to offend people, and this feeds back to authors, who are told they are no longer to write about any number of topics. The vast majority of people are not offended, but because there is a small minority that will be offended by literally anything, they hold disproportionate influence. Writers feel legitimately constrained. I really don't think this is hard to understand. I personally don't want to read more vanilla prose because of this.
Sums it up for me. What I see referenced as “cancel culture” now is complaints along the lines of “People don’t like my ****ty views and they’re holding me accountable publicly and with their wallets, and that’s not fair! My ****ty views deserve the same level of respect as decent views!”
If someone inadvertently says something awful and then apologizes and is still “canceled,” then that would be a problem.
You know, there has never really been such a thing as a right to be published or a right to make money as an author. And influencers in literature were already a thing in the age of the salons. They just have a considerably easier time spreading their opinions nowadays than they used to.
One thing we are fresh out of, however, is that rare period in western history when censor no longer was a thing but public censor had yet to become one. "Cancel culture", in that respect, is a return to how things were before, except influencers now work without a state filter, and have much less hesitation at applying current standards backwards (the latter of which is, again, a manifestation of consumerist society and its endless quest for instant gratification).
As with anything, sometimes people are right to want to cancel something or someone. Sometimes they are wrong. But it's not a new phenomenon, it just feels like it is because of Twitter.
I never said there was. The writers I refer to are writing stuff that is absolutely fine, to my very left wing brain. They are being told, sometimes even by people who have not read a word of their writing, that they cannot write about all manner of things- not by the average punter, but by publishers mainly, who are nervous about even sensitive, thoughtful, handling of certain genres.
I mean, I hope you have noticed that I'm not defending the likes of Rowling?
I still don't think that letter has anything to do with her comments; her presence in the signatories leaves a bad taste in the mouth. I never conflated the two, but then I realised others were. I sometimes forget, that the discussions I have with other writers on a daily basis, don't necessarily filter into the public domain. And I'm not suggesting all writers have these issues. I have employed, and continue to employ, sensitivity readers for my stuff on gender, sexuality, neurodiversity (even though I am neurodiverse), ethnicity, mental health (even though I've worked in the field for many years) and so on. I don't foresee any significant issues in that regard personally when it comes to publication, but I then speak to published authors and just think, 'WTF'...
I mentioned His Dark Materials for a reason, because this book has received extensive censorship in the US, either by the publisher, or by libraries who have banned the book. To my liberal British mind, this is completely mystifying.
I waded into this debate, because it never even occurred to me that this had anything to do with Rowling. Maybe it has. Maybe all these signatories are bastards. What do I know?
I'm not saying all of them are. I'm saying it doesn't really matter. This is just another day in capitalism. The market has changed; the system hasn't.