There are some particularly wonderful words available for everyday experiences. Gore Vidal, writing as Edgar Box (because he’d been blackballed for not being a “right thinker”), has a character say

“…what was that wonderful word they use to describe someone being pushed through a window: defenestration?”

Here’s another one to help us all forget sanitizing, cleansing, political correctness, censorship, mob intimidation to tow the line even in fiction. Ready?

Bowdlerizing – the act of rewriting earlier works of fiction without their “salty” language. Popularized by Thomas Bowdler. Dig this. 1754-1825. His main work was an expurgated version of Shakespeare. He was not the first, as Nahum Tate and John Dryden changed up King Lear and The Tempest, respectively, a hundred years earlier. Lear got a happy ending, sounds like an opportunity for Travolta to make his Shakespearean debut or Hugh Grant to ‘bone up’ on his classics. In The Tempest re-write, Ariel got a girlfriend and more supporting cast members. Like there weren’t enough people on that little island already. Can anyone say Gilligan’s Island?

Why, you may ask, do we need another word for fucking up Huckleberry Finn? Because fucking up is exactly what it is, but fucking it up implies that changing it is wrong. We should all believe that there is something inherently wrong with Huckleberry Finn that needs changing for the good of our eight-second attention span “culture”. After reading this the other day https://raimeygallant.com/2020/07/14/democratizingthepublishingindustry/  I saw intimidation as censorship being perfectly acceptable to “artists” and “creatives”. I replied that this was tantamount to censorship, and was immediately censored. I was even on my best behavior. Still, no room for reasoned argument when marketing yourself as sympathetic to trend speak in an attempt to sell politically correct spineless drivel to watered-down minds.

I read another justification on how this behavior wasn’t blatant censorship by intimidation from someone who said that Woody Allen didn’t have a constitutional right to having his work published. True enough. He can farm it out himself or try Jim Bob’s alt self -publishing. They have accused Woody of being a perv. Proven, I believe. Maybe, like prisoners, he shouldn’t be allowed to monetize his story. But publishers offering a deal and subsequently excusing themselves down to intimidation? Maybe if Woody had Bowdlerized his story?

Look, throughout my career I have made many friends who aren’t “breeders”. But I also like Chick-fil-a. Like me, Chick-fil-a is entitled to their opinion. Just because I don’t agree doesn’t mean waffle fries are off my menu. I do avoid Hobby Lobby, though, because what medications a woman takes is her own damn business, not management’s. Again, freedom of choice and opinion. A rapidly vanishing option in today’s reactionary environment.

I write a line in fiction from some crazy gun-toting characters, “The nigger’s good as dead we leave him here. Let’s go.” As a writer I want to show them as crazy, gun-toting racists. You read that, you get it. If instead I write, “And they were both wrapped in confederate flags and were card-carrying racist Klansmen.” At that point I’m telling and selling, not the characters. Ten years from now, no one will know what a Confederate flag is. It would be nice if Klansmen became obscure. But I promise you until we unweight the “bad” words, no one will forget the N-word. And brothers can blame brothers for that. Check out these racist, sexist, exploitive lyrics as published by Sony for Tinashe’s “2 On”. Anybody from @BLM or @MeToo camped outside Sony? Hell no.  But if I have a street character in proper character say to another “If you a lame, nigga you ain’t making no noise” I’ll be shunned, clucked, tutted and touted as a racist profligate. But for Tinashe and the $? Plus sexist stuff in there is so way gone it’s unbelievable sisters would let it slide. And this is Sony people, not Jim Bob’s alt self-publishing. Where is the outcry?

The New McCarthyism – Bari Weiss’s resignation letter to The New York Times makes it perfectly clear that homogenous, narrow, trend speak is the new norm for fear of social media backlash. Back in the early Fifties, last century for the children out there, McCarthyism was out to expose all the sorry, pinko, commie rat Socialists doing business in America. Mostly actors and writers. If you got called in for being a Commie, your career was over for a while, maybe forever. I recently read several “pop” books from the era. By the various authors’ tones, it was obvious where they stood. Mickey Spillane was selling himself hard with his preaching and railing against the commies, his hero a one-man vigilante against all things commie and our “way of life.” Gore Vidal, already blackballed, had his characters comment satirically about narrow-mindedness in high places.

And that’s the real issue. Narrow thinking. Narrow pleasing. Narrow interpretation of facts and events so as not to piss anybody off. Sanitary little scenes and sanitary characters. Screw that. Sony is still raking in the $ for Tinashe. If you aren’t offended as a woman, not just of color but any woman, and the implication that “you a lame nigga” if you don’t party hard in a Mercedes, then be offended by the dichotomy in our culture of pandering to ANY social media mob oriented trend speak rightness and then backing up to the pay window with your hand out.

Tell your story. Tell it straight. Be true to your characters. Before you can’t. If your ganstas talk like gangstas you’re apt to offend some gangstas. Too effing bad. Like “cleaning up our act” as creatives is going to straighten out the gangstas?

Published by

Phil Huston


9 thoughts on “NVDT #49 – IT’S NOT CENSORSHIP, IT’S…”

  1. Strong, poignant and well written.
    I reflect on the fact that the internet rather undermines all blacklisting and censorship (The Streisand Effect), but then, China, North Korea, Myanmar, etc. We have yet to see what the global democratization of information is ultimately capable of, but I wouldn’t put some countries past attempting total isolationism.
    Rather like your reference to the mind “fixing” inverted writing, I wonder about how the mind decides what is fiction language for effect vs language for real life intent. Do all folks “know” when the language should be containerized in a fictionalized context? Or do they get that messed up in their minds?
    Regardless, the promotion of derogatory *anything* for money by corporations seems like a loophole the world ignores out of some hand-wave acknowledgement of free speech. You can sing and portray racist/misogynist behavior all you want, just don’t act out (or get caught) in such behavior. Free speech is an ugly two-sided coin.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. “Free speech is an ugly two-sided coin.” Indeed. Speak against the niche grain of the moment and hang up your spurs. Your observation about the internet undermining the blacklist is very insightful. People can hate you in public if they desire, but seek you out cloaked in anonymity. Weird. Corporate boosting of that which is divisive while playing lip service to “inclusion” all in the name of $? Hey, as long as it’s putting money in the bank it’s a free right of choice, don’t watch it if you don’t like it. It only becomes a “bad choice” when it stops making money or becomes an expensive liabilty. The coin that lands on its edge syndrome.

      Liked by 2 people

  2. Wow. Just wow. These people just “congratulating” themselves (I’m not Tinass or whoever that is so I keep it clean) on their political correctness. It’s scary. We live in a really scary time right now, scarier I think than previous scary times because thanks to the Internet your life can be destroyed in front of the whole world for incorrect thinking. They say yes you have free speech but you have to face the consequences of it. IMO consequences like hate speech in your own direction is fine. But losing your livelihood and practically being blacklisted from life itself? That’s not democracy that’s mob rule.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. All of this! I’m on twitter now, but i pretty much only write little stories using some word prompts. Still, i’ve been “called to the principal’s office” as i like to say. I’ve had my follow list gone over, so people can check to see if i only follow those who think the right way. I see so much pandering. Drives me nuts!

    Liked by 1 person

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