To Censors Masquerading as Editors: Stop Helping!

Don’t gobblefunk around with words.

Roald Dahl, The BFG

The latest sucker punch in the ongoing, back-alley beat-down of western art and literature concerns Roald Dahl, author of classics like “James and the Giant Peach” and “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory”. Oh, and don’t forget “Matilda”. I don’t know how true to the original this latest Netflix musical is, but it’s a fine piece of entertainment. The songs are so catchy that even my (presumably straight) 11 year old son knows all the words!  

What happened was, someone at Puffin publishing took it upon herself to shield future readers from offense. She decided to change the words of this beloved, dead author’s published work. Apparently nobody taught her that you should never touch a dead man’s words. 

After some careful thought, I decided not to cite the downright retarded changes Puffin publishing was prepared to make–before the public backlash caused them to rethink their strategy for releasing the new, diluted works. I’m doing this for the same reason that reputable news agencies don’t name mass murderers. They just don’t deserve to be dignified in that way. 

Okay . . . just to put it in context, here’s three quick examples: “fat” was watered down to “enormous”; “mothers and fathers” was neutered to “parents”; and “black” was softened to “dark” (in this last case, even the ridiculous new convention of using vanity caps–Black–wasn’t enough of a kowtow). 

Now, let’s talk about this business of causing offense. 

It’s the cardinal sin of the new religion of woke: to offend. Or at least, to offend someone from a disadvantaged class . . . which is to say, anyone but white men. You can be as nasty as you want towards that arbitrary grouping of humans. 

To offend another person–even a hypothetical person, an imagined future reader/watcher/listener–is the thing that must be avoided at all costs. Because the new cult of woke does not value authentic expression. It values passive sentence structure, fabricated words, and above all personal truth

But making art is incongruent with the new dogma. 

Any writer, filmmaker, comedian, or artist worth his salt knows that thinking about such things–self-censoring for the purpose of avoiding offense–is antithetical to the process of expression, of creating. Self-censorship and art just don’t mix. 

Here’s where the unscrupulous and cowardly among us come in. They go by a variety of titles. Some call themselves editors. Or “sensitivity readers”. Others, like the grifters at Inclusive Minds, the organization behind the arrogant and downright un-funny changes to Dahl’s work, use the audacious title of “Inclusion Ambassadors.” I shit you not.

My guess is, these people don’t have the gumption and the imagination to create their own work. So they get their rocks off by imposing their will on real artists bold enough to show some vulnerability. 

They anoint themselves champions of the easily offended, mistaking their hair-trigger sensitivities for some kind of gift . . . a special skill, a magic power with which they help the naive artist navigate the modern minefield of mediocrity. It’s a self righteous, virtue signaling mask that too many failed artists-turned-editors put on. 

There is a conspicuous absence of courage in all this. Just as it takes courage to make art, to express yourself . . . all that’s required to censor yourself or others is cowardice. And it’s a lot easier to be a coward. 

It’s so easy that the folks at Puffin managed to demonstrate their own rubber spine twice within the same act. They showed their lack of character in consulting with the charlatans at Inclusive Minds in the first place. And then, when courageous authors like Salman Rushdie objected to their weak-ass changes, they backed down, announcing that they’re going to release both the original versions and a new, light version. 

But it’s not just the folks at Puffin who earn themselves a cowardice badge in this case. If you visit the Inclusive Minds website, you’ll notice they go out of their way to claim that they do not edit anything, but merely make suggestions to authors and publishers. 

Why won’t they cop to their role in this sneak-attack on classic literature? Well, because they’re being sensitive to your feelings. The last thing they want to do is upset you. 

Published by New Bayou Books

Jason P. Reed started New Bayou Books to spark a revolution in South Louisiana literature. The goal of the company is two fold: to discover great new writers from Acadiana while building a global community of readers and listeners. Join us! Sign the enlistment form.

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