Monday, September 17, 2007

38; censorship

Does censorship exist anymore? I seem to remember when censorship was a big deal. Each year at my high school the librarians would celebrate Banned Books Day and encourage us to read books that were banned in other places. Many of the banned books were quite boring, of course, but some were juicy or even excellent. I think Judy Bloom is still the record holder for banned items, but I could be wrong.

The problem with all of this is that, to my knowledge, eBay and Amazon exist in all states, and probably all countries that have the Internet, AKA Everywhere. Can't find a book that's baned in your state our county at the library? Get it online. We're not living in a Fahrenheit 451 world yet. You can buy any book you want ever made. People say Dick Cheney is scary and evil and up to no good, and this is true, but if he was really really evil I'd not be able to buy his wife's romantic novels off Amazon.

'Sisters', by Lynne Cheney, published in 1981 by Signet, ISBN 0451112040, is the story of "a strong and beautiful woman who broke all the rules of the American frontier...Sophie Dymond had overcome nineteenth-century prejudices to succeed as publisher of a hugely popular women's magazine. But when she left New York to revisit her native Wyoming, where her sister had died mysteriously, she left her prestige and power far behind. Waiting for Sophie was a world where women were treated either as decorative figurines or as abject sexual vassals...where wives were led to despise the marriage act and prostitutes pandered to husbands' hungers..."

And to think, in as late as 1960 the Brit's were having obscenity trials over DH Lawrence. I wonder if 'Sisters' would pass the qualification for 'being of literary merit'. Somehow I doubt it. Then again I hold reservations about the literary merit of DH Lawrence, but I know many fine people who disagree, so what do I know? I know that the prosecutor had an archetypal British quote from the case when he asked whether the book is one "you would wish your wife or servants to read." And there was a sort of pause, and everyone looked around, checked the decade on their clocks, and the mythical sixties commenced.

One thing I found different about Amazon in the US versus UK, and perhaps this is a form of censorship, is that in the UK Amazon you can't buy a tank. I found a JL421 Badonkadonk Land Cruiser/Tank on Amazon the other day, but the UK counterpart has no tanks. And yes, you read that correctly, it's called 'Badonkadonk'. And it's affordable at only $19,999.95!

Also: No guns! No guns on Stuffy and British, or just Common Sense?

Or, perhaps, censorship? What are people allowed to have access to? If you're reading this you might say people should have access to all books. How about rare books? Should the Library of Congress be allowed to loan out books that there's only one copy? What about the original Constitution or Magna Carta? How long can I have those out for before their due back?

Oh, but you say, oh, those things are unique, they could be hurt, they could be destroyed. If it's rare we need to lock them up and that way everyone can have access without having access. Rare items, those belong in museums. We can't keep dodo skeletons on the hold shelf for more than a week ma'am. No, the moon rocks are part of Special Collections and must be kept in the museum. That Poison Triggerfish is the only one in captivity. It has to be kept in the Aquarium at all times, which is why you'll see it's marked 'Reference'.

Alas I may not have convenient access to these items. They are being withheld from me, locked away in the Smithsonian, or the Louvre, or the San Diego Zoo. Sure, they're there whenever I want to go and see them, but maybe I can't got here today, eh? When's the next time I'll be able to see Michelangelo's David in Florence? Probably never.

Perhaps it's not censorship. If there are multiple copies we can usually get a hold of them. Books, CDs, videos, guns, animals. Can I rent a panda yet? Nope, still on the waiting list. Why not try a Golden Retriever?

And then there's the black market. You can ban Harry Potter for 'witchcraft' and Salinger for saying 'fuck', but galldarnit, I can get my hands on them if I want. If need be I'll use a gun I got off the Amazon black market to help procure my desired purche.

Let's hear three cheers for the end of censorship!

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