McWhorter on Seuss

March 9, 2021 • 11:45 am

The more I read John McWhorter, the more I like the man and his ideas. He not only thinks well, but he writes well, and, judging by his output, he writes quickly, too. I see he’s posted a new chapter of his book on The Elect, but today’s highlight is McWhorter’s take on one of the banned Dr. Seuss books. Click on the screenshot to read it:

As you know, Dr. Seuss Enterprises stopped publishing six of Seuss’s children’s books on the grounds that they contained offensive images. As far as I can see, two of the books’ images really were pretty offensive, and the decision to stop printing them could be justified (I’m not sure I would, as, after all, it’s the parents who make these decisions for their kids, and couldn’t the grownups make the decision?). But I certainly don’t think the books should be banned from libraries. In fact, they should probably keep publishing them, if for no other reason that they should go into libraries.

The six banned books, as well as all of Dr. Seuss’s other books, of course became collectors’ items the instant the announcement was made: a good demonstration of the Streisand effect.

Here are the images (from two books) that I see could justifiably be used to stop printing the books. The first one, an Asian, was actually defended by a lot of Asians posting on Twitter, saying that “yes, we do eat with sticks and we looked like that in bygone ages. But they are stereotypes, particularly the second one of Africans, which is truly offensive by any standards:

 

I don’t know which books these are from, nor what was offensive in the other books. But now McWhorter is defending a Seuss classic, On Beyond Zebra—also one of the books they stopped printing. Here’s the “offensive” image that I found from that book on the Internet, depicting a man riding a creature that sort of looks like a camel, but is called a Spazzim. (It’s actually hard to find these images online:

McWhorter is distressed because he loves On Beyond Zebra and reads it to his kids After his interesting take about why it’s useful to consider letters beyond “Z”, he tries to see why the image above is offensive—and fails:

Specifically, on one page a man of no delineated race (and thus we would declare him “white,” I assume) is riding a kind of camel and has a mustache. A building in the background seems like, if anything (which it isn’t) some kind of pagoda. [JAC: I must be missing the other half of the image with the building.] The man has the billowy pantaloons we would associate with an “Arab.”

I understand, formally, the idea that this picture signals that this is a Middle Easterner. However, I cannot be honest with myself and view it as a “stereotype.” In no way does this picture ridicule the man (or the animal), and in fact, the camel is a special kind (called a Spazzim) with elaborate horns that carry assorted objects which if anything make this man a mid-twentieth century homeowner, with

“his toothbrush,

A cup,

And two three-handed clocks,

And his velvet umbrella,

His vegetable chopper.

And also his gold-plated popping-corn popper ..”

This is “Orientalism”? I understood the outcry when the original cut of Disney’s Aladdin movie included a tossed off joke about dismembering people for crimes. Here, however, I suspect I speak for a great many perfectly enlightened reasonable people in seeing this man on his Spazzim as just a goofy picture.

After all, some people in some parts of the world do ride camels. Why is it an insult to draw that? As to the possible interpretation that this person in the Middle East is the only Middle Easterner depicted and that it leaves an implication that all Middle Easterners ride camels happily, 1) this man is drawn as white (leaving aside just which race we consider Middle Easterners to belong to) and 2) how is it an insult to show someone riding a camel?

And then, upon what empirical basis are we assuming that even if a child places this picture as depicting someone in the Middle East, it will lead them to think “All Middle Eastern people ride camels”? And again, even if my some chance they fell under this misimpression for a spell, is this really the equivalent of their learning that all black people are weirdly-clad servants?

I have to agree with McWhorter here. It’s not a stereotype, we’re not sure it’s even an Arab, much less a camel, and the person is white. It is a humorous illustration, neither racist nor insulting—unless you live in the Manichaean world of the Woke, where things are either “acceptable” or “totally evil and offensive.” And so McWhorter brings up cancel culture:

But the cancel culture mood neglects degree, in favor of oversimplification, absolutism, and ultimately fear. The Seuss people apparently quake in their boots at the possibility that a certain kind of person or organization will accuse them of the cardinal sin of racism, especially given that almost inevitably, as a cartoonist raised in the early twentieth century Seuss, even as a man of the left, penned some images that qualify as unquestionably racist today. So, not only do “natives” have to go, but even Spazzims and O’Grunths.

On degree, the issue is priorities. I, for one, think that the joy my girls get out of the closely rhymed verse and classic wit in On Beyond Zebra is more important than whether they will think, on the basis of a single illustration, that all Middle Easterners exhibit the shame of riding a particular animal and having mustaches.

Especially given that the person, to them, reads simply as a generic “person” — and I asked, to make sure – neither of them realized he “was” anything different, “was” a class of person in some way. They don’t even know yet what an Arab is, and crucially, by the time they do, they will be cognitively advanced enough to take in that camels and mustaches are hardly universal to people from Middle Eastern countries. I simply do not see what harm On Beyond Zebra has been doing to them, to other young minds, or to enlightened thought in general.

I ask those parents who bought Dr. Seuss books for their kids: do you agree with McWhorter? I for one find this image unworthy of being an excuse for deep-sixing a book. But of course I’m childless.

79 thoughts on “McWhorter on Seuss

  1. Purchasing books for the home is reserved for absolutely particular titles and series.

    The library is indispensable to sample the *sheer*volume* of children’s literature. It is cost-prohibitive to buy any old book one sees.

    McWhorter nails it – I’m now intrigued by Zebra – I ignored it before.

    They have simply *cut* that damned page from Zoo.

    The figurative statue of Seuss is at the bottom of the sea, yet, the estate or whatever will pull in cash. Seuss marked a watershed moment in children’s literature.

    I noticed Mulberry Street – which takes cynical effort to decide to single out as getting axed – becomes public domain in 2023.

  2. In the event that there are those who do not know, it should perhaps be pointed out that it was John McWhorter who was rolled by Michael Behe on Blogginheads, an event that led many scientists associated with that endeavor to back out, and for which, to the best of my knowledge, McWhorter has never expressed an understanding.

  3. I tried discussing this on social media, and was heavily criticized. The main point was that this was a business decision, happens all the time, and was not worthy of the hype. I had argued that if they had just said “We’ve decided to stop publishing these books. (Or said due to low sales)” then none of this would have happened. Similarly with eBay, that the company can decide what they will or will not sell, regardless of your personal preferences or logical consistency.
    The suspicious part of me wonders if the whole thing is a clever marketing scheme to clear the warehouse of extra copies of books.

    1. I’m amazed at the number of left wingers nowadays arguing “it’s fine for society if big business does whatever the hell they like”.

      1. And I am amazed at the number of Free Market ™ Right Wingers and Libertarians who now want to regulate businesses that are not sufficiently right wing

    2. A hardcover copy of On Beyond Zebra at Amazon will cost you 594.99 but you can still get a paperback copy at the bargain price of only $429.00. I have not looked at Ebay.

      1. My sister-in-law listed one of the banned Seuss books on Amazon for $895. It sold three hours later.

        My wife has quite a few, including a copy of “Mulberry Street” in excellent condition. I would personally like to thank the wokeshit of the world for contributing materially and substantially to our retirement fund.

  4. Another defense of Mulberry Street – a book published in 1937 – is the ubiquitous illustrations of individuals with the epicanthic fold in modern childrens’ lit and videos, like on PBS. They deliberately illustrate kids to look like kids with all sorts of traits, including the epicanthic fold. It is really well balanced. There is _no_way_ a kid would look at Mulberry Street with that background and see anything but an old-fashioned style of illustration. Kids are not stupid and brainwashed! Give them more credit, Dr. Seuss Enterprises!

    It is utterly depressing to now interpret all this stuff cynically. We are arguing about doodles.

  5. If you think the African is bad, you should see some of Geisel’s wartime propaganda. I think the point about these books is that it is such a little thing. It’s not that that clearly is an Arab. It’s that by making an issue of it, they can terrorize people, and keep up the parade of self-criticism. It’s not that the people doing this lack perspective; it’s that they are trying to destroy it. (In other news “Mrs. Dash” is now just “Dash.” I told my wife we should sell our old bottle on ebay.)

  6. I am starting to reconsider conspiracy theories. Surely no one could honestly believe that US society is better off with the Oregon changes to math curriculum and banning of the On Beyond Zebra. I have read dystopian stories with these plots to undermine society.

    Is there an actual conspiracy to make American dumber and divide us over election results, statues and children’s book? It seems absurd but no more absurd than the current actions by the woke (and the Trumpians). I am beginning to think that maybe China is planting these seeds of idiocy and the woke have been conditioned into unquestioning belief. Maybe I am paranoid but it certainly feels like there is a concerted effort from both sides to destroy the US .

    1. Exactly that thought occurred to me over Brexit: if Theresa May, Boris Johnson, and Jeremy Corbyn were secretly agents of a hostile foreign power intent on doing maximum damage to Britain, how would their actions have been different from what they actually were? Answer: no difference is discernible at all.

      1. It’s at least partially true, the questions is how much. The Russians did try to sow dissent on both sides in the 2016 US election, Brexit and have targeted other Europeans as well:

        https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2020/jul/21/russian-meddling-brexit-referendum-tories-russia-report-government

        “The EU’s disinformation watchdog, which is run by the bloc’s External Action Service, said in the report it had documented 700 cases of deliberately fake or misleading reporting that aimed to spread disinformation about Germany since launching a tracking database in late 2015.

        That compares to more than 300 cases for France, over 170 for Italy and 40 for Spain, said the watchdog, which was set up after Moscow’s 2014 annexation of Crimea from Ukraine and aims to combat what it sees as a deliberate smear campaign by Russia”
        https://www.usnews.com/news/world/articles/2021-03-09/germany-is-main-target-of-russian-disinformation-eu-says

        1. Sure, the Russians want to sow dissent on “both sides.” But the Russian intelligence agencies, under direction of Vladimir Putin and the Kremlin, interfered in our 2016 presidential election for the purpose of helping Donald Trump and hurting Hillary Clinton. That was the undisputed conclusion of the US intelligence community, the special counsel’s investigation, and the investigation conducted by the Republican-led US senate intelligence committee.

          Do you think the first WikiLeaks dump of Russian-hacked material from the DNC server just 45 minutes after Trump got burned by the “Access Hollywood” hot-mic tape happened purely by coincidence?

  7. The spazzim is clearly not a camel because it has antlers. It must be a kind of hump-backed reindeer, clearly making the person a member of the Sami people. Notice that the spazzim’s feet are designed for walking across deep snow. Clear racism.

    1. I had a Dr Seuss toy when I was a kid that I just loved. It had maybe one or two basic bodies and all manner of heads and antlers and ears and feet and tails, a bit like Mr. Potato Head. A spazzim would have been easy and FUN to make, with no insult to any variety of existing hooman or beast.

  8. Most of our Seuss books were gifted, and I don’t think we ever had any of those six that are no longer going to be published. I think, from what is described above, that I would not have censored those. I did, however, censor lots of other stuff! With the very best intentions, of course. I think the worst offender (and one that caught me by surprise) was good old Kipling. I remember being excited to start the Jungle Book and catching myself just barely as I made it in with all the ‘little brown savages’ language. The other one I censored was a book of Disney fairy tale book that was just filled with nonsense tropes no kid should have to absorb.

    Now that kiddo is older, there isn’t any censoring at all. He gets to read what he wants.

  9. The first one, an Asian, was actually defended by a lot of Asians posting on Twitter, saying that “yes, we do eat with sticks and we looked like that in bygone ages. But they are stereotypes, …

    True, it’s a stereotype, but are all stereotypes necessarily offensive? I’m not sure why.

    As for the African one, are they even meant to be people? That’s unclear, given that the illustration is primarily about a made-up animal.

    1. Is it even possible to depict any person as having a specific ethnicity in a stylized drawing without it being a stereotype?

    2. I even think the ‘African’ illustration is not completely beyond acceptable. They wear nose rings, which gives a kind of chimp impression. But about all these illustrations are caricatures.
      Would a Dutchman object to a caricature of a Dutchman wearing wooden clogs, a puffy kind of pants, carrying some tulips, smoking a long pipe, with windmill in the background? Well maybe some would, but I would not put my money on it.
      https://blog.ernste.net/wp-content/uploads/2016/10/fabr005wond01_01_tpg.gif
      Ironically, the ‘Dutchman’ depicted there is a Turkish boy/hero in the story. 🙂

  10. To put this in perspective

    None of Dr. Seuss’ titles really satisfy the tastes of modern kids or parents, relative to the overwhelming amount and depth of modern material.

    Modern stuff takes Dr. Seuss’ breakthroughs to a new level, and in an honorific way many times. Seuss’ work is truly important and a breakthrough in promoting literacy, fluency, and showing how powerful the written word is, for starters. He must be the absolute most revered author in children’s lit.

    So Seuss is something of a figurative statue in the literature, honored by work that is published even now.

    To ax his books – work of that stature – IMO is a new way to throw his statue in the ocean, as it admits he produced racist propaganda to CHILDREN, of all people.

    1. “None of Dr. Seuss’ titles really satisfy the tastes of modern kids or parents”

      This is wrong in my experience. Everyone I know who has raised kids in the last 20 years has had/sought out Dr. Seuss books.

      1. How can what I said be wrong, ergo, what you said?

        I already expounded at length on the irreplaceable value of Seuss at any time in history.

        My point is that time marches on and tastes do to, to wit, the amazing selection in the modern children’s literature, just mind boggling in depth and diversity, such that on an everyday basis, a vast literature which is not Seuss is in regular rotation to keep up with the appetite of young readers. It is simply impossible for Seuss’ entire catalog to keep up. Yet it stands to illustrate the irreplaceable value that the catalog does still play an important role.

      2. My son had to hide Cat in the Hat to preserve his sanity . Granddaughter had to have it read to her at least twice before going to bed.

        1. I apologize for pressing on this but here’s the comment :

          ““None of Dr. Seuss’ titles really satisfy the tastes of modern kids or parents” This is wrong in my experience. ”

          I do not understand the arguments here – are they to support the notion that all of Dr. Seuss’ output satisfies modern audiences? If so, how can that be possible when Dr. Seuss’ last book appears to be in 1990?

          I wrote the most reverent assessment of Dr. Seuss’ work as a watershed moment – even in the modern setting. There are important considerations though, and I referred to “appetite” as well – even if all of Dr. Seuss’ work were read, kids are hungry for more, and there’s so much great, modern material, only made possibke by what Seuss has produced.

          No way am I going to be marked as slighting Seuss’ material and significance, hence the rebuttal.

        2. @ David
          Why did your son have to hide Cat in the Hat? My kids had to have Goodnight Moon read to them upteen times, and you could NEVER skip a page (although I always enjoyed that book as well. Dr. Seuss, too😻)

  11. I’m intrigued about the stereotype thing. Is it automatically offensive to depict a stereotype? Surely it’s only certain stereotypes that are offensive. How are you supposed to depict a generic Chinese person in a cartoon without resorting to some sort of stereotype like the one above?

    I’m English. Here are some cartoon Englishmen

    https://www.google.com/search?q=cartoon+englishman&tbm=isch

    Many of them are stereotypical but I don’t find any of them particularly offensive. If a Chinese person used them in their cartoon, I wouldn’t be bothered at all. I’m sure there are some depictions that I would find offensive, but a stereotype is not automatically so.

    The figures in cartoons are caricatures. They exaggerate certain features for comic effect. I understand the context behind the African one makes it problematic, but I can’t see why anybody would be offended at the Chinese one.

          1. CB, help me out here – did I misread your post?

            And Merilee, in the meantime let’s not think about how you can tell a Scotsman’s clan…

            1. Indeed!. I said look up Scotsmen- not up kilts. Anyway-as someone else said- Insult is in the eye of the beholder. However in a complicated society some restraint, or consideration of outcome can be beneficial. Free speech can also be seen to be considered speech.
              but wokeism is becoming preposterous.I live in hope it will play itself out or maybe we are being played by an alien power into giving in to all and any demands. People have been insulting one another since time immemorial. Why can it be so hurtful? Because we play an impossible identity game -you’ve got to see me the way I want to see myself.Or else I am a victim and will use that as a weapon.

              1. Oops, apologies all round. It turns out that my mind is in the gutter after all. Although I’m sure that one of my brain cells – likely the only one – is looking at the stars…

                That also leaves my “put your hand up his kilt and if it’s a quarter-pounder he’s a McDonald” punchline with nowhere to go.

    1. I’m also English, and I’m not offended either. But they are indeed caricatures, and there are virtually no Englishmen in 2021 who look anything like them. I would be a little concerned – not insulted or offended – if others who saw them thought that Englishmen really looked like that, or behaved in the way the caricatures look like they might behave. I would expect antlered camel-riders to feel much the same about the Seuss drawings.

        1. I would say “well, that didn’t end up where I was expecting it!”, but under the circumstances…

    2. I think you need to consider the opinions of the folks depicted. Now obviously there will be a wide variety of opinions, but in general, group A finding stereotype A inoffensive doesn’t make for a good argument that that group B should just suck it up when it comes to stereotype B. This is just “we like the Minnesota Vikings, so no native American should feel offended by the Washington Redskins” logic, and it ignores the fact that different groups have different histories and treatments at the hands of others, and that stereotypes coming from in-group vs. out-group can often be viewed as having different intents and meanings.

      Or put more simply, just because *I* trade insults with my mother, doesn’t mean I won’t find your insult of my mother offensive. As oddball as this is, because humans factor in the who as well as the what, identical spoken or artistic content can have very different connotations when done by different speakers/artists.

  12. Apparently, there was no public outcry over Seuss’s images, but the publisher proactively sifted through their catalogue and this camel rider didn’t make it. This form of (self-) censoring does not make real sensibilities visible, but the current chilling effect. They were overshooting to be sure.

    Imagine they’d decided to self-censor fewer images or books. Imagine further, as a result of public attention, the woke pecksniffs would check the books, and now found images offensive which the publisher left in the books. Now these images are not merely a product of their time, just happened to be as they were. Now, through some cognitive sorcery, the remaining images are counted as “approved”, and if found wanting, would meet greater outrage and more damage to the brand.

  13. Seuss (mostly) portrays a fictional world with imaginary animals and people, and whilst there is nothing new under the sun (indeed, given the ancient provenance of that saying) trying to interpret his work too closely via parallels with reality and then taking offence is pretty foolish. The exceptions in the Seuss canon are, as our host suggests, those where there are (rare) real-world references e.g. to China and Africa.

    I enjoyed the Seuss books as a kid, and my children have loved them in turn. Considering the monotony of the “Janet and John” books used to teach reading at my primary school ( “Look, John, look” repeated ad nauseam… yawn!) Seuss showed true genius in making literacy available and entertaining using such a restricted vocabulary. And his use of made up words that young readers could nevertheless unerringly read and pronounce was inspired.

    The whole middle-class gender stereotypical characterisation in Janet and John was also swept away by Seuss, of course.

  14. … on one page a man of no delineated race (and thus we would declare him “white,” I assume) is riding a kind of camel and has a mustache.

    Seems to me to have a touch of the tonsorial and sartorial splendor of John Wayne as Genghis Khan in The Conqueror.

  15. Given that the Seuss estate did this pre-emptively, before any accusations were actually made (I think?), this seems to me a good example of the chilling of free speech — instilling through fear the habit of self-censorship that is the ultimate goal of the woke.

    1. As so often, on reading up the page, I see that Aneris has already made the same point more effectively than I could have done.

    2. Yes.
      Another relevant point is that Seuss himself went back and changed the image and sentence in Mulberry Street when he thought it was offensive. So they could’ve easily followed his precedent and just changed the images and relevant text, and kept publishing them. It’s not like anyone could legitimately say doing that would be against the author’s wishes, since the author himself did it and in fact did it once already to one of the images under consideration.

  16. Is it possible that the image isn’t the problem with this one? The animal’s name, Spazzim, might be seen as being too close to ‘spaz’, an insult derived from ‘spastic’.

  17. I’m against anything that prevents the written word, in any form on any topic, from being published.

    But let’s keep this in perspective. This isn’t the government banning speech. It isn’t even the woke twitterati or academia dogpiling poor Dr. Seuss. It’s the company that holds the copyrights to the majority of the 47 children’s books in Theodor Geisel’s catalog deciding to discontinue six of his lesser-known titles.

    I sure as shit wish they hadn’t done it. But it seems to me that the rightwing to blowing this contretemps out of all proportion in an effort to distract attention from its utter failure to put forward anything resembling rational public policy and from its obstructionist tactics.

    1. “… deciding to discontinue six of his lesser-known titles.

      until now

      That sounds silly but what else did they expect? This is Dr. Seuss – I argued the significance of his work.

      And I found these stories delightful “discoveries” from the dusty corners in the library – precisely what a fan of literature does when they already read the famous titles by the greats and are tired of them, looking for something interesting, something more from the author. The move by those in power is a threat to that freedom, and only accidental in pointing us there.

      1. Each book’s death diminishes me, for I am involved in the love of literature. Therefore, send not to know for whom the bell tolls.

  18. I don’t see anything “offensive” in any of those drawings, even the one of the Yerkle. That’s just a caricature — i.e. exaggeration — of the way certain African tribesmen really did used to look. There really were tribes that used to wear their hair clasped up in a topknot, and there were tribes that used to wear ornamental rings in their noses, and there really were tribes who, when overly well fed, tended to get pot-bellies. And BTW look at Dr. Seuss’ drawings of supposedly ‘White” people; those are exaggerations too. “Offense” is in the mind of the beholder, and I’m very tired of certain academics deciding what other people should be offended about and then being offended for them.

    As for the company deciding not to print certain of Dr. Seuss’ books anymore, would it be possible to put together a consortium of librarians and *buy* the copyrights for those books?

  19. I ask those parents who bought Dr. Seuss books for their kids: do you agree with McWhorter?

    I think he’s got a point about age and cognitive ability. You read these books to 2-5 year olds; chances are, the pictures aren’t going to stick with them and they aren’t going to connect them to real people. This doesn’t mean we should allow blatant racism merely because they won’t get it, but it does mean that you shouldn’t attribute to those readers the sort of subtle social commentary analysis that is second nature for most adults. They aren’t doing it. You might look at the spazzim and think ‘middle eastern guy on camel.’ But your four year old is looking at spazzim and thinking spazzim.

    I also think the balloon pants thing brings up an obvious problem of degree. I.e.is this one cultural icon sufficient to claim the character is an offensive stereotype? What about characters with big noses? Blond hair? Illustrators have to give their characters noses, hair, pants, and the like. And cartoonists especially often exaggerate for effect or fun. If the red line is one single exaggerated feature associated with a culture, then what sort of figures could illustrators produce at all?

    1. > You read these books to 2-5 year olds; chances are, the pictures aren’t going to stick with them and they aren’t going to connect them to real people.

      This whole debate matters only to adults. Is there good evidence that the fairy tales you read to children influence their behavior? Parents seem to think so, but I doubt that there is more to it than signalling.

      Looking back, the moral messages in fashionable children’s books were mostly lost on me, since they made no difference. Several books were classics from the 19th century and contained somewhat dated stereotypes of various nationalities, professions and social classes. But I never connected them to actual people. Neither was I influenced by negative descriptions of rival religious groups and political messages. I simply followed the main characters of whatever stories I heard, without any interest in my race, nationality, religion etc.

  20. Do you think Santa and the tooth fairy will be safe from these cancel culture attacks? A matter of time…..?

  21. As noted in an earlier comment on this topic, I used Library Genesis (https://libgen.be/) and Mobilism to find and download the six banned Seuss books and make up my own mind about their content.

    The excessively caricatured, monkey-like Africans from “If I Ran the Zoo” certainly don’t belong in a modern children’s book. The traditionally-dressed Chinese man from “And to Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street” is less offensive in context and at the time of the book’s creation (1937) even the Chinese probably would not have found it offensive. But nowadays I can understand why the image would look very stereotypical to Asian Americans.

    The third banned book, “McElligot’s Pool,” is about different varieties of fishes and features “Eskimo fishes” and a “fish that likes flowers,” which the narrator says won’t put up much of a fight when it’s reeled in. I can see why this would be offensive to those who wish to retire the word “Eskimo” and those who think children shouldn’t be taught to mock the effeminate, but getting rid of the book still seems like overkill.

    As for the remaining three books, I couldn’t find anything terrible in them. “The Cat’s Quizzer” is completely inoffensive. It has a picture of a Japanese man in traditional dress next to a Japanese gate, but he’s so far in the distance no offensive features are visible. The same goes for “Scrambled Eggs Super.” It shows a character in a presumably Middle Eastern country named Ali, who wears a turban and baggy pants, but his facial features give no cause for complaint. “On Beyond Zebra” has a character in a burnous and keffiyeh riding a camel with antlers. I fail to see how it’s offensive–many Saudis still dress like that! I suppose you could find these books guilty of exoticism, but you’d have to be very touchy to get upset about it.

    So three of the books don’t deserve to be called offensive, one definitely does, and two might give understandable offense. The offensive or potentially offensive material could easily be photoshopped or excised without really damaging any of the books, but I suspect some of these books were either low sellers or soon to enter public domain, so Dr. Seuss Enterprises might not have bothered reprinting them anyway.

    Nevertheless, it dragged three harmless books into disrepute through its attention-mongering and over-reaction. Corporations have more power over the world than ever before, and we are going to become seriously fed-up with corporations either cynically or spinelessly overreacting to earn woke points or protect their “brand”. I can’t help thinking that a less woke world would also be a less corporate one.

  22. As I’ve said many times before: Wokeism is the death of comedy.

    Q: How many woke folk does it take to change a lightbulb?
    A: THAT’S NOT FUNNY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

      1. Excellent. He brings it into the wider context of copyright extension, which has morphed from promoting the arts and sciences to protecting corporate franchises. Hadn’t thought of l’affaire Seuss in that context, but it certainly makes sense.

  23. Is there really no art work – especially from regions discussed here, especially from time periods in antiquity – that depict anything close to what is shown in the Seuss illustrations?

    Is there some rule that priceless art work is never to be used as a starting point, reference, inspiration for any new artwork?

    What is the basis for which art is allowed and which is forbidden?

  24. I can see how the guy with the chopstix might be irritating to some people (as if all East Asians carry a bowl of rice with chopstix) however, in the other two photos, one of them are not even human! They’re monkeys! And the other guy on the camel could be multiple races or ethnicities. There were rumors that Dr Seuss was a racist in his personal life, but no hard evidence that I’ve seen. The woke are just testing the envelope and seeing exactly how far they can push their agenda before someone calls their fouls. In any case, I’m sure the price of these Seuss books is being pushed up now that they’re out of print.

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