Gender studies professor has freedom of speech chilled for “transphobia”

March 26, 2021 • 10:15 am

This instance of free-speech suppression has a twist, as the victim is an endowed professor of gender and women’s studies at a public university. She’s Donna M. Hughes, who holds the Eleanor M. and Oscar M. Endowed Chair of Gender and Women’s studies at the University of Rhode Island (URI).  She’s known for her work on human trafficking and sex work, but has now ventured into the minefield of transgender analysis. As Inside Higher Ed (IHE) reports, her university has, while grudgingly affirming her freedom of speech (always guaranteed at state schools), nevertheless done everything it can to demonize her and distance itself from her. Why? Because she feels—as do I—that there are some limits to the rights and privileges of transgender women considered as “women”. That makes Hughes, of course, a “transphobe”.

Click the screenshot to read the piece by Coleen Flaherty.

Hughes was somewhat out of mainstream feminist ideology when she wrote in the past that “there’s a fine line between sex work and sex trafficking and that legalizing prostitution helps only pimps and johns, not sex workers.” But that didn’t get her in nearly as much trouble as her February essay in 4W (a “fourth wave feminist” site), in which she not only called out QAnon, but made an analogy with that group and some of the proponents of the “transsexual women are fully women” view:

The political left is quick to denounce the campaign of disinformation that led to the Capitol riot on January 6. But fake news and harmful politicized beliefs leading to real harm are not solely a right-wing phenomenon. The American political left is increasingly diving headfirst into their own world of lies and fantasy and, unlike in the imaginary world of QAnon, real children are becoming actual victims.

The trans-sex fantasy, the belief that a person can change his or her sex, either from male to female or from female to male, is spreading largely unquestioned among the political left.

The trans-sex fantasy returns us to the question: “What is a woman?”. . .

. . .The trans-sex/“gender identity” ideology challenges same-sex rights, particularly those of women and girls. Interestingly, men and boys have had no attack on their rights. The biological category of sex, particularly women’s sex, is being smashed. Women and girls are expected to give up their places of privacy such as restrooms, locker rooms, and even prison cells. When biological males identify as trans-women, they can compete in women’s and girls’ sports. There are now cases of women being injured, some severely, by biologically larger and stronger biological men competing as “transwomen.” In the most well-known case in 2014, a transgender competitor broke the skull (linked video is graphic) of a female during a mixed martial arts (MMA) competition. In Fall 2020, World Rugby banned the participation of transwomen (biological males) in rugby citing the high risk of injury. Even Title IX, which granted women equal access to educational opportunities, such as those provided by sports and scholarships, are being taken away. It used to be when someone took unfair advantage, we’d call it cheating, but that is no longer recognized in this fantasy world.

The dystopian trans-sex/“gender identity” world claims that female mammalian characteristics should be redefined and disappeared from the female body to satisfy the feelings of biological males who identify as women. Basic biological words like breast and vagina are replaced by misogynistic, trans-sex/trans-gender language so that a female has a “front hole” instead of a vagina; females “chest feed” instead of breastfeed. All references to women disappear into terms such: “people who menstruate,” “people with uteruses,” “a pregnant person,” or “a birthing parent.” No such changes in terms are proposed for men’s bodies and anatomy. These redefinitions are hatred targeted at women’s bodies and their rights.

Strong stuff, but not irrational or hateful stuff. Nevertheless, that can’t be allowed to stand in a liberal university! And so, as IHE reports, the University of Rhode Island has issued the usual statement that criticizes the views of a faculty member while at the same time saying that it “honors and respects” her right of freedom of speech. That’s a form of hypocrisy. A good free-speech university, like the University of Chicago is at present, affirms that it will make no official statement supporting political, ideological, or moral views, and in response to the mob that’s descending on Hughes, would have said something like “Professor Hughes has the right to say whatever she wants, and the University supports that right.”

But URI has to flaunt its virtue, and so issued the statement below:

I find this statement weaselly to the extreme. While it’s entirely proper for the URI to have a page of resources and policies for supporting transgender students, faculty, or staff, it should not issue statements criticizing individual faculty members’ political views. (They even name Hughes!). What that does, as Hughes claims in the article, is to chill the speech of those who hold similar views, and it’s not at all “transphobic” to want a rational discussion about the extent to which transgender women (or men) are identical to biological women (or men). In other words, URI’s statement acts to squelch the speech of others—and they are many—who want a public discussion of the issue, and a discussion without being demonized as a “transphobe.”  This is why the University of Chicago enshrined in the Kalven Report the principle of not officially endorsing political/ideological/moral views. (Faculty members and others, of course, are free to issue their own personal statements on the issue.) Imagine how brave you’d have to be to risk being named as a public enemy by your own university!

It’s no wonder that Hughes takes this as an affront. It’s a blatant attempt to stifle the speech of URI members who have views different from those of extreme pro-trans-rights people.  The statement below says, in effect, that “Hughes can say what she wants, but she really shouldn’t have said this stuff”:

A faculty member’s First Amendment and academic freedom rights are not boundless, however, and should be exercised responsibly with due regard for the faculty member’s other obligations, including their obligations to the University’s students and the University community. As stated in the above referenced documents, faculty have a special obligation to show due respect for the opinions of others and to “exercise critical self-discipline and judgment” and “appropriate restraint” in transmitting their personal opinions.

In other words, her own University is calling Hughes irresponsible and disrespectful of the opinions of others, lacking “critical self-discipline and judgment” and “appropriate restraint”. If that’s not an attempt to stifle speech that’s not ideologically approved, I don’t know what is.

I could go on, but you can read the articles for yourself. Let me just add that Hughes has a lawyer, which means that a free-speech/academic freedom lawsuit may be in the offing. While the University may have had the right to publicly criticize Hughes’s views, and even name her, any respectable institution wouldn’t have done that, nor implied in the statement that there are limitations to freedom of speech and academic freedom. I have no respect for what URI has done to Hughes.

And here’s a statement she gave to IHE:

Via email, Hughes said it’s “just sad that we have reached a point in society where difficult issues cannot be freely and openly discussed without resort to personal attacks and calls for censorship.”

The marketplace of ideas, she added, “has broken down and increasingly, university faculty are terrified to speak out on a wide range of important issues for fear that — as seems to be happening here — they will draw criticism from their students and their institution will throw them under the bus.”

Bingo. No academic institution should make its members afraid to express views on political issues, nor try to enforce a political orthodoxy, no matter what it is. They can affirm that they won’t discriminate against various targeted groups (after all, that creates a climate for free discussion), but that’s as far as it should go.

h/t: William

First they came for Dumbo, and then they came for Pepe Le Pew

March 11, 2021 • 12:30 pm

The Washington Post reports that Pepe Le Pew, the cartoon skunk who appeared in the first Warner Brother’s “Space Jam” movie in 1996, will not appear in the new sequel coming out in July. Why? The skunk, who first showed up as a cartoon character in 1949 (the year I was born) is a sexual predator, setting a bad example for everyone.

Click on the screenshot to read:

I wasn’t a big fan of Pepe Le Pew (I liked the Roadrunner and Wile E. Coyote), but I do remember he was always coming on to female animals. I can’t even remember if they were skunks. I guess Pepe came on too strong, as he’s now canceled, and probably for good. He was the Harvey Weinstein of cartoon wildlife:

Over the weekend, Pepe’s name resurfaced when Deadline reported that the lecherously predatory skunk won’t appear in the sequel “Space Jam: A New Legacy” due out in July, after a scene involving Pepe — shot by the film’s first director, Terence Nance — was cut. Director Malcolm D. Lee took over the movie nearly two years ago.

Deadline reported that Pepe Le Pew will “likely be a thing of the past across all media,” and the Hollywood Reporter also noted that “there are no current plans for the controversial cartoon skunk to return.” (The Washington Post reached out to Warner Bros. for comment but has not yet been provided with one.)

On Deadspin, Julie DiCaro said Pepe Le Pew deserved to be “canceled,” writing that since his World War II-era creation, “we’ve learned a lot more about consent and women have fought and won more recognition of their bodily autonomy. And yet, we continued to see these same old ‘she’s just playing hard to get’trope[s] inentertainment even today.”

Oops, there goes Jessica Rabbit, an example of objectification if ever there was one!  Now I’m not sure whether Pepe ever raped anyone (I doubt it, since they don’t show sex in cartoons), but he probably tried to smooch other animals without consent.  He was a roué for sure, but human equivalents exists, and here’s an object lesson for kids. Further, Pepe was actually modeled as a spoof of a Looney Tunes worker called Tedd Pierce, who “was always baffled when women didn’t return his intentions.” But that doesn’t matter: what matters is that he’s a predator. And maybe there’s a point there, but I don’t think it’s a no-brainer to ditch the predatory mustelid.

It’s hard to find Pepe cartoons online, as I wanted to check how bad he was. I came up with one in Spanish (below). Pepe appears at 2:28, and, sure enough, he jumps the faux female skunk and then pursues her relentlessly. Is this going to give kids the wrong idea? Some certainly think so:

Andrew Farago, curator at San Francisco’s Cartoon Art Museum and author of “The Looney Tunes Treasury,”says Seuss characters and the Warner Bros. animators used “then-commonplace racial and cultural stereotypes,” though“the enduring popularity of Dr. Seuss and Looney Tunes has led to some issues that their creators, born in the early 1900s, never could have anticipated.”

. . . . Farago says it makes sense why companies would alter and remove certain visual images as they endure through new eras: “Letting these problematic works fall by the wayside is a very reasonable way to address this issue.”

Is it? If you disagree, watch a few minutes of this cartoon, starting at about 2:30:

You know, I can see where watching these cartoons could give kids the wrong idea about how to behave, but isn’t that what parents are for? Do we really need to keep kids from watching them by letting them “fall by the wayside”? (It’s curious that Speedy Gonzalez isn’t getting canceled: he’s a stereotyped Mexican with a sombrero (remember, Halloween costumes with sombreros are out).  Here’s the defiant Gabriel-Iglesias (nicknamed “Fluffy”) who voices Speedy in the new movie, along with a response:

But Pepe Le Pew isn’t the first cartoon they came for. I was horrified to read this:

The examples keep stacking up: Disney Plus recently removed such films as “Peter Pan” and “Dumbo” from its set of titles designated for children’s viewership profiles, because of stereotypes and racist depictions.

Somegolden-age Warner Bros. characters have changed in recent years in response to changing times. HBO Max’s “Looney Tunes Cartoons” showrunner Peter Browngardt told the Times last year: “We’re not doing guns,” meaning Elmer Fudd would no longer carry his hunting rifle and Yosemite Sam would be stripped of his pistols. Looney Tunes reportedly would still feature tools of the stock cartoon chase like Acme dynamite.

What the deuce? No pistols on Yosemite Sam? No gun on Elmer Fudd? WHY? would that encourage gun use? And why, then, is Acme dynamite still around. There was FAR more violence in Roadrunner cartoons than in Yosemite Sam cartoons.

What we’ll be left with, eventually, are bland and anodyne cartoons stripped of everything that could offend someone’s modern morality.  No Peter Pan and no Dumbo? Bloody hell! (I have yet to learn how Peter Pan and Dumbo cause “harm.” You might amuse yourself by trying to guess.)

h/t: Randy

Bari Weiss on self-censorship

March 5, 2021 • 9:30 am

I’m worried about Bari Weiss, for she seems to be publishing the same stuff over and over again. Or perhaps it’s just because I’m reading the same stuff over and over again, but from other people. Regardless, her new piece is in the Deseret News, an odd choice because it’s owned by the Mormon Church (LDS).  The topic is how many people silence themselves, both on the right (if they live in blue states), or the left (in red states or if you’re a “liberal” but surrounded by hyperliberals who will go after you, like at Smith College).

We already knew that, so click on the screenshot if you want to read it, and I’ll put a few tidbits below that may be new to you.

The “old” liberal consensus:

I was born in 1984, which puts me among the last generation born into America before the phrase “cancel culture” existed. That world I was born into was liberal. I don’t mean that in the partisan sense, but in the classical and therefore the most capacious sense of that word. It was a liberal consensus shared by liberals and conservatives, Republicans and Democrats.

The consensus view relied on a few foundational truths that seemed as obvious as the blue of the sky: the belief that everyone is created in the image of God; the belief that everyone is equal because of it; the presumption of innocence; a revulsion to mob justice; a commitment to pluralism and free speech, and to liberty of thought and of faith.

. . . Most importantly, this worldview insisted that what bound us together was not blood or soil, but a commitment to a shared set of ideas. Even with all of its failings, the thing that makes America exceptional is that it is a departure from the notion, still prevalent in so many other places, that biology, birthplace, class, rank, gender, race are destiny. Our second founding fathers, abolitionists like Frederick Douglass, were living testimonies to that truth.

Well, we can leave the God part out, since most of us don’t believe in gods. We can still hold people deserving of equal treatment for other reasons, which are better ones: it is simple justice to treat people equally in terms of moral responsibility, the law, and so on, because there is no good reason to do otherwise, and society runs best when all are “equal” in this respect.  I have no problem with the rest of it.  And the last paragraph shows how the “new” liberalism—the liberalism of extremists—differs from that worldview.

The new “illiberal orthodoxy”:

This old consensus — every single aspect of it — has been run over by the new illiberal orthodoxy. Because this ideology cloaks itself in the language of progress, many understandably fall for its self-branding. Don’t. It promises revolutionary justice, but it threatens to drag us back into the mean of history, in which we are pitted against one another according to tribe.

The primary mode of this ideological movement is not building or renewing or reforming, but tearing down. Persuasion is replaced with public shaming. Forgiveness is replaced with punishment. Mercy is replaced with vengeance. Pluralism with conformity; debate with de-platforming; facts with feelings; ideas with identity.

According to the new illiberalism, the past cannot be understood on its own terms, but must be judged through the morals and mores of the present. Education, according to this ideology, is not about teaching people how to think, it’s about telling them what to think. All of this is why William Peris, a UCLA lecturer and an Air Force veteran, was investigated because he read Martin Luther King Jr.’s “Letter from Birmingham Jail” out loud in class. It is why statues of Ulysses S. Grant and Abraham Lincoln were torn down last summer. It is why a school district in California has banned Harper Lee’s “To Kill a Mockingbird,” Mark Twain’s “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn” and John Steinbeck’s “Of Mice and Men.” It’s why the San Francisco School Board just voted to rename 44 schools, including ones named for George Washington, Paul Revere and Dianne Feinstein — you read that right — for various sins.

Okay, that’s a good list, but we know much of this already, although perhaps Weiss’s readers don’t. But she’s way behind the news curve, as with the school renaming. However, here’s one tidbit I’d missed:

In this ideology, if you do not tweet the right tweet or share the right slogan or post the right motto and visual on Instagram, your whole life can be ruined. If you think I’m exaggerating, you might look up Tiffany Riley, the Vermont public school principal fired this fall because she said she supports Black lives but not the organization Black Lives Matter.

You’re gonna get paywalled if you try to follow those links, so here’s the story from Vermont local NBC news outlet:

Riley’s post said she firmly believes that “Black Lives Matter, but I DO NOT agree with the coercive measures taken to get this point across; some of which are falsified in an attempt to prove a point.”

She went on to write that while she wants to get behind Black Lives Matter, “I do not think people should be made to feel they have to choose black race over human race. While I understand the urgency to feel compelled to advocate for black lives, what about our fellow law enforcement? What about all others who advocate for and demand equity for all?”

Her post generated more than 100 comments and was widely shared, the school board said. She was placed on paid administrative leave June 12 and the board unanimously voted on July 27 to fire Riley, pending a termination hearing. The Sept. 10 hearing was held in a closed executive session, although Riley tried to have the hearing open to the public.

Not a smart Facebook post if you want to retain credibility with your community, but it is still within Riley’s freedom of speech to post this on Facebook. Indeed, she filed a freedom-of-speech and defamation lawsuit in 2020 but I haven’t found much about it since. You shouldn’t get fired for exercising your freedom of speech unless it somehow contravenes your ability to do your job or reflects badly on your employer, nether of which seems to be true in this case.

Finally, Weiss explains what’s new about “cancel culture” as opposed to previous “discussions” about differing views:

But what we call cancel culture is a departure from traditional taboos in two ways.

The first is technology. Sins once confined to the public square or the town hall are now available for the entire world for eternity. In our era of Big Tech there is no possibility of moving to a new town and starting fresh because the cloud of all of your posts and likes hangs over your head forever.

The second is that in the past, societal taboos were generally reached through a cultural consensus. Today’s taboos, on the other hand, are often fringe ideas pushed by a zealous cabal trying to redefine what is acceptable and what should be shunned. It is a group that has control of nearly all of the institutions that produce American cultural and intellectual life: media, to be sure, but also higher education, museums, publishing houses, marketing and advertising outfits, Hollywood, K-12 education, technology companies and, increasingly, corporate human resource departments.

And this leads to self-censorship. Even I have to worry about shutting up when I address certain topics, though I have little to lose.

At any rate, although what’s above may be news to the good citizens of Utah, it seems to be banging the same old drum, with the addition of gods.  Or maybe I’m just splenetic today.

Insulting the hamantasch: the insane cultural policing of recipes

February 24, 2021 • 10:30 am

Every day I find or am sent quite a few examples of wokeness gone mad, and every day I post only one or two of them. But the accumulation of craziness is making me think that the world has gone bonkers, and I’m not sure why. Is it the pandemic? Is it social media? Who knows? If I could figure that out, I’d be a psychologist or sociologist, not a biologist. So I proffer these examples for your amusement, but also to show you that there’s a behavior afoot with the potential to turn America into Orwell’s Oceania.

In his new column in the New York Times, appropriately titled below, Bret Stephens describes a new campaign at Bon Appétit food magazine that truly underlines the humorlessness of the Woke. (A variant of an old joke: A man walks into a Woke bookstore, asks about a book, and is told by a clerk, “Sorry, sir, this is a social-justice bookstore. We don’t have a humor section.”)

Click on the screenshot to read:

The fracas at Bon Appétit is about a Jewish pastry: hamantaschen. They’re triangular cookies, usually filled with prune or apricot preserves, and served at the holiday of Purim (the shape is modeled on the three-corned hat of the Purim bad guy Haman).  I happen to love them, particularly the traditional prune-filled version. Here’s an apricot one that I ate in Brookline, Massachusetts in January of last year.

A good hamantasch has a cookie that is soft and not too dry, and they vary in quality. And there’s the rub, for in 2015 food writer Dawn Perry (not a Jew!) wrote the following article (click on screenshot):

The name has been changed, though: it was originally “How to Make Actually Good Hamantaschen”. Why the change? Because of a Pecksniff who apparently took the title as a denigration of Jews via the implication that Hamantaschen aren’t “actually good.” But Perry doesn’t say that; she says this:

Hamantaschen are shaped to resemble Haman’s 3-cornered hat and traditionally stuffed with sweet fillings made of poppy seeds, dried fruits, or fruit preserves (among others). Sounds tasty, right? But achieving the right balance is not always easy to pull off.

So I set out to create a cookie that hit all the right notes: The cookie itself would be a pleasure to eat, whether or not you encountered filling in each bite. And the fillings themselves would be were after baking, but not too sweet.

If you read the article, you’ll see that Perry tweaked traditional hamantasch recipes a bit, suggesting using butter instead of oil or shortening (an improvement!), using jam instead of preserves, putting an egg wash on the cookie, and so on. None of the changes fundamentally altered the pastry. But she does suggest other changes, like a cinnamon-date filling, that, while they may really offend the Pecksniffs, sound fantastic.

Stephens reports on said Pecksniff:

Six years later, a woman named Abigail Koffler found the article while researching hamantaschen fillings. She was not amused.

Perry, Koffler wrote on Twitter, isn’t Jewish. Perry’s husband, Koffler added, had been forced out of his job at Condé Nast last year based on accusations of racial bias. Above all, Koffler objected, “Traditional foods do not automatically need to be updated, especially by someone who does not come from that tradition.”

Most Jews would probably be grateful for an “actually good” hamantasch. Yet within hours of Koffler’s tweets, Bon Appétit responded with an editor’s note atop the article, now renamed “5 Steps to Really Good Hamantaschen.” It’s a note that defies summary, parody and belief.

And here’s that editor’s note: (I am not making this up; click on the screenshot):

Yes, that’s right: the magazine has instituted an “Archive Repair Project” to go back and sanitize any ideologically dubious recipes. So far they’ve sniffed out and bowdlerized over 200 recipes.  Shoot me now!

Stephens draws from this incident three conclusions about Wokeness:

Behold in this little story, dear reader, the apotheosis of Woke.

No transgression of sensitivities is so trivial that it will not invite a moralizing rebuke on social media.

No cultural tradition is so innocuous that it needn’t be protected from the slightest criticism, at least if the critic has the wrong ethnic pedigree.

No writer is so innocent that she should be spared from having her spouse’s alleged failings trotted out to suggest discrimination-by-association.

And no charge of cultural insensitivity is so far-fetched that it won’t force a magazine into self-abasing self-expurgation. What Bon Appétit blithely calls its “Archive Repair Project” is, according to HuffPost, an effort to scour “55 years’ worth of recipes from a variety of Condé Nast magazines in search of objectionable titles, ingredient lists and stories told through a white American lens.”

Stephens goes into other examples that are more egregious but never got redacted, like an offensive cover of The New Yorker. He also describes the demonization of Professor Jason Kilborn at the University of Illinois at Chicago Law School, an example we’ve already seen.

Let this serve as one more example, loonier than ever, of the policing of culture. I am a secular Jew, have eaten hamantaschen whenever I can get them, and love them. Am I offended if someone wants to put butter in them, or give them an egg wash? Not on your life—it would probably make them even better!

So what if the person is a shicksa? Can only Jews tweak Jewish food? Not in my view. “Cultural appropriation” of this type is not only a form of flattery, but a way to appreciate other cultures and create “hybrid” foods, like buttery hamantaschen, that might be better than the original. Not every ethnic food is immune to improvement, you know.

Stephens is a conservative, so this wokeness plays into his court. But it offends me as well, and should offend you. These Leisure Fascists are running amok, telling us what we can and cannot do with our culture and those of other people. So long as the “appropriation” isn’t exploitative or denigrating—and this isn’t—I’m all in favor.

Stephens ends his piece this way:

A friend of mine, a lifelong liberal whose patience is running thin with the new ethos of moral bullying, likes to joke, “Woke me when it’s over.” To which I say: Get comfortable.

After publishing this, I wonder how long Stephens has at the New Woke Times.

As for Bon Appétit‘s other redacted recipes, I don’t know from them. But I do know hamantaschen, and I approve of Perry’s article. The calling out of her husband by Pecksniff Koffler is beyond belief.

Chicago begins identifying potentially offensive and removable monuments, including those honoring Lincoln, McKinley, Ben Franklin, Washington, and Ulysses S. Grant

February 19, 2021 • 10:00 am

Good god! It’s not enough that San Francisco embarrassed itself by renaming 44 schools, including those bearing the monickers of Dianne Feinstein, Abe Lincoln, George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Teddy Roosevelt, and Paul Revere. Now the city of Chicago, under the leadership of the increasingly embarrassing mayor Lori Lightfoot, is undertaking the same venture, singling out 41 monuments to be “investigated” for possible removal or renaming. The bowdlerization of my city is detailed in these two article from the Chicago Sun-Times and the New York Times (click on screenshots below):

Sun-Times:

NYT:

You can see photos and descriptions of the scrutinized monuments on this page, and I have to say that there are almost none of them that I find worthy of removal, for they mark history, with all its flaws, and offense of some people is not sufficient to immediately mandate erasing a statue. (There are FIVE monuments to Abe Lincoln to be vetted!) And there are alternatives to removal, as I mention below.

Here are a few photos of statues being scrutinized, along with possible reason why they’re “problematic” (indented). Here are the criteria that the committee is considering:

Reasons for making the list include promoting narratives of white supremacy; presenting an inaccurate or demeaning portrayal of Native Americans; celebrating people with connections to slavery, genocide or racist acts; or “presenting selective, over-simplified, one-sided views of history.”

The project website does not note which criteria might apply to any specific monument or statue.

That’s not exactly true, as I show below.

There’s also an advisory committee vetting the monuments, with its members shown here (I’m not optimistic!), and, unlike San Francisco, Chicago is soliciting public feedback on the monuments. (But it would help to know why they’re on the list!). I will give them feedback.

The first one, “A Signal of Peace” seems to be problematic only because it displays a native American. It was intended by the sculptor (and his patron) to be a sign of respect for Native Americans as well as a lament for their oppression by whites:

Before the fair was even over, arrangements were made by wealthy Chicago lawyer and art patron Lambert Tree to purchase the sculpture for $3,000 cash. Offering it for permanent placement in Lincoln Park, Tree was clear in his intent that the monument was intended as a permanent symbol of respect for native peoples who were: “…..oppressed and robbed by government agents, deprived of their lands… shot down by soldiery in wars fomented for the purpose of plundering and destroying their race, and finally drowned by the ever westward tide of population.”

Are we not, then, to depict any Native Americans, even in this respectful and mournful (for their oppression) manner?

Photo ©: Jyoti Srivastava

Here’s another Native American sculpture, (“Indians; the Bowman and the Spearman”) in Grant Park; I often look at and admire this when I drive downtown. And here’s why it’s to be scrutinized:

Impressive for their heroic scale and bristling energy, the sculptures have been criticized for their romanticized and reductive images of American Indians.

Reductive? Romanticized? It’s an admirable, admiring, and truly lovely piece of art. For crying out loud, most public statues are “romanticized,” not to mention “reductive”. What are we supposed to show: a Native American skinning a buffalo?

Photo ©: Jyoti Srivastava

Here’s “Standing Lincoln,” a well known statue. Why is it bad? The site doesn’t say, but apparently Lincoln’s allowing a few Native Americans to be hanged (and pardoned many more)—as well as his early (but later changed) bigotry towards blacks—outweighs his emancipation of the slaves. It’s by the famous sculptor Augustus Saint-Gaudens, and comes with this note on the site (there’s no “reason” given to scrutinize this):

Many people who personally knew Lincoln and were alive at the time of the monument’s dedication commented on the imagery being a moving and accurate representation. As a guide, Augustus Saint-Gaudens used life casts of Lincoln’s face and hands made by Chicago sculptor Leonard Volk.

Photo ©: Jyoti Srivastava

Benjamin Franklin gets scrutinized, too, for he owned two slaves but later freed them and became an abolitionist. So what’s the problem?

Franklin’s achievements in helping shape United States democracy as well as his role in other disciplines are well-documented historical facts. Historical archives reflect some negative personal views on people and groups not unusual for the time, but historians have noted that he was open-minded and would often shift in his positions. Franklin owned two slaves who served in household responsibilities, but he later freed both and became an outspoken abolitionist.

Photo ©: Jyoti Srivastava

George Washington, by Daniel Chester French (a replica).  No reason given, but of course Washington owned slaves. The site says this:

The monument is one of the finest examples of equestrian sculpture in Chicago, and is considered a major work by Daniel Chester French, whose later work included the marble sculpture of Lincoln at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington D.C.

Photo ©: Jyoti Srivastava

Why Leif Ericson is scrutinized baffles me, and no information is given. Yes, he may have made it to North America, but he didn’t “colonize it”.  In fact, we know little about his exploits.

Photo ©: Jyoti Srivastava

And woe to Ulysses S. Grant, who led the Union Army to victory over the Confederacy. He had one slave but set him free. The caption says this:

Grant pursued a number of unsuccessful ventures, including farming on his father-in-law’s Missouri plantation, where he purchased and quickly manumitted a slave, and working for his father, a fervent abolitionist, at the family’s Galena, Illinois leather goods business. Grant quickly proved himself a brilliant tactician and leader, rising to lead the Union forces by 1865.

Photo ©: Jyoti Srivastava

Another statue, “The Alarm”, seems to be a dignified and respectful depiction of Native Americans.  No reason is given why it’s on the list.  Here are a few words:

Sculptor John J. Boyle grew up in Philadelphia and was trained at the Franklin Institute, the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, and the Ecole des Beaux-Arts, Paris. In preparation for Ryerson’s commission, Boyle spent two months observing Native American subjects and making numerous sketches and studies.

Photo ©: Jyoti Srivastava

Are there any monuments that I think need to go? Given alternatives of explanatory plaques or counter-monuments, I found only one. But it’s already been taken down! I think the one below is invidious and divisive, and doesn’t honor anything except a massacre of settlers by Indians, not noting that most of the killing went the other way. Here’s the “Fort Dearborn Massacre”. A note from the site:

Industrialist George Pullman (1831-1897) commissioned this monumental bronze figural group to be placed near his Prairie Avenue mansion — which was believed to be the site of the attack on the garrison evacuating Fort Dearborn during the War of 1812. The work shows Potawatomie chieftain Black Partridge intervening on behalf of Margaret Helm, wife of the fort’s commander and the step-daughter of fur trader, John Kinzie. Danish sculptor Carl Rohl-Smith (in Chicago to create sculpture for the World’s Columbian Exposition in 1893), based his figures on sketches he made of Indian models who were held captive at Fort Sheridan in the aftermath of the massacre at Wounded Knee. Conceived in a sensationalist, luridly violent mode, the sculpture was long criticized by American Indian activists and was removed from public view in 1997.

It’s already gone! None of these should be destroyed; they should be preserved somewhere as examples of public art, no matter how misguided or lurid.

 

The New York Times details some pushback, but also gives one view of why Lincoln should be erased:

The committee’s list almost immediately drew criticism from some state leaders. “Never thought that statues of Abraham Lincoln or Ulysses S. Grant would be considered ‘controversial’ in the Land of Lincoln,” Representative Darin LaHood, a Republican who represents parts of Peoria and Springfield, wrote on Twitter. “This is detached from reason.”

Daniel Fountain, a professor of history at Meredith College in Raleigh, N.C., said that Lincoln’s legacy has come under scrutiny in the 21st century in part because, as a younger politician, his views reflected the white supremacist attitudes of most 19th-century politicians.

Professor Fountain noted that during his famous debate with Stephen Douglas, his rival in Illinois, Lincoln stated his opposition to letting Black people serve as jurors, marry white people or “attain any semblance of social equality.”

Lincoln’s views evolved during the Civil War, but those early statements remained “abysmal,” he said.

“For many, his flaws undermine his very real, significant achievements,” Professor Fountain said.

Well, Professor Fountain, for more people Lincoln’s achievements outweigh his flaws. How many people have to be offended before a statue is removed? And can’t we just add a plaque that he once held bigoted views but changed them? Why is that not enough? Woe to America if we have to pull down statues of Abe Lincoln!

In general I object to the erasure of history, for if we remove all monuments to people who, when morality changes over time, are found wanting, then almost all history will be gone.

The Atlantic just published what I see as the definitive way to regard monuments, and which of them really deserve to be removed. Click on the screenshot, and I do recommend that you read this thoughtful and reasonable take:

One excerpt:

The issue of what to do with monuments and school names can be more complex than the cartoonish excesses of the woke left might indicate. Art’s impact on the public weal should not be the sole or leading measure of its worth—that way Stalinist “socialist realism” lies—but in certain cases it cannot be ignored.

Few would want a statue of Hitler or Mussolini or Tojo to stand in a town square, even if it was erected in the 1930s and thus could be said to be a historical artifact. Many of the Confederate statues in the South were commissioned in the dark days after the end of Reconstruction, when the Ku Klux Klan ran riot, Black people were terrorized and lynched, and the mythology of the “Lost Cause” was born. To treat such objects as if they were simply neutral cultural artifacts is to willfully misread history. Some public art is arguably so detrimental to social cohesion that a civic conversation about what to do with it is desirable.

In any case, the answer does not have to be to remove the “bad” public artworks. They can be curated, with explanatory material placing them in historical context. (Early Days was curated, but inadequately.) They can be balanced with other works: A German friend told me that in Hamburg, city officials dealt with a Nazi-built memorial glorifying war by commissioning a counter-memorial that criticized it. These works can be moved to a historic monument site, or to a museum—making explicit their status as aesthetic or historical objects, not exemplars of city values.

. . . In the end, self-righteous symbolic crusades like the school-renaming campaign must not be immune from criticism simply because they purport to fight racial injustice—that noble cause is debased by empty gestures that achieve nothing. Indeed, by creating conflict over trivial objectives—just turn on Fox News—they are more likely to harm the cause of societal progress and racial harmony than to advance it.

Yes, I shall be giving my input to the monument-inspection Pecksniffs, and perhaps to the mayor and my alderman.

h/t: Ben

Shakespeare gets canceled

February 18, 2021 • 1:00 pm

Yes, I’ve exaggerated with the word “canceled”, but if English departments were like police departments, you could say that Shakespeare is getting “defunded.” Unfortunately, I am not an expert on the Bard, having read only the most famous of his plays (and all of the sonnets), so all I can say is that he is not just an expert in constructing intricate and absorbing plots, but a genius, probably unparalleled, in the use of the English language. His preeminence is justified, but of course he’s a dead white male, and of course there is Othello (who doesn’t come off so badly, as Shakespeare was no white supremacist), and most of all there’s Shylock.

But crikey, that was the late 16th and early 17th century, and Shakespeare gets off pretty well compared to what were probably the attitudes of his English countrymen.  Nevertheless, he’s being downgraded, and this is expected given the way things are going. The criticism doesn’t seem to mention Shylock because, after all, who cares about stereotyped Jews?

The article below is of course from a conservative venue: the Washington Times. But that doesn’t mean that the quotes (indented) are fake, so if you find a fake one, let me know. Otherwise, I’ll give a few excerpts, as I must take my wintery constitutional before I watch the Mars landing. Click on the screenshot:

So let’s put Shakespeare in the dock. “Mr. Shakespeare, you stand accused of these sins:”

White supremacy and colonization (?):

For the new breed of teachers, Shakespeare is seen less as an icon of literature and more as a tool of imperial oppression, an author who should be dissected in class or banished from the curriculum entirely.

“This is about white supremacy and colonization,” declared the teachers who founded #DisruptTexts, a group that wants staples of Western literature removed or subjected to withering criticism.

The anti-Shakespeare teachers say fans of the plays ignore the author’s problematic worldview. They say readers of Shakespeare should be required to address the “whiteness” of their thinking.

If Shakespeare must be taught, these educators say, then it should be presented with watered-down versions of the original or supplemental texts focused on equality issues.

Elizabeth Nelson, who teaches English at Twin Cities Academy in St. Paul, Minnesota, told School Library Journal that she gives her students Marxist theory when reading Shakespeare’s tragedy “Coriolanus” about the Roman leader.

Toxic masculinity:

Sarah Mulhern Gross told the journal that she delivered “toxic masculinity analysis” to her students reading “Romeo and Juliet” at High Technology High School in Lincroft, New Jersey.

I suppose this is because those Montagues and Capulets who were always quarreling were MEN, ergo the family feud exemplified toxic masculinity.

Being an irrelevant hack:

This is among the most ridiculous of the comments, but remember that Woke ideology rejects the idea of a meritocracy. And Shakespeare, often considered the greatest of English-language writers, is triply bad because he was a white male as well as a great writer, so he needs to be taken down a few pegs. For example:

The School Library Journal, which describes itself as “the premier publication for librarians and information specialists who work with children and teens,” joined the fight this year and offered young adult novels as alternatives to Shakespeare.

The librarians also showcased an essay questioning the contemporary value of the playwright responsible for classics such as “Hamlet,” “Macbeth” and “King Lear.”

“A growing number of educators are … coming to the conclusion that it’s time for Shakespeare to be set aside or deemphasized to make room for modern, diverse, and inclusive voices,” said the essay, titled “To Teach or Not to Teach: Is Shakespeare Still Relevant to Today’s Students?”

“Educators grappling with these questions are teaching, critiquing, questioning, and abandoning Shakespeare’s work, and offering alternatives for updating and enhancing curricula,” it said.

Set aside! Defunded! This reminds me of Professor Philip Ewell, a black professor of music theory at Hunter College in New York, who said this about Beethoven (quoted in the New York Times):

Last April [Ewell] fired a broadside at Beethoven, writing that it would be academically irresponsible to call him more than an “above average” composer. Beethoven, he wrote, “has been propped up by whiteness and maleness for 200 years.”

Check out the link.

And talk about damning with faint praise:

“We believe that Shakespeare, like any other playwright, no more and no less, has literary merit,” wrote Lorena German, a teacher who penned #DisruptingShakespeare and is often engaged in Twitter discussions on the subject. “He is not ‘universal’ in a way that other authors are not. He is not more ‘timeless’ than anyone else.”

You mean that every author is equally timeless? Shakespeare doesn’t speak to us any more than, say, the author of Jonathan Livingston Seagull? All must have prizes!

Well, I’ll leave out the kvetching about wokeness that also permeates the article; the critics above speak sufficiently to the malaise afflicting the humanities. Anyone who can argue that Shakespeare is no more timeless than anyone else must not only argue that he’s revered simply because he was a heterosexual white male, but must also argue that every other author and playwright who ever lived is just as good as the Bard. And that’s just nuts.

Cancel culture alive and well

February 11, 2021 • 2:15 pm

If you laugh at the idea of a cancel culture, well, here’s a good example. The Council on American-Islamic Relations, which I consider an Islamist organization, is trying to cancel tonight’s discussion with Bari Weiss and Ayaan Hirsi Ali, scheduled for the Commonwealth Club in San Francisco.

CAIR has a petition page where you can sign on to the cancellation (click on screenshot):

The grounds? Hate speech, which apparently doesn’t deserve airing:

CAIR-SFBA, American Muslims, and our allies across the San Francisco Bay Area are calling on the Commonwealth Club to cancel their planned February 11 event featuring anti-Muslim and anti-Palestinian speakers Ayaan Hirsi Ali and Bari Weiss.

These fringe speakers are contrary to the Club’s mission to seek truth and insight about the issues we face as a society. Both speakers have a shameful track record of propagating Islamophobia, which exacerbates ongoing intolerance and hate towards Muslims, immigrants, and others.

Well, CAIR, Students for Justice in Palestine, and similar organizations, are, in my view, anti-Israel and anti-Jewish, and themselves “exacerbate intolerance”, but I wouldn’t for a moment try to stop them from holding events. I’m not sure what “truth” is being effaced by the two speakers, but part of it is probably the religiously-based defensiveness of organizations like CAIR.

Apparently the Commonwealth Club, which seems to be a public-affairs group with a wide range of speakers, agrees with me, for at the bottom of the petition you can read this:

CAIR of course has a right to object to the speakers, and to petition the club to cancel them, but it would have better “optics” if they didn’t try to stifle the voices of everyone they think is “Islamophobic.” I guess Hirsi Ali better bring her bodyguards tonight. . .

h/t: Luana

Publishers’ and authors’ manifesto: We won’t publish books by people who were in the Trump administration

January 19, 2021 • 9:00 am

Regardless of what you think about canceling book deals with those Republicans who urged an audit of the election—as Simon and Schuster did with Josh Hawley’s book (now picked up by Regnery)— surely most readers can’t agree with the letter below, which says that no publisher should put out books by anyone considered part of the Trump administration. (That also holds for those who stormed the capitol, whether or not they were arrested.)

At least that’s the way I interpret the letter, which is genuine and appeared on the website of Barry Lyga, an author of books for young adults(click on screenshot). Lyga, who did not sign the letter, titled his post “No book deals for traitors“, and I presume is opposed to the letter. But it’s already been signed by more than 500 authors, agents, and people who work in publishing; and miscreants are still signing on here. (Click on screenshot to enlarge.)

As I’ve said repeatedly, while publishers have the right to publish whatever books they want, and can reject books based on not just their content but their authors, this is completely unwarranted censorship of authors based on their politics. It means, of course, that not only do the signers oppose publishes accepting Trump’s memoirs, but books by anyone who was part of his administration, including Robert Mueller, Nikki Haley, Anthony Fauci (who did not “scoff at science”), Ben Carson, James Mattis, and so on.And not just books about Trump—books about anything.  (Don’t forget that Obama’s administration also “caged children” as well as killing civilians with drones.)

And it assumes that anybody who worked for the Trump administration agreed with all its policies, which is simply a lie.

This is an attempt to censor works by people who have political opinions different from yours. It is an attempt to silence those who disagree with you and to suppress their views. Beside that, it’s an attempt to punish people for being on the “wrong” side politically. Yet think of all the people who worked in the Trump administration and weren’t big fans of his. Some of these people, or even the “criminals” more closely aligned with Trump, may have worthwhile things to say and to hear.

The 500+ signers of the letter don’t want to hear them, though—indeed, they don’t want anybody to hear them!

This is an example of Woke Fascism: the worst behavior of the Authoritarian Left. They call anyone associated with the Trump administration a criminal, for those who were part of the administration are accused of “enabling, promulgating, and covering up crimes.” Talk about hyperbole!

I won’t reproduce the list of signers (I don’t recognize any of them), but here are some of the houses with Pecksniffian editors and employees. I’ll stop at the J’s:

Jessica Awad (Media Assistant Editor, W. W. Norton & Company)
Kat Bennett (Senior Cartographer, Hachette Book Group)
Rachel Blaifeder (Editor, Cambridge University Press)
Sam Brody (Editorial Assistant at Hachette Book Group)
Megan Carr (Senior Sales Support Associate, HarperCollins Publishers)
Henna Cho (Digital Sales Associate (SImon & Schuster))
Angelica Chong (Editorial Assistant, Macmillan
Mia Council (Assistant editor, Penguin Random House)—MY PUBLISHER!
Michella Domenici (Springer Nature)Rachel Dugan (Publicity Assistant, Penguin Random House)  ANOTHER!
Carl Engle-Laird (Editor, Macmillan)
Leah Gordon (Senior editor, Avalon Travel, an imprint of Hachette Book Group)
Sarah Grill (Associate Editor, Macmillan)
Stephanie Guerdan (Assistant Editor, HarperCollins)
Sarah Homer (Assistant Editor, HarperCollins Publishers)
Madeline Houpt (Editorial Assistant, Macmillan)

I’ll stop now, but have to add that these people do not deserve their jobs in publishing—not when they decide to reject in advance books by anyone who was in the Trump administration. This bodes ill for the future of publishing, for these are reputable houses, and they control a lot of books who go to the public. It’s a metastasis of the cancer of Wokeism.

And if you respond, “Tough. These editors and authors did the right thing in trying to silence Republicans,” then I have no use for you. And I have only marginally more use for those who say, “Nobody’s entitled to a book deal; publishers are doing the right thing by ruling out a priori books by any of these people.” That is an extraordinarily punitive and close-minded point of view.

h/t: cesar

The conundrum of Powell’s Books: affirms free speech but refuses to place anti-Antifa book on its shelves

January 14, 2021 • 9:30 am

The book below is scheduled to be published in about two weeks, which means it’s not even out yet—unless they released it beforehand. It’s by Andy Ngo, a conservative journalist who’s described by Wikipedia as “editor-at-large of The Post Millennial, a Canadian conservative news website”.  We’ve encountered him before in several posts on this site, many of them covering Antifa in a negative light (Ngo is from Portland: Antifa Central); but I haven’t followed his reporting or writing in a long while, and didn’t know that he wrote a book on Antifa. It’s due out February 2.

But although the book hasn’t yet been released, it is in fact #1 among all Amazon books (Obama’s memoir is number 5), so It’s already a bestseller and will haul in a lot of dosh for Ngo. But its Amazon site (click on cover below) is curiously devoid of descriptions, and has no endorsements. That’s highly unusual for a #1-ranked book. I haven’t read it, but I suppose its popularity is due to the public’s increased interest in Antifa, alleged—falsely—to have participated in last week’s storming of the Capitol.

Portland is of course the wokest town in America, and is also home to Powell’s Books, one of America’s best bookstores, which also has a reputation for wokeness. I spent a lot of time in Powell’s on my two visit to Portland, and actually bought some books there despite my own bookshelves being jammed full.  It’s an excellent store. Portland would of course carry Ngo’s bestseller, but it poses a dilemma for them. The town is woke, the bookstore is woke, yet the book is anti-woke and anti-Antifa. What to do?

The good citizens of Portland (and I use that adjective ironically) decided to picket the bookstore—not because it actually had the physical book in its store, but because it was carrying it onlineThere were protests in front of the chain’s flagship store on Sunday and Monday, and eventually they closed the store.  Here are two photos from OregonLive: though it’s not much of a demonstration.

I don’t think Powell’s closed its store to send a message to the protestors so much as to protect its property from Antifa’s well-known propensity to do damage. But they did issue a statement about why they are carrying the book—a statement that asserts Powell’s commitment to free speech but, at the same time, emphasizing that the book is basically against the store’s values and causes “pain” to the community. In other words, Powell’s sent a mixed message, trying to satisfy everyone.

Further, the store has emphasized that it won’t be carrying the physical book in its store: you can get it only by ordering online. That’s part of the mixed message as well. You can see Powell’s high-sounding statement by clicking on the screenshot below.

Now in fact this would be an excellent statement if it didn’t go out of its way to denigrate the book. Here’s a statement from the store’s owner, and there’s more on the site. The emphasis is mine.

Dear Powell’s community,

At Powell’s, a lot of our inventory is hand-selected, and hand-promoted. And a lot of our inventory is not. Unmasked by Andy Ngo came to us via one of our long-term and respected publishers, Hachette Book Group. We list the majority of their catalogue on Powells.com automatically, as do many other independent and larger retailers. We have a similar arrangement with other publishers.

Since Sunday, Powell’s has received hundreds of emails, calls, and social media comments calling for us to remove Unmasked from Powells.com. Demonstrations outside our Burnside store have forced us to close to ensure the safety of employees, protestors, and neighbors. If we need to remain closed, we will not hesitate to do so.

As many of you may be following these events, I want to offer additional context about our decision to allow this book to remain online.

Since the first published texts there have been calls to disown different printed work, and at Powell’s we have a long history of experiencing these calls, and the threats they bring with them, firsthand. Until recently the threats were from those who objected that we carried books written by authors we respected or subjects we supported. The threats were real but we could feel virtuous — we were bringing the written word to the light of day. We could feel proud of our choices, even when the choices created conflict.

Our current fight does not feel virtuous.  It feels ugly and sickening to give any air to writing that could cause such deep pain to members of our community. But we have always sold books that many of us would reject.  We have fought for decades, at Powell’s, for the right of a book to stand on its own. Doing so is one of our core values as booksellers.

In our history we have sold many copies of books we find objectionable. We do that in spite of all the reasons not to, because we believe that making the published word available is an important and crucial step in shedding light on the dark corners of the public discourse. It is actually a leap of faith into the vortex of the power of the written word and our fellow citizens to make sense of it.

That leap of faith is inextricably woven into our existence as Powell’s: faith in our customers is what first propelled us from a small corner store into who we are today.  We recognize that not every reader has good intentions, or will arrive at a writer’s intended destination, but we do believe that faith must extend to our community of readers. That offering the printed word in all its beauty and gore, must ultimately move us forward. As my father says, if your principles are only your principles sometimes, they’re not principles at all.

Read more about our commitment to free speech below.

Warmly,

Emily Powell
President and Owner
Powell’s Books

Get that bit about the book causing “deep pain to members of our community”!  If the book isn’t out yet, and people haven’t read it, then where does the “deep pain” even come from? Presumably from Ngo’s reputation alone. It’s typical of of the censorious Left to demand the banning—for that’s what they want here—of books they haven’t read. In fact, they don’t care what’s in the book; they’re trying to prevent people from reading anything by Ngo. And that is cancel culture.

Now there’s a FAQ section of Powell’s response as well, which has virtuous statements like the following:

Booksellers are not censors. We have the privilege to curate, promote, and act as guides to the books and ideas we value, but it is antithetical to our core mission of free speech to impose limits on what our customers read. At the end of the day, making space for books and readers with whom we disagree is the nonviolent antithesis to the dominant impulse to shout down (or worse) anyone who doesn’t support your worldview, something we see daily on social media and, more terrifyingly, in America’s seats of power. Given the choice between holding our noses over a book and bowing to pressure to begin banning them, we will always choose the former.

and this:

As an independent bookstore, Powell’s believes that it is our responsibility to respect your choice of reading material. We are dedicated to providing a wide array of books, authors, viewpoints, and voices, and our selection is one of the things that sets Powell’s apart from our peers in bookselling. We provide these options out of deference to the First Amendment, but just as importantly, because we believe that exposure to a multiplicity of writing — in fiction and nonfiction alike — facilitates critical thinking and spurs conversation and growth.

That is all good stuff. But why did they have to ruin it by saying stuff like this?:

Why wouldn’t you make an exception to your policy for a book as inflammatory as Unmasked?

Unmasked was written by a provocateur who has made a career of inciting violence over inflammatory and inaccurate ideas that divide people into factions. It is natural that his supporters and detractors have passionate, emotional responses to our carrying his book online.

Talk about inciting violence! That’s Antifa’s modus operandi!

The next question they answer is “Why would you carry books you find deplorable?”, implying that Powell’s does indeed find Ngo’s book deplorable. You can read the answer for yourself.

The most arrant hypocrisy is the failure of the store to carry the physical book so that people can go into the store, look at it, and decide whether to buy it. Now you’re saying, “Well, the Antifa folks would just damage or destroy any physical books on the shelves.” That may be true—and of course shows that Ngo has a point, for exercising censorship is eroding democracy—but Powell’s could always keep the book behind the counter.  Here’s Powell’s unconvincing explanation for why it’s selling the book only online.

Why would you sell the book online but not in stores?

Even a store as large as the City of Books can’t carry every book on the market. To expand our offerings for our customers, Powell’s and many other retailers make their distributors’ and publishing partners’ catalogs available for purchase online. This is how a book like Unmasked, which our buyers did not purchase for the stores, finds its way onto Powells.com.

Yeah, right. They can’t carry the #1 book on Amazon in the store? Who on earth believes that explanation? And of course they could order more copies to sell in the stores. No, they aren’t carrying the book either because they’re afraid of Antifa or because they are exercising some kind of restricted access—censorship. Either alternative bespeaks cowardice and undermines the eloquent defense of free speech given elsewhere in Powell’s statement.

h/t: Mark

Book by election-questioning Republican Josh Hawley canceled by Simon & Schuster

January 8, 2021 • 9:30 am

Which is worse, a Democrat accused of pedophilia or a Republican Senator questioning Biden’s victory? I ask because those of you who thought that Hachette’s cancelation of the book deal it made for Woody Allen’s memoirs—a cancelation I thought was bad form, as the publisher caved to its employees, and of course there was no evidence for the accusations against Allen—might ask yourself the same question about Simon & Schuster’s new cancelation of an upcoming book by Josh Hawley.

Yes, Senator Josh Hawley (R-MO) was one of those morons who was going to officially call for an audit of the election this week.  That was unconscionable, and made doubly bad by this report, taken from Wikipedia:

Before the counting of the votes, to which Hawley had publicly announced he would object, he saluted the protestors and rioters with a fist pump as he walked outside the Capitol.

Nevertheless, does he bear responsibility for what happened at the Capitol two days ago? I would be reluctant to ascribe to him responsibility for those attacks, for I hold Trump (and the protestors themselves) responsible. Trump incited the violence, not Hawley or the other 12 misguided Senators. You can say, well, their actions helped fire up the protestors, but so did a lot of other Republican actions. This was a long time in the making, and the fomenting of Republican ire was done by many.

Nevertheless, Simon & Schuster, clearly objecting to Hawley’s actions and his politics, have canceled plans for his new book, which wasn’t really about politics but the tech industry. The New York Times has an article about the cancelation (click on screenshot):

Just a few quotes and I’ll sum up:

Simon & Schuster said on Thursday that it would cancel the publication of an upcoming book by Senator Josh Hawley, one of several members of Congress who tried to overturn the results of the presidential election.

Mr. Hawley, a Missouri Republican and Trump ally, has been criticized for challenging the results and accused of helping incite the mob that stormed the Capitol on Wednesday. His book, “The Tyranny of Big Tech,” was scheduled to be published in June.

“We did not come to this decision lightly,” Simon & Schuster said in a statement. “As a publisher it will always be our mission to amplify a variety of voices and viewpoints: At the same time we take seriously our larger public responsibility as citizens, and cannot support Senator Hawley after his role in what became a dangerous threat.”

But his role, misguided as it was, was legal, and within the bounds of the Constitution. This leads to the question, which the Times poses, of the role of publishers in an America sharply divided along political lines. Books by Sarah Huckabee Sanders, Donald Trump Jr. (Hachette author), Sean Hannity (and you could argue that he helped work up Republicans), and Tucker Carlson (ditto) have been published by major houses, and ten to one somebody will snap up Trump’s ghostwritten memoirs, Triumphs of the Ill, after he leaves office. (Yes, I made up the title.)

The Times reports as well that “the escalation of the rhetoric from the president and some of his supporters in recent weeks has likely changed the calculus for editors and publishers who are wary of provoking a backlash from readers and employees.” In other words, they lack spine. But the job of all good publishers—except for religious and explicitly political ones—is not just to make money or push a favored ideology, for most of them know that most of their books won’t turn a profit. Many publishers and editors simply love books because they love speech, discussion, and ideas. Further, as I said, Hawley’s book wasn’t about politics, so he’s being punished for his political beliefs and actions:

The subject of Mr. Hawley’s book, which was already available for preorder on Amazon and other retailers, is not about the election or Mr. Trump, but about technology corporations like Google, Facebook and Amazon.

Does what Hawley think still deserve to be heard after what he did? Yes, I think so, though I won’t read his book—the subject doesn’t interest me.

Of course Simon & Schuster have a right, or so I think, to cancel the book (it depends on what was in the book contract), but I don’t think they should have. Although convicted criminals can still publish books, even about their crimes, sometimes the law forbids them to profit from their crimes. That’s what happened with this book, written by O. J. Simpson (notice the small “if” in the title), who wasn’t convicted of murder but lost a civil suit (the $600,000 Simpson was reportedly paid went to the Goldman family).

So, much as I dislike Republicans and despise those who sought to overturn an already-certified election, I don’t call for all of their books to be canceled or rejected from now on. Publishers have the right to reject them—there’s no First Amendment right to have your book published—but it’s arrant cowardness, and against the unwritten code of good publishers, to cancel a book simply because you don’t like the politics of the authors.

If this is truly to be a time of healing, as Joe Biden emphasizes so often, we can’t continue to dehumanize our political opponents. Perhaps (and this may be likely) our reaching out may be sufficiently rebuffed that we can leave them alone completely. But we shouldn’t cancel their books, accost them in restaurants, or insult them in public. I think we should be better than that.

Abigail Shrier, whose book about overly hasty gender reassignment, Irreversible Damage, was also temporarily canceled by chain stores, had this to say:

Now I’m not sure about the legality of refusing these services to people whose politics you don’t like; it seems to me like illegal discrimination.  Lawyers should weigh in here. And, as I said, a publisher is under no obligation to publish a book by someone the editors don’t like. But if they deem the book worth publishing initially, which is decided when a contract is issued, then short of stuff like plagiarism or similar circumstances, the book still deserves to be published.

I’m sure others might object, but I don’t need a second; my own opinion is enough for me. (You know the rest. . .)