Tab clearing

There are several articles I came across over recent weeks that I bookmarked for potential use as source material for blog posts.  I haven’t been able to do so yet, but they’re too good to leave alone:  so I’m going to put them up here, and recommend that you click over to the source and read them in full.

First, “How I made money out of mysteries“.

When Otto Penzler was preparing to open The Mysterious Bookshop in 1979, he enthusiastically planned an opening day bash. Everything was all set: The authors were signed, the guests had RSVP’d.

There was just one small glitch: The former sportswriter-turned-bookshop-owner had no money. “The day before, I realized, I didn’t have any money for wine, veggies, or bread,” says Penzler. “Then I remembered I had a piggy bank somewhere. I took the piggy bank and I shook out $385 worth of quarters and went shopping for champagne and some chips. But those first few years [of the business] were a horrible struggle. I was borrowing $20 from my unemployed brother to buy pasta to eat.”

Previously located in Midtown, the Warren Street bookshop now boasts the title of the oldest mystery specialist bookstore in America. It has survived and thrived — even in bleak times.

Next, “The Very Intersectional Caterpillar“.

If a story is a page-turner, the complexions and identities of the characters are irrelevant; my priority is to give my children good books. But the focus of many of these woke new children’s titles appears to be identity politics and indoctrination, not storytelling … If you’re not already paying close attention to what books your children are reading, now’s the time.

While on the subject of kids, there’s appropriate, and then there’s infuriating.  This is infuriating.

Kids pole dancing

If I knew any parent who was so insane, so cretinous, so blind to reality as to allow his or her daughter to be sexualized at so early an age by such nonsense, I’d be having a very long, very acrimonious conversation with them.  If they persisted, I’d not only drop them like a hot potato from my list of “good people”, I’d probably call Child Protective Services on them.  That’s the least I could do, for the safety of their daughter.  Tragically, in this day and age, I don’t suppose it would help very much . . . for all I know, a CPS staffer might be running the pole program!  (Spits in disgust.)

Finally, American Renaissance has an interesting discussion on censorship and the freedom of the press.  Here’s an excerpt.

America has never had freedom of expression but, oddly, came closer recently than it ever has before. In 1950, the American media were heavily biased. F. HUAC, the House Unamerican Activities Committee, actively persecuted leftists, destroying careers for expressing ideas now thought routine in political polemics. Yet the overwhelming majority of the public agreed with the biases, which consequently were seldom noticed. As proportions of the population, virtually nobody favored communism or socialism, legalization of drugs, anything resembling pornography, coerced racial integration, abortion, banning guns and the like. The military was regarded with fondness and admiration for having whipped Tojo and the Fuehrer. Humorously fond books like No Time for Sergeants and Rally Around the Flag, Boys were popular. When there is consensus, bias doesn’t matter. When the media censor ideas important to large groups of the population, and seek to impose ideas repugnant to them, as happens now, it does matter.

Today the foo is on the other shoot, with conservative ideas being purged and, though there is—still—actually much more freedom of expression today the censorship is directed at an angry half of the country. And today of course the country is so deeply divided among many groups that hate each other. Thus what seems one a sensible and salubrious censorship to one group seems tyranny to the group being censored.

For a brief period after the rise of the internet something close to freedom of information existed but it was fairly obvious that it would last only until governments figured out how to stifle it. Governments never like freedom of expression. In America, though, there was the First Amendment to which ritual obeisance need be paid. How to prevent expression of Bad Thought? The answer was to have private entities not subject to the Bill of Rights do the throttling of unwanted ideas: again Google, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and the rest. These censor people, movements, and ideas that the coastal elites and federal government do not like.

While outrage at the burgeoning, targeted censorship is understandable, the complementary question is seldom asked: How much and what censorship is desirable? What would you, the reader, censor if you had the power?

That’s a good question.  What’s your answer?

29 comments

  1. Parental censorship – parents should have the right (and discernment) to say “This is fine, this should wait a while, and these are off limits. I do not mind X being in the school library. I object to X being taught as required reading/watching in class.” That should always be allowed. Beyond this, my personal tastes start to collide with my libertarian philosophy. I disapprove of entertainment that uses pornographic images (not just what most people think of, either. Images and texts glorifying violence and sadism? No.) and feel it should not be displayed in the public square, including prime-time TV. Do I want all horror and violent films and shows and books banned? No.

    Likewise political ideas. Don’t ban Marx – teach his ideas so that people know how banal, incorrect, boring, and deadly they are. Remove the lure of the forbidden.

    1. If I may ask, what is the dividing line between glorifying violence and sadism and depicting it realistically or honestly? I’m thinking of films like the original ‘The Hills Have Eyes’ or ‘The Island’ That’s the Benchley version, with the hidden pirate colony raiding ships in the modern-day Caribbean. Both of them get gory, but it seems to me to be realistic in the sense of ‘this is what real-life violence looks like, bloody and frightening and painful’. In neither film are the violent acts romanticized in the least, but they aren’t shied away from either.

  2. Old: I disagree with what you say but will defend to the death your right to say it.

    New: Hate speech is not protected speech. ‘Hate speech’ is speech that I hate. Can’t say things I don’t want to hear.

    Don’t think I could write a government regulation capable of defining acceptable speech under the new rules. Perhaps revert to an earlier remedy – bring back dueling?

    Let’s not be hasty. Don’t reject the idea out of hand. Society is already experimenting with dispensation of personal justice on a limited scale and it seems to be an acceptable form of alternative dispute resolution in the test community. “He disrespected me so I shot him,” is a common explanation for murders in Minneapolis. Why not everywhere?

  3. Re: pole, it turned out that the woman running the dance studio had a convicted child predator boyfriend.

    BTW, Pixy linked to the Humble Bundle. If you have small bucks, you can get tons of photo, picture, and video editing software. (Possibly needing a semi a advanced computer.)

    1. Because of course she did. I realize you probably couldn’t convict her for being a procurer, but I rather wish you could.

      And such evil is on the list of “things I have no qualms about censoring whatsoever.”

      1. Censoring WAY too civilized. Start at axehandle, pause thoughtfully at axe, and book a backhoe!

  4. Been objecting to stuff like the “grade school pole dancer classes” since I was in high school. When our daughter was born, the billboard advertising it near where we lived was old enough the paint was peeling. Daughter is nearly a teen, now.

    As I’ve pointed out frequently– the only thing weird about that Cuties show was how many people who had no issues with IRL dance moms, including the reality TV shows, were now horrified to see it on screen. Yeah, it’s objectionable, that’s the freaking point. Got whiplash from how many folks went from mocking “hyper-religious” moms who didn’t want their 8 year old doing Britney Spears dances to screaming in outrage about a basically accurate show on decades old behavior. Meanwhile, little girl pole dancing gets crickets.

    :angry:

    1. My stepdaughter was irked at being pulled from Modern Dance class.
      In general, minisluts* /want/ the hungry attention and think they can steal the bait right off the hook. Succeed or fail, both have poor long-term outcomes.
      “Daddy, my ambition is to make men hard; and LEAVE them that way!” Err, nope.
      * I’m talking subcategory “junior tease”

      1. *facepalm*

        I’m guessing you or your wife had to have a Talk about why that is both evil and incredibly stupid?

        ANYTHING that depends on the other person being a better person than you are willing to be is an evil plan.

  5. Historical narrative strikes me as a bit off.

    Historical 1950s censorship was a side of the information operations made practical by industrialization of mass media. Describing it as a conservative consensus is probably incorrect, especially given the Wilson and the then fairly recent FDR information operations.

    We have two big obvious changes since then.

    One, is degree of internet bypassing of mass market media information campaigns. At one point, I realized that my big ‘news’ interests were fiction books and military stuff, and that I could get better doing my own collection and analysis than I would get from a general newspaper.

    Second, is a breakdown in the traditional peace consensus, more or less, between most American religious groups. Which could possibly be described as ‘conservative’, if you are a communist and accepting communist definitions. Issue with the peace consensus these days, is that we have religious communists now, they no longer think they need to pretend to civilization as a ruse of their war, and they believe that it is immoral to agree to peace in good faith. This is a little bit more general than a censorship problem.

    I haven’t the sense to think out, and say, what I think my views on censorship are.

  6. What would you, the reader, censor if you had the power?
    That’s a surprisingly difficult question due to the “if you had the power” clause. I think we all like to believe that WE are not susceptible to the “power corrupts” aphorism; that’s something that only happens to those nasty power-grabbing politicians. But it’s not.
    If I had that sort of power, the very least of the world’s problems would be what I’d censor. I’m very Bob-like; we just have slightly different targets – and I’m quieter 🙂
    That said, truth in labelling would be my thing (before I went power-mad). I’ve never understood why anyone objected to the “.xxx” domain. The Internet Is For P0rn, so let’s just label it that way and be done with it. I thought the record labeling thing (do they still do that with games?) for age was a perfectly reasonable compromise. Sure, those tricksy kids can get around it (older brother’s friends bought us beer – get over it), but it is a least something. And, if we can’t get agreement on what content deserves what labels, there’s no hope of getting agreement on what content should be banned.

  7. My two criteria:

    1) Words are only words. Nothing, whatever it is, should be censored.

    2) Actions are actions. There, anything depicting sexual or cruel actions with a mammal that cannot give informed consent should be banned and their creators locked up for a very long time.

    (Note that #2 was changed with some fairly recent thought. If anyone wants to get intimate with a female ‘gator – I say “Go for it!”)

    1. OTOH, what about non-words?

      I have made some people very uncomfortable by arguing that book-burning is exactly as much free speech as flag-burning.

      1. Anti-words? So long as it is a book (magazine, newspaper, whatever) owned by you, have at it.

        Well, maybe not if it is an ebook. Those plastics emit rather nasty fumes when combusted.

        1. This. I was not the only grad student to slip an especially fat but vapid tome into our sausage-roast bonfire. We’d bought them, read them, used them in class, and had no desire to keep the thing on our shelves. And we couldn’t sell them back. So instead of the landfill, they became ash and thus fertilizer. Our books, our choice.

      2. Burn a book? Go for it, just so long as you own it. That’s just money in the author’s (mostly in the publisher’s) pocket. But you don’t then get to complain should I choose to throw copies of the Bible, Koran, and Torah onto the bonfire.
        Age restrictions on printed matter? I’m open to a serious discussion on what content you consider harmful to young minds. Keep in mind that I want those same discussions on CRT and the current normalization of gender fluidity.
        Outright ban on just about anything? Not just no but hell no. Print matter is off the table, as are pictures and video save for depictions of a sexual nature involving actual subjects unable to have given informed consent.
        Not to include drawings, paintings, or CGI video where no actual subject was involved.

        1. I’d argue there’s a major difference between the simple burning of a book– like TXRed mentions, a basically private recognition that it is horrible and you don’t wish to inflict it on someone– and the public burning of a book, as demonstration.

          Especially when the book is a symbol.

          That tends to be a lead-in to burning what the Symbol stands for, which is the point of attacking the symbol.

          Kind of like public displays of elaborately destroying a message from the opposing side– it’s an announcement of how you would deal with a person they sent to discuss things.

            1. Yes.

              Figured that anyone who would get the point by elaborating using that example would get it anyways, and that it wasn’t worth being specifically political when it’s an example that shuts down a lot of folks’ thinking, being strongly tied to a lot of very carefully made emotional view-of-self.

  8. Re: censorship.

    I am a terrible human being, and really really really ought not to have much in the way of power over very many others. I’m a fanatic, I have a temper, and I can talk myself into some really horrible things.

    On the one hand, I’ve come to see making people shut up as being a concession that I need to up my game, and bring a real argument instead. As well as one or two other strong practical downsides that point to ‘more speech is always better’.

    On the other hand, I get really angry at people for some of the arguments that they put in front of me. I feel it is an insult that they would not put in the effort for a higher quality falsehood. I would like to do something about such.

    On the gripping hand, my estimate of whether someone is lying to me is based on my estimate of their mental function, and this is obviously (to me) a very unreliable estimate. Time after time I leap to judgement, and time after time I realize that I may have been premature and unfair in my conclusions. And the cost to me of my anger may not be trivial.

    Some things are pretty clearly evidence of crimes. Say, a snuff film. And it might be reasonable to try to prevent people from profiting from the sale of such items in a way that would fund more crimes. However, whatever entity granted power to enforce such restrictions should not be misbehaving so badly that their own crimes, or the crimes that they contribute to, are worse than the crimes intended to be prevented by the enforcement power. And, the enforcement mechanism ought not be easily turned to abuse, and ought to have a practical means of being carried out.

    So, for example, I was and am opposed to SESTA.

    Sometimes I consider Chesterton’s fence. Criminal laws have complicated effects, and are coupled to a bunch of stuff. There are many things we should be cautious of changing, even when we think everything is broken to the point it can’t be made worse.

    1. Yeah, really bad rhetoric pretending to be dialectic inflames me in much the same way as seeing a child or animal abused.
      So many think “easy prey”==”fair game”.

    2. > Some things are pretty clearly evidence of crimes. Say, a snuff film.

      That’s a maybe. If the snuffee consented, suicide isn’t a crime in about half of the US states. Other countries, it can get weird.

      1. When the lawyers and politicians are in a criminal conspiracy, large enough, and for long enough, ‘changes’ they make in law in furtherance of criminal conspiracy do not legalize crimes, and are invalid.

        I believe this is a case with the ‘law’ made around enabling and encouraging suicide.

        If you know someone is suicidal, there is a responsibility to try to discourage them, instead of getting a signed consent form and filming away.

        1. Agreed.

          Especially with what’s been coming out about how “voluntary” the suicides have provably been– including various cases of those who do resist what can only be called extended mental abuse sometimes being legally executed for being disabled, elderly or otherwise infirm, anyways.

          As was predicted from the start. Same as the “we won’t pay for your treatment, but we will pay for your suicide” was accurately predicted.

          1. Though, there is an argument that I selected a really bad example in my first comment.

            All these debates we have been having over alleged murders, with a certain amount of evidence getting caught on tape.

            Which means that a censorship law covering people dying on video could have been abused to suppress evidence, and favor one side of the public dispute.

            1. Works the opposite way– would prevent it being publicly spread for profit. If snuff films themselves are still illegal, those who spread them secretly will still spread them. (As much as I dislike the very *existence* of evidence that the public can’t examine.)

              The “charged for CGI child molestation” thing came from the defense claiming that child rape on video was all computer generated (rather than altered), and denying any victims that were brought forward were the victims recorded being assaulted.
              I’m not sure why it was latched on to so strongly with largely theoretical examples, other than the usual ‘makes a great story’ that’s so popular in Banned Book month type events.
              (IE, that not REQUIRING pre-teens to read material their parents object under the guidance of someone the parents do not trust is the same as a public burning of all copies they can lay hands on, or that there is something wrong with not requesting sexual material from minors in the course of a creative writing class.)

  9. Right now, the only thing I know is outside of a few small categories, I don’t want anyone to have the ability to censor what is out there. I’d rather have it free and in the open-so it can be mocked, the ideas attacked, and bad ideas told to FOAD.

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