2016 Banned Books Week USA
October 2, 2016Posted by on
Sunday on Facebook: It is over two years since I wrote a piece to coincide with Banned Books Week in the USA. Rather than focus on books that are banned — particularly in the USA and the UK — I decided on two examples of books modified to satisfy a modern readership and one book as an allegory for internet censorship, which may pose an even greater threat to personal freedom. Finally making reference to how state censorship grows in proportion to the public’s access to information, the post itself being an indication of why internet freedom to publish material is so important.
Changing Titty’s name in the latest film adaptation of Arthur Ransome’s Swallows and Amazons1 is understandable today but sensitivity to certain words in certain quarters is not new. Perhaps the film industry has a case in that any link to the story of Titty mouse and Tatty mouse in Joseph Jacobs’s English Fairy Tales2 would be lost on a cinema audience. Unlike Alan Gribben’s revision of Huckleberry Finn3, whose book adaptation is more a reflection on the time we find ourselves living in now rather than the world that Mark Twain wrote about. The retrospective and invariably subjective application of contemporary ethics and mores always distorts the original work of an author, robbing future readers of the opportunity pass their own judgement on an original work and the times in which it was written.
Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 4514 is a good point with which to start a discussion about internet censorship, it provides a strong allegory for the censorship and collusions existing among global public administrations regarding censorship in a digital age. Witness to a constant conflict between those who see the internet increasing individual and collective freedom and those who want to control its use. Historically censorship is seen to be a noble act, one which protects the ethos and mores of the nation5. The postal service is an instrument of censorship in many countries and remains a tool of censorship in countries which regulate the import of prohibited literature, magazines, films etcetera. The internet allows the restrictions of a postal service to be circumvented and so public administrations claim a public interest in censoring digital exchanges.