Anne Rice: political correctness is new form of censorship in the book biz

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Kind of an unexpected overlap with Jerry Seinfeld.


I bristle when anyone uses the term “political correctness” as it is, more often than not, deployed to strike down much needed criticism of bigots. From the post, though, it seems like the situation she addresses hews a little closer to actual sketchy speech limiting…except that she doesn’t really say anything specific about anything at all. “There are forces in the book world” is the literary version of vague-booking. It could be these are organized boycotts, it could be that they are squeamish publishers, could be just a handful of loud voices. No way to know, and no way to know what those “forces” are actually saying…if they are publishers, find new publishers. If they are boycotts, were these your audience in the first place? If they are just loud voices criticizing, well, welcome to the world of free speech…


[quote=“pesco, post:1, topic:63628”]Anne Rice, of The Vampire Chronicles fame[/quote]Also the Sleeping Beauty Quartet.

Freedom in the arts! Stand up for the despised!


Sorry, Ms. Rice, but criticism still doesn’t equal censorship.


Wow. I’d dearly love to read what they had to say about The Wolf Gift. Man, that was the most hilariously awful werewolf novel I’ve ever read.


in the age of the twitter outrage mob if often does, if the end result is someone losing their job for example, or something ends up pulled from the shelves.


Sorry, but neither of these things (which may or may not actually be Bad Things, depending on the case) is censorship, either.


Yes they are actually. What would your definition of censorship be exactly?


I really fail to see how someone saying “It’s offensive for you to write about a Nazi converting a Jewish woman to Christianity” is the same as saying only Jewish people can write Jewish characters.


Political correctness is sucking the lifeblood out of the publishing industry!

…No, wait. I was thinking of vampires. Vampires are sucking the lifeblood out of the publishing industry.


you said it did not equal censorship, the argument is that it is indeed equivalent even if not legally the same. The government, which is prohibited by law from doing so, has not censored, but vast social forces have caused works to be censored - probably in many cases with good reason.

Then again, as BoingBoing might like to remind us, if your business model of being able to spout your mouth off about whatever you like without repercussions has been challenged by new technologies allowing an easier administering of repercussions then it is up to you to get a new business model.

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I’m not sure that your criticizing Duchamps doesn’t constitute censorship.

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We had similar technology in the past as well:

It wasn’t a good idea then either.


Yeah, and I’m not sure the moral majority criticizing Norman Lear was an attempt at censorship.

Anyway, not sure where I criticized Duchamps in all this.

Anyway the point seemed to be that getting enough people together to ‘criticize’ a book or other work en masse resulting in that book no longer being for sale is a form of censorship, albeit not an illegal form. I’m not sure that there is a problem with it either - the people will form a mass an censor that which they dislike because the technology now exists to make it easy to do so, to not allow them to do so would be infringing on the rights of the people to be jackasses together - why would I want to infringe on that.

Caze just said that public shaming was not a good idea back when we put people in the stocks but there are studies in criminology and penology that suggest in some cases it was more effective. On the other hand twitter shaming is a little different in that you never get out of those stocks.

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It’s also a little different in that you never get into those stocks.

I don’t think it is censorship because I wouldn’t call anything not based on official powers to be censorship. If everyone agrees your book is a lousy read and so no book stores will stock it, you haven’t been censored, you just wrote a lousy book. People might think your book is lousy for a lot of reasons, maybe bad grammar, maybe because you keep disparaging a minor group. People who think your book is lousy might tell their friends it is lousy. If the book stores pull it off the shelves or the publisher decides not to make another edition on the basis of the fact that people hate the book, that is a business decision.

So we’re down the question of the problem of association. Maybe it’s not that people don’t like your book, it’s that they don’t like you as a person. They won’t just not buy your book, they won’t buy any book by your publisher because they publish you. Your publisher pulls your book despite thinking it is good and will sell because they are afraid it will lose them money. I boycotted Nestle because of their habit of pushing formula to women in third world countries without clean water. I didn’t like their practice, so I didn’t buy their products. It would be pretty absurd to call that “censorship”, and I don’t think that word suddenly applies because it is a book instead of baby formula.

Sensitive companies overreact to twitter fads. That’s because they are idiots, not because they are censors.


The state (and only the state) penalizing forms of expression.
The one exemption to that rule I would grant are privately-owned de-facto monopolies on certain forms of communication - like if there’s only one single ISP available in your area, or the only shop in your town is a Walmart, or whatever.

Sure, you could make an argument that certain forms of “social media outrage” can have an effect that is functionally equivalent - but in that case, I’d like to argue that this is not necessarily a bad thing. Depends entirely on the nuances of each individual case.

With that disclaimer out of the way:
None of that has actually got anything to do with the issue at hand.
Because what Rice is whinging about is pretty clearly nothing but criticism. Criticism that I certainly don’t agree with in its entirety (or at least in its probably straw-ified, reductive form Rice presents it as) - but nevertheless absolutely, 100%, definitely and beyond any doubt NOT censorship.


Yes, even criticism can be defined as a form of censorship. Most of the complaint about censorship I read online is based upon the idea that because laws exist which define censorship, that it is exclusively a legal term employed by governments, which is simply not the case.

When people’s criticism of a work inspires them to destroy it or change the author’s words to something they find more agreeable, I would say this easily qualifies as censorship, regardless of who does it. The intent is the same, that of removing content which is disagreed with. This tends to be a much weaker position than that of refuting their work, and educating people about it.


An employer not wanting to be associated with an employee’s views isn’t censorship. A publisher/retailer not wanting to be associated with a writer’s views isn’t censorship.

Find an author who is prevented from self-publishing their work and we’ll all agree it’s censorship. Until then it’s just people who feel entitled to someone else’s platform getting upset when they’re denied it.


When they stop doing so maybe then we can stop calling out morons on twitter for ‘political correctness gone mad’. But until then…