Tag Archives: free speech

Culture Warriors can not be allowed to silence writers

a good article in “The Times”, entitled “Culture Warriors can not be allowed to silence writers”, https://www.thetimes.co.uk/edition/comment/culture-warriors-cannot-be-allowed-to-silence-writers-znz2tg0qq.

The article describes how the author of “American Dirt”, Jeanine Cummins, had her book tour cancelled following accusations of “cultural appropriation” by some writers on social media.

I have a friend who was (perhaps still is) thinking of publishing a novel about AIDS/HIV and the gay community. However he is not himself gay and concerns about how his work will be received may, I fear lead to his book not seeing the light of day.

Unfortunately “The Times” is behind a paywall and anyone wishing to read articles must be a subscriber. You can, however set up a free subscription, and provided you cancel within the period stipulated on the newspaper’s website, your card and/or bank account will not be charged.

Book Banning

An interesting post on the subject of book banning, https://ckbookspublishing.com/2019/09/27/book-banning-is-it-right/.

As someone who read history and politics at University College Swansea, I am aware of (and concerned by) works which deny (or greatly downplay) the horrors of the holocaust. Long before the rise of the internet, pamphlets such as “Did 6 Million Really Die?”, and “The Hoax of the 20th Century”, peddled the wholly erroneous and poisonous view that the Nazis had no plan to wipe out European jewry. However, since the birth of the World Wide Web books such as this (previously available in back street bookstores or via mail order only) can now be obtained with the click of a mouse. Indeed much of this material is freely available online.

In my view the best way to deal with such unhistorical rubbish is to shine the lense of truth on it, rather than ban such works. Whenever “literature” of this nature has been exposed to proper examination it has been revealed for the trash that it is, (see, for example the various court cases in which holocaust deniers have been proved to be peddlers of untruth).

Also, by banning an idea, one risks making it “sexy”, and one may (albeit unintentionally) help to foster the view that “the establishment” (whoever they may be) have something to hide. So no, book banning is not the answer.


Poets and Capitalism

An interesting article in “The American Spectator” entitled “Poets and Capitalism”. The piece contains a fascinating discussion regarding why so many poets have been (and continue to be) opposed to Capitalism, and makes the point that poets have often suffered under Communist regimes and, in the end its Capitalism which enables poets to freely pursue their craft.

I agree with the thrust of the article, which is, I believe worth a read, https://spectator.org/poets-and-capitalism/

Do Poets Attempt To “Control” People?

On my way home yesterday evening, I bumped into an acquaintence and engaged in one of those random and somewhat odd conversations one does, on occasions find oneself involved in. My acquaintence with the gentleman with whom I spoke is of a passing nature, in that we have spent a few minutes chatting when we encounter one another. However, yesterday evening we spent some 40 minutes or so talking, during the course of which I learned that he is an artist. This led me to mention that I write poetry, to which his response was that “poets/poetry wants to control people”.

I was, I must confess somewhat taken back by the above statement. Despite me trying to elicit why my acquaintence held such a view, I was unable to obtain an answer which made sense to me. However the statement that “poets/poetry tries to control people” got me thinking about whether there might be any substance to the opinion expressed by my acquaintence.

Poets do (as with the rest of the population) hold views on religion, politics etc, some of which find their way into the poetry they write. Can reading a poem which voices a particular opinion “control” the reader?

Many years ago I remember reading an anthology compiled by the late left-wing Labour politician Tony Benn, entitled “Writings On the Wall: A Radical and Socialist Anthology”. I remember being impressed by some of the writings contained therein, however the book did not turn me into a Socialist. Where there to be a simple connection between what we read and how we vote then, surely I would now be a card carrying member of the British Labour Party or another Socialist party which (as mentioned above) I am not.

A poem has no power to exert physical control over the reader. Indeed, during the course of our chat, I mentioned to my acquaintence that where I to take hold of him and demand that he act in a certain manner that this would, quite obviously entail an attempt by me to exert control over him (I hasten to add that no one was grabbed or maltreated in any manner during the course of our interactions). We can, therefore safely conclude that poetry (or any other form of art for that matter) has no power to (literally) “control anyone.

Having said the above, it is true that Nazi Germany, the former Soviet Union, Mao’s China and various other regimes have banned books and persecuted (or even murdered) writers with who’s work they disagree. For example “The Gulag Archipelago”, which catalogued the horrors of the Soviet prison system was banned in the USSR, and its author persecuted. So, obviously totalitarian governments fear literature that attacks the belief structure on which the regime is built.

Does the fear of totalitarian regimes of literature which attacks their world view proove that poetry (and other forms of art) have the power to “control” those exposed to them. No. What free artistic expression can accomplish is to encourage those exposed to it to question their view of the world (or at least some aspect of it). Encouraging critical thinking is not control. Quite the opposite for, in the case of the authoritarian government it is the regime (not the poet or other artist) who is “controlling”, whilst the artist is questioning the status quo.

In conclusion, poetry does not “control”. It may (and often does) contain a message (political, religious or otherwise), however the reader can make up his/her own mind as to whether they agree (or disagree) with the poet’s perspective. It should, of course also be remembered that much poetry is purely (or largely) playful in nature. There is, for instance in most limericks no desire on the part of the poet other than to produce laughter in his/her readership.

As always I would be interested in the perspectives of you, my readers.


Bloggers and Echo Chambers

A blog is not a democracy, by which I mean that the blog owner has a right to determine it’s content, including whether to approve comments or whether to allow comments at all. As with one’s home, bloggers have the right to decide what is and is not acceptable. The home owner can decide that a guest expressing racist views should leave immediately, as, indeed can the website owner.

As a blog owner I endorse the right of site owners to run their sites as they see fit. If you don’t like the views being expressed and/or the other content of a blog (and the blog owner refuses to publish your perspective) you are at liberty to start your own site on which you can express whatever opinions you like (providing that you do not break the law by so doing). Having said that, I have always operated on the basis that a comment will be approved on my blog irrespective of whether or not the person commenting agrees with me on a given matter, provided that such disagreement is expressed in polite and measured terms. I don’t want newauthoronline.com to become an echo chamber in which only voices which mirror my own are heard. Such a place would lack vibrancy and I would not be comfortable running my blog on this basis. We can all learn from others perspectives and not permitting differing views leads, very quickly to a sterile environment. I won’t allow comments of a hateful nature (for example anyone who wishes to justify the Third Reich will find himself in my spam folder). However, other than such extreme instances I will publish all comments unless they are spammy in nature.

Some six months or so ago I commented on a post. My comment was not approved and the matter slipped to the back of my mind. I was therefore surprised on opening WordPress earlier today to see a response to my comment (the response not appearing on the site but being sent direct to me), in which I was accused of being “ignorant” and my comment having the potential to “hurt” the site’s readership. My comment was measured and politely expressed and so far as I can see the site owner’s refusal to publish it flowed entirely from the fact that they disagreed with my perspective. I am confirmed in this view by the fact that while the post in question had many comments, all of these where in total agreement with the views of the blog owner, in other words an echo chamber. As I say above, bloggers have the right to determine content, including whether or not to approve comments. However by only allowing comments which slavishly agree with their perspectives the site owner risks creating a tedious echo chamber. This maybe good for their ego but it is not good for free and open debate.


Trolling Along

On 6 December I published a post regarding trolling and, in particular it’s pernicious effect on book reviews, http://newauthoronline.com/2013/12/06/when-does-a-book-review-become-trolling/. I have, today received a comment on my post by a person who argues for (as he puts it) “the utility of internet flamers and trolls”. I do not agree with the premise of his article. It is, however well expressed and in the interests of encouraging debate I have linked to it here, http://pop-verse.com/2013/11/27/the-utility-of-internet-flamers-and-trolls-or-why-you-should-go-fuck-yourself-2/.

In my experience internet trolls are rarely (if ever) interested in promoting genuine debate whether about books or other topics. They are frequently people with a variety of problems who rather than confronting their own inadequacies choose rather to spew bile on the internet while hiding behind false identities. In the article linked to above the writer contends that different rules apply in the virtual as opposed to the real world. I can’t agree. Good manners should not cease merely because one is hiding behind the anonymity of a keyboard.

Many trolls exhibit behaviour which if demonstrated by children would result in those concerned being reprimanded. Indeed we expect children to exhibit childish traits but it is profoundly sad when grown men and women behave like kids in the playground.