Week 5: America’s Book Censoring Phenomenon
Hello, this week I analyzed an interesting phenomenon I’ve noticed occurring in the literature world.
Book censorship sounds like a horror of the past; From Qin Shi Huangdi’s furious book burnings to the 1933 Nazi book incinerations, the term book censorship brings forth outdated images of single mindedness, hatred, and oppressive regimes. So it’s hard to believe that in the 21st century, book censorship has once again gained footing no less in the most powerful and prosperous country in the world, the United States of America.
The classic works of famous deceased authors including the likes of Roald Dahl, Agatha Christie, Sylvia Plath, Dr. Seuss, and more have come under scrutiny for its apparently offensive language. Publishing companies have opted to delete such language and print and distribute newly revised versions, inciting a flurry of debates over the morality of such an action.
I personally believe this is an egregious and disturbing trend. By giving the power of modifying one’s personal work to a company without receiving his/her/their explicit consent feels archaic and wrong. Some of literature’s most valuable offerings as well as its foundations come from the works of the past. A good reader is able to read critically and soak up the expressed message of a piece of literature without letting its language influence them. By picking up a book of the past, a reader enters a contract with the author in which they understand that not all of the content will be up to date but the message may still assert its relevance. Not only are companies looking down on customers by modifying works, they also reintroduce a horrifying pattern of the past. With the recent overturning of Roe v. Wade, introductions of newly expanded gun laws, and Ron Desantis’ attempted Florida book ban, it wouldn’t be far-fetched to assert that the United States is sliding back to the past on many levels. Who’s to say that this book censorship won’t evolve into something more extreme?
How is this relevant to my project? TikTok and other popular social media apps are like swirling swimming pools in which consumers are consistently introduced to videos expressing the same types of content. Polarization has worsened on every level as people refuse to expose themselves to wide varieties of ideas. A popular topic on TikTok’s book platform ‘Booktok’ is the morality of consuming supposedly ‘immoral’ authors such as Sylvia Plath, Haruki Murakami, and Donna Tartt. Readers are shamed if they are found consuming books by the aforementioned authors and are even accused of being discriminatory in one form or another. While many of the criticisms of such “immoral” authors are reasonable and based in fact, it becomes a problem when one forgets the concept of ‘critical thinking’ and reverts back to viewing everything in a black-and-white lense, as TikTok encourages. Murakami, Plath, and Tartt all have contributed greatly to the world of literature, and while all certainly have their faults which can be seen reflected in their works, it would be unproductive and harmful to outright ban them. Instead, readers should be taught to consume critically and view content in shades of grey, as opposed to donning the stark perspective TikTok offers.
The popularity of TikTok and the emergence of the book censorship phenomenon in my opinion is strongly correlated. While the censorship may be done with well intentions, it ultimately causes far more harm than good.