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  #11  
Unread 04-01-2021, 01:07 PM
James Brancheau James Brancheau is offline
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Well, it's good that Geisel's views evolved, ha. My lord. I'm sure those in the conversation here have seen those images. I think choosing to get rid of those books are in part an effort to salvage his image. A fire alarm should have gone off at least 30 years ago.
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  #12  
Unread 04-01-2021, 01:11 PM
Martin Elster Martin Elster is online now
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After seeing those neat rhymes in McWhorter's article, my curiosity grew so that I wanted to read On Beyond Zebra. So I looked on Amazon last night and saw that the least expensive copy was around $250. Today it was reduced to $197. I'm not quite that curious!
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  #13  
Unread 04-02-2021, 07:25 AM
Mark McDonnell Mark McDonnell is offline
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Well, Mark, you can see how well I am turning my limited attention to other things, as I so sanctimoniously proclaimed a few posts ago.
Indeed, Julie. Ditto. What the hell are we doing here?

Something you said earlier made me think.

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Of all the terrible things going on in the world right now, the "censorship" of a few of Dr. Seuss's minor books doesn't crack my personal top ten. If it cracks John McWhorter's, he has every right to feel that way, and to say so. But I also have the right to think his priorities might be a little out of whack.
This argument about "priorities" is used a lot in the so-called "cancel culture" debate to dismiss or frame a different view in a negative light. But it's used by people on both sides of the debate so really it's self-defeating: "why is bemoaning the loss of some 70 year old books your priority when there is so much real injustice in the world?" versus "why is defending the withdrawal of some 70 year old books your priority when there is so much real injustice in the world?"

Really, the "why is this your priority?" argument could be used about literally anything in any circumstances. Why are you learning to juggle? Don't you know there are people starving in the world? Why are you writing an article about medieval poetry? Don't you know that malaria is killing thousands of people every day? Why are you practicing for an amateur production of the Pirates of Penzance? Don't you know... etc etc

Basically, people are allowed their interests and opinions and very few of us are saints. As someone whose areas of expertise are linguistics, semiotics and race this seems fairly well within McWhorter's remit.

I've probably used this rhetorical gambit myself, Julie, so I'm not having a go at you. It just occurred to me and struck me as interesting.

Last edited by Mark McDonnell; 04-10-2021 at 05:48 PM.
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  #14  
Unread 04-02-2021, 07:51 AM
Roger Slater Roger Slater is online now
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I think that the announcement by the Suess Foundation was entirely appropriate. If you're going to do something on principle, then it makes sense to announce it. They didn't just want to quietly phase out the books and hope no one would notice, but they wanted to make a point. Either it was sincerely held principle, or it was a business judgment that the entire Seuss line was being tainted by a growing perception that Seuss was a racist. By publicly singling out a handful of titles to withdraw and stating their reasons, the suggestion is that all of Seuss's books have been reexamined with modern eyes and the remaining books pass muster. Rather than avoiding Seuss in general, because you never know where the racism will crop up, people can now be comfortable that the Seuss books remaining for sale are suitable for politically correct parents and their children.

For those of us who happen to think they made the right decision to withdraw those books, to criticize them because we assume that they made the decision for less principled and pure reasons than our own, strikes me as unfair. I would hope that all for-profit businesses decide to make business decisions, even if also financially motivated, that comport with the more elevated moral principles of those of us whose finances are unaffected.
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  #15  
Unread 04-02-2021, 09:00 AM
Max Goodman Max Goodman is offline
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There's reason to hope the decision was 100% about business. We'll never take business out of business decisions. If this was purely a business decision, supporting diversity is (the Seuss folks believe) good business.

The more we speak out and show a determination to spend our money in ways that we feel support our values, the more corporate decisions will reflect our values.
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  #16  
Unread 04-02-2021, 12:19 PM
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Kevin Rainbow Kevin Rainbow is offline
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There's no proof that such depictions are in any way harmful or racist in nature and motive or even suggestion, especially in the context of people who are least likely to try to read such things into them - children. Cartoonish depictions are by nature meant to exaggerate things, including physical features, which inevitably extends to race and culture - since all of us have race and cultural mannerisms. Race and culture aren't "God"; you can touch them. Merely depicting them in a playful way doesn't qualify as harmful and hateful.

When you reduce racism to benign exaggerations of physical features in the context of merely having fun and telling a story, you have really given people a reason not to think "racism" is all that serious an issue anymore. "The boy who cried wolf" is crying "racism". There's an elephant in the room, but people are pointing at a fly instead and calling it the elephant instead. Those calling the fly an elephant begin to think a fly is an elephant and those seeing a fly called an elephant more and more expect a fly when they hear "elephant". When you arrive at the scene, instead of finding real racism, what you find is merely the label slapped on some toyish thing , surrounded by mobs specially self-trained to be hypersensitive snobs engaged in politically correct nitpicking and others who pretend to be offended under peer pressure because it seems the right thing to do, and authors and creators caving under the threat to their public image. The crap on TV is fine, violent video games and movies, sleazy music, an internet flooded with porn. Let's target cartoonish depictions for, well, being cartoonish depictions including features of race and culture..

We all know it is not real racism. There's no real racist nature or motive here, and no one's brain is made prone to racism by merely viewing some cartoonish exaggerations or distortions in the context of everything else being exaggerated and distorted as well by the fact of it naturally being part of the art and medium it is in. Children can tell the difference between cartoonish depictions and real life. They don't think rabbits talk simply because they watched bugs bunny, or think humans and dinosaurs coexist because they watched flintstones.

Such superficializations of "racism" are an insult to and distractions from fighting against real racism.

Last edited by Kevin Rainbow; 04-02-2021 at 12:36 PM.
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  #17  
Unread 04-02-2021, 12:35 PM
Martin Elster Martin Elster is online now
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Good points, Kevin. I've been reading excerpts from John McWhorter's new book, which really gets one to think about this stuff. Here is Serial excerpt No. 4, which includes a reference to the forced resignation of the president and board chairman of the Poetry Foundation (which has been discussed in another thread).

https://johnmcwhorter.substack.com/p...rogressive-755
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  #18  
Unread 04-02-2021, 01:46 PM
Roger Slater Roger Slater is online now
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But should we be demanding proof that racist depictions are actually creating racist attitudes in children? If that's the case, you could have an adorable Nazi cartoon figure, or a slave delighted with his servitude and loving his massa, and no one would have the right to object unless we could point to children who read these books and turned into Nazis and slave apologists. What's wrong with deciding (not being forced, mind you) not to publish a book simply because it will be offensive?

Last edited by Roger Slater; 04-02-2021 at 01:49 PM.
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  #19  
Unread 04-02-2021, 01:46 PM
Max Goodman Max Goodman is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Kevin Rainbow View Post
... especially in the context of people who are least likely to try to read such things into them - children.

...

We all know it is not real racism. There's no real racist nature or motive here, and no one's brain is made prone to racism by merely viewing some cartoonish exaggerations ...
You're very lucky to be so wise and certain about things others struggle and grapple with.
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  #20  
Unread 04-02-2021, 02:33 PM
Martin Elster Martin Elster is online now
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Roger Slater View Post
...you could have an adorable Nazi cartoon figure, or a slave delighted with his servitude and loving his massa, and no one would have the right to object unless we could point to children who read these books and turned into Nazis and slave apologists.
I agree, Roger, that those cartoons would be extremely offensive. (And how many people in the world these days would actually buy a book like that?) But from what McWhorter said about On Beyond Zebra!, there doesn't seem to be anything even remotely close to such depictions in Dr. Seuss's book. And I'm curious to read it, but now it's a collector's item and way out of my price range. It's not the end of the world if I can't read it, though. And I agree if the publisher chooses to not publish it anymore, fine. It’s their book. But I get the feeling that they were humoring or pandering to what McWhorter calls “The Elect.” If you read that chapter I linked to in my post #17, you'll have a better sense of what that term refers to.

Last edited by Martin Elster; 04-02-2021 at 02:52 PM.
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