Encouragement for halfway…ish… through Lent
Daily Archive: March 23, 2017
This week on Play All The Nintendo: Astyanax, Bad Dudes and Bad News Baseball. I love the NES, it’s so bad.
But you already know this. Since I assume you’re a stakeholder situated somewhere above my marginal niche in the larger world of book culture, I’d wager that your fingerprints are probably on some books that many people – perhaps I? – will find offensive. And when the would-be censors rattle, I’m guessing you know just where you stand. You might write the occasional check to the ACLU, or maybe you attend the annual “Banned Books Week” events at the local library. Or, if you’re of a certain age, you may even have been a signatory when the Association of American Publishers and other groups protested the decision of a once-ubiquitous bookstore chain not to sell copies of Salman Rushdie’s The Satanic Verses. I thought that was a good move, by the way. A proud moment for the AAP.
And I sincerely believe that those of us who devote our lives to books have had quite a few good moments over the centuries. Whatever our differences, we belong to a tradition that has from the beginning stood for the liberal advancement of knowledge and human understanding. As publishers and as readers, we’re guided by an ethos that runs from the broadsides of Martin Luther to the trials of Henry Miller. If there’s anything to the notion of being on the “right side of history,” publishers have set the odds.
Thus I am addressing this “open letter” to you, my fellow publishers and book mavens. And now that I’ve done my worst to butter you up, I mean to draw your attention to a recent event that has received little above-ground media coverage but that I think should be of profound concern to all publishers, not just naughty pipsqueaks like me.
Specifically, I am referring to the decision of Amazon.com, which is now the world’s largest book retailer, to discontinue the sale of dozens of books that promote, or are said to promote, Holocaust denial. This policy seems to have taken full effect on March 8, 2017, and a bit of Googling convinces me that it was in large part a capitulation to mounting pressure from presumably well-intentioned people who vocally objected to the content – if not the mere the existence – of such literature. In a communication to Castle Hill Publishers, the primary target of the delisting (or ban), Amazon justified its decision with a vague reference to a “content guidelines” violation.
For years, Washington conservatives ridiculed these arguments and stigmatized Gaffney for making them. In 2003, after Gaffney attacked two Muslim staffers in the Bush White House, anti-tax crusader Grover Norquist banned him from his influential “Wednesday meeting” of conservative activists. In 2011, according to sources close to the organization, the American Conservative Union informally barred Gaffney from speaking at CPAC, the ACU’s signature event. In 2013, the Bradley Foundation, which had backed the Center for Security Policy since 1988, cut off funds. That same year, Gaffney lost the Washington Times column he had been writing since the late 1990s. As late as December 2015, The Daily Beast declared that, “Frank Gaffney has been shunned by pretty much everyone in conservative intellectual circles.”
Yet less than 18 months later, America is led by a president, Donald Trump, who has frequently cited the Center for Security Policy when justifying his policies towards Muslims. Trump’s chief strategist, Steve Bannon, has called Gaffney “one of the senior thought leaders and men of action in this whole war against Islamic radical jihad.” Trump’s Attorney General, Jeff Sessions—who has said “Sharia law fundamentally conflicts with our magnificent constitutional order”—in 2015 won the Center for Security Policy’s “Keeper of the Flame” Award. Trump’s CIA Director, Mike Pompeo, has appeared on Gaffney’s radio program more than 24 times since 2013. Sebastian Gorka, who runs a kind of parallel National Security Council inside the White House called the Strategic Initiatives Group, has appeared on Gaffney’s radio program 18 times during that period. He’s called Sharia “antithetical to the values of this great nation” and recently refused to say whether he considered Islam a religion.
The most exciting phrase to hear in science, the one that heralds new discoveries, is not “Eureka!” (I found it!) but “That’s funny …”
— Isaac Asimov
‘The most frightening phrase in the Russian language is “That’s odd.”
–Guess the source
A scholarly look at how literature can help us to understand the hard work of being human.