“I absolutely think this is a commitment to a better, more just, and inclusive world of children’s literature,” Ann Neely, professor of children’s literature at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, said. “We have so many outstanding books for children today; there is no need to continue to publish books that are now inappropriate. We must evaluate books for children by today’s values, not on our own nostalgia. Children need to see themselves, and others who may be different from them, in an accurate and positive way.”
I was 49 years and almost 6 months old when I realized that there are professors of children’s literature now. The University Of Arizona is offering internships in children’s and young adult literature. One wonders what a sample thesis might be. Something like “Your Butt Smells Like Poop: An Intersectional Perspective On Images Of Defecation In Shinta Cho’s ‘The Gas We Pass’ and Also Something About Harry Potter.” Surely Julliard is about to offer a doctorate in Kidz Bop, assuming this is not already the case.
Also, do we really have so many outstanding books for children today? It seems to me that we had much better books fifty or a hundred years ago. Maybe the problem is that those earlier efforts have outkicked the coverage of modern literacy, so to speak. This “Rover Boys” book strikes me in retrospect (I read several from the series when I was maybe ten years old) as being at about the college sophomore reading level nowadays. Right away this Rover Boys book hits you with a “laconic” and a “disdainfully” before following up with a “strenuous”… that’s just in the first chapter and a half.
Anyway, the distinguished professor of, uh, Hufflepuffs was quoted in an NBC piece titled “The reckoning with Dr. Seuss’ racist imagery has been years in the making.” The article was written by Char Adams, about which we are told “Char Adams is a reporter for NBC BLK who writes about race, gender and class. Her work has appeared in The New York Times, The New Republic, Teen Vogue and elsewhere.” I was 49 years and almost 6 months old when I realized
* there was an NBC BLK, although I still don’t know what it is;
* we now consider Teen Vogue to be on part with TNR and the Times, although to be honest if you read me an article at random from Teen Vogue I probably wouldn’t be able to easily identify it as not being from the Times.
Alright, I just found out what NBC BLK is. It contains “Stories, issues and opinions from the African American perspective.” The vast majority of the headlines contain complaints about racism of one sort or another. I’m reminded of Cosmopolitan magazine, which always assumes that:
* all women all have precisely one hobby;
* and that hobby is casual sex.
Oh well. If it makes people happy. One of the headlines from NBC BLK is “How walking my dog made my neighbors and I more comfortable around each other”. You don’t need to have a doctorate in “Twilight:Breaking Dawn” to know why that headline hurts my brain.
Speaking of cranial trauma. Everyone appears to have an opinion regarding the decision by “Dr. Seuss Enterprises” to discontinue the sale of six Dr. Seuss books. Speaking personally, I couldn’t care less about it. Seuss is dead. He handed his legacy over to a group of people who are determined to piss on said legacy until the last dollar is extracted. This has happened to better writers than Seuss in the past. The books themselves have little merit in my opinion; there was never a time in my life, and hardly a time in my son’s life, when we needed to read fake-word claptrap in the pursuit of personal literacy. I can’t imagine even normies really enjoy any of the books for more than a few moments.
Is this “cancel culture” at work? Strictly speaking, not really. There’s no Pastor Niemoller equivalence here. The publishing house isn’t at fault, as the author’s own representatives are pulling the books. Victimless crime. Ah, but this story does have a villain, as of yesterday — and the consequences will reach well beyond any house-trashing, hat-wearing cats.
Hot on the heels of the discontinuation of the Seuss Six, eBay announced that it would not permit any of the previously published editions of these works to be listed on its site.
Alright, now we’re in the Corporate Cancer zone. To begin with, eBay is dammed near a common carrier when it comes to auctions. I don’t even know what the second-largest auction site is. (It appears to be eBid, which has 2.8 million items listed at the moment. eBay has slightly over 1.3 billion, making it roughly 450 times larger than the next best thing.) When eBay refuses to accept listings for an item, it has a drastic effect on the value of an item. I’d say it’s more serious than Amazon refusing to sell something, at least when we are discussing a pre-owned item.
As fate would have it, I was just contacted by eBay last week, informing me that I could no longer sell anything on the site without providing a bank account and a social security number. I’ve been an eBay seller for 22 years and have never lost an arbitration, so I presume that this is a universal rule now. Why should you give eBay the authority to sweep your bank account and report your SSN to the Feds, all so you can sell old comic books or auto brochures? That’s insane. It was bad enough when eBay bludgeoned us all into using Paypal whenever possible, but this is worse. Paypal doesn’t have my social security number.
eBay is famously timid when it comes to accepting items for sale; I think there was about a ten-minute period when you could buy and sell parts for firearms back in ’99, but since then the site has implemented a full-court press against any doubleplusbadthink. A few wags have pointed out that you could buy Mein Kampf and The Turner Diaries on eBay, even after the Seuss ban; the company’s response has been to sanitize all listings of Turner and eliminate all listings for Hitler with a price under $250. (Remember, O’Brien could turn the telescreen off.) A quick search confirms that The Bell Curve is still available.
I’m not necessarily concerned that eBay wants to remove “racist” books from its listings. Face it: this is 2021, and metaphorical book burning is part and parcel of our American society. The same librarians who would have died for your right to read Tropic Of Cancer or Last Exit To Brooklyn are now fairly begging to have more books banned, removed, delisted — lest someone be offended. The notion that millions of parents were once offended that libraries served as delivery systems for pornography and perversion to our nation’s children? Well, those people were proles, and stupid besides, right? You cannot compare the people who wanted to ban Huck Finn fifty years ago with, uh, the people who want to ban it now.
No, what bothers me is this increasingly popular notion of, let’s steal a technical phrase, “selective availability”. I’m referring to the modern tech-company obsession with controlling access to intellectual property via subscriptions, rentals, or terms of service. It’s everywhere from the transponder on my World Challenge car, which must be periodically “renewed” for no God-dammed reason at all other than to make AMB more money, to the newest GoPro cameras, which are designed to work with a “GoPro subscription” that uploads all your images into GoPro’s
unchallengeable custody helpful cloud storage.
Instead of buying a physical DVD or CD with music, we “buy” it from Amazon Digital or a similar provider. It’s not really ours. It can be deleted or removed on a whim. Read your Terms of Service. It can be taken away if if it is no longer appropriate for you to view. Who will determine that? It won’t be you.
The physical book has long been a heroic holdout against this moronic and tyrannical regime. Yes, plenty of people buy “e-books”, your humble author included, but for anything that really matters, I buy the book itself. Once the book is in your possession, it can only be removed by guile, compulsion, or naked force.
The Dr. Seuss Corporation has no real idea how to keep you from reading the copies of their samizdat that have already been vouchsafed to you. But they appear to have the power to prevent you from transferring your book to someone else, at least through the world’s favorite way to make that happen.
In other words, your subscription to a Dr. Seuss book can be partially revoked. You can own it, but you can’t sell it. Firearms hobbyists will note that this has often been the case with everything from “Tommy Guns” to 11-round magazines both in the past and today, depending on one’s residence and political acceptability. (African-American newspaperman Carl Rowan, for example, was once given an unregistered and 100% illegal pistol that he then used to shoot a white teenager in Washington, D.C. for the crime of using his swimming pool; he ended up facing no penalty despite potentially being in violation of several federal laws.)
The “conservatives” will assure us, of course, that eBay is perfectly within its rights here, as a private corporation. This is an idiotic position when applied to any enterprise larger than a pizza parlor, and tremendously more so when applied to something that is effectively a common carrier. Your humble author is old enough to remember when AT&T was broken up, not because it had ever attempted to exercise its monopoly power in the pursuit of a social or financial goal, but merely out of concern that such a thing was possible.
It should be noted that AT&T had less of a monopoly on national communications in 1970 than, say, Google does on search now, or eBay does on auctions, or Amazon does on, well, almost everything. What we need is some good solid, Teddy Roosevelt-style trust-busting. There is no, literally zero, reason that Amazon could not be broken up into smaller, competing entities. The same is true for Google, or eBay, or… Facebook.
You’ll wait in vain for any of that old-school leftist thinking to be applied nowadays. Today’s American left wing uses corporate power to extend its reach. Even the true-believer types, like AOC and Elizabeth Warren, are quick to retreat when their hand gets slapped by Corporate America. We now have business and government in harmony. Does that sound familiar? Here’s something I just read:
Where socialism sought totalitarian control of a society’s economic processes through direct state operation of the means of production, fascism sought that control indirectly, through domination of nominally private owners. Where socialism nationalized property explicitly, fascism did so implicitly, by requiring owners to use their property in the “national interest”—that is, as the autocratic authority conceived it. (Nevertheless, a few industries were operated by the state.) Where socialism abolished all market relations outright, fascism left the appearance of market relations while planning all economic activities. Where socialism abolished money and prices, fascism controlled the monetary system and set all prices and wages politically. In doing all this, fascism denatured the marketplace. Entrepreneurship was abolished. State ministries, rather than consumers, determined what was produced and under what conditions.
Huh. Of course, if you ask the average protestor in the street, she will tell you that the fascists are the bad guys, and that they will be defeated by a coalition of the Biden Administration, Google, JP Morgan Chase, Facebook, and Microsoft. It’s all too much for me to understand. I need an NBC JACK, something that focuses entirely on mountain bikes and iambic pentameter to the exclusion of all else. In the meantime, I highly recommend that you get durable paper copies of anything that truly matters to you. And prepare for the day when all your subscriptions are revoked.
Forgot to add this week’s stories yesterday… for Hagerty I wrote about the ethics of selling a valuable project>.