Censorship. Let’s talk about it, shall we? Or, more precisely, the people who enact censorship.
Recently a budding author, Amélie Wen Zhao, pulled her debut young adult, or YA, novel, Blood Heir, from publication after an internet ruckus decrying it as “racist”. You can read more about it here.
Kosoko Jackson, also a budding writer, also had his debut release canceled due to internet mobs. I admittedly don’t have much sympathy for him. He participated in the campaign against Zhao, and, according to his website was “a vocal champion of diversity in YA literature, the author of YA novels featuring African American queer protagonists, and a sensitivity reader for Big Five Publishers”.
While the author’s intentions were noble, his actions in regard to Zhou demonstrate otherwise. After what he did to her, the cancellation of his book is just karma if you ask me. The other information will be pertinent later.
Having not read either book, I cannot say if they had issues. Even with my reservations about Jackson, what concerns me is the fact that an internet mob bullied authors into pulling their own work. And this mob mentality is dangerous and promotes censorship.
I have just finished a rewatch of the film Quills, which is about the Marquis de Sade’s final days. The film makes intelligent commentary on censorship. And I cannot help but draw comparisons between the antagonist of the film, an older doctor whose views are rigid, righteous, and sadistic*, and between the folks of these internet mobs.
They are much like this doctor. They are full of a kind of righteousness, a rigidity of thought, and a special kind of sadism.
Like Jackson, they paint themselves as patrons of “social justice”. They uphold what is right in their mind. They are the self appointed gatekeepers of YA, and they will not allow the “problematic”, the icky, the gross, to sully their genre.
They are, by and large, marvelous hypocrites. They will never see nor understand how their actions do not help, but do great harm. They destroy reputations, careers, and communities. They have such a gaping lack of self awareness that they cannot understand or accept their own very human contradictions.
Everything is black and white to them. This is a terrible attribute to have as a person and a writer, since no human is black or white in their character. If you’re an average person, how do you maintain relationships if everything is so rigid? No one person is perfect. If you’re a writer, how can you write fully rounded human beings if everything is black and white, good or bad?
As for compassion? They couldn’t extend their compassion to a worm. They don’t have it. If they did, they would be approaching authors privately to speak with them and help them, rather than flaying them alive in public.
And the sadism . . . well. These people get off on what they do. They get off on persecuting others. They get off on feeling superior (at least for a little while). What’s more, they get off on pretending to protect or help others. They are not really doing it to help, however, but to feel superior and righteous once again.
But it is through their sadism they can earn their social justice merit badge to show off.
When I did social justice work, I was quiet. I didn’t go around putting it on my internet profiles, and I wouldn’t have put it on my website. I just did the work that needed to be done. I continue to follow that ethos. My website is not drenched in “diversity points”, but shows the body of my work, and my blog. My work speaks for itself, and for my ideas in regards to showcasing diverse perspectives and experiences in literature.
I wonder if these people actually walk the walk, or just shriek every time they encounter something unpleasant?
Troublingly, many of these people are young adults. To be so rigid, righteous, and viscous at such a young age is bit horrifying. These are the people who are going to become custodians of not just literature, but the world, and they have a very lethal outlook.
Of course, there are two things to consider: first is that this is the internet, and anonymity, does make people awful sometimes. They can get away with their sadism while pretending it’s in the name of “social justice”. No consequences, unfortunately (except, perhaps, in the case of Jackson).
Second: if they are young adults, they are still growing, and developing. Many are testing out their morality, albeit cruelly. So there is hope. They will grow, and meet people in their lives who challenge their opinions. They will meet people they love who help nurture their capacity for compassion. And they will change.
So while, in the present, things are what they are — this too shall pass.
But, I would wager, censorship and censors being what they are, ten years in the future I might write a very similar blog post.
* It will be noted there is good sadism and bad sadism. In the first, your partner consents to be hurt (they are a happy little masochist). In the second, they do not, but you get off on their pain anyway.
The .gif for this entry is from the film Quills and comes from here.