The market is still there. The demand is still there. The work still exists and, in fact, more people probably read it because of your tantrum. No actual victims were saved because of your internet slacktivism, so cut the shit.
I’ve actually had a draft about censorship in the queue for a while, and I fully intended to write a thorough and thoughtful piece on the subject… just as soon as I finish up the 18,000 other things I need to do first. You know how it is. I even talked about it a little bit in my radio interview with Yvonne Mason (I’m the last half if you’re daring enough to listen to my breathless rambling.)
But then there was this drama because it was a day in the indie world and a day isn’t complete without some angry internet arguments and even more counter-arguments, all liberally sprinkled with a wide array of popcorn memes in the comments.
A book was written, a book was published, a book was read. Some loved it, but some found it offensive. Some thought it needed a trigger warning. Some think trigger warnings are a joke and spoil a book. Some thought it needed to be pulled and screenshots of an author’s work were circulated in order to rally the villagers. (Pro tip – when you see screenshots, brace for drama. It’s always drama, and usually only the out-of-context content that someone wants you to see in order to get you on their ‘side.’ Yes, we’re in high school all over again. I’m sure we all have fond memories of that, why would we ever want to elevate ourselves past that level of thought and interaction?)
“Grab your pitchforks, everybody! We’ve got something I don’t agree with over here!”
Cupcake(s), I hate to be the one to tell you this, but as grown-ass adults, somebody should’ve filled you in by now: Life is rough, and a lot of stuff out there is going to offend you. I really wish it wouldn’t, and I wish there was a way to get everybody in the world on the same page so we could all be happy… but of course, this beautiful, perfectly peaceful world that I am imagining is my own version of perfection. I’m sure it would look different for every single person in the world. And that’s the catch – we all are different, we all want and value different things.
People are just complex. I have a sister who is close in age and was raised the same way as I was. Same schools, same advantages and disadvantages, same family and same aunt who has that blackmail video of drunken karaoke from five Thanksgivings ago. While we have a lot in common, there’s still loads of stuff we disagree on. (Mostly which Backstreet Boy was the cutest, but I digress. Also, that was a lie. We were total *NSYNC girls.) My point is that if different words, phrases, and things offend two people who had basically the same upbringing, chances are those differences only grow the further out you go.
Side note – Please don’t mistake my above “cupcake” lecture as an attempt to diminish people who have gone through terrible shit, or even people who just don’t like certain things. It’s not my place to question why someone is offended. Sometimes, there’s a reason for it. Sometimes, they’re just offended. Hell, shortening “you” to “u” offends me (Seriously, it’s two extra letters. Come on, now.) We all go through it, so to point fingers about this or that offending somebody is just ridiculous. That’s not really my point…
My argument is that expecting the rest of the world to change in order to fix that offense is a childish goal when your plan of action is to piss off, shut down, scream at, and label everyone who does not see things your way.
Am I telling everyone who is offended by something to just shut up about it? Heavens no! Look at this blog post! I’m not a hypocrite! (Alright.. yes, I am sometimes, but I try not to be.) But if it is something you really care about, something you deeply want to change, you’ve got to be a bit clever with your approach.
First, identify what you are actually upset about. If that particular book was all that offended you, then stop reading this blog now. It’s been banned again on that single site. Mission: Accomplished. You get all the gold stars.
Let’s be real, though… Are you really mad at the fictional characters and the author of this single book, or are you mad that people like it and there is a market for it?
Aha! There we are.
As someone who is more offended by bland characters than dark subjects, let me first say that even though I don’t share your viewpoint, I get you. I totally understand your concerns and I understand that certain subjects are deeply disturbing for some people. But please listen when I say that witch-hunt censorship doesn’t do a damn thing to stop people from reading it and authors from writing it. You’re trying to put a house fire out with a bottle of Dasani.
It’s not a brick-by-brick effect when you make it about the books. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if more dark HEAs pop up now, considering the rapid rise/exposure of the book in question due to all the controversy. Many authors wear their banned books like a badge of honor, and many readers flock to those books because it’s fun to read something deemed too scandalous for others.
Anyway, I’m rambling as I usually do, but I want to throw some stuff out here that might help elevate the dialogue when it comes to these things. It probably won’t change a thing, but I’ll give it a hell of a try.
- Stop assuming that everyone outside of your circle is an idiot. There are a lot of ’em out there, but if you are truly interested in starting a conversation (you know, the way REAL change happens) you’ve got to give them the benefit of the doubt and honestly try to see their POV. You don’t have to agree with someone or even like them in order to show them basic respect. If they spaz out, you still walk away smelling like roses and you get to try again. I love a good discussion and I’ve had my mind changed more times than I can count when presented with respectful, thoughtful and solid points that I hadn’t considered. Plenty of people are like me, you just have to give them a chance to listen before you scream at them and kick them out the door.
- Censorship doesn’t work, it just shuts down the dialogue and no progress is made. The world is imperfect. We need progress. Sure, this post centers around the book that blew up the indie feeds lately, but classic literature — work that beautifully frames and give perspective on issues that still plague our society today — is getting banned from libraries over knee-jerk reactions to offensive words or subjects. Chances are, if you read a word in a classic that makes your stomach twist and your body cringe, that is exactly what the author wanted you to feel. That is the mark of a true work of art. Art is supposed to make you feel something. Good art makes you feel all the things, even the stuff that’s hard to stomach.
- It’s okay to be offended, it’s okay to be angry… but don’t pretend you’re on a crusade to do something about it when all you have to offer is bluster. Feverishly clicking a “Report” button isn’t social activism. Calm down and start a dialogue. Offer some reasonable solutions, and yes… sometimes you have to compromise or you will not accomplish a thing. Don’t show up to the party with nothing but rage. Getting a single indie book banned does not change the market and has no real impact on the big issues you’re waving around like a banner. Small actions can change the world, but they have to be smart.
- Remember, even if you have gone through something terrible, that does not make you the end-all-be-all spokesperson for every person who has ever been through a similar thing. Having “friends who have dealt with” the issue does not make you the spokesperson, either. Yes, please add your thoughts and perspective to the discussion, it certainly holds so much value and weight… but understand that people all deal with things in their own way and when you presume to speak for all of them, you are also part of that problem you want to combat — drowning out their voices. Shutting them down when they don’t have the same response to a situation as you do perpetuates the idea that there is a certain way a victim should act and all others who don’t act that way are lying. You have to know how dangerous this is.
- People don’t do bad things because bad things are written, acted, painted or sung. They do bad things because they are broken people. If you eliminate the art, that broken person still exists.
Okay, this is so long and I know I missed some stuff, but it’s a start.
You can get a copy of the book that has been yanked from Amazon twice here, now. It has triggers, obvs.
Erotica finds a way… (Jeff Goldblum voice)
Until next time,
P.S. If your book gets yanked, Kyle made a handy post on a way to set up a direct buy link on your site. Kyle’s a pro at tech stuff and he loathes censorship as much as I do so I’m sure he’d be happy to help you out if you have questions.