Mimsy Were the Borogoves

Editorials: Where I rant to the wall about politics. And sometimes the wall rants back.

Twisted censorship from France

Jerry Stratton, April 28, 2015

Censorship stamp

Sometimes truth is far stranger than fiction, or, in this case, prose. Were I to write about this for The Walkerville Weekly Reader, even the name would sound too over the top. A writer for the Guardian, named Francine Prose—almost literally, “straight talk from France”—writes that Charlie Hebdo does not deserve their PEN award because the truth about what happened to them goes against the narrative of the anointed.

She compares them to Nazis in Skokie, and then says she admires their courage. Does she admire the courage of Skokie Nazis, too?

The award is the Freedom of Expression Courage Award. PEN has other awards that fit the other candidates she thinks more appropriate—awards for journalism and for merit and even for social justice. But the Hebdo staff literally died for free speech—they knew they were under threat and continued publishing, and then even after the threat was carried out and twelve of them died, the survivors continued publishing. They deserve this award or no one does.

But Prose’s rationalizations betray an even worse tendency of the modern left:

I abhor censorship of every kind and I despise the use of violence as a means of enforcing silence.

But why should this award not be given in the wake of the Hebdo murders? It isn’t just because they were satirists making fun of religion. It’s also because they’re white and their murderers were Muslim extremists.

I’m not paraphrasing or exaggerating:

The narrative of the Charlie Hebdo murders—white Europeans killed in their offices by Muslim extremists—is one that feeds neatly into the cultural prejudices that have allowed our government to make so many disastrous mistakes in the Middle East.

I abhor censorship, says Francine Prose, but any truths that disprove my preferred narrative? Shut them down. Because that “narrative” she decries is what happened.

Salman Rushdie downplayed the failings of these authors. These are not “six authors in search of character”. In the case of Francine Prose at least, these are censors in search of a stamp.

From the comments: “Pointing out the absurdities of religion, especially the religion whose adherents are most likely to kill you for your troubles, is ‘telling us the truth about the world we live in’.”

In response to Confirmation journalism and the death penalty: Iterative journalism is like the Red Queen in Alice in Wonderland: “Sentence first, verdict after.” The Elements of Journalism praises David Protess’s project that railroaded a mentally disabled man into prison for fourteen years, because it served their bias.

  1. <- Televised disdain