Wednesday, November 16, 2022

A Post About Censorship

by Janis Patterson

I know this is not a political forum, so I’m not going to be political... just bear with me.

I’m not much on social media - in truth, I hate it. It’s a timesink and sometimes it’s frightening to see what’s going on out there. I use it for two primary purposes - family/friends contact and publicity on my books. More, if I am to be honest, of the former than the latter. 

However, I am human, and when I see an egregious lie posted as fact I have to respond. (And it has to be a really BIG lie to make me comment.) This time I simply stated an irrefutable, provable scientific truth. So guess what? The platform froze my account, then sent me a cloyingly polite little note saying my post had been flagged as being hurtful of some people’s feelings.

What? An account is frozen because a factual statement of truth is ‘hurtful to some people’s feelings”??? It is indeed the truth...

They then said I could be completely reinstated by deleting the ‘offensive’ post. 

Hmmm - so if I want to be allowed back in the ‘tribe’ all I have to do is deny an irrefutable scientific fact - and agree to a deliberate untruth. Bad bargain. I protested, telling them I was not going to defame my honor by underwriting a lie, and since my account was locked I had no way of closing/deleting the whole account - and believe me, I tried. So I asked them to close and delete the account for me and we could call it quits.

Not surprisingly they refused. Apparently I not only have to sacrifice my honor and honesty, but I have to kowtow to their rules and delete the truth before I can sever our relationship. That’s scary. Needless to say, we are at a stalemate - I will not sacrifice the truth to have a platform on which I can sell my books. Period.

So what is the purpose of this little screed besides some personal venting? Well, this attitude affects every writer out there. Why should we be expected to allow someone - censor, Mrs. Grundy, monolithic corporation, government, anyone - to dictate unilaterally to us what we can and cannot write - especially when it is the truth? And before you say ‘truth is relative’ sometimes it isn’t. An irrefutable fact is an irrefutable fact - if you turn loose of a rock, it will fall down, not up. If you cut a piece of meat in half, you cannot make it truly whole again. You cannot cut off a person’s head then stick it back on and expect him to be the same. More frivolously, you cannot eat your cake and have it too. Some things just are, and cannot be changed simply because we want them to be - or because they “might hurt someone’s feelings.”

Now there are those who will say social media is a contract between individuals and media, meaning the individual corporations which have the freedom to say what will and will not be said upon their platforms, and in a way that is true - I am a great believer in corporate freedom. If this or any social media platform chooses to play that way, I can choose not to play with them. However distasteful I might find their actions, they are certainly within their rights to be as dictatorial as they choose. If someone doesn’t like what they are doing, they can leave and go to another platform they find more to their liking. What I object to is that this repugnant practice is it is becoming so prevalent over every branch of communication - including magazines, movies, television and books.

What if someone decrees you cannot write a mystery with a ____ (insert classification of choice here, such as man, woman, child, straight, homosexual, black, white, Asian... whatever) as the villain? Or that you cannot ever have more than two dead bodies in a single book? What if we are ordered that no one in a story can come from a such-and-such background, or be of (or not be of) a such-and-such socio-economic/racial/sexual group? That’s censorship, plain and simple.

Nor is the problem confined to social media. Not long ago a scandal erupted in Romance Writers of America about their yearly award. It used to be called the Rita, but I believe now the name has been changed to the Vivian, but egregious as the change was, that’s not the problem. The book which won was about the romance of a man who had years before as a soldier had taken part in a military action against some Indian tribe. In the intervening years between then and the beginning of the book he had reformed and found the love of his life, which was the main thrust of the story. 

The fact that this book won enraged the PC agitators in the crowd, who claimed that since he had once been involved in a massacre of Indians he should never be a romantic hero, whether he had reformed or not. He didn’t, according to some of the more vocal critics, deserve a happy ending and could never even receive redemption or God’s forgiveness. 

In a free and sane society such hysterical blatherings would have been ignored as the self-aggrandizing lunacy they were, but sadly and disturbingly RWA chose the ‘woke’ side and rescinded the award. They couldn’t ban the book altogether, though I believe they would have if they could, but it was stripped of the award in spite of the fact it was well-written enough to have won in the first place, it adhered to every rule of the contest and was by a well-known and well-respected writer. But it displeased a minority of the membership, so it had to go. Now one cannot help but wonder how many writers are hesitant to submit their books to the - or any - award for fear it won’t pass the muster of the PC hysterics even if it does follow every rule of the contest.

So far as I know the mystery community has not succumbed to such lunacy, but one never knows. We can only hope it stays sane and free of such irrational control.

I believe such blatant censorship is something against which all writers should fight, whatever they write. BUT in spite of that statement I will say there are some things which definitely be kept out of some hands, such as pornography and children, for example - after all there are the structures and decencies of civilization to consider - but as writers we exist to communicate. If that communication is stifled, distorted, controlled, or negated, the world is doomed.


Marilyn Meredith a.k.a. F. M. Meredith said...

It has gottne bad. You can't say anything that's against whatever the powers that be think is right. Though I can't understand who those folks are since so much insane stuff is posted. Like you, I have friends and family I like to follow and of course, use it to promote my books.

Alina K. Field said...

Egad, what a horrible experience. Civility and common sense are much needed now. Hoping we get through this mass hysteria era soon.

On another note, I purchased a print copy of that book you mentioned and added it to my banned book shelf next to a couple of other nonfiction books I won't mention. Haven't read it yet, but I'll get to it one of these days.

Morgan Mandel said...

I belonged to RWA for many years and was chapter president at one time, manuscript chair, secretary and worked on their social media account. I arranged for the chapter to get access to our library for the meetings. For a long time I learned much about writing from their critiques. Then the chapter appeared to be taken over by those picky about terminology and viewpoints of what to allow in books. Crazy thing is they were perfectly happy about steamy sexual descriptions being included, which I felt uncomfortable about. So I resigned.