Thursday, November 29, 2007

Censorship?

I was dismayed this morning to read about St. John’s store Downhome Shoppe and Gallery’s decision to ban Littleseal a children's book by a St. John's author Morgan Pumphrey because it has an anti-sealing message. Banning books is patriarchal, oppressive; it is the foundation of intolerance. It pains me to see people on the Rock take this backward approach. It remind me of how the Church handled The DaVinci Code - slagging it because it did not represent their version of historical events. Their loud protestations fueled the publicity machine; the controversy it created propelled the book into the stratosphere of billion dollar book sales. How many more people read the book because of the controversy? The best way the Christian churches could have handled it was to say “What a creative work of fiction! Well done!” and then used the book as a springboard to talk about their version of historical events as they see fit. If the intent was to stop Littleseal from reaching public hands, this move was the very definition of counter productive. Realistically how many people would have ever heard of this book, never mind buy it, before this hit the papers?


When asked about their decision the president of Downhome Inc., Grant Young, replied: "We're pro-sealing and this is an anti-sealing book. Maybe some people could call it censorship, but we call it standing by our beliefs..."

I call that pretty slippery.

12 comments:

Jo said...

I think its fine for that particular company to not want to sell that book...c'mon, they're pro seal hunt. I would be upset if others followed suit just for the hell of it. But really, this is the best thing that could have happened for the author.

nadinebc said...

I just think for a group that doesn't want people to read the book- they just sold more books for that author then they ever would have by simply stacking a few copies.

Karen said...

If a library chooses not to have it in the library, that is censorship. If a store chooses not to sell it, to me that is not censorship. To me that is business. I am sure businesses must decide every day what products to carry and what ones not to carry. Face it, The Downhome Store sells to more pro-sealing customers than anti-sealing customers (and probably to a lot of apathetic customers too). Why risk annoying those customers for the sake of one book? I think it was a great business move.

WhitbyDude01 said...

I can see what you mean Karen. It's a business, not a public service. What one store doesn't sell may be to the benefit of another store that does.

Having said that, I wonder what the author expected? I don't think you are going to find many people in Newfoundland who are against the seal hunt.

It is interesting when you consider if the anti-sealing theme was designed by the author TO sell more books.

...wrong subject...wrong time...

Nuclear Mom said...

I was about to post what Karen said.

As a business, they can choose what to put on their shelves. But when a school/library or other publicly funded outfit opts not to shelve an item or make it available to the general public (that funds them) because they don't like the message, that is censorship.

Anonymous said...

Steve said...
I'm curious how this even made the news in the first place. One or the other is looking for free publicity. The store could simply choose not to stock a certain book. Using the term "ban" was grand-standing on someone's part.

Who used the term, or made the claim first?

nadinebc said...

From what I understand it was the author- it is in Macleans mag this month I believe.

And I do see that everyone else has a point-they don't have to sell this book. It just sticks in my craw that this store says it promotes Newfoundland authors and then refuses to sell this one on "principle" and yet somehow manages to make the author more money then she ever would have made on this book to begin with.

David Nickarz said...

I think I'm going to buy this book for a lucky child this Christmas.

nadinebc said...

David, while I think your choice of gift is a poor one, I support your right to buy it.

Bill said...

For one, has anyone read it? I am a father and while I have no problem with the subject matter I would never read it to a child. The author is truly deranged to think what she has written is appropriate for small children.

The business which decided not to sell the book has that right and it had absolutely nothing to do with censorship. If her only option was one local store then obviously the book should be flushed.

What I find curious is how media will jump on this when Chapters, a huge book distributer, refuses to sell books such as Mien Kampf(sp) and other Nazi connected books because the owners are Jewish. Don't get me wrong, I am not criticizing them nor am I rushing around trying to find a copy of Hitler's diary, just making an observation.

nadinebc said...

Bill, that is an interesting observation, one I will want to look into.

I don't have any problems with a humane seal hunt, especially when more than the pelt is used.

And yes, stores do make choices as to what they will sell. However, it seems contradictory to me to not sell a book, and make such an issue of it that they end up indirectly selling more copies of it then the author ever would. Just doesn't make sense to me.

It could have been handled better.

bill said...

Nadine, the store did not make a big deal out of it. They simply stated to the author that they are a pro-hunt establishment. The author, knowing they were pro-hunt and most likely knowing what the reaction would be to a request to stock said book, made a big deal out of it.

In my humble opinion, she knew what the reaction would be and knew she could use it to generate a media buzz. Now she can actually sell copies rather than selling only a dozen without the buzz.

The only fault of the store was they should have just said it was inappropriate for children. Either way, they are firmly within their right to sell whatever they wish to sell.