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Oh, The Places We'll go, Since the Silencing of Seuss Exposes a Casual Acceptance of Censorship in the Media

(AP Photo/Steven Senne)

When journalists defend the removal of art you know we are plunging down the cultural waterslide…

This is an odd time we are living in. In 2020 the refrain was how it had been an unprecedented and unrelenting year of chaos and misery. Well 2021 is shaping up to be a year of the surreal experience as if we are hallucinating from the fumes of gaslighting. The press has swooned over an inept new leader, we constantly get told lies from Jen Psaki are a sign of her magnificence, and the man who said executive orders are a tool of totalitarians has signed a record amount in his first weeks. Currently, Biden is in the process of reopening locations that were termed concentration camps for children. Calling them ‘’Influx Care Facilities’’ is just the latest kerosene wick to be lit.

One other bizarre activity we are witnessing is the swelling tide of members of the media who are outwardly promoting something that should be repugnant to all — censorship. This week it has been an odd unfolding story where some of the decades-old titles from the canon of author Dr. Seuss are coming under fire, but as ridiculous as those charges were, what took things into the looking glass (a literary reference from what will surely be a banned novel very soon) was the number of journalists who defended the attacks on the written works.

This has become a gravely serious action of late; there is a growing list of media figures who are very comfortable with the concept of muting and erasing forms of expression. More than that, we have seen some who are actively promoting the silencing of individuals and outlets. The First Amendment used to be the bedrock of the media, and anything encroaching it as a threat was reflexively beaten back. Not anymore. Now there are media figures defending the practice of removing art and engaged in the practice of targeting other media figures for removal.

The announcement that the Dr. Seuss publishing estate was looking to take down select titles led to a Virginia school district choosing to remove the connection of the author’s name with Read Across America Day, followed by President Biden also electing to not invoke the author’s name in his proclamation of the event. It can be said that this was a less than pernicious act of censorship, as it was voluntarily undertaken by the author’s estate, and only affected a handful of titles. But there is more to it, as well.

AP/Reuters Feed Library

The estate made its decision based on the swell of opposition to the content in recent years; it reacted to the cancel culture brigades. At the Universal theme park, they are reevaluating the Seuss Landing feature in response.  And if this was such an innocuous act why the need to the writer shunted from a reading event to which he was long connected? What evidence has there been that these offensive images were injurious in any way over the generations that the books existed? 

While he was not outright canceled and the claim of book burning taking place might be hyperbolic, there is a chill that is delivered by this targeted effort. Amazingly those expressing outrage, or at least concern, over this practice have been scorched loudly by a group — journalists. For openers, writer Mark Harris was pretty casual about the whole issue, taking more offense at who was complaining about the targeting, rather than the targeting itself.

This is some impressive stretching. Note how Fox News gets slammed vulgarly for defending free expression. Then to make his point Harris resorts to claiming that he is actually supported in this opinion by a dead man — who is the one being targeted. This theme — that only some books are canceled is prevailing with these censor-happy lackwits. Speaking of, Chris Cillizza had some opinions on the matter.

In a glaringly obtuse piece, CNN’s diversity hire declared that the Mr.Potato Head story was the prevailing policy point of CPAC last weekend, then he dared to opinion on Dr. Seuss. 

While six of his books will no longer be published, the remaining three dozen or so will still be on bookshelves. That isn’t a cancellation. What is happening…is that the culture is changing. Changing to incorporate more views from more varied perspectives — not just the opinions of what White people (and mostly) men think is acceptable or not.

See?! Books still exist! You are panicking over nothing! But, this being Cillizza after all, explanations are required. While CC wants to say this is merely our culture changing, what he ignores is that it is not a natural progression. It is being done by force, and leverage. His argument of only a few titles being expunged is akin to saying, ”Sure the Nazis burned some books, but not ALL the books. They piled the bad ones in the town square to ignite, they did not burn down entire libraries!’’

Phillip Bump, at the Washington Post, mocks Fox News for having an ‘’obsession’’ over the Seuss-troversy — obsessed, as he managed to write not one but two lengthy columns, on the Fox obsession. Huh. In the other column he notes that the one example of racist imagery – the classic ‘’If I Ran A Zoo’’ — portrayed some cartoonish caricatured images of Africans. He was appalled by the image. Yet, he also declares that this book was beloved by himself as a toddler. Somehow, he managed to make it into adulthood without having been poisoned by the racist imagery. Only as an adult, once woke, was he seeing the offense.

None of this is to say that there aren’t examples in which there are efforts to police language or actions that, intentionally or not, risk chilling people’s willingness to speak frankly. This line is obviously blurry and individual instances can be blurred, making criticisms of “cancel culture” a potent political tool.

Bump tries to equate this with kids who used to tell Polish jokes, and they have since fallen out of favor. That is a genuine and evolving instance. What we are witnessing is a stark declaration that something is suddenly off limits, and it is specifically targeted on published items. We are seeing an organized effort to go after specific entities in the culture, ironically a white-washing in the name of racial tolerance. That members of the press are so flippant about it is galling to see, but they are oblivious to fostering their own demise. 

Their reflexive defense of this eradication effort is rooted in who is doing the complaining; if those rubes at Fox News are saying it then the opposite position must be staked out. This leads to them approving of behavior that will at some point be used against them. They are making these stances based on political theater, but they appear unaware that when the forces are switched, inevitably, then ‘’the other side’’ being in control can lead to the belief that the Cillizza/Bump/Harris content can be deemed offensive and in need of silencing.

Think that is an extreme projection? We already saw a social media outlet, Parler, de-platformed from the internet, with journalists cheering the action. Over at CNN they are actively pushing to have entire news networks removed from our televisions. Yes, seriously. Brian Stelter, and his Boy Wonder sidekick, Oliver Darcy, are both engaged in the effort to lobby the nation’s cable and satellite television providers to remove the conservative news outlets from their packages. And this is done in an equally oblivious fashion. The justification is these channels allegedly traffic in misinformation. Stelter, and his ward, fail to see that CNN also qualifies for removal, using their very framework.

AP/Reuters Feed Library

This is where the blinders worn by these journalists become so astounding. How they fail to see the very actions they wish to unleash will inevitably backlash and collect them as well is baffling. It is the sole reason free expression has been such a stridently defended issue. But this is 2021, and if Fox News rings the bell about potential censorship they are not applauded for doing so, they are mocked.

Some, like Philip Bump, go so far as to say if you defend these ‘’racist’’ books it is because you want to defend racism. Defending a person’s right to speak is not defending their actual speech. He knows this, or at the very least he should. But for him, and the others, preserving their right to expression is less important than virtue signaling, and then using the call for free expression as a tool to injure political opposition.

It is a shallow and craven mindset. This is echoed in the belief that every person has a right to vote, but if a racist votes for a certain candidate then everyone who voted for said candidate is a racist. It is the thinking that justifies targeted silencing and approves of making an entire movement a pariah. That our members of the press are pushing this is beyond disturbing.