While Posturing Like They Are Above it All Journalists Use Dr. Seuss as a Cultural Cudgel

(AP Photo/Steven Senne)

Journalists try to mock the Seuss outrage as they are unable to stop condemning conservatives on the issue.

While the Dr. Seuss controversy is beginning to wear down one aspect of this needs to be exposed. I covered earlier how there are many members in the press who are rather casual about the concept of silencing an author and removing his books. Now in a fashion of covering for this departure from the normal adherence of encouraging free expression, journalists are energetically going after those who are opposed to removing the books. 

Throughout the media landscape there have been many journos mocking those who see a problem with removing the printed word from our culture. If there could be an arena in which to place mockery it would be with those taking offense at the content of a children’s book, one that is over 80 years old. But instead, journalists are looking at the right and acting as if showing concern with thought police erasing our historical artifacts is a wingnut practice.

CNN of course leaned in strongly, delivering scorn over the coverage on Fox News and, following their template, detailing what they were not covering. The false presentation is that Fox was only covering the book story, as if a news network was incapable of delving into numerous stories on a given broadcast. Of course, there is no such introspection at CNN over the stories they avoid, such as the swelling Andrew Cuomo scandal. Only Fox is to be mocked regarding insufficient coverage.

There was something revealing in all of this journalistic pushback. They could not seem to stop talking about how conservatives cannot stop talking about Dr. Seuss. There is a revealing aspect behind their contempt; as much as they want to deride the right for making this a topic they had no hesitation covering the conservative coverage because it becomes a political tool. The problem is you cannot mock others for discussing a topic of which you cannot shut up about yourself.

At the start of the week, Brian Stelter got up on his apple box and delivered his rebuke of the focus on what he dubbed to be drivel. When covering a story like the Seuss books, he intoned, that means ‘’we all lose’’.

Then he could not refrain from talking about the Seuss books himself. Stelter, in his trademark oblivious fashion, spent the bulk of the week talking about how Fox was talking about Dr. Seuss. He tried to make them out to be hysterics, of course, and yet there was a revealing component — he covered the story at length himself. On Tuesday the guy mocking the conservative interest was keenly interested in Seuss book sales. The one suggesting Fox would not shut up on the subject was, still by Thursday, on the midday broadcast not shutting up about the Seuss books, and not in reference to Fox News either. One network’s preoccupation is another’s due diligence, we suppose.

L.G. Patterson

At the Washington Post Philip Bump was likewise immersed in the Fox focus on the story, calling their coverage an ‘’obsession’’. Funny how he mocks their obsession in not one but two lengthy columns, as well as also managing to tweet on the subject no less than 10 times throughout the week; that excludes him linking to the columns, for the record. What Bump’s main stance is that in the course of complaining about the books taken down Fox absolutely must be defending the racist content therein. This is a rather infantile opinion. 

What is being addressed in all of this Seuss furor is not a direct defense of the specific offenses but in the practice of eradicating culture. Most sane people would say there is no need to ban offensive works such as ‘’Mein Kampf’’, or ‘’Das Kapital’’, but in the stance of not censoring those works, you are not defending the content. It used to be that taking the position that erasing literature is wrong was a default move, but now we are seeing a growing casualness with the removal of works, and those who are voicing concern over the practice are looked at as the problem.

Those suggesting that this an overreaction, and that ‘’just’’ six books are removed, miss the slope this is poised upon. An education activist organization published the findings of Teaching Tolerance, which explored the full Seuss canon and — not surprisingly — found more problematic content in the catalog. They even called out the classic Seuss treatise on social acceptance, ”The Sneeches”. It was insufficient in addressing social imbalances, is the issue.

Looking over the defensive coverage these accusatory journalists are engaged in, you see the vacancy of their arguments. The claim is this is not censorship, because it was the Seuss Enterprise that chose to remove the titles. The tell is in looking at the broader reaction. Amazon saw second-party sellers offering the suspended books with prices into the hundreds. Ebay next took down any users attempting to sell older copies. Libraries are pulling the titles, and even at Universal theme parks they are re-evaluating their Seuss Landing entertainment feature.

With this widespread striking down, taking place in just a week’s time, it is hardly an exaggeration to suggest there is an effort to erase the culture. But members of the media are of a different mindset these days. No longer is criticizing censorship and trying to protect art from revisionist mob standards considered noble. Now, they can support these actions if the ‘’wrong’’ people are on the side of protecting expression and artistic integrity. 

Rather than considering the ramifications of these moves, the journalists are instead considering who is opposing them, and when they are regarded as those on the other side then taking the contrarian position is made by rote. More thought should be made, but instead, the press is using the controversy as a way of scoring points. So they resort to claiming Fox News and conservatives are obsessed with the issue — over, and over, and over again.