Dr. Seuss Fiasco: Much Ado About Nothing?

(Andy Newman/Carnival Cruise Line via AP)

 

In an age where Americans are supposed to be outraged by everything, it seems another story has emerged that has raised the ire of folks on the right. Dr. Seuss Enterprises, the company which owns the rights to work produced by the author, whose real name was Ted Geisel, announced that six books written by him will no longer be published.

RedState’s Brandon Morse reported: “The titles ‘And to Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street,’ ‘If I Ran the Zoo,’ ‘McElligot’s Pool,’ ‘On Beyond Zebra!,’ ‘Scrambled Eggs Super!,’ and ‘The Cat’s Quizzer’ will no longer be published by the company over its depictions of certain cultures, including Arabian, Asian, and African cultures.”

Dr. Seuss Enterprises, which was founded by members of Geisel’s family, told the Associated Press that it made its decision based on conversations with a variety of customers. “Dr. Seuss Enterprises listened and took feedback from our audiences including teachers, academics and specialists in the field as part of our review process. We then worked with a panel of experts, including educators, to review our catalog of titles,” it explained.

The company’s decision elicited outrage among conservatives, who feel that the organization’s leadership is just giving in to the woke mob as other businesses have done. To make matters worse, President Joe Biden removed mentions of Seuss from the comments he made at the “Read Across America Day” event.

Conservatives lambasted the decision, claiming that it constituted a form of censorship. Some right-leaning pundits like commentator Ben Shapiro, argued that the company’s decision was somehow akin to book burning in Nazi Germany. On his podcast, he even went so far as to suggest that the government should be granted the authority to intervene when an entity makes this type of decision about published works.

“And I honestly, I think that we should I’m very rarely into the idea of government regulation, but the idea of trademark and copyright were provided specifically in order to provide so that nobody could take advantage of your intellectual property,” Shapiro insisted.

The podcaster continued, asserting that intellectual property protections like copyrights were to guarantee that a piece of work would be published. He said:

You write a book, nobody gets to infringe upon your copyright until a certain time has passed since your death. And at that point, then it becomes open to to anyone. But the purpose of copyright was to ensure that things are published, because why would you publish your work if somebody could just copy it? Copyright was not designed in order so you could suppress material. Copyright was not designed so that I could buy up somebody’s copyright and then just kill it.

At this point, he suggested changing the rules regarding copyrights to prevent an intellectual property owner from determining when and how their work would be published.

He said:

Perhaps there ought to be a piece of regulation that says that if you take a piece of literature off the market for more than two years, then it becomes public domain. Because otherwise, what you’re going to have is exactly what you’re seeing right here, which is Dr. Seuss Enterprises who own the intellectual property of Dr. Seuss, literally just taking the books off the shelves.

So what’s the deal here? Should we be outraged over decisions made by Geisel’s estate? I would submit to you, dear reader, that perhaps some of us are overreacting.

Does it make sense to disagree with the company’s decision? Sure, there are plenty of valid arguments as to why it should continue to publish the books. If Dr. Seuss Enterprises are simply caving in to the Church of Progressivism in fear of being punished by the Woke Sanhedrin instead of acting on a sincere change of mind, they deserve to be criticized. Also, one can argue that publishing the book does not exactly constitute a threat to decent society as the left might claim. These are sensible positions to take.

But the notion that this is like book burning in Nazi Germany is absurd on its face.

For starters, this is not an act of censorship being sanctioned by the state. It is a private company deciding it does not want to be associated with a particular type of work. Moreover, they are not considering removing all, or even most, of Geisel’s work. The author wrote over 60 books and the company is only ceasing the publication of six. This doesn’t exactly constitute cancel culture.

It’s important to acknowledge that it is still possible Seuss’ family genuinely does not want to be associated with his earlier works, which included racist imagery. The author himself later stated that he regretted creating that content and went on to be a staunch opponent of racism.

Moreover, the fact that Biden decided to pander to the woke crowd in no way diminishes Dr. Seuss’ impact on American children’s literature. Since when do we as conservatives look to government officials to validate or invalidate an individual? After the Biden, and later Harris are out of office, we can elect a president who is not a full-on social justice warrior type, and Seuss’ name will likely be spoken again at the White House.

It is also worth recognizing that this is not the first time a company has made similar decisions regarding controversial publications. Warner Bros. did the same in 1968 with episodes of Looney Tunes that showed blatantly racist depictions of blacks, Asians, Latinos, and others. There was no outpouring of outrage or fearmongering that followed. Nobody claimed that this could bring about an American Third Reich. The same was true when Disney declined to publish “Song of the South.”

I know what you’re thinking. “But Jeff, this is how the move towards communism/fascism works! They do it incrementally!”

You’re not wrong. But this does not mean that EVERY decision like this is leading us to totalitarianism. Sometimes attitudes change, and that’s all it is. The reason why there was no widespread freaking out with Warner Bros. and with other companies is because we were not as sensitive as we seem to be today. Not everything is worth our anger or fear.

We often make fun of the left for their incessant overreactions, and rightly so. But conservatives aren’t doing themselves any favors by falling into the same behavior. The bottom line is that our lives won’t be burdened by Dr. Seuss Enterprises refusing to publish six of his books. Besides, it is still possible to get the books electronically if we really want them. Perhaps it might be better to direct our outrage at issues that warrant more of it.