Saturday 25 February 2023

Censoring The Fantastic Mr Dahl.

Keeping It Real: Children need to know that the world can be an extremely dangerous place. They need to know that it is filled with quirky, alarming, and sometimes downright dangerous people. Children need to be able to reach back into their internal libraries for the sort of role models Roald Dahl specialised in creating: not always good; not always nice; but without doubt clever, brave, and entertainingly resourceful.

THAT IT COULD BE DONE AT ALL is unfathomable. That professional publishers and editors, supposedly the possessors of post-graduate degrees in English Literature, could even contemplate sanctioning such a desecration is astonishing. Surely, this must be one of those stories we read on “The Onion” website – preposterously funny satire?

No. Wrong on all counts. This story is true.

The publishers (Puffin Books) and current holders of the copyright (Netflix) have colluded in the re-writing of Roald Dahl’s books for young readers. That’s right, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, The Witches, Fantastic Mr Fox, the whole Dahl catalogue, has been purged of words and attitudes deemed inimical to the moral sensibilities of these very strange times. Words like “titchy, “tiny”, and (with the most extreme prejudice) “fat”, have been purged from the pages of Dahl’s books.

Not at the behest of Dahl’s young readers, of course, they thrill to Dahl’s spiky, misanthropic and just plain naughty vocabulary. Even the dark and scary aspects of Dahl’s work are lapped-up by his young readers – in much the same way that they thrill to the dark and scary elements of Grimm’s Fairy Tales. The occasional spine-tingle is a crucial part of the reading experience – at least, it used to be.

And this is important because ….. ? With a stricken North Island to nurse back to health, why should anyone care about the re-writing of Roald Dahl’s books?

The answer, of course, is that children need to know that the world can be an extremely dangerous place. They need to know that it is filled with quirky, alarming, and sometimes downright dangerous people. Children need to be able to reach back into their internal libraries for the sort of role models Roald Dahl specialised in creating: not always good; not always nice; but without doubt clever, brave, and entertainingly resourceful.

When disaster strikes, it matters – a lot – that it does not strike a society raised in the carefully nurtured belief that there are no disasters. That dishonest, abusive and downright dangerous people do not, in fact, exist. That being raised to recognise moments in which behaving sweetly simply will not cut it, is a good thing, not a bad thing. Moments when the resourceful trickster is a better role model than the politically-correct goody-two-shoes who would never dream of calling anybody “fat”. Call them Roald Dahl moments.

Literature, and all the other forms of cultural expression, are not supposed to make us good people, they are supposed to make us real people. That is why when well-meaning people (or so we must assume) decide to “rectify” the works of artists who care about reality, we should all be very worried.

It’s happened before, of course, back in 1818 when a Dr Thomas Bowdler decided that the works of William Shakespeare contained a surfeit of reality, especially in regard to the vexed questions of sex and death, and that the Bard’s opus would be immeasurably improved by getting rid of all the naughty bits.

“Bowdlerism”, as this improving censorship became known, was embraced with enthusiasm by the Victorians. That is to say by the middle-class Victorians, who looked askance at both the debauched antics of the British aristocracy, and the honest rutting of the working-classes. They were firmly of the view that the behaviour of such persons was unlikely to improve without those in possession of a proper understanding of appropriate human conduct showing them a better way.

As if the gross exploitation of Victorian Capitalism, and the impoverished lives of its victims, could magically be made to vanish by sanding-off Victorian society’s jagged edges. As if purging the artist’s work of everything that made it real and compelling could possibly make its ultimate consumers better persons. Protecting people from reality doesn’t make them good, it only makes them stupid – and dangerously vulnerable to those who wield the censor’s blue pencil.

Roald Dahl, being dead, cannot object to the behaviour of those in whom he entrusted the safe-keeping of his art. But living artists have no cause for complacency. Once the formerly rock-solid reverence for an artist’s work disappears – as it so evidently has among Dahl’s publishers – no writer, dramatist, poet, painter, sculptor, or cinematographer, alive or dead, will be safe. While we, their audience, will remain, thanks to our censorious middle-class betters, innocent ignoramuses.

This essay was originally published in The Otago Daily Times and The Greymouth Star of Friday, 24 February 2023.


Guerilla Surgeon said...

I'm not sure we could call what Roald Dahl does art, except perhaps in the broadest sense. But as a private organisation the owners of the copyright are pretty much allowed to do anything they want with it. That's capitalism, but I suspect a whole lot of our conservative commenters will be screaming "PC gone mad" "cancel culture" and the like. They do it to make money people. That's the whole aim of capitalist society right? These are also the people who want websites to have to carry forced speech which may lose them money. I never cease to wonder at conservative hypocrisy.

Archduke Piccolo said...

The silliness of academia seems never ending. Don't they realise the damage they are doing? Here's a story from my own studies in 'kiddy lit'. A certain boy, seven years old, so learning to read from, among other things, fairy/ folk tales, was noticed by his teacher that he always read from the same book: The Three Little Pigs. This was a bowdlerised version in which the wolf, climbing down the chimney to get at the 3 Little was scorched by the fire, scrambled back up the chimney and ran off.

'He'll be baa-aack!' says the kid. He didn't seem too happy about it. It gave him nightmares.

That ending meant that the story was to do all over again. There was no reassurance for the piggies; they would have to be forever on the alert, living in fear for when the wolf returned. There was no reassurance for the reader.

The violent death of the wolf was supposed to be an assurance to child readers that justice will prevail, and dangers may be overcome finally and for good. There is a good deal about fairy tale that there is someone (if not the reader, then a parent or adult) there to dispense justice. That won't be every kid's experience, sure, but how will bowdlerising stories help? It won't.

It is very rare for academia's meddling with folk tale to yield a better story. But I do have to mention this one: The Ants and the Grasshopper.

All summer long, the ants work hard gathering and building stocks of food to tide them over through the winter. All summer long, the grasshopper sang and hopped about, without a care for the approaching cold weather.

Winter came. The ants were warm and snug and well fed in their nest. There came a knock at the door. It was the grasshopper, cold, starving, and begging for shelter and food.

Now comes THREE endings:

1. The chief ant points out that the grasshopper's shiftlessness led him into his situation, and for the ants to take him in would deplete their own supplies. He shows the grasshopper the door. Margaret Thatcher's desiccated soul would have loved this traditional ending.

2. The chief ant takes pity upon the grasshopper and takes him in. Generous, but then all you have is a narrative, and no story. Forget about it. A Greeny version methinks.

3. The chief ant berates the grasshopper for his profligacy and is about to show him the door, when a very ancient and wise worker ant intervenes. 'The grasshopper has earned our generosity,' he said. 'All summer long, as we worked, he entertained us with song and dance. That helped the work go with a swing. Surely we owe him something?'

I have to admit, I rather like this version, just about the only occasion in which modern meddling with tradition has improved the story.

If this country wants children to learn to read, this country has to permit them to read good stories. Sometimes those stories contain elements of violence. Sheltering kids from violence does them a disservice - to their imaginations, to their behaviour, and to their response to violence when it does occur in their lives.

Just whom is being 'protected' by these tinkerings? The children? Not on your life. Adults are doing this to protect themselves.

Ion A. Dowman

Anonymous said...

Excellent explanation of irrational behaviour Chris. I agree with all you say here. I find it truly frightening that censorship can be not only condoned but enthusiastically embraced.

Gary Peters said...

Thankfully, they have backed down ... for now but like rust and mould they will be back.

Look at the removal of Michael Jackson music for a while. Down here in Kapiti, a sculpture by an artist, Brendan Nolan, was taken down because he was a sex offender. It was deemed "controversial" so sold at a massive loss.

Based on some books I have read many of our famous artists has private lives that would make a matron blush yet their works are now treasured. Seemed an odd decision to me and smnacked of "Bowdlerism"... A new word for me 😎

Odysseus said...

Thank goodness Dahl is no longer among us. Otherwise he might have been imprisoned and made to drink poison for impiety and corrupting the youth. Censors are not very nice people.

LittleKeith said...

There is a super small increasingly dangerous self righteous minority level of politics that at its basis wants to make our world "safer", safe from whatever they feel is unsafe, non negotiable. Because by exercising control over everyone else, who can argue with a cause that says it wants others to be "safe"?

Think societal traffic light systems, 30 km/hr speed limits, think speed bumps, parking removal. Think 15 minute towns, think anti car zealots, think out of touch academia, liberal Labour and the entire Green Party.

Roald Dahl, like any author who wants to succeed, used the best descriptor words modern English has to spice up his stories and capture his audiences imaginations. Had they been written in the way these woke editors have come up with, he would have died broke! Ironically in purging his books of unsafe words and terms, they've created new victims who have been "triggered" and now feel disconnected from society, such as those in secretarial jobs, men and bald people.

Falsifying the past, according to this groupthink is nothing other than a way of exerting control on others by their warped thinking under the auspices of safety. Words can hurt so if we cancel those words then we can't hurt and we can all be safer, says those who actually argue against freedom of speech. And yet these kind of people who believe in this "safe" society are ironically making us less safe by being less free to think for or express ourselves! Because their groupthink must go unchallenged or you are crushed!

The Barron said...

In the original 1964 book, Oompa-Loompas—depicted as African pygmy people—being locked up forever in the factory where they supplied all the labor for Willy Wonka’s chocolate empire. Wonka explains that he found the Oompa-Loompas “in the very deepest and darkest part of the African jungle where no white man had ever been before.” They were near starvation, living on vile caterpillars, so Wonka smuggled them to England for their own good. It was Dahl himself who edited this depiction for the American market in the '70s.

It is usually the same people that object to Noddy and Big Ears sleeping together that argue for the retention of Gollywog. People are at ease with Scooby-doo encountering cartoon Polynesians worshiping the volcano, but are outraged at the idea the Velma may fancy other cartoon women. Tin-tin battling evil Africans, bones in the nose and cannibal pot at the fire, cannot be taken out of the context of Leopold's Hart of Darkness in the Congo, or HergΓ©'s interactions in Nazi occupied Belgium.

These are books or images for children. This is not Shakespeare for an adult audience. Academics or purist can still locate 60 years of Dalh's previous prints. There are credible studies that show how 'body shaming' or 'fat shaming' can impact the mental and emotional health of developing minds. There is proof of actual harm. Schools are encouraged to ensure that they are a safe environment and if a child was bullied for body shape, the school would be obliged to take reasonable measures to stop this. While we should be encouraging healthy living, blame the child is a wrong approach, of course there are those that have a disability which impacts body shape.

The books are directed at children. Really Chris, there are more important issues of speech freedom you could champion than the right to humiliate the children.

DS said...

This is not being mandated by Government edict, or by some campaign based off Twitter, or by the lobbying of academics. It is the product entirely of large corporations imposing themselves on popular culture. And those corporations have zero interest beyond profit margins. They certainly have zero interest in Public Morals.

It's not sincere Bowdlerism, except in the sense that edits are getting made. It's corporate executives cynically trying to milk old intellectual properties for every last cent, via trying to "update" material.

If anyone is to blame, it's those whose advocacy of neoliberal capitalism has resulted in such concentration of market power. It also, of course, shows that neoliberalism and Wokery are rather close kin...

greywarbler said...

Informing people at each stage of their lives about the vicissitudes that may lie ahead is the right way to go, and also informing them that they need to act intelligently as appropriate for their situation in life. For instance children told about the dangers of drowning, but also watched to see that they in their youthful innocence don't forget advice or over-estimate their abilities about anything.

That would mean that grown men and women would be informed and not die on tramps in the mountains without the necessities of safe keeping and dressed for the trip. Then sex causes many problems, and now also gender Women who are old enough to know better should know and understand why they shouldn't automatically trust everybody and go off with them as a child might. Wise women don't go off on dates with someone called up on the internet, and within minutes with a stranger feel satisfied to abandon themselves to intimate sexual intercourse.

This theme about sex Roald wrote about, I think for male magazines. I complained about a book of short stories in a youth-oriented library feeling that it was above the understanding of the adolescents or children who might read it as being beyond their understanding. They were moral stories at their heart but referred to ethical sexual behaviour and knowledge of the culture was needed.

One was about a man in a desert area whose car needed repair. He found an outpost with garage that could fix it but needed days; he then needed somewhere to stay. A local heard his plight, offered hospitality by his family at their isolated home, welcomed fed and given a bed. In the night one of the women, mother or daughter, visited him and offered sex, and he gave her a neck love bite. The next morning the mother wore a scarf. The next night he was visited also, and reciprocated again. At breakfast he noticed that neither woman wore a scarf, his car was finished and his host drove him back to the garage explaining their isolation was because another daughter had leprosy. But he did not need to be concerned about infection as it was only transmitted through exchange of bodily fluids. (Moral - a gentleman doesn't take advantage of a host's wife or family for his random pleasures? There could be other thoughts.)

A second one I read referred to a suburban setting where neighbouring middle-aged men decided to swop wives in the night secretly for a change in their sexual lives. After the women were asleep they just had to slip through a gap in their hedge; it was successful and repeated. Later one wife complained at how the husband's love-making was so changeable from familiar to passionate. It became a problem when both women noticed and the men couldn't duplicate the other man's approach. (Moral - What a tangled web we weave when first we practice to deceive! I didn't think it was a satisfactory thought to put in children's heads that neighbours might engage in sneaky practices taking advantage of their mothers. We would wish for nice, trustworthy people not ones who would break social norms, or what if they included activity with the next door teenage children for instance.)

greywarbler said...

Further thoughts on censorship.
So judgment has to be brought into this, to protect the unknowing and the vulnerable as far as sexuality is involved. A lot of fables have violence in them, but were intended for education, provide wisdom, and prevent worse experiences than described. Do we want children to be weighed down with the grief of past human activity? It seems to me that all adults should bear the knowledge of the Holocaust in their minds as I feel it was a watershed in human cultural development and we have not taken it into our minds along with the realisation of how we rationalise and compartmentalise our minds.

People who practice wilful ignorance are capable of great cruelty by omission or commission. But knowledge and self-control and respect and understanding of oneself and others would tend stay the hands, minds and tongues to prevent much badness. Just cutting off evidence of our possible behaviours and only showing positives or feeding homilies will mean a lack in making reasoned judgments. We must prevent lying beliefs about our natural goodness becoming embedded.

Jason Barrier said...

Dear God - when did we lose our humour? Will Basil Fawlty now be accused of eco-crimes for thrashing his car with a tree branch? Roald Dahl saved our lives on long car trips with the kids. His stories are for children and are being hijacked by adults who have lost any connection to both the real world and the fairy tale world instead choosing to live in some other preachy bubble world - the land of Pious. Perhaps these censorious Puffin publishers should now also rewrite themselves into his excellent story - The Twits.

Odysseus said...

"The ‘progressive’ elites have no idea how ridiculous they look to millions of ordinary people. They have created a world in which kids can’t read the original Roald Dahl books in case they feel offended by the word ‘fat’ but they can be read stories by drag queens with names like Flow Job." Brendon O'Neill, the Spectator, 22 February.

Tom Hunter said...

Memorizing books to keep them from the firemen

It seems that some very non "Neo-Liberal" and non-conservative writers think this is BS as well.
“Roald Dahl was no angel but this is absurd censorship. Puffin Books and the Dahl estate should be ashamed.” - Salman Rushdie

But I think the wonderful Joyce Carol-Oates has it better:
who are "sensitivity readers" after all? is this a vocation for which there is training? one imagines unpaid interns gleefully censoring prose by renowned / no longer living writers. "There, take that! See how it feels."

I see that they've backed off but the question is less about corporate wankers - who in this case regretfully do have the right to do this since the bought the IP years ago - than about the massively inflated influence of the Woke-Politically Correct brigade cheering on all of this in art and literature - and now science, tech, medicine, engineering, astronomy, the list is endless for sensitivity correction.

How long before they rewrite Nineteen Eighty Four to make Big Brother the hero? The Chinese already did that with the ending of Fight Club.

Guerilla Surgeon said...

Things change. Many people, particularly older people don't like change. I'm one of those, but I'm quite happy with changing Roald Dahl's books if it makes them less racist. He was a man of his time and definitely thought that black people were inferior, which is why the originals were pygmies.

I'm old enough to remember when goliwog or golly was an epithet thrown at black people in Britain. And I'm old enough to remember them being in Noddy books. Also old enough to remember William Brown repeating the word nigger over and over again in one of Richmal Crompton's stories. There were also disparaging references about Jews – should we leave them in?

"The money had to be paid to-night. Kidnaper. That must be the name of the money-lender. It sounded foreign. A Jew probably. All money-lenders were Jews"

I don't know if they've changed that, but I would sincerely hope so. I doubt if anyone would be arguing that we lost our sense of humour over 'that' word right? Or maybe not.

I also agree with Baron that there are more important issues of freedom of speech which seemed to get lost here. In Poland for instance, it's a crime to suggest that polls took part in the Holocaust. Maybe you could start with something like that Chris.

But I repeat, conservatives criticising people for wanting to make more money? Goodness me, it's hilarious.

Guerilla Surgeon said...

It's interesting though, you don't mind businesses trying to break unions, or stiff their workers, or import cheap foreign labour, but all of a sudden it's terrible that they're changing a book? Nice to know we draw the line. Gone I don't think I've laughed so much in weeks.

David George said...

Funny how words change meaning - usually slowly and organically. What happens when that change is initiated and enforced by fiat? Who "owns" the language?

I remember the kids using "gay" as an insulting euphemism for anything ineffective, effete, foolish etc. much to the annoyance of those that had originally purloined the word for their own ends. A great wee essay on the manifold problems associated with the enforcement of language.

"However, the goal of suppression does not explain a lot of contemporary censorship, which aims to punish innocuous statements alleged to carry some sort of pernicious hidden message capable of changing the way people think and behave. In such instances, the censorious impulse appears to be paired with a clownishly ridiculous idea of how language and society work—a kind of conspiracy theory of connotations"

"The theory exemplified by the Stanford IT and AP Stylebook instructions is magical thinking in the most fundamental sense. It holds that we can change the world merely by speaking incantations. If this were true, it would certainly make life easier. It is much simpler to enforce speech codes than it is to grapple with the intractable problems and trade-offs involved in the ordinary business of politics.

But the backlash against language policing, and the fluidity of language itself, show that political life is never that simple. There have always been progressive bureaucrats who evince an illiberal desire to stamp out disagreement, but the Great Awokening is also a story about how entire swaths of the intelligentsia—despairing of, or simply too self-important for, everyday political action—have instead placed their faith in sorcery."

Simon Cohen said...

How typical of Guerilla Surgeon to blame this woke censorship on capitalism.

Tom Hunter said...

Speaking of Basil, aka John Cleese, it seems that the BBC has been busying cleaning things up on their old comedies:

Meanwhile, a 1970 episode of I’m Sorry, I’ll Read That Again had an entire sketch cut that involved a gag about scantily dressed women seen on Top of the Pops.

“We have noticed that it is possible to see right up to the girls’ knickers, owing to the shortness of their miniskirts, so we’ve asked the girls to drop them,” legendary actor John Cleese said while parodying a spokesman for the BBC during the bit.

What 1960’s Leftie who laughed at that skit could ever have imagined that they’d be turning into Patricia Bartlett (or her British companion, Mary Whitehead). It’s actually quite cool that irony has now been added to that skit, because like much of Python it was written to annoy the conservative establishment of 1960’s Britain.

I also laughed (sort of) at this news:

But then I read on and saw that these same taxpayer-funded fools provide lists of other books shared by people who have sympathies with the ‘far-right and Brexit’. Key signs that people have fallen into this abyss include watching the Kenneth Clark TV series Civilisation, The Thick of It and Great British Railway Journeys. I need to stress again that I am not making this up. This has all been done on your dime and mine in order to stop ‘extremism’ in these islands.

I've watched the first two TV series but not Great Railway Journeys. However, now that I'm aware of its Right Wing Extremist powers I might give it a shot. :)

Guerilla Surgeon said...

"How typical of Guerilla Surgeon to blame this woke censorship on capitalism."

That – all due respect – must be the stupidest thing I've read in weeks. For what other reason would a company whose job it is to make money alter something like this? They're not going to do it if they think it will lose them money. I fail to understand how someone's mind could come to the conclusion that it's anything else but. And apparently from what I can gather they've already put out a "classic version", which people like you will obviously buy Simon, which will make them even more money. Jesus wept, the whole idea of capitalist companies going "woke" in order to lose money boggles the mind.

Guerilla Surgeon said...

Incidentally, if we follow conservative logic we have two leave the racial epithets and anti-Semitic tropes in Richmal Crompton's William books correct? Is anyone arguing in favour of this? If not why not?

Guerilla Surgeon said...

Actually David, if the first widespread use of the word gay to mean homosexual began in the 1950s, it was almost certainly in use within the gay community long before that.

DS said...

It's interesting though, you don't mind businesses trying to break unions, or stiff their workers, or import cheap foreign labour, but all of a sudden it's terrible that they're changing a book? Nice to know we draw the line. Gone I don't think I've laughed so much in weeks.

And what if you aren't a conservative, and despise both neoliberalism and wokery (the pair being Siamese Twins and not antagonists)?

Guerilla Surgeon said...

My apologies for the – not spelling mistakes but wrong words that my dictation software has put in occasionally. It should be easy enough to roughly work out what I was saying. Just at the moment I'm trying to fit this in amongst a whole lot of other – slightly more important stuff

The Barron said...

Writing in the Guardian, British comedian David Mitchell writes -

"...the controversy caused by Puffin and the Roald Dahl Story Company’s joint decision to make hundreds of changes to the new editions of Dahl’s children’s books. The aim is to remove some of the nastiness to which modern readers might object – or modern readers’ teachers or parents might object on their behalf...

Puffin said they made the changes so that the books “can continue to be enjoyed by all today”. How refreshingly candid. Substitute the word “enjoyed” with “purchased” (a process they’re presumably comfortable with) and we have the truth. There is nothing soft about making these changes at all – it is commercially ruthless. The recent announcement that the publishers will now keep the original versions in print as well is equally so: they’re frightened of the anger in the marketplace and are trying to placate all possible buyers.
Dahl’s publications are extremely lucrative.

In 2021, his literary estate was bought by Netflix for £500m. So, despite the writer himself being more than three decades dead, his market share must not be allowed to diminish."

Yes it is capitalism. It is a market reaction to the reality that we are in 2022 not frozen in 1964 and that changes should be made to maintain relevance. The intended audience do not buy the books for themselves, children are introduced to Dahl by adults, often through schools. This is why Dahl himself made changes, and his estate has steadily made editing decisions since his death. He was a misogynist, a racist and a bully. He was also a great story teller. In a changing world there is a need to address where the former is reflected in his work to maintain the ability to maximize the access to the latter.

Guerilla is correct, it was a commercial decision based on what the purchasing public wish. I have read many comments on this subject that seem in denial, thinking if they repeat the mantra "woke" enough they can transform the world to 1962 and change the reality where we have knowledge and research into the affects on children of prejudiced literature.

No-one writing to this blog have explained how a school teacher reads to the class or allocates a book that has clear body-shaming. There has been silence as to the how the child with less conventional body mass gets teased and bullied in these situations. Few writing to Bowalley Road seem to advocate that disabled children should be subject to isolation and ridicule in school or other settings, but cannot deny that many disabled children have body shapes other children may see as 'fat'. Most would agree that the school should protect those children and few can argue against the numerous studies that show the harm of 'body-shaming'.

One in eight New Zealand children meet the Ministry of Health definition for obesity. Then there are those with siblings or other relatives. There are parents that want their children to grow up inclusive and understanding that ridiculing others for ethnicity, body shape or disability is unacceptable. Puffin et al have simply read the room in terms of the purchasing public.

Is it 'woke'? Is it market forces? Is it just human decency?

I note few of these literacy purists demanding that Puffin returns to publish the original where the Oompa-Loompas are black African pygmies in servitude. Perhaps it is not censorship that upsets the contributors but that their age has left them behind. Time to put away childish things and recognize childhood, demographics and even the sense of 'right
and wrong' have changed.

Tom Hunter said...

One of the most stupid things that Marxist analysis produces is in claiming that everything is Right-Wing if it's a capitalist privately owned company. Such claims lead to silly claims that the MSM in NZ is "right-wing" because of this when you've got actual surveys like this one:

The Worlds of Journalism Study asked a number of interesting questions on NZ journalists. The aspect of most interest to me was their self-professed political views. The results were:

Left of centre 81%
Right of centre 15%
Of the 81% who said they were left of centre, a quarter (or 20% of all journalists) said they were hard or extreme left.

Heh. Even the Stalinists and Maoists are taken care of then.

The same thing is said of the MSM in the USA; why would capitalists owners of things like the NYT and WaPo go Left on so many issues: it, just can't be.

But Fox News's success shows the truth because their owner has laughed for years at having about 50% of the population almost all to itself - while the ABCCBSNBCCNNMSNBCNPR hive mind all compete for the other 50%. If capitalist desire for money was the driver they'd be competing with Fox for its viewers. But they don't because their soft-left ideology overrides their desire for money.

As another example, one of the great ironies is that uber-capitalist billionaire, Craig Newmark, has been ploughing huge amounts of money into all sorts of groups specifically designed to feed Left-wing ideas and arguments into the MSM. They need the money since it was his invention - Craigslist - that effectively gutted the newspaper/magazine part of the MSM by taking away their revenue from classified advertising.

Guerilla Surgeon said...

"the pair being Siamese Twins and not antagonists"

I wonder if you could define wokery? Without reference to Google – just off the top of your head. I suspect is a case of – like pornography I can't define it but I know it when I see it – or I don't know much about art but I know what I like. It makes you uncomfortable right? Too bad.

Neoliberalism and wokery are not antagonists true, but they are also not Siamese twins. They are completely unrelated. Neoliberals will embrace wokery if they think it will make their company more money. Otherwise they won't. You don't see Fox News doing it for instance because they know damn fine that if they go too "woke", their base will fall away, and they will lose money. They've already come close to it when they were forced to admit they lied about the last US election. (Can't wait for that lawsuit to get going by the way 😁)

And some of the alleged wokery is just the conservative business combine that manages to keep you people angry at it. The war on Christmas, the fuss over M&Ms – all pretty much trivial and made up shit that's hammered like mad on Fox, because they know anger keeps the clicks coming. About time some of you people caught onto this.

Guerilla Surgeon said...

"Left of centre 81%
Right of centre 15%"

Did they ask the same question of their bosses? That might have been more instructive given that they're the ones who can spike stories that offend large advertisers.

swordfish said...

The deluded linguistic turn deriving from esoteric 60s French Post-Modern theory ... the belief that language is primordial & actually creates reality ... (rather than being an expression of that reality) ... that received wisdom & conventional discourse inevitably favour, the powerful, the oppressive, the status-quo ... & that we therefore construct a Utopia of 'equity' & 'inclusivity' by massively censoring & radically redefining words in some sort of Year Zero cultural apocalypse.

The delusion of moral & intellectual superiority runs very deep within the Woke cadre ... I see them essentially as over-indulged narcissistic dullards ... the pursuit of rank self-interest & scapegoating of innocents bubbling away just below that thin veneer of ostentatious moral posturing.

Loz said...

The editing of Dahl's books was done by "Inclusive Minds", a consultancy founded to provide "authentic representation" and inclusive diversity in children’s books. The founders, Beth Cox and Alexandra Strick have the best of intentions. Who could really argue that there is value in children’s books that provide affirming stories for all types of kids? The problem isn't having diversity in literature, it's altering long cherished material by people who seek to shape society (and that material) based on their own value judgements. This is both censorship and the postmodernist vision for engineering a "better" world.

Last year we saw the biggest budget television disaster in history with the release of "Rings of Power" as a prequel to 'The Lord of the Rings'. The showrunners remit of updating J.R.R. Tolkien for a "modern audience" demonstrated the arrogance, self-confidence, and sense of entitlement that a self-appointed group of moral guardians had in reinterpreting what had been considered by many as some of the greatest literature ever produced. The only project guaranteed to be more explosive would be trying to rewrite the Bible to reflect neoliberal / postmodernist values.

The Tolkien rewrite farce was driven both from a corporate boardroom's simplistic idea that reinterpreting everything with a perspective of gender, ethnicity, disability and sexual orientation diversity makes a product more relatable to a larger market (which has repeatedly failed), and group-think from having a narrow set of political ideas dominating thinking in a particular industry. It's no different to what we see in politics.

I’m loathed at how successful big money and a web of foundations have been in defining “the left” as paternalist neoliberals who view the working class and their values as “deplorable”. I was part of a Labour Party meeting in 1989 when the matter of NZ's increasing violent crime and domestic violence was raised. After two terms of the neoliberal experiment destroying the social fabric of the country, the local MP of course blamed television and computer games for the ugliness that was emerging around us. Nothing has changed.

Blaming books for the failings of our society leads us to a dark place, not enlightenment.

DS said...

Yes it is capitalism. It is a market reaction to the reality that we are in 2022 not frozen in 1964 and that changes should be made to maintain relevance. The intended audience do not buy the books for themselves, children are introduced to Dahl by adults, often through schools. This is why Dahl himself made changes, and his estate has steadily made editing decisions since his death. He was a misogynist, a racist and a bully. He was also a great story teller. In a changing world there is a need to address where the former is reflected in his work to maintain the ability to maximize the access to the latter.

Yes, indeed, it is capitalism. And it beats me why the Left seems to have fallen in love with it (actually, I do know. It's because the modern Left idolises social liberalism above all, and has forgotten economics).

The notion that art exists to parrot back the moral righteousness of one's own value system is a stain on the modern West. Reading books you disagree with is *good* for you, and as C.S. Lewis pointed out, one nice thing about reading older books is that it is much easier to spot the bad ideas than to spot the bad ideas in present literature.

Did Dahl edit his own books? Sure. But they were his to edit. Giant corporates (being cheered-on by the Left) messing around with his books more than three decades after his death, because they want to maintain the "social relevancy" of their intellectual property? That's reflective of a very screwed-up situation. On multiple levels - if you want texts that conform to your own value system, then go ahead and write them yourself. Stop cheering corporate necromancy.

Guerilla Surgeon said...

As usual a comedian has a better appreciation of the media than most.

Guerilla Surgeon said...

"But Fox News's success shows the truth because their owner has laughed for years at having about 50% of the population almost all to itself "

"All of the cable news networks saw declines in January compared to the same month one year ago, with Fox News dropping 13% in prime, compared to MSNBC’s 9% decline and CNN’s 1%. While CNN has had little to brag about when it comes to ratings lately, the network did manage to buck the trend with a small gain among viewers 25-54, the demographic group most valued by advertisers. CNN grew by 3% in the prime time key demo, while MSNBC dropped 16% and Fox News fell 29%."

Fox News is only the biggest cable channel. It's viewership is hardly huge. And it mostly consists of people over 55 which is not the target demographic for most businesses, given that the 24 to 55 bracket spends a lot more money. So I'm calling bullshit on that.

Also of course the other sites are proper news sites rather than simply propaganda for the extreme right. To be blunt, Fox simply lies, and we know they lie because under oath they admit that they lie – because they don't want to be in prison for perjury.
I must admit it's given me a certain amount of innocent amusement to watch them sweat. And of course they'll probably be some huge settlement for Dominion voting systems – although unfortunately it won't mean the demise of Fox probably.

Guerilla Surgeon said...

You know, years ago there was an Australian programme on television called "The Gruen Transfer". I was never sure what on earth the significance of the title was but it was basically a panel show about advertising, and you could learn a lot from it about what constitutes good advertising and what doesn't.
But one of the segments they had every week was something called "The Pitch", where they had to advertising agencies go head-to-head for somewhat shitty little trophy making a pitch for something weird and wacky. One of them was "Australia should invade New Zealand." Brilliant little show that tended to go under the radar here I think.
But I never heard them asking advertising agencies to pitch "Here's an idea that's going to lose us money." I think that was probably a bridge too far. 😁

greywarbler said...

Thinking about the continuing sale of Dahl being facilitated. This is linked to the very extended copyrights decades after death, that has been introduced I think by the USA. A lesson in how to keep milking a dead cow, just change it to suit the predilections of the latest age. Don't give us anything to compare and contrast with. Disneyfy things - take away the tart taste and replace with something deceptively sweet; sugar is bad for you so we actually change the flavour, being the apparent idea.

Tom Hunter said...

Variety: Most watched channels in 2022:

1. NBC 5,148 -7%
2. CBS 5,144 -8%
3. ABC 3,867 -6%
4. Fox 3,233 -14%
5. FoxNews 2,369 -1%

So not only is Fox ahead of all the other cable channels they're close, in viewer numbers and their pure news channel alone is close, to the traditional Big Three broadcast channels numbers which are across news, entertainment and sport.

1. NBC 1,176 -13%
2. Fox 902 -23%
3. ABC 864 -12%
4. CBS 811 -22%

Besides, as Variety notes:

There may come a time when it just doesn’t make sense to rank the broadcast and cable networks anymore. Actually, that time is probably already here, with most viewing now taking place via streaming and other means.

Young people - especially those under thirty - won't even watch such news via streaming. They're watching Joe Rogan or Pewdiepie, whose numbers dwarf the traditional sources.

DS said...

I wonder if you could define wokery? Without reference to Google – just off the top of your head. I suspect is a case of – like pornography I can't define it but I know it when I see it – or I don't know much about art but I know what I like. It makes you uncomfortable right? Too bad.

Wokery is the subjugation of class-based politics in favour of fashionable Identitarianism, with a whole heap of Puritanical control-freakery attached.

It is the Siamese Twin of neoliberalism in that it fractures any efforts at opposing economic neoliberalism (class solidarity is rather hard when you're too busy typecasting everyone as racist and sexist), while catering to the views and interests of the comfortable middle-class*. Meanwhile, capitalism is more than happy to make money out of the whole thing.

*Ever wondered why the parts of the country that vote Green tend to be wealthy ones?

The Barron said...

Ahhh, you just don't get it DS, cognitive dissonance I presume.

Dahl wrote books for children. The books have some phraseology that educators and parents see no longer suitable for developing minds. There is recognized harm that can be caused by the phrases used. That harm is towards vulnerable children. Schools have a requirement to provide a safe space for all children. Parents have changing values and wish their children to have inclusive values.

As a result, schools and parents are less likely to buy some of Dahl's books for children. Dahl, and the his family have made continuous changes since first publication. The current publishers have made minor changes, this includes taking the word "fat" out as body shaming is shown to cause harm and the intended purchasing audience are less likely to wish this to cause harm. I have noted that this also impacts disabled children with body mass.

Another change is to distance the idea that bald women are all ugly witches. Not only us this misogynistic comment on women's right of expression and fashion, but is traumatic to a child whose mother, grandmother or sibling may be undergoing chemotherapy, or indeed they have cancer themselves and are identified to the class as an ugly witch.

This is children's literature which is bought for them not by them.

DS, you seem to be suggesting the publishers limit the audience requirement in order to humiliate sick and disabled children and teach their peers how to bully.

The Barron said...

Perhaps it is worth summarizing this non-issue.

For 60 years Dahl's books have been slightly altered to maintain a place in a changing society. First by Dahl himself, then the inheritors of his estate and finally by the publishing company. While Dahl made comments against changes to his work during his lifetime, he made no legal stipulation and given the long term practice he would have anticipated such changes. This round of changes the Daily Telegraph cries "woke" and we get a media frenzy.

The changes are minor, but ones which removes some obstacles for some parents and schools form using his work. The publishers have understood that words and phrases that may stigmatize and are seen as isolating or harmful are impediments to continued wide distribution of the books and stories.

So, what are the Bowalley Road contributors demanding? Ay, there's the rub.

Are they ordering schools and parents to purchase something they find harmful and offensive? Are they positioning that the publishers sell to an increasingly minority audience? Is it that the world is crazy, schools should not be a safe zone and parents should tell their children to harden up and that to ridicule those different is acceptable? Then accuse those steeped in reality of social engineering, although all three harmful options above are the actual social engineering.

They are children's books. They are for children. Am I alone seeing the great irony about adults wanting to preserve their childhood focusing on Willie Wonka, the very personification of this. Perhaps they read Dahl, but didn't understand.

Guerilla Surgeon said...

It wasn't class-based politics that got women the vote, it wasn't class-based politics that got black people the vote in the US. Identity politics works. You might not like it, but until people in minority groups get the same experience in the political and social spheres as everyone else, they will continue to do it, and it's been very successful for them. You want people to adopt class-based politics? Offer them some rewards from it. Just at the moment, there don't seem to be any. Largely because both major parties accept the neoliberal fairytale.

I'm not quite sure what you mean by your reference to the Greens. They don't seem to have much to do with identity politics as far as I can see. They are middle-class, and always have been. It's one of their weaknesses. Having said that, is there a political party in New Zealand that isn't middle-class at the moment? How many Labour Party MPs have been trade unionists? But at least the Greens have some policies which are class based and you should approve of?

Tom Hunter said...

Yet another example of the nonsense claim the being private sector automatically means they're right-wing, The One Weird Trick Hollywood Doesn't Want to Know About:

When The Daily Show became a runaway commercial and critical success twenty-five years ago it triggered Hollywood’s instinctive “monkey see-monkey do” response. Within a few years network, cable and later the streaming services, were swamped with knock-offs of Stewart’s show. On the networks you got Colbert, Kimmel, Seth Meyers and Fallon doing Stewart’s same brand of Progressive politics married to clown-nose-on/clown-nose-off commentary masquerading as comedy... even across the entire spectrum of free and paid TV you had a million other imitators who got their shot to do the same thing… from Samantha Bee and John Oliver to Bill Maher, Trevor Noah and now Jon Stewart again in a new incarnation on Apple TV. All of them trying to squeeze blood from an increasingly dry Progressive stone as they relentlessly carve up the same audience into smaller and smaller slices.

Now let’s compare the way Hollywood responded to The Daily Show’s success to the very different reaction to the similar runaway success of Greg Gutfeld’s late night Fox News show. Perhaps you’ve heard that Gutfeld now has the most popular show in late night? Fox even bought a very expensive 30 seconds of Super Bowl ad time to promote it. He is a ratings monster on paid cable, dwarfing what his progressive competitors are doing on free over-the-air network TV. And do you know how many networks, cable channels and streamers are looking to replicate Gutfeld’s success with conservative news, comedy and variety shows of their own?

Exactly zero.

They’ll copy Stewart a hundred different ways with a hundred different hosts, but they won’t lift a finger to service the massive audience tuning in to watch Gutfeld every night. Why not? Simple, because Hollywood isn’t interested in making content for Conservatives.

Guerilla Surgeon said...

Er ... You realise that Gutfeld is the only Conservative comedian doing this kind of show right? Which means he has the right wing/conservative/punching down market all to himself. So I doubt if it could support more than one, given Colbert wasn't far behind. And I suspect that the networks know that liberals spend more money. 😁

Guerilla Surgeon said...

"The governor's general counsel, Ryan Newman, said, in general, it means "the belief there are systemic injustices in American society and the need to address them." He added that DeSantis doesn't believe there are systemic injustices in the country, reports Florida Politics."

This is the definition a Conservative lawyer in the US gave when he was put under oath to define it in court. So yeah ...