The Problem With Censoring Dahl
If the language of yesterday is continually updated, how can we maintain an accurate grip on history?
John StonestreetKasey Leander
Recently, authors at The Economist reflected on the censorship of children’s author Roald Dahl. His publisher attempted to remove words like “fat,” “flabby,” and “ugly” from new editions of his books. Though they backed down, their actions set a terrible precedent.
If the language of yesterday is continually updated, how can we maintain an accurate grip on history? More importantly, who decides what’s “offensive” enough to censor? In the U.K. and elsewhere, books criticizing transgender surgery or weighing the impacts of British colonialism have met a similar fate.
The Economist argues that censorship is too often voluntary: “Most people do not require the threat of being burned at the stake to shut them up; being flamed by their peers on Twitter is more than enough.”
“This is a time for courage,” to borrow a line attributed to Sir Walter Scott. “Without courage there cannot be truth, and without truth there can be no other virtue.”
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