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Not Enough Hate In a Day

Under pressure from the media frenzy, the poorly conceived pseudo confession of O.J. Simpson, If I Did It, has been pulled from publication by Rupert Murdock and the Controllers of News Corp. An ill conceived project, Murdock says, apologising to the families and public in general, as if anything of questionable taste had never come from his Empire.

I'm sure this will please a number of people. Personally, I find it to be nothing more than a win for censorship.

I lot of people I know and like are against the O.J. book, and that's fine. Myself, I've got nothing in it. I'm not invested in the whole Simpson thing one way or another. As far as I'm concerned, he was found innocent, and I don't much care what the public opinion says. It's not like me thinking one way or another is going to change that outcome and, frankly, there are more important things in the world to get worked up about. Governments lying to us. The environment. The war in Iraq. This plan to pump gases into the ground as liquid. The drought not being addressed. Alternative fuels being ignored. The list is long, and nowhere on it does the words O.J., Simpson, and Murder appear there. Outside that, however, I find the idea of If I Did It to be a form of gross stupidity since, from Simpson's point of view, it is as if he is confessing to the court of public opinion after twelve long years of silence. Even the publisher, a Ms. Regan in the Times article, says that to her it is a confession. The implication is that she sought the book out so that she could present, to battered women and the general, white public, a conclusion that they believed in.

Now, personally, I was never going to buy If I Did It. The book is that kind of shock jock probably ghost written literary shit that I've got no time for. I imagine, eventually, there will be some story from Simpson about how he agreed to it for money, how it wasn't quite true, blah blah blah. Whatever. I have books I actually want to read. I'm not going to waste my time on this kind of thing, and all the people who I like and admire who get worked up over this, they'd probably be better spending their time not caring, either.

But.

But the book being killed before (or just after) release, and the interviews Simpson did no longer being aired... well, it's just censorship. It is just as bad as kicking out gay and lesbian books from schools. It is just as bad as saying Maya Angelou's books should be banned in a bunch of States in America. It's just as bad as the fatwa on Salman Rushdie after the Satanic Verses was published. Now, I care a whole lot less about the Simpson book than I do those three examples, but to me, it's the same thing. Somehow, a group of people have silenced a voice. They've enforced their point of view. They've made the world into their image. That's the problem here. Just because you don't personally like what the book in question is about, that doesn't mean that it shouldn't be printed, and that it shouldn't be out there.

The thing you do with books you don't like is that you don't buy them. You watch as they cover in dust. You watch as they get remaindered. You watch as they fade away.

But you don't silence them.

Comments

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ataxi
Nov. 21st, 2006 04:19 am (UTC)
+1

The most annoying thing is the censorship that occurs is in direct proportion to the size of the furore whipped up by the media, and not some standard about the egregiousness of the work.

There's a loosely autobiographical book on sale in stores across Australia by a former SE Asia drug dealer / murderer about his life, that hasn't been banned. What's the difference? (except that the book I mentioned actually looked fairly interesting)
benpeek
Nov. 21st, 2006 04:48 am (UTC)
There's a loosely autobiographical book on sale in stores across Australia by a former SE Asia drug dealer / murderer about his life, that hasn't been banned. What's the difference? (except that the book I mentioned actually looked fairly interesting)

what's it called?
ataxi
Nov. 21st, 2006 06:48 am (UTC)
Wish I could tell you, but both the name of the author and the name of the book elude me. If I'm back in Borders soon I'll check it out for you.
capnoblivious
Nov. 21st, 2006 04:20 am (UTC)
Yeah. An ugly book, no doubt, but I've been surprised at the "Yay! It's not being published!" response.
benpeek
Nov. 21st, 2006 04:48 am (UTC)
i haven't been, personally.
capnoblivious
Nov. 21st, 2006 04:53 am (UTC)
I dunno. "Yuk, what an awful book, I am shocked and appalled that it would be published, what were they thinking, this is humanity at its worst, etc., etc.," wouldn't have surprised me. "This filth shouldn't be published," isn't something I expected to hear in my circles.
girliejones
Nov. 21st, 2006 04:40 am (UTC)
He was found innocent on a technicality and he was found guilty in the civil courts.

I think its perverse and totally fucked up to make publicity for yourself on how you would have killed your murdered ex spouse, no matter whether you did or did not. Its not censorship its decency.
benpeek
Nov. 21st, 2006 04:47 am (UTC)
of course it's not decent, but so what? there's a lot of stuff not decent out there. does that mean that it should all be taken off the shelves?
angriest
Nov. 21st, 2006 05:24 am (UTC)
I'm in agreement - we can condemn and argue against the taste, quality or purpose of the book when it is published, but we should not ban such a book from being published at all.

That said, News Corp is perfectly within its rights to decide not to publish the book for whatever reason it wants.
ataxi
Nov. 21st, 2006 06:49 am (UTC)
Well, yeah. And I think we can make an educated guess the reasons are long-term / big-picture commercial based on the negative PR it will generate.
strangedave
Nov. 21st, 2006 08:20 am (UTC)
Exactly. What happened here was not threats or legal action (well, organised boycotts may have happened, though I hadn't heard of any). What happened here was New Corp realising that most people were appalled, and reconsidering a likely commercial disaster before they committed most of the money. New Corp reconsidering a disastrous PR decision does not constitute censorship.
benpeek
Nov. 21st, 2006 09:41 am (UTC)
sure, news corp could do as it wishes. but the backlash from everyone about it, and the bookshops that refused to carry it and such... uncool.
girliejones
Nov. 21st, 2006 05:27 am (UTC)
um. yes.

sorry did you mean self published drivel there?
benpeek
Nov. 21st, 2006 09:40 am (UTC)
self published driven doesn't bother me. it goes out thee. some friends buy it. it disappears. it's hardly a problem.
girliejones
Nov. 21st, 2006 12:50 pm (UTC)
well i think its a problem when *I* have to read it!
strangedave
Nov. 21st, 2006 08:09 am (UTC)
I'm a serious, committed active anti-censorship campaigner.

And I think there is a big difference between freedom of speech, and commercial exploitation. No one is stopping OJ Simpson from putting his side of the story -- put it out on the net for free, and it would be all around the world in minutes, and I doubt there would be any attempt to restrict readership. What has happened is that Murdoch has realised that commercial exploitation of his confession would be disastrous from a PR point of view, as its obvious to even casual observers that its morally repugnant to have a determined effort to commercially exploit murder. Censoring something, and finding it morally repugnant, are different.

The courts, by the way, did not find Simpson innocent. The courts found him not guilty. There is a distinct difference -- in fact, the civil courts found that most likely he did commit the crime, it was just not provable beyond reasonable doubt within the criminal justice system.
benpeek
Nov. 21st, 2006 09:38 am (UTC)
i'm not really talking about the murdock point of view. sure, he had the right to pull it. sure, it could go online for free. sure, it was just a cash in, and a nasty one. but the reason why he pulled it is because people got all jumped up over it, and were horrified by the book, and book stores boycotted it. there are lots of different wants for censorship to emerge--and this strikes me as one of them. the ability to have something freely put out there was stopped, after all.

in the end, i don't much care what happens to the book or simpson. but this is hardly a victory of anything resembling freedom of speech, far as i'm concerned.
strangedave
Nov. 21st, 2006 03:00 pm (UTC)
I quite agree 'they don't want to see it' is not a good reason for something to be banned, but nor is 'I'd quite like to see it' a reason why it must be published. Its Simpsons story, and as it happens the conditions he has set for sharing it with the world are 'give me vast quantitys of money and TV specials'. If the world isn't going to give him vast quantitys of money, he doesn't have to share it.

Freedom of speech is obviously an issue that will feature in the debate here. But ultimately - who's freedom is it that is at stake? Its Simpsons. And he is still able to tell his story (or choose not too) as wishes too, just not as likely to receive millions for doing so. The commercial writhings of the Murdoch empire are not the same as the legal judgement of society at large.
ataxi
Nov. 21st, 2006 10:58 am (UTC)
There are a range of things that society-as-a-whole-on-average may find morally repugnant that you would still suggest should be able to see the light of day, aren't there?

IMO you're on stronger ground with the "publishing house has a right to make commercial decisions" argument. I don't think that can really be debated in this instance.

The thing that bothers me is that there's not a clear principle at work. It's basically just something was going to happen, some people shouted about it, so it didn't happen. I'd be happy if the work got leaked to the internet or something - that way anyone who happened to want to read it could, and OJ wouldn't get a dime :-)
black13
Nov. 21st, 2006 12:10 pm (UTC)
"I'd be happy if the work got leaked to the internet or something - that way anyone who happened to want to read it could, and OJ wouldn't get a dime :-)"

Seconded. The part that upset me (for about three seconds, until I was distracted by something shiny) was not that the book would be published, but that Simpson committed murder, got away with it, and was now about to big profit from it.

That he's not making the profit pleases me.

For the rest of it, on general principle, I agree with Ben. I also agree with you, though, that the work won't be suppressed. Sooner or later, it will appear online -- and Simpson won't get a dime.
ataxi
Nov. 21st, 2006 12:40 pm (UTC)
Actually, there is a big difference between the process of publishing being morally repugnant (because it ends by rewarding a criminal) and a work itself being morally repugnant or depicting things people find morally repugnant, I guess.
strangedave
Nov. 21st, 2006 01:18 pm (UTC)
Oh, I am not suggesting that just because society on average finds it morally repugnant, that it should not be published. I was just saying that if society on average finds it morally repugnant, then it may not prove to be wise decision from a mainstream commercial or PR perspective (as indeed it apparently has proved not to be).

I agree I'd be happier if it was still available, but in a non-commercial form, so we could see a clear trail through this murky moral thicket. But we don't always have that luxury.
ataxi
Nov. 21st, 2006 07:57 pm (UTC)
Sorry - got a bit sidetracked from the thrust of your argument by your use of the phrase "censoring something, and finding it morally repugnant, are different" which is a bit vague in its intent.
nick_kaufmann
Nov. 21st, 2006 02:53 pm (UTC)
The book was never published, so it wasn't taken off the shelves or banned. The higher-ups realized, probably because of the outcry, that sales were going to be terrible, so they canceled it. They can pretend they're canceling it for other reasons, but the bottom line is always the bottom line.
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