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Left Turns Up the Heat on “Huckleberry Finn” to Fahrenheit 451

Posted on January 6 2011 3:00 pm
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Classic literature, one would think, is something that should be immune to the changing fads and morals of the world. Once a story has been published, it should be exempt from further editing and tinkering. Sadly, this is not the case. In the course of my experience as a parent and former teacher, I have been continually shocked to find “revised” versions disguised as the original, classic work.

Revisionist editors and book publishers have created a new market by tailoring classics to reflect the moral relativism of our times. Many of the great novels that most of us read, or were assigned to read but didn’t, have been altered and passed off as the “classics” kids now study in school. The general plot or body of the work is still there, but the soul is gone. If something is offensive, especially to a minority or special interest group– take it out.  The latest victim of this practice is Mark Twain’s masterpiece The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.

In a move that would have made George Orwell’s  fictional “Ministry of Information” proud and put the Fahrenheit 451 firemen to work, New South Books is releasing a “revised” version of Mark Twain’s classic tale The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. The neutered edition will replace the “N” word with slave, “injun” with Indian, and “half-breed” with half blood. Apparently, today’s children can listen to rappers say the “N” word and play video games that promote offensive racial stereotypes, but reading a novel that deals with race issues in a meaningful, contextual way is too potentially harmful.

What other novels will be scrubbed clean of offensive material to make them more palatable to pc helicopter parents? I thought that book burnings and censorship were crimes only committed by Nazis and Republicans? Are our vaunted public schools, that insist on teaching explicit sex ed, really going to allow this, “gasp”, censorship? Hey, kids are going to read these words someday- shouldn’t we teach them how to do so more responsibly?

Throughout my life I have listened to progressives defend all kinds of reprehensible offenses in the name of artistic expression.  Why the change of heart? What happened to the protected sanctity of “art”? Do you remember the recent outcry from the media and art world when the suggestion that offensive art work be removed from the Smithsonian? Or what about gems like the Madonna bathed in elephant dung, or the unforgivable “Piss Christ”? Can we go back and change those so that Christian children are not traumatized?

In fact, why is the book company behind the controversy named “New South”? Is that like “new and improved”? Are they suggesting that we re-write the history of the South? Is this what Michelle Obama meant when she said that:

Barack knows that we are going to have to make sacrifices; we are going to have to change our conversation; we’re going to have to change our traditions, our history; we’re going to have to move into a different place as a nation to provide the kind of future we all want desperately for our children.

Apparently, censorship is ok if it’s done by liberal, progressive, social engineers. And if they do so in the name of a minority, well even Mark Twain isn’t safe. The character of Fire Captain Beatty, from Ray Bradbury’s prophetic story Fahrenheit 451 summed up the current situation perfectly when he said:

Colored people don’t like Little Black Sambo. Burn it. White people don’t feel good about Uncle Tom’s Cabin. Burn it. Someone’s written a book on tobacco and cancer of the lungs? The cigarette people are weeping? Burn the book. Serenity, Montag, Peace, Montag.

It seems that the only crime left in our society is offending someone. I am offended by the red-neck portrayal and poor grammar usage of Huck. Let’s change that. Can we make him sound more like an east coast progressive? And why is Injun Joe the bad guy? Change that too.

Censorship through editing and revised editions; that’s much better than setting the books on fire. Fires tend to draw too much attention.

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