As outdated as the Left claims the Constitution to be, when it serves their purposes they dramatically embrace the First Amendment. The Left loves a good censorship controversy, and there is seldom anything that brings out the leftist media’s self-righteous indignation more than the issue of literary censorship. They practically climb over each other in a rush to play the part of a persecuted Lenny Bruce or Allen Ginsberg heroically defying McCarthy era suppression.
There is a recent censorship story in the news concerning changes that are being made to a classic American novel. Alan Gribben, a professor of English and Mark Twain scholar at Auburn University serves as editor of a new edition of Twain’s Huckleberry Finn in which the word slave has replaced the use of the N-word. Instances of the derogatory injun have also been changed. The leftist media has been quick to paint this issue as an example of manipulative, uptight, moralists who wish to avoid racial discussions: white people and/or conservatives.
Ta-Nehisi Coates, a senior editor for The Atlantic, exemplifies the media’s accusatory tone in an article titled “A Nation of Cowards:”
“Because we can’t handle the story of who we were, and evidently who we are, Twain must be summoned up from the dead and, all against himself, submitted before the edits of amateurs. This is our system of fast-food education laid bare: Children are roaming the halls singing “Sexy Bitch,” while their neo-Confederate parents are plotting to chop the penis off Michelangelo’s David, and clamoring for Gatsby and Daisy to be reunited.”
Coates was not alone in his sentiments. The satirical conservative straw-man, Stephen Colbert, addressed the Twain revisions in a mocking segment claiming to be completely in favor of all censorship, and Joy Behar, in a panel debate on her show, claimed that removing the N-word from the novel was “letting white people off the hook” because it allows them to avoid racial discussions. One can be assured that the media will not let white people off the hook any time soon, but racial discussions are certainly off the table.
Discussions are not the left’s strong point. For instance, as recently as October, Behar walked off of the set of “The View” during a discussion with conservative commentator, Bill O’Reilly, which concerned American and Muslim tensions. Perhaps Behar thought she was letting O’Reilly off the hook.
In another example, last August, conservative radio host Dr. Laura Schlessinger demonstratively used the N-word in a racial discussion on her radio program, and she was widely condemned within the left-wing media. The Soros funded Media Matters for America quickly led the charge to hold advertisers of her show accountable. She resigned from her show stating:
“[My] First Amendment rights have been usurped by angry, hateful groups who don’t want to debate. They want to eliminate.”
Coates and Behar talk of ideals, but O’Reilly and Schlessinger experience the reality. Racial discussions between ideological opponents have evaporated within the body politic, and it has not been due to conservative irrationality.
The leftist media paints a picture of white people avoiding racial issues in an effort to repress feelings of guilt or ignore historical realities, but as with most claims from the Left, the truth of the situation is starkly different. The Left has worked for many years to establish politically correct moralities within the culture, and political correctness is designed to silence debate. If people are avoiding racial discussions, it is not because they fear the topic of race itself; it is because they fear the repercussions that will result if their discussions are considered heresy against a politically correct doctrine.
The Huckleberry Finn revisions demonstrate this situation. If parents and teachers are uncomfortable with the N-word being used in the classic text, it is because the Left has created an air of intimidation around the subject. In this situation, the censoring moralists that the Left loves to valiantly rail against happen to be a product of themselves.