Nazis burned books. Progressives cancel them in the name of “good”

This week, digital influencer Felipe Neto was uncomfortable with reading the classic ‘Moby Dick’, by Herman Melville. “I wanted to ask something for anyone who truly understands literature. I saw deeply racist paragraphs in ‘Moby Dick’, I continued reading the book with a twisted nose, I’m really annoyed. The book is by 451. What is recommended in cases like this? How do you rate it?”

Judging by the censorious mentality that currently prevails in various sectors of society, it won’t take long for someone to suggest that the book be rewritten, erasing the “sensitive” parts, or even banned. It used to be easy to condemn such authoritarian outbursts. Nowadays censorship is done in the name of “good”, therefore much more difficult to fight.

After all, it is easy to identify the enemy when he burns books in the public square. In 1933, it became clear who the villains were when the Nazis built a huge bonfire in Berlin with works by Kafka, Freud, Marx and Einstein. They didn’t stop there. As the Jewish poet Heinrich Heine predicted: “Where books are thrown into the flames, men are also burned.”

Twenty years later, Ray Bradbury published ‘Fahrenheit

‘, which takes place in a dystopian future in which all books have been banned. In this society, the function of firefighters is not to put out fires, but to start them with the clandestine volumes found in the homes of those who still insist on opposing the regime.

So far, it is evident that every regime burning literary works is intrinsically evil. And no one with the slightest bit of common sense would want to side with them. But what if I say that we are already throwing books and more books into the fire, in a much more insidious way, and all this in the name of common sense, for the good of all?

Books that you should not read

When the American magazine

Esquire published a list of “80 Books Every Man Should Read”, subtitled “An Incomplete, Unranked, and Highly Partial List of Great Works of World Literature”, he might not have imagined the controversy it would bring. would generate. Although lists are always the subject of heated debates between fans, scholars or simply guessers, the discussion started was of a different nature: moral.

Writer Rebbeca Solnit, known for creating the term mansplaining (which in Portuguese has already been tried to translate with a single word — homeexplicando — , but how can you if you notice, it didn’t win the favor of the people), wrote an article replicating the list of Esquire under the title “80 books no woman should read.” In the text, Solnit criticizes the list for several reasons, and explains that she, despite the title of the text, believes that women should read what they want. But he made it clear that people should replace reading Saul Bellow, John Updike, Norman Mailer and Philip Roth, “misogynists”, with Philip Levine, Subcomandante Marcos (leader of the Zapatista Army of National Liberation of Mexico), Eduardo Galeano and Barry Lopez .

Esquire even published a kind of retraction. With the title “80 books that every PERSON should read”, the magazine invited a series of influential women in literature to give their opinion, such as the award-winning former head of the literary criticism section of the New York Times, Michiko Kakutani, and writer Lauren Groff, among others.

For Sarah Churchwell, in an article in the English Guardian newspaper, the most important thing to say about ‘Moby Dick’, the book that bothered Felipe Neto so much, is that women appear in only two of the 600 pages. In the text, in addition to Updike and Mailer, writers Jonathan Franzen and JM Coetzee are also criticized for practicing gaslighting (another word that is difficult to translate, used to indicate when a man tries to make a woman look crazy) against feminists.

Both are valid analyzes in light of the evolution of society. Nobody wants a return to a time when women had no voice. What makes no sense is to despise Updike and Mailer as just “penis with a good vocabulary” because their books, written half a century ago or more, don’t follow the politically correct primer of the years 2010 and 2020.

Revised Lobato

Since 2011, Monteiro Lobato’s work has undergone historical revisionism. Generations that spent their childhood reading the adventures of Pedrinho, Narizinho, Tia Nastácia, Visconde de Sabugosa and Emília have now discovered, in the light of new readings, that they were literate with a racist work. UERJ professors discovered that, in ‘Reinações de Narizinho’, the writer refers to Tia Nastácia as “the black one” 56 times.

In an article in the magazine Carta Capital, commenting on the case, Mauricio Dias refuses to veto the book. “Parents have the right to buy the author’s works and, with them, give gifts to their children. For the birthday or any other reason,” he says, but makes a subtle caveat. “Public authorities cannot propagate Monteiro Lobato’s racist vision.”

In the book ‘The shock of races’, Lobato makes statements that leave no doubt that he was racist and even defended eugenics . If the ban is necessary, that is another story. The Institute of Racial and Environmental Advocacy (Iara) wanted to ban the book ‘Caçadas de Pedrinho’ from schools. The initiative was rejected by João Luís Ceccantini, a researcher in children’s literature and co-author of the book ‘Monteiro Lobato — Book by book’. “I have studied the way in which children absorb what they read and my conclusion is that they know how to identify the excesses of books, they cling to what is good, to the essence of the story — and, in the case of Lobato, this essence is not racist.”

The classic ‘The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn’, by Mark Twain, the first great American writer, was also accused of being racist for the language used – the suit nigger, with a highly offensive connotation, is repeated more than 200 times throughout the work. In 2011, after several complaints, an edition of the work was created in which the term is replaced by the word “slave”.

When the repertoire literary, in the name of virtue, is reduced, the result is not good. Professor Mark Lilla, from Columbia University, in the United States, in his book ‘The Progressive of Today and Tomorrow’, released in Brazil by Companhia das Letras, shows how this obsession with identity politics is impoverishing the university environment.

“The supposedly uninteresting and conventional colleges and colleges of the 1950 and early years 2011 incubated, perhaps, the most radical generation of American citizens to have emerged in the country since its founding”, says Lilla. “Today’s universities cultivate students so obsessed with their personal identity that they have far less interest and involvement in what’s going on out there. Neither Martin Luther King Jr. (who studied Christian theology), nor Angela Davis (who studied Eastern philosophy) received an identity-based education. And it’s hard to imagine them becoming what they became if they had been unlucky enough to receive one.”

New Forms of Censorship

Updike and Mailer were misogynists? With the same certainty that it is possible to say that Lobato was racist. Should your books be changed to fit what society thinks is right today, or even banned? This is where the foundations for a new type of censorship begin, a “good” censorship. If society opts for something less drastic, as the publisher that rewrote ‘The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn’ did, when will it be prudent to stop, when will the line between censorship and good intentions become clear?

It may be that in a few years or a few decades it will no longer be in good form to publish books in which animals are killed in a violent way. If, for some reason, all of humanity decides to go vegan, would it be polite to scour the books for meat-eating meals and rewrite everything so that no sensitivity is affected?

While it may seem like an exaggeration, there are current situations that deal with almost the same thing. The Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) has since 2016 faced a lawsuit against the depiction of cigarettes in movies. The reasons for the ban are great: studies have already proven a correlation between smoking in adolescence and smoking on screens. The example of movie stars smoking goes beyond familiar models, the researchers say. Removing any mention of cigarettes from the movies could save 18% of the 5.6 million lives that will be lost because of diseases related to the habit.

It’s hard not to agree. These 15% represent 1 million lives. Smoking is bad for your health, no doubt about it. Not so bad, but still bad, is sitting for several hours a day. Stay longer than six hours and watch your risk of dying in the next 15 years increase by %. Specialists, for the good of society, could create a list with all the habits that could in no way be represented on screens. They would start with the infamous cigarettes, move on to fatty foods, then alcohol, sugar, and so on in an almost endless succession of health risks.

Better yet, with the support of society.

‘Fahreinhet 451’, by Bradbury, then becomes more frightening, for it is not a dystopia in which totalitarianism was brutally imposed on citizens. Everything happens in a more treacherous way, based on common sense, on a morality established by the majority, against the concerns brought about by books, which by nature are questioning, disturbing.

It is precisely this new morality, built for the good of society, which is coming into force. Few today have the audacity to suggest bans and bans on works because history is full of examples of how only the worst regimes have put this type of action into practice. But, by giving a progressive guise to the ban, the chances of success tend to increase as they gain a status of protection for children, adolescents and later are extended to the entire population.

An interesting feature of this The new type of censorship that is emerging is that it is not proposed by armed brucutus, people with malicious intent by nature. It’s the opposite. They are educated people, who seek the good. But it is precisely this incessant search to show all the time who has the highest feelings, without making any kind of concession, that can produce disastrous results. Those who are convinced of being highly virtuous do not usually make concessions against what they imagine to be evil.

Nelson Rodrigues used to say that “there are things that the subject does not confess to the priest, to the psychoanalyst, nor to the medium, after death”. Books don’t have to be deposits of social justice to have value. As Nelson himself, who suffered so many times with attempts at censorship motivated by the highest morality then prevailing, stated: “Literature, politics and football cannot be done with good feelings”.

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