Wednesday, November 22, 2006


Back into obscurity

If you care, you've probably heard by now that Rupert Murdoch has withdrawn the publication of OJ Simpson's book and cancelled the Fox TV interview. All right! Now, I would just leave this as an update note on my original post about it, but there's something else I want to talk about.

I want to talk about why I don't think this is censorship.

To best do that, let me go back some years, to when I was at the house of some friends, and I saw the Two Live Crew CD in their collection. Two Live Crew has more than one CD out, of course, but this is the one that was offending so many people, when it came out, that there was talk of banning it, and some significant pressure to. Curious, I asked if they minded if I put it on the player.

Yeah, this was some seriously offensive stuff, a record full of victimization of and violence toward women, of explicit descriptions of casual sex, and all that sort of thing. The group talk of beating up their "bitches" and, knowing that Diane and Charlie wouldn't condone the beating of anyone's bitches, I asked why they had the CD. "We support," they said, "Two Live Crew's right to put that out if that's what they want to do." Well, yes, so do I, indeed. But I wouldn't give them money for it.

And that last element is the key for me. I did not want to see TLC's CD banned in any official sense. But neither did I want to buy it (and, in fact, what worries me more than that these sorts of songs exist is that people want to listen to them; I can only hope that it's just an attempt to shock).

Now let's come back to the present. When I and others — many, many others — spoke out against the OJ book, we did not (those I read, anyway) speak of banning it. We did not speak of censorship, of official suppression. We took it to the marketplace. We urged people not to buy it, and not to support its publication and publicizing. And in the end, Mr Murdoch made a choice based on the decisions of the marketplace. Many of his affiliates refused to air the interview, and many book stores refused to carry or to display the book. He was not forced to withdraw it through government interference; he had to accede to the pressure of a free market.

It may yet be that OJ's book gets out. It may be that another publisher takes the approach that Diane and Charlie did with Two Live Crew, and says that the book is a work of art that OJ has a right to produce. If it does, that publisher will have made its decision with full knowledge of public opinion and the free-market pressures, and I will continue to hope that no one will buy it.


Lisa said...

A perfect opportunity for a small "free speech" press to get some publicity by taking this book on! A big publisher can get harmed by negative publicity, but there comes a size where any publicity is helpful particularly along with a justifiable moral high ground (i.e. if the small press publisher has a history of doing edgy stuff.)

The Ridger, FCD said...

That's what self-publishing is good for (well, among other things).

I got a "survey" asking me to vote on "Buy or Boycott" the book. I certainly had no plans to buy it, but I'm not sure that constitutes a boycott. There's much I don't buy, after all.