WHAT IS CENSORSHIP? BOOKHIVEGATE, FOR FUCK’S SAKE

by Rob Harding

Content warning: Strong language, sexual assault, Nazi imagery, hazardous levels of idiocy. The following is the author’s opinion.

So this is happening. Now, like most people, I’m obviously not in favour of censorship. Or state-sanctioned drone strikes firing missiles entirely filled with out-of-date shrimp, for that matter. I believe everyone has the right to say whatever the hell they like, and everyone else has the right to punch them in the face if that speech advocates fucking genocide. Hello again, assorted term-searching wank sandwiches.

But sometimes, sometimes, I find myself out back filling a hollowed-out Hellfire with 2014’s prawns, because sometimes the story is a respected author picking a fight with a bookshop she’s apparently never been to because they don’t stock books by some random orange fascist cunt in a different country, and that, somehow, is ‘censorship.’

No.

Susan Hill, I like your books, you’ve written some classics. You ever want to go get coffee and talk about this in person, I’m game. You seem otherwise nice.

But this isn’t fucking censorship.

And I’m sick to the back teeth of people overusing that term whenever they think they might, might be denied something, for any reason, by any entity or individual. It is, if nothing else, a gigantic first-world middle finger to all those people living under regimes where the government practices actual censorship. What you’re basically saying is ‘I can’t buy books about my favourite orange alleged rapist in this bookshop and they’ve said they’re not selling him, therefore I am on a par with every poor bastard currently in a gulag because they mentioned Tienanmen Square’

It is, if nothing else, a gigantic first-world middle finger to all those people living under regimes where the government practices actual censorship.

No, you’re not, and it’s a shitty thing to self-righteously pretend that you are to any degree.

Nazi Book Burning

Book burning under the Nazis, Berlin 1933. Photo credit: The National Archives and Records Administration

I’m not denying that the British government is sliding down the dark path leading to actual censorship, mind you. That makes it worse, in a sense. Hard-fought freedoms that our society has been steadily developing for decades are being quietly eroded by an increasingly intrusive government and intelligence community, and stupid sods like you, Mrs Hill, are muddying the waters and wasting everyone’s time claiming people who disagree with you are ‘Banning’ books. Go use your influence and space in the Spectator to argue against the Snooper’s Charter, if you feel the need to get some publicity and fight for freedom of speech. And for goodness’s sake stop supporting Donald Trump. He doesn’t even read.

So here’s the meat of my argument, at last. The Book Hive opting not to stock Donald Trump’s book is not ‘Censorship.’ They have not ‘Banned’ it. I would quite like to watch the staff of the Book Hive attempt to ‘Ban’ anything, given that they are not a government, or equipped with a large force of enforcement personnel to forcibly remove copies of The Art of the Deal from passing pedestrians. They aren’t stopping anyone acquiring it. They are merely not stocking it.

I would quite like to watch the staff of the Book Hive attempt to ‘Ban’ anything, given that they are not a government

They are exercising their right as a business and as people to not stock content their management find distasteful. They are conducting an unconventional PR campaign in collaboration with a a group of activists. They are under no obligation to stock Mr Trump’s book, and given the prevailing opinion of Mr Trump in Norwich, it would in fact quite possibly hurt their business to stock his books prominently, or waste their money buying the bloody things.

Oh, and Michael Gove can fuck off. There are quite a few reasons for that, obviously, he’s an arse, but this is a new level.

‘Illiberal bigots?’ Used to attack people criticising Donald Trump? Are you having a fucking giggle, Mr Gove? Have you met Donald Trump? I know you have, but I suppose it’s hard to tell what he’s saying from inside his colon, even though most of his speech comes from there. Fuck off. Your points aren’t even worth addressing, and my time is a lot less valuable than yours.

This bullshit is everywhere. ‘Censorship’ and ‘free speech’ are meaningless terms now, even without all the people abusing that second privilege to spout abuse and then whining when facing the consequences of that abuse. ‘Free speech’ means that private citizens may express themselves in whatever manner they see fit. It does not mean that every single shop has to sell what you think it should sell. The owner of the Book Hive is a private citizen. He has every right to not stock Donald Trump books. That is his business. If someone wants one, he’s not stopping them getting one, unless they’re attached to a thirty-metre rope tied to the Greggs opposite and have no access to the internet. Even then, it’s not his fault that the few square metres he’s in charge of don’t have the snake-oil business advice of a man who doesn’t know what the fuck he’s doing in stock.

If someone wants one, he’s not stopping them getting one, unless they’re attached to a thirty-metre rope tied to the Greggs opposite

This bullshit rears its ugly head all the time. When the UEA student union opted to stop selling The Sun for a variety of reasons, a million and a half people came out of the woodwork to complain that they were ‘banning The Sun.’ ‘Censorship’ and ‘Free Speech’ were flung around like fucking water balloons then too. Online, those words are endemic, as any woman on the internet who’s ever blocked a man or deleted vile comments will tell you. People cry ‘Censorship!’ at the slightest provocation, ignoring any context in pursuit of that sweet, sweet feeling that they’re being oppressed and are justified in complaining. This sort of thing popped up in the Great Tracer Arse Controversy. It’s a favourite tactic of the kind of people who use the term ‘Social Justice Warrior’ without irony (And what the fuck is wrong with social justice? More to the point, with the world the way it is, what’s wrong with fighting for it?)

Now, Mrs Hill has every right to cancel her appearance at the Book Hive. She also has the right to write articles accusing it of whatever she feels like, to call the Book Hive whatever she wants. That is a right she has under the UK’s laws, and long may she have it (excluding libel, mind, and the old “FIRE!’ in a crowded theatre’ exception). But she’s wasting her time, creating bad blood where there need be none, and sending a fundamentally incorrect message: That anyone who disagrees is an illiberal, censoring bigot, regardless of their position or level of control over the ideas they object to. She’s objecting to self-censorship, which is A)not the same as regular censorship and B) frankly something we should probably be promoting at this point.

(Post-note: If this is some genius plan to drum up sales for The Book Hive between Mrs Hill and the shop I take some of this back, obviously.)

Photo credit: allthingsconsidered.co.uk

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