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CENSORSHIP ON THE RISE: PART ONE

Don’t Do Anything That Might Offend Someone

The murders in Paris last January brought into public view worldwide the kinds of cartoons produced by the satirical magazine, Charlie Hebdo — cartoons potentially offensive to a range of religious and political sensibilities. Some so-called “news” outlets in the United States (conspicuously, PBS’ “Newshour”) decline to present any drawings of the Prophet Muhammad because such pictures might be offensive to some viewers. On the other side of the argument are those who endorse freedom of expression as an absolute, something to protect and treasure regardless of whoever might be imagined as offended, whenever and wherever.

Palomar coverAs if to underscore the strategic importance of that stance, cases of censorship last winter advance the thin edge of the wedge that will, if such good-intentioned “let’s not offend anyone” censorship is successful, drive us further away from the freedom to speak out minds.

Herewith, the first of a couple of the pending suppression of offense cases:

Graphic novelist Gilbert Hernandez’s Palomar was labeled “child porn” by the mother of a high school student in Rio Rancho, New Mexico. Sadly, said Maren Williams, a  Contributing Editor at Comic Book Legal Defense Fund (CBLDF), unbiased details are difficult to come by so far, what with the local news station that broke the story labeling the book “sexual, graphic, and not suitable for children.”

“Needless to say, Williams continues, “Palomar is not actually a collection of child porn — Publishers Weekly called it ‘a superb introduction to the work of an extraordinary, eccentric and very literary cartoonist’ and it often draws comparisons to the magic realism of novelists such as Gabriel Garcia Marquez.”

Fortunately, the school district has a review policy for challenged books, and a committee was formed to decide whether the book will remain in the school library. The committee voted 5-3 in March to keep the book in a high school library.

For more Rants & Raves with its comics news and reviews, gossip and cartooning lore, visit www.RCHarvey.com

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