Of Books and Men

This is a difficult road to walk down, as it requires a very clear delineation as to what I am about to defend.  So I want to start by clearly stating what shouldn’t need stating, just so I am on the record.  What Jerry Sandusky has been accused of doing is wrong on the absolute base level.  Wrong, inexcusable, and indefensible.  Nothing but nothing in this post should be seen as excusing any act Sandusky is accused of, or the acts of people around him who did so little to report what they knew was happening.

That’s a heavy start to a post, but this is a heavy topic.  Two heavy topics, really.  There’s what Sandusky did, and there’s what some Amazon want done.

Back in 2001 a biography of Sandusky came on the market.  It was called Touched.  I will pause now for everyone to consider how bad that title has become in retrospect.  It focuses on his life up through the founding of the charity that he is now accused of using as a front to gain access to his victims.  It’s a glowingly positive portrayal of the man, and why wouldn’t it be?  At the time he was known as the driving force behind Penn State being called Linebacker-U.  There was nothing to indicate that he was engaging in any sort of inappropriate behaviors.  Books don’t magically change when new facts come to life, that just isn’t their nature.

Touched fell out of print a few years ago.  It’s now available only through third-party sellers, and still listed on the Amazon website.  This is ruffling feathers, and some are calling for the book to be pulled from the website, for the company to act like it was never written, that it never existed.  This call for censorship of the book has not been acted on by Amazon, and I want to go on the record and state: I hope it isn’t.

See, this is the part where I squirm a little, and go pointing back to my opening paragraph.  I am not defending the man.  I am defending the book.  As I tend to defend books, as I have in the past when the specter of censorship has raised its ugly head.  It’s why I was against the PG-ification of Huck Finn.  It’s why I wrote in favor of Banned Books Week.

Censorship is a slippery slope.  It always has been, and it always will be.  Once begun, it’s hard to keep that line in the sand, that arbitrary point at which one thing is okay and one thing is to be considered vile.  It starts out very simply with things that everyone can agree on, but it walks down a path where 90% of people agree.  Then 80%.  All the while, more and more is being swept under the carpet.  Shunted away.

It’s easy to say this is a First Amendment issue.  It isn’t.  The First Amendment clearly starts, “Congress shall make no law…”  However, that doesn’t keep this from being a free speech issue, and while the Amendment is not applicable to Amazon, I should certainly hope that it remembers why it exists.  That popular speech never needs to be protected.

I understand there is a lot of emotion involved in this issue, and I feel it too.  I was shocked and disgusted when the allegations came out.  I can understand in the heat of the moment wanting to see some kind of justice, and pulling the book would be nice immediate gratification in a case that will likely linger for awhile before coming to a conclusion, which will never be an entirely satisfactory one.  But the book is not the man.  And this is a nation founded on such concepts as not pulling books about people we find distasteful or downright disgusting.  And Amazon, for better or worse, is becoming one of the chief scions of information in this digital age.

So hate the man.  Go ahead.  I won’t stop you.  But don’t pull the book.

  1. avatar

    #1 by Dr. T. Hansen on November 14, 2011 - 12:49 pm


  2. avatar

    #2 by Dana Gunn on November 14, 2011 - 8:13 pm

    In your fifth paragraph you said “I am defending the book.” But really, aren’t you defending the right for Amazon to carry the book as well as for the book to exist?
    I completely agree with your post. And yes, the title is a bit ironic.

    • avatar

      #3 by DLThurston on November 14, 2011 - 8:20 pm

      It is absolutely their right as a company to carry what books they choose to, so long as they aren’t making those selections contrary to US law. Which would not be the case if they chose to pull Touched. I’m just hoping they won’t make that call.

(will not be published)

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