Tuesday, 27 March 2012

China Miéville: When Did Bigotry Get So Needy?

Here's an excellent article by writer China Miéville, posted on his own blog (as 'Stand down: Literature Has Defeated the Thought Police') and on Racialicious (as 'When Did Bigotry Get So Needy?'), dealing with the fallout of an attempt at court to have Tintin in the Congo declared unacceptable under the Belgian race relations law. While he's dealing with different aesthetic and legal issues, he makes some excellent arguments about the controversy, particularly relating to the perpetual whining of faux libertarians about censorship, 'the thought police' and 'political correctness'.
View the original article here >>
On Racialicious >>

I particularly enjoyed this;
"Indeed, an astoundingly small proportion of arguments ‘for free speech’ and ‘against censorship’ or ‘banning’ are, in fact, about free speechcensorship or banning. It is depressing to have to point out, yet again, that there is a distinction between having the legal right to say something & having the moral right not to be held accountable for what you say. Being asked to apologise for saying something unconscionable is not the same as being stripped of the legal right to say it. It’s really not very f-cking complicated. Cry “free speech” in such contexts, you are demanding the right to speak any bilge you wish without apology or fear of comeback. You are demanding not legal rights but an end to debate about and criticism of what you say. When did bigotry get so needy? This assertive & idiotic failure to understand that juridical permissibility backed up by the state is not the horizon of politics or morality is absurdly resilient."

1 comment:

  1. I've never read any Tintin books, although I've read King Leopold's Ghost, and I'm glad the Blyton books I enjoyed as a child were bowdlerised. There's an obvious problem in the argument with Miéville's use of the word 'unconscionable' and his bizarre dream-logic conflation of politics and morality: his own brand of Marxism might also seem like a calculated insult, even 'hate speech' to some people I know around our age who suffered upbringings behind the old Eastern Bloc. This book sounds like a horrible lot of bigoted shit and you can't help but admire Mbutu-Mondondo's spirit and tenacity if you've read Hochschild or any other decent West African history. I can't imagine any kids reading Tintin nowadays anyway and certainly the power of this campaign will have raised awareness. Once again I'll be a whining faux-libertarian and cry 'free speech' while wholeheartedly admiring any Congolese living in Belgium who simply enter book stores mobhanded and destroy them.

    ReplyDelete

Please at least use a pseudonym so it's possible to follow your argument if you make multiple posts