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February may be the shortest month of the year, but that doesn’t mean it’s uneventful. The last few weeks have been jam-packed with exciting developments around free speech in music, literature, and the Supreme Court.
Gonzalez v. Google is actually the second case this term where the Court is considering free speech online and the rights of website creators/owners. The Court also heard Twitter, Inc. v. Taamneh the following day, raising many of the same questions for free speech online. Expect these decisions in June.
“But the story of J.K. Rowling is not just the story of one author, or one woman, or one issue. It is a microcosm of our time. It’s about the polarization of public opinion and the fracturing of public conversation. It’s about the chasm between what people say they believe and how they’re understood by others. It’s about what it means to be human — to be a social animal who feels compelled to be part of a tribe. And it’s about the struggle to discern what is right when our individual view of the world is necessarily limited and imperfect.”
Have you listened? What do you think so far?
Two weeks ago, The Telegraph reported that “hundreds of [author Roald Dahl’s] words have been changed or entirely removed in a bid for ‘relevancy.’” Free speech advocates (including FIRE and PEN America) slammed the decision, leading Dahl’s publisher Puffin U.K. to announce last week that it would offer Dahl’s original text in its “Roald Dahl Classic Collection.”
“By making both Puffin and Penguin versions available, we are offering readers the choice to decide how they experience Roald Dahl’s magical, marvellous stories,” Puffin said in a statement.
While it’s good news that Puffin won’t (entirely) censor the deceased author’s work, it’s still concerning that they were willing to do so in the first place and only (slightly) backed down due to criticism. No matter how much Puffin tries to portray their decision as “compassionate” or “inclusive,” the difference between changing an author’s words and banning books is one of degree. That a book publisher initially made this decision is rightly troubling.
Whew – it was a busy month! And it likely won’t slow down anytime soon, though soon we’ll have March Madness to distract us. Stay tuned for my next newsletter about how AFP is combining two of my favorite things – college basketball and free speech!
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