I woke up early this morning, and was scanning news stories when I came across this:
According to the story in National Review, sci-fi author Andrew Duncan opined on a podcast that the treatment of orcs in J. R. R. Tolkien’s fantasy novels was racist and would have “dire consequences” for everybody down the road. That’s not what I took from it at all. To me, depicting a race bred for fighting and not much else sounds a klaxon warning about the dangers of eugenics. Breeding disposable sub-humans would have dire consequences indeed, but that’s not what Mr. Duncan is talking about.
In my opinion, he’s trying to revise the history of literature. He’s not the first to try, and this isn’t the first time it has come up.
I got to thinking about some other bits of media that have been killed by this Orwellian revisionism. Take, for example, Mel Brooks’ brilliant movie farce Blazing Saddles. You don’t see it on broadcast or cable TV anymore because the use of the “N” word by certain characters has been censored to the point that a lot of the picture makes very little sense.
Here’s the thing: the characters using the racial slurs were the very ones Brooks was lampooning. Furthermore, a major component of the story is how the townspeople evolve to like and respect the black sheriff, despite their racial differences.
I think the same thing is true about the classic 1970’s sitcom All in the Family. Archie Bunker has a slur for everyone who isn’t a WASP (white Anglo-Saxon Protestant). Archie Bunker was a bigot, not someone to emulate. I got that. as I think most people back then did.
Except, maybe, Ann Coulter.
If you hear Dire Straits’ 1980s hit “Money for Nothing” on classic rock radio today, you’ll miss an entire verse of the original song. The verse refers to an unidentified pop star the narrator/singer believes to be homosexual, or at least effeminate, and describes said pop star using a homophobic slur. Stations used to just bleep the offending word when it came up; now they just edit out the entire verse. The narrator/singer is ignorant and homophobic, and if you hear the entire context of the song and give it a little thought, you’ll get that.
But folks like Andrew Duncan don’t seem to want you or me to have that chance. They want a world where everyone is exactly the same, has always been exactly the same, and thinks exactly the same. In their view, it kind of takes all the guesswork out of thinking. It’s very similar to people on the so-called “alt-right” except that what they want you to think is different.
You can try to ban all the expressions of thought you don’t like, but you won’t be able to ban the thoughts themselves. Talk about your dire consequences.
In America and elsewhere, hateful and distorted thoughts are like cockroaches; they flourish in darkness. Driven to the darkness and left there, they will eventually manifest in hateful and distorted action out in the light. To change minds you must challenge them, not try to control them. To paraphrase Santayana, those who censor history are doomed to repeat it.