Saturday, 5 September 2015

Bookstores Don't Ban Books

So Silverfish Books has stopped selling a book by a certain fugitive blogger.

Some people have been jumping up and down over the indie bookstore's "hypocrisy" and violation of it's supposed creed to uphold free speech and all that jazz.

Words or actions themselves have no power of their own. However, certain words or actions derive their power from how people react to them. And every society has certain hot buttons that should be left alone. Mess around long enough and one will hit that big red button.

When one starts an enterprise like Silverfish, some lofty goals are aspired towards. Then, the reality - a bookstore, indie or otherwise, is still a business venture, and the aim of a business is to make money and survive.

And when you do business in a country, you have to toe some lines, including the ones etched by society and government, lofty aspirations notwithstanding.

To stubbornly wave the "defender of freedom of expression" banner in the face of this will, at some point, prove foolhardy. A bookstore manager was persecuted by religious authorities for several years over her company's decision to sell a book - one she had no say over.

And if the "thugs" do come for Silverfish, will these social justice warriors get out of their basements and help it out?

That some people hold this Fugitive Blogger up as an icon of freedom of expression saddens me.

Before he went on the lam, he posted a picture of himself eating something that's not kosher to a certain demographic, on what was its sacred month. I believe it was deliberate. For reasons only he can articulate, he went and pushed that big red button.

Though what the Fugitive Blogger says and does might not be universally agreeable, Silverfish might have taken a chance on his book because, behind the crude language and sexist, misogynistic fa├žade, this frank and articulate young fellow might have some redeeming qualities.

But it seems all he's doing is plumbing new lows - and hit Silverfish's big red button on the way down.

The bookstore would have anticipated the backlash from this move, including the noise over their "hypocrisy" and whatnot, and might have felt this was bearable than whatever the authorities have in store. Some die-hard supporters of Silverfish will probably be relieved by this.

I don't think it was a hard decision to make.

Run free, Fugitive Blogger. Go out there and push the limits of your freedom in the land of the brave. Keep spouting those uncomfortable truths (as you see them).

But tread lightly. No society I know of is free of big red buttons. May you never find the one in your new neighbourhood.

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