Publisher makes Mark Twain politically correct… And America’s Media faces a liberal dilemma.
I’m not sure what Mark Twain would have said about news that the latest edition of Huckleberry Finn has been edited by its publisher to remove all 219 uses of the word “nigger,” but I’m pretty sure his reaction would have ended up in a Dictionary of Quotations.
I also wouldn’t mind betting that the great man, pictured, would have enjoyed watching the American media attempt to cover this interesting little news story without offending the forces of political correctness. After all, it’s pretty difficult to tell a yarn about the dreaded word without, er, using that actual word.
The Associated Press tries to do just this, though. And its efforts make for an entertaining case-study. Their reporter today wrote two versions of his article about the new Huckleberry Finn edition, none of which contained a single mention of the six letter word beginning with the letter “n.”
The first, carried here, uses the phrase “the N-word” in its place. The second, carried here, for some reason deems even that too offensive, so instead refers only to an un-named “word considered a racial slur.”
Its a splendid exercise in treading on journalistic eggshells. But is this brand of reticence, so common among the nation’s chattering clases, even helpful?
I doubt it. Plenty of the great writers in American history, from Twain to Steinbeck, to F Scott Fitzgerald, made liberal use of the word “nigger” throughout their literary careers. Yet unedited versions of their books are still widely taught in US schools. Discussing them no doubt helps students to appreciate racism’s ugly place in their country’s history. It presumably also helps students know when to recognise and condemn racism which they might encounter in their daily lives.
With any offensive word or phrase, context is everything. That’s something which neither the publishers of this ill-advised new version of Huckleberry Finn, nor the Associated Press, seem to appreciate.Tagged in: how america works
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