I didn't realise that And Then There Were None wasn't actually the original title of this book. The original title was something extremely racist.
Would I have read this book with it's original title and racism? No. Will I read it now? Yes.
And therein lies the beginnings of my ethical problems.
I've always been completely against censorship, and for free speech. Yet changing the title is a form of censorship which I support... Help!
Does this make me a hypocrite? Very possibly. But can anybody honestly say they wouldn't feel the same?
If that book was published today with its original title, I would be appalled.
I'm seriously uncomfortable with the fact that it ever had that title. And, as I said, would not read it if the title hadn't been changed.
But would it be right - in this hypothetical scenario where this book was published today, with it's original title - to ban or censor it?
I would certainly complain to the author. I would not buy it, not read it, not support it. But would I ask for it to be banned or censored?
I honestly don't know. If it was in my library, would I ask for it to be removed? Would I ask the publishers to recall the copies? Would I take my pen to copies and eliminate the racist words?
Part of me says yes. Part of me says that I should get rid of those words by any means possible. Because, and let's make no excuses here, that kind of language is wrong.
But part of me also says no. That's the part that says that people have a right to say what they want - even if you don't like what they have to say.
Because it's only when you let people speak that you can defend your own position.
It's only by hearing opposing opinions - no matter how vile they may be - that we can shape our own attitudes... But there's also the danger that those vile ideas will take hold, and that's the last thing we want.
In the first chapter of 'And Then There Were None,' there is anti-Semitism.
If it was straightforward, then I would've stopped reading. As it is, it's hugely uncomfortable, but it's in the POV of a dodgy character (although, literally all of these characters are highly morally suspect,) so I don't know what to make of it.
It's not right. But does that make it wrong, in this context? I don't know.
Would I support that part being removed, given that this book has already been censored by changing the 'n' word throughout? Again, I have no easy answer.
And that's without even touching on the rights-and-wrongs of Huck Finn.
Because I read Huck Finn with the 'n' word intact.
Just like Agatha Christie, Mark Twain was writing in a time where that word was (unfortunately) socially acceptable.
But I think - and I may very well be wrong - that there's a difference between the 'n' word in the original version of And Then There Were None, and the 'n' word in Huck Finn.
Because, whatever your feelings on Huck Finn, slavery, and Jim's role as an escaped slave, is main theme of the story.
There aren't any black people in And Then There Were None - the 'n' word is used purely as a gratuitous metaphor, in the form of a racist nursery rhyme. The story makes perfect sense without it.
You remove the 'n' word from Huck Finn, though, and you change the entire dynamic and meaning of huge sections of the story. I'm not saying it's right - I have mixed feelings about it at best, but I'm saying that it's a different situation to And Then There Were None.
Should censorship depend on context then?
Again, I have absolutely no idea.
Would I be less disgusted with Donald Trump if his language was gentler? Possibly a little, but his vile outlook on life would remain.
So, am I a hypocrite? Possibly. I am human, after all.
What about you? Does anyone have an answer for these questions?
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