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Books Censorship United States Your Rights Online

The Continued Censorship of Huckleberry Finn 1073

Posted by CmdrTaco
from the but-there's-a-bad-word-in-it dept.
eldavojohn writes "Over a hundred years after the death of its author, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn will be released in a censored format, removing two derogatory racial slurs: 'injun' and 'nigger.' The latter appears some 219 times in the original novel but both will be replaced by the word 'slave.' An Alabama publisher named NewSouth Books will be editing and censoring the book so that schools and parents might provide their children the ability to study the classic without fear of properly addressing the torturous history of racism and slavery in The United States of America. The Forbes Blog speculates that e-readers could provide us this service automatically. Salon admirably provides point versus counterpoint while the internet at large is in an uproar over this seemingly large acceptance of censorship as necessary even on books a hundred years old. The legendary Samuel Langhorne Clemens himself once wrote, 'the difference between the almost right word and the right word is really a large matter,' and now his own writing shall test the truth in that today."
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The Continued Censorship of Huckleberry Finn

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  • by elrous0 (869638) * on Thursday January 06, 2011 @12:35PM (#34777714)

    I want to live in a world where *everything* that makes me uncomfortable or might cause pain or conflict is excised from history. After all, if it never happened, no one can be pissed off about it--and we can all get along fine. No more racial resentment, no more ethnic conflicts, no more religious wars. We get along, we always got along, end of story. Israel and Palestine always co-existed in peace beside each other. Europeans, Africans, and Asians discovered the New world together and have lived here peacefully together ever since. Every religion is the religion of peace and always has been. "Genocide" is just an abstract concept used by fiction writers, not something that has ever happened in the real world.

    Laugh if you want, but wouldn't that make for a much better world? Why focus on the pain and resentment when we can reinvent ourselves as something much better?

    Sure it all involves a good dose of self-delusion, but a lot of people have improved their lives greatly with a little self-delusion. After all, no one starts down their path to self-improvement by admitting to themselves that they are an unexceptional, not particularly good or worthwhile person. They start by telling themselves "I am a good person, I can do better" even if they know deep-down that they're lying to themselves. And, quite often, the lie actually BECOMES the reality. Convincing yourself that you're a better person can actually MAKE you better. Why not apply the same principle to society as a whole?

    I'm not being a troll here, I'm asking a serious question. Wouldn't we be better off for it?

    • by eldavojohn (898314) * <eldavojohn@nOspAM.gmail.com> on Thursday January 06, 2011 @12:37PM (#34777748) Journal

      I'm not being a troll here, I'm asking a serious question. Wouldn't we be better off for it?

      And also doomed to repeat it all?

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by elrous0 (869638) *

        And also doomed to repeat it all?

        Well, that's the classic argument. But I would contend the opposite. Our knowledge of our nasty history hasn't stopped us from repeating ourselves again and again, after all. Perhaps we would be better served by making the very *concept* of genocide or war simply inconceivable. I think we would be a lot better off with "But we've never done this, we've always been better than that!" than with "We'll, here we go yet again."

        • by Old97 (1341297) on Thursday January 06, 2011 @01:00PM (#34778280)
          "Knowing" history as a set of facts and "understanding" it as insights into humankind and cause and effect are two very different things. Most people "know" some history and "understand" very little if any of it. That's partly a symptom of the problem of how history is taught in primary, secondary schools and the under-class levels in Universities.

          As to Twain and Huckleberry Finn - Twain took great pains to accurately capture the dialect and idioms of the characters he wrote about. He took such pains because he thought it was essential to the story he was telling. What's next? Are they going to correct all the grammar and have Huck speak the Queen's English?

          • by hrimhari (1241292) on Thursday January 06, 2011 @01:14PM (#34778554) Journal

            That's not even the problem. Check the percentage of people that actually know anything of what we're supposed to learn about History in school. Go ask questions like how did the I and II World War started, who was Benjamin Franklin, Stalin, Cristopher Columbus...

            It's not that "knowing" didn't help. Most people didn't even got that far.

            Here's what comes out from erasing or modifying the "bad" part of History:

            - Instead of just a small percentage of people knowing it (voluntarily or not), nobody would.
            - Who decides what to erase? Hitler, Stalin or the Pope? Or everybody?
            - How will we know how one thing led to another?

            This kind of History elrous0 proposes sounds like a new kind of Bible to me.

            • by HungryHobo (1314109) on Thursday January 06, 2011 @01:37PM (#34779018)

              Yes, too many things have *aspects* which are appealing at first but which history has shown to tend towards situations which we don't really want.

              Eugenics can start with the simple and reasonable goal of not wanting children to suffer horribly painful genetic diseases but history in the form of the nazi party showed that if you go too far down that road then being a member of an unpopular ethnic group is eventually cause enough for sterilisation or extermination so better to steer well clear entirely, it isn't worth it.

              Hell the nazi party provides no shortage of warnings it's good to remember like

              "never believe any government which is herding some segment of the population into cattle cars and tells everyone that they're really just going to live somewhere nice"

              And perhaps most relevent lesson from history to elrous0:

              "Das war ein Vorspiel nur, dort wo man Bücher verbrennt, verbrennt man am Ende auch Menschen."

            • by Lumpy (12016) on Thursday January 06, 2011 @01:45PM (#34779194) Homepage

              "Check the percentage of people that actually know anything of what we're supposed to learn about History in school. Go ask questions like how did the I and II World War started, who was Benjamin Franklin, Stalin, Cristopher Columbus..."

              DO the same with members of Congress and the news!

              Cripes I heard crap out of the mouths of Some senators and Fox news pundits during the past 3 weeks about the congress working during Christmas that Claim they are christian say things about Christ that are blatantly wrong.

              And these are from people who CLAIM they worship and follow the teachings of Christ. I guarantee they know even less about American History.

              The overall education of Americans, from inner city kids to rich, well to do college educated leaders is atrocious. We're a nation of morons.

              • by dgatwood (11270) on Thursday January 06, 2011 @03:19PM (#34780918) Journal

                That's not even the problem. Check the percentage of people that actually know anything of what we're supposed to learn about History in school. Go ask questions like how did the I and II World War started, who was Benjamin Franklin, Stalin, Cristopher Columbus...

                I think you're being a little unfair. The human brain only has so much space. Sure, one could understand every detail of our history, but that person probably won't also know every detail of mathematics or physics. Folks complain about people not understanding science all the time. No human being is going to be good at everything. Particularly in political leaders, far more important than knowledge is awareness of one's own limitations. It's not important what you know. What's important is knowing that you don't know and knowing how to research it to find out.

                The problem is that most folks in Congress don't know and don't want to know. Instead of bringing in experts to explain complex subjects, they let lobbyists tell them what to do because it is easier. The crap they spew sounds ignorant not because they don't understand things, but because they willfully delegate understanding to other people. In short, they're mostly irresponsible across both sides of the aisle, and it is only getting worse.

                The right thing to do would be to have Congress consist of proportional representation not just geographically but also in terms of their backgrounds (contrasted with our current Congress, almost half of whom are lawyers). The people in there should be smart enough to know when to defer to the opinions of other Congresspeople who have a better understanding of a specific issue. Unfortunately, instead of such reasonable people, we tend to get people who stubbornly refuse to cooperate, refuse to work with the other political party, and generally drag the country down with them.

              • by mcgrew (92797) * on Thursday January 06, 2011 @03:33PM (#34781142) Homepage Journal

                Cripes I heard crap out of the mouths of Some senators and Fox news pundits during the past 3 weeks about the congress working during Christmas that Claim they are christian say things about Christ that are blatantly wrong.

                Well, the problem there is that Fox and the "conservatives" they promote have an agenda and beliefs that are diametrically opposed to Christ's teachings. They may claim to be Christians, but they really worship money. But there are so many true Christians out there that if Fox and the politicians they promote let it be known that they think Christ was fiction, or his teachings were bunk, etc., they would lose votes and eyeballs.

                The same holds true for half the congregation in any church; they're only there to be seen.

                The necktie is a symbol of wealth and power. Never trust a man who wears one, and never take a man with a tie at his word when he claims to be Christian.

                Pat Robertson has converted more Christians to athiesm than all the athiests at slashdot combined could ever hope to.

          • by mcgrew (92797) * on Thursday January 06, 2011 @03:00PM (#34780596) Homepage Journal

            As to Twain and Huckleberry Finn - Twain took great pains to accurately capture the dialect and idioms of the characters he wrote about.

            It isn't censorship, it's a rewrite. With Mark Twain there's no censorship, because the original unmolested text is public domain and there for anyone to read [virginia.edu]. You can buy unraped versions at almost any bookstore.

            However, in the case of a more recent author like Vachel Lindsay [wikipedia.org], there is a very bad problem -- his heirs hold the still standing copyrights to his works, and his son has set about "correcting" the work to be more contemporary. Much if it will therefore be lost forever, since most of his books were hand made (he was known as the "Hobo Poet", riding the rails).

            Odd that this controversy isn't covered in the wikipedia article, it's well known to acedemics here in Springfield.

        • by eldavojohn (898314) * <eldavojohn@nOspAM.gmail.com> on Thursday January 06, 2011 @01:08PM (#34778434) Journal

          I think we would be a lot better off with "But we've never done this, we've always been better than that!" than with "We'll, here we go yet again."

          I respectfully disagree.

          If I may liken it to a more concrete example of the history of mathematics, I don't think we ever would have made it to integration without remembering mistakes or basic concepts like addition.

          We have stood on the shoulders of the works of very brilliant philosophers and thinkers to get where we are today. Fascism has slowly been phased out in favor of more liberal and democratic governments. And we all know that democracy is the worst form of government except for all the ones we already tried (thank you, Churchill).

          Our knowledge of our nasty history hasn't stopped us from repeating ourselves again and again

          It's not a perfect process, no. But you don't see a Pol Pot rise to power so easily today and you don't see a new Stalin sending millions to the gulags. Because we remember those things and we remember how they were accepted at the time but are clearly wrong now. On top of that, we remember what Imperialism did to the poor nations and how it made some nations poor and more powerful nations richer. We're not going to get away with colonizing a weaker nation and taking all their resources anymore. Because we remember what that results in. Of all the bad things you listed in your post, I implore you to look back to the situations and causes that set up those problems -- like the redrawing of boundaries of countries following World War II. And remember that so we can catch it next time. The list of these things are endless but you can find example after example in any history book worth its salt (I was most impressed with Hobsbawm's "Age of ..." series).

          When a child picks up the text of The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn and reads the word "nigger" I want them to take offense. Not to take offense at Mark Twain but more so to take offense to and own up to this great country's tortured past and to vow that this will never happen again. This use of a word as a marker of hate and denigration simply because of the color of a person's skin -- and the widespread cultural acceptance of it! If your child never learns the horrible results of that scenario than your child may one day find themselves as a part of that scenario.

          • by cayenne8 (626475) on Thursday January 06, 2011 @02:33PM (#34780138) Homepage Journal
            "When a child picks up the text of The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn and reads the word "nigger" I want them to take offense."

            Ok, I have to ask...do that many people out there find the word nigger to be so horribly offensive?

            I mean, I know a great number of black people find the word offensive (although strangely enough usually only if a non-black person uses it, they often call themselves niggers in everyday conversation), but do people of other colors find the term to be THAT offensive?

            Granted, I'm a bit older, and the word was not as bad a four letter words to use. Sure, you didn't shout the word nigger when in company of black people, but in every day conversation, the word was used as a general term for black people...not as a term for putting them down, but that was just the word you used. Growing up, I pretty much thought it was just the usual regional difference in terminology. You hear negro up north, and nigger or nigra as my grandmother used to say it in the south.

            I live in the south, and in general, when not in a the presence of black people, the term is still used freely as a synonym for a black person. And no...this is not a bunch of mouth breathing, uneducated rednecks. On the contrary, they are from all walks of life, and most that I am speaking off first knowledge of, are wealthy, well educated and often in places of power (yes, even governmental).

            Maybe I'm answering my own question...maybe the degree of "offense" is regional too.

            For the record...I'm just not offended by much of ANY language. It is, after all, just a bunch of words.

            I don't feel any more offense from words like: idiot, cunt, skin flute, fuckwad, wankel rotary engine, trapazoid, mongolian cluster fuck any more than I do the word nigger.

            Words are words.

            Revising history, however...is a bad concept.

        • by mangu (126918) on Thursday January 06, 2011 @01:21PM (#34778702)

          Perhaps we would be better served by making the very *concept* of genocide or war simply inconceivable.

          You keep using that word but I don't think it means what you think.

        • Perhaps we would be better served by making the very *concept* of genocide or war simply inconceivable.

          And yet they do exist. And came into existence years ago, and came about without little prompting of history. As long as there are schoolyard bullies, people shouting at each other in traffic over a dozen feet of road, and domestic violence, there will be war. Even without the tanks, planes, artillery, and machine guns. As long as Thag can convince a group that Og sucks and needs the tar beat out of him with stickas and/or stones; there will be war.

          Ignorance does not eliminate problems, it exacerbates them. Understanding the problem and having the fortitude to fix it, is the only way to truly solve a problem.
        • by Jason Levine (196982) on Thursday January 06, 2011 @01:44PM (#34779166)

          Knowledge of nasty history can be very valuable. Take the controversy over vaccines, for example. Some of the folks who lobby against vaccine use try claiming that the diseases they prevent aren't really that bad. If you have a sanitized version of history, you wouldn't know that people died, were permanently disfigured or were permanently disabled by diseases such as measles, mumps, whooping cough, polio, etc. Modern parents (including myself) don't have first-hand knowledge of these horrors so they might look at Sanitized History and wonder why they should use vaccines if things weren't ever so bad. Then, when vaccination rates drop and the diseases make a comeback (which is happening in some areas), children will get sick and die.

          I'll admit that no historical account is ever 100% objective, but I'd rather have an honest-as-possible recording of history than a Scrubbed-Clean-With-Bad-Stuff-Replaced-By-Rainbows-And-Unicorns version.

    • by TheL0ser (1955440) on Thursday January 06, 2011 @12:38PM (#34777774)
      Your lack of discomfort makes me uncomfortable.
    • by Jaysyn (203771)

      Sounds a bit like Huxley's Brave New World minus the genetic tampering.

    • by magsol (1406749) on Thursday January 06, 2011 @12:43PM (#34777872) Homepage Journal
      I wholeheartedly disagree. I think such mistakes are opportunities for self-improvement, without which we might never make spontaneous advancements, be they anthropological, scientific, philosophical, or otherwise. Pain and suffering are intrinsic to our existence here, so while eliminating them entirely might seem on one hand like a nice pie-in-the-sky goal, I believe it completely misses the point. To try and ignore something that is perpetually interwoven into the fabric of our existence is to discount a huge opportunity for growth, and I think that would be doing a great disservice to the human race.

      It's this discomfort and pain that strips away all the bureaucratic bullshit, all the superficial nonsense, and forces people to be who they really are. Whether they sink or swim is entirely up to them, and I think it's necessary for everyone to experience, if only from a perspective of self-discovery (but also for everyone else's benefit). I realize this is all sort of hand-wavy philosophical, but I think it's born out in concrete fashion every day.
    • by somersault (912633) on Thursday January 06, 2011 @12:48PM (#34777998) Homepage Journal

      No, self delusion is what brings us religion.

      Self improvement for me came when I accepted that I needed to improve. Before, I always thought that I was a good person and didn't need to try harder. Coincidentally my realisation of a need for self improvement also coincided with me losing my religion.

      I chose to accept truth and pain over just pretending that I was being watched over by some all powerful being. There is something to be said for being happy, but I can't bring myself to sacrifice truth for happiness, otherwise I'd probably still be religious.

      You also appear to have not noticed the basic element of human nature that causes us to split into groups and have an "us vs them" mentality, which means that there will be vehement disagreements and wars between groups of people in the future anyway, no matter what people believe happened in the past. The best way to reduce this kind of thing is from learning and communication, not ignorance. Even things like having sports teams to love and hate instead of making a big deal of nationality are good things I suppose. They keep the dumb people distracted with shiny things so they have less time to hate other kinds of "different".

    • by Imagix (695350) on Thursday January 06, 2011 @12:53PM (#34778102)
      We are at war with Eurasia. We have always been at war with Eurasia.
    • by Monkeedude1212 (1560403) on Thursday January 06, 2011 @12:54PM (#34778128) Journal

      They start by telling themselves "I am a good person, I can do better" even if they know deep-down that they're lying to themselves. And, quite often, the lie actually BECOMES the reality. Convincing yourself that you're a better person can actually MAKE you better. Why not apply the same principle to society as a whole?

      I'm not being a troll here, I'm asking a serious question. Wouldn't we be better off for it?

      The problem is that there are also a lot of people who start by telling themselves "I am a good person. I am doing the best I can" - all the while slugging back some McD's and tossing that non-biodegradable cup out the window into a grassy field. Or "I am such a good person. I'm better than those filthy n*gger thieves". Not trolling - there are people who believe that stuff. Believing in self-delusion often leads to arrogance.

      In order to be a better person you need to have some reference to be better of. Forgetting genocide, racism, sexism, rapings, killings, wars, etc - tossing all that aside just leaves it open to happen again. Without knowing it happened, and the consequences associated with it, there is no reason it won't just continue. This is like history 101, those who fail to study history are doomed to repeat it.

      Honestly they need to put it back in there. Who is being offended by this word? African Americans? Let me put it this way: By leaving it in there you help propogate the story of how your people were treated during those times. How will our children know the N word offends you if we don't give the N word it's proper context?

    • by SirGarlon (845873) on Thursday January 06, 2011 @01:01PM (#34778302)

      I'm not being a troll here, I'm asking a serious question. Wouldn't we be better off for it?

      All right, here's a serious answer. No, we wouldn't be better off. Excising history would not excise social injustice from the present, it would only rob us of the perspective necessary to recognize and redress it.

    • by cptdondo (59460) on Thursday January 06, 2011 @01:07PM (#34778426) Journal

      No. Read the outright racist newspaper accounts of WWII. What you're suggesting would require expunging the vast majority of human history.

      We can start by removing "offensive" words, but where do we stop? "nigger" is offensive to some, "jap" to others, "squaw" to still others.

      But it's not just words that are hurtful. We need to expunge all history of violence and pain. How about accounts of the thousands of dead bodies in Pearl Harbor, floating so thick the survivors could walk on them? How about Mogadishu? Hutu-Tutsi genocide?

      The human race is the most successful predator to walk the face of the earth in 4 billion years. You can't expunge violence and pain; it is our nature. We need to deal with the fact that we are a vicious, violent species, and we need to evolve beyond that level to survive.

      The fact that it makes some of us uncomfortable is proof that at least a few of us are rising above our violent nature, and that maybe there is hope for us yet.

  • Ministry of Truth? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by iONiUM (530420) on Thursday January 06, 2011 @12:37PM (#34777742) Homepage Journal

    Nothing like ret-conning the evil out of our past. I mean, it's not like we should remember history so we don't repeat it, or anything. Protect the children at all costs, their innocent eyes shouldn't ever know the word "nigger."

    There was some sarcasm in there, in case you didn't notice.

    • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday January 06, 2011 @12:41PM (#34777826)
      "Day by day and almost minute by minute the past was brought up to date. In this way every prediction made by the Party could be shown by documentary evidence to have been correct; nor was any item of news, or any expression of opinion, which conflicted with the needs of the moment, ever allowed to remain on record. All history was a palimpsest, scraped clean and reinscribed exactly as often as was necessary."
      - George Orwell, 1984, Book 1, Chapter 3
    • by MozeeToby (1163751) on Thursday January 06, 2011 @12:56PM (#34778176)

      I'm just going to play the Devil's advocate here, largely because the knee jerk reaction (and a reaction that I share) is that this is censorship and censorship should be prevented at all costs.

      But, what if you look at it, not as censorship, but as translation. Language changes a lot in 100 years, and the meaning of the this particular word has changed even more than the average. I suspect that many of the instances of the word 'nigger' in the original text are not in line with the racist, hateful connotations that are associated with the word today. It is possible that changing the word to something less emotionally charged would more accurately reflect, from a purely narrative, non-historical point of view, the intentions of the author.

      Of course, there are doubtless instances in the book where the use is meant to be racist and emotionally charged, I can't find any logical reason why those instances should be changed. And of course the targeting of this single word for changes without changing other words and phrasing in the story to make it more easily understood for the students is clearly censorship or at least pandering.

      • by anyGould (1295481) on Thursday January 06, 2011 @01:12PM (#34778524)

        But, what if you look at it, not as censorship, but as translation.

        Obvious answer: if we're revamping Finn for "modern audiences", then why aren't we doing the same for Shakespeare (where kids are told that you have to study it in the original text or it loses meaning). You can't have it both ways.

      • by hedwards (940851) on Thursday January 06, 2011 @02:32PM (#34780112)
        To some extent in depends on the particular person. Mark Twain was noted for considering the Southerners for being less civilized than Africans. And his use of the word nigger in its place in the books was necessary for the purposes of portraying the story accurately. It would be a bit like writing a story with a Klan member as a character without the use of any racial epithets or nasty things to say about Jewish people.

        It's not so much that it really depends on the author so much as how and why the author is using the language. Some cases of censorship are more egregious than others are.
      • by Shotgun (30919) on Thursday January 06, 2011 @04:03PM (#34781636)

        But, what if you look at it, not as censorship, but as translation.

        Because, Samuel Clemmons was a unapologetic satirist. The only people using the derogatory words were the idiots of the book, the so-called "fine and upstanding citizens of society" were fools, criminals and murderers. The fact that the words are more hideous now makes the fools of the book look even more foolish.

        Mark Twain is turning in his grave...with laughter...and the fools still don't get the joke.

    • by dkleinsc (563838) on Thursday January 06, 2011 @12:57PM (#34778208) Homepage

      US history is particularly subject to ret-conning, at least in the US. That's because a lot of folks can't stomach the idea that their country was founded on the very intentional and institutionalized genocide of one group of people and the enslavement of another. Particularly those who's ancestors fought and in some cases died for those causes of genocide and slavery have a hard time dealing with it. And yet it happened, and not acknowledging it happens leads to all sorts of trouble today, over a century after the actual evil is over.

      For instance, when the press interviewed attendees of the Secession Ball in South Carolina, not one of them acknowledged that the rights that South Carolina was fighting for was the right to own slaves.

      • by Aquitaine (102097) <{gro.masmai} {ta} {mas}> on Thursday January 06, 2011 @01:25PM (#34778778) Homepage

        That's because a lot of folks can't stomach the idea that their country was founded on the very intentional and institutionalized genocide of one group of people and the enslavement of another.

        What country wasn't founded on institutionalized genocide? Almost every 'civilized' country in history had a dominant culture that killed off or otherwise suppressed a whole bunch of others, and even those that didn't (as much) only didn't due to accident of geography (say, the Japanese, not that it made them any less prone to doing the same thing to others). Heck, the Romans were much better at it than we are. I'd sooner bet on Roman Centurions vs. The Taliban than I would on the USA vs. The Taliban.

        I'm not saying that your point about people not wanting to think poorly of themselves or their country is wrong, because it's quite clearly right. But I don't think that the US is any more prone to it than any other country. It's a human condition, not exclusively or even particularly American.

        • by Magada (741361) on Thursday January 06, 2011 @01:52PM (#34779310) Journal

          Going a bit OT here but I like your premise. So, What Would the Romans Have Done in Afghanistan?

          Going by the historical record, I believe they would have built roads and bridges throughout the valleys in that godforsaken country, massacred one tenth of the population in "war", enslaved another tenth and demoralized the rest through torture, public mass executions and destruction of the local religious and/or political elite, followed by replacement with a friendly local satrapy that would take its orders from a Roman (pro-)consul. Then they would have split the country roughly in half, with them holding tight the reins of only the resource-rich bits and everything else left to rot in carefully nurtured anarchy, economic despondency and in-fighting. Then, the life of the new colony would begin in earnest, with rich Roman patricians in control of colonist-run resource operations such as export of valuable minerals and agricultural products.

          Oh, wait...

      • by phantomfive (622387) on Thursday January 06, 2011 @02:24PM (#34779974) Journal
        As far as I can tell, this was an idea started by the North. Lincoln and others didn't want to upset the anti-black northerners, so they framed the war as a fight to keep the union together. In the build-up to the war there was a lot of talk in the south about the right to have slaves, but after the war the southerners stopped talking about it so much and accepted the Northern narrative. Even before the war some Southerners framed it that way, look at what Robert E Lee said half a decade before the civil war [fair-use.org]:

        In this enlightened age, there are few I believe, but what will acknowledge, that slavery as an institution, is a moral & political evil in any Country....Is it not strange that the descendants of those pilgrim fathers who Crossed the Atlantic to preserve their own freedom of opinion, have always proved themselves intolerant of the Spiritual liberty of others?

        Of course a large portion of the missing quote is his attempt at a logically consistent defense of slavery, but starting shortly after the war, more and more people framed it in those terms.

        Personally I think it is good that people don't focus on the slavery aspect. Can you imagine if every time someone flew a confederate flag, it meant they wanted slavery back? Instead it is often is a sign of anger at the federal government.

    • by jimbolauski (882977) on Thursday January 06, 2011 @12:59PM (#34778248) Journal
      Here is a great quote that the morons failed to realize when they read the book because they were too offended to learn the lesson Twain was trying to teach.
      Russell Baker wrote:

      "The people whom Huck and Jim encounter on the Mississippi are drunkards, murderers, bullies, swindlers, lynchers, thieves, liars, mows, frauds, child abusers, numbskulls, hypocrites, windbags and traders in human flesh. All are white. The one man of honor in this phantasmagoria is 'Nigger Jim,' as Twain called him to emphasize the irony of a society in which the only true gentleman was held beneath contempt."
      • by MrMacman2u (831102) on Thursday January 06, 2011 @01:48PM (#34779232) Journal

        Outstanding excerpt from Russell Baker!

        The problem is, these people aren't REALLY morons... they're just to afraid of the truth to accept the lessons in the book, the message it's sending is lost in the cacophony created by the war drums of political correctness.

        Censorship is the poison of culture and of minds because it is the ultimate in controlling what we see and hear and say all in the fruitless quest to not offend ANYBODY. To make all that anyone CAN be exposed to as generic and boring as possible, to strip the color from existence in order to make it "safe".

        It's an impossible task and simply drains away the richness of life, history, society and culture every time it's applied.

        People demand censorship because something offends them... Well, I decry censorship because it, and those who call for it, offends ME.

  • New cover (Score:5, Funny)

    by brian0918 (638904) <brian0918&gmail,com> on Thursday January 06, 2011 @12:38PM (#34777756)
    And the cover now has a big shiny sticker that says "Nigger Free!"
    • by jbeaupre (752124)

      Don't joke. Some folks would probably be more than happy to remove Jim entirely from the book and slap that sticker on.

  • by chispito (1870390) on Thursday January 06, 2011 @12:41PM (#34777834)
    If you are too young to maturely handle the n-word, then you are too young to handle the implications of the story anyway.
  • by unity100 (970058) on Thursday January 06, 2011 @12:41PM (#34777836) Homepage Journal
    I dont see any uproar on internet in europe, middle east or asia over this. not to mention africa and south america. not even canada.

    maybe is it that the supposed 'uproar' is in united states of america ? even that i havent seen any uproar in the communities with predominantly american population ?

    or maybe the article poster is making up shit ?
  • by headhot (137860) on Thursday January 06, 2011 @12:44PM (#34777884) Homepage

    There is no way a school is going to make children read a book with the word nigger in it. Its too much trouble for the teachers, principles, and school board. They wouldn't touch that with a 10 foot pole. The public school system is not equipped to handle controversy.

    Then again, censoring such eminent work from Twain is going to catch you some major heat too.

    The lesser of the 2 evils I think is to run the book with the word n***r censored that way, so every on is placated, and the students can have a discussion about it.

    • by Brannoncyll (894648) on Thursday January 06, 2011 @12:58PM (#34778230)
      Then said children go home and listen to rap music on MTV or watch any TV show involving people from "the 'hood" and they'll easily find 219 uses of the word 'nigger', along with 'bitches', 'hoes', and a wide variety of other unsavoury phrases.
    • by demonbug (309515)

      There is no way a school is going to make children read a book with the word nigger in it. Its too much trouble for the teachers, principles, and school board. They wouldn't touch that with a 10 foot pole. The public school system is not equipped to handle controversy.

      Then again, censoring such eminent work from Twain is going to catch you some major heat too.

      The lesser of the 2 evils I think is to run the book with the word n***r censored that way, so every on is placated, and the students can have a discussion about it.

      Yeah, but how do you do you pronounce n***r when you are having the discussion? "Now class, let's discuss how Twain contrasts Huckleberry's newfound perspective with that of his boyhood friend Tom, the disparity between the two illustrated when Tom is recounting the boiler explosion on his recent trip by steamboat; 'Thankfully no one was hurt. A n-star-star-star-er was killed.'"

      Also, don't know where you're from, but we sure read Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn in school, n-word and all. Somehow we even managed to

    • by gstoddart (321705) on Thursday January 06, 2011 @01:05PM (#34778372) Homepage

      The lesser of the 2 evils I think is to run the book with the word n***r censored that way, so every on is placated, and the students can have a discussion about it.

      I think censoring is far more evil than running the risk of offending people.

      That's an awfully slippery slope, and before long you're assassinating people who disagree with a law against blasphemy [cnn.com].

      Yes, that's an intentionally over-the-top example, but changing reality to fit someone's beliefs/hopes/sensitivities is just plain bad for a free society.

  • No better (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Amorymeltzer (1213818) on Thursday January 06, 2011 @12:44PM (#34777890)

    The NYTimes [nytimes.com] has, of course, a lot of coverage on the topic, but many, including the editorial board, make the very strong point - how is this any better? Yes, as countless first posters try to show everyday, nigger is offensive, but nothing is such a blight on American history as the institution of slavery. This censorship wrongly conflates the word to be the problem, when really the problem is the hundreds of years of oppression, hatred, and violence that has and is aimed at blacks that the word represents. Some choice editing won't change the realities of the South in the mid-1800s, to think this fools anyone is a presumption of ignorance amongst teachers, parents, and children.

    • Re:No better (Score:4, Insightful)

      by flaming error (1041742) on Thursday January 06, 2011 @12:57PM (#34778218) Journal

      > This censorship wrongly conflates the word to be the problem

      That's the best argument I've heard yet. These people are targeting a word. Not the institution of slavery, not racism.

      Twain used the word on purpose to sharpen his anti-racist message. Removing the word serves only to dull his attack.

      This censorship is completely counter-productive.

  • Rap? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by digsbo (1292334) on Thursday January 06, 2011 @12:45PM (#34777920)
    Does this mean that all rap music must also be purged of those words? Or only rap music presented in school music classes? At what level? Elementary, secondary, college?
  • by Manip (656104) on Thursday January 06, 2011 @12:47PM (#34777970)
    This is frankly fairly shocking - shocking that people would want to remove an offensive word from a book who's intent was to diminish that word's power. Just goes to show how scared and cowardly the Western world has become, when a single word can scare us so much that we must hide it from ourselves. I honestly wonder what future generations will look like after parents have worked so hard to make their kids softer and naiver than the generation that proceeded it. How long until the witch hunts begin, and we start removing undesirable thoughts/people/etc?
  • by cheekyjohnson (1873388) on Thursday January 06, 2011 @12:47PM (#34777972)

    An Alabama publisher named NewSouth Books will be editing and censoring the book so that schools and parents might provide their children the ability to study the classic without fear of properly addressing the torturous history of racism and slavery in The United States of America.

    I thought that was part of the point. Oh, well, we need to protect the children from words that they are not even obligated to get offended by (it could turn them into racists, after all)! Why don't we just lock all children in some sort of bubble forever and get it over with?

  • by RobVB (1566105) on Thursday January 06, 2011 @12:50PM (#34778050)

    Let all those kids know the book is in the public domain and they can legally download the original version with the bad words and sex scenes in it.

    In case you're wondering, mentioning the sex scenes is to make sure they'll actually read the book.

  • by Aladrin (926209) on Thursday January 06, 2011 @12:52PM (#34778088)

    My biggest problem with this is that removal of the word from the English language will not stop people from thinking the exact same thoughts. The word is a -symptom-, not a cause. As such, this is a pointless exercise that only costs money and provides no benefit for anyone.

  • do you know he's currently on the ny times best seller list?

    http://www.nytimes.com/best-sellers-books/overview.html [nytimes.com]

    how'd he do that? he wrote a book, said "wait 100 years before publishing", and they did, and here he is, selling a new book, in 2011

    quite an impressive man

    and did you know about twain and halley's comet?

    http://wiki.answers.com/Q/What_is_the_connection_between_Mark_twain_and_Halley's_comet [answers.com]

    It is believed that Mark Twain (aka Samuel Clemens) was born the same month as the passing of Halley's comet in November 1835. Halley's Comet passed on November 10th 1835 and Twain was born November 30th 1835. Twain vowed he would "go out"with the passing of the comet, as it passes in 75 year cycles. Halley's comet passed again April 20th 1910, Twain passed April 21st 1910.

    mark twain: space alien who travels via halley's comet

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday January 06, 2011 @12:55PM (#34778166)

    With the rise of eBooks, we should be able to do this automatically to all clbuttic literature.

    Anyone who butterts that this is a violation of our consbreastutional rights is overreacting.

  • by rickb928 (945187) on Thursday January 06, 2011 @12:56PM (#34778204) Homepage Journal

    But this is the only good argument for perpetual copyright I've seen in a while.

    If you can change 'objectionable' words at your whim and re-publish the work of an author as if it were the 'original', well, you can't know what the hell anyone ever wrote unless you kept a copy.

    I'm not at all interested in reading Mark Twain censored. Next thing you know, they start in some really offensive authors, and we have nothing to rely on.

    Sounds like something the high-school textbook publishers would do. Stupid. So much for literary integrity. Another publisher I can regard with a jaundiced eye.

  • Poignant (Score:5, Insightful)

    by SethThresher (1958152) on Thursday January 06, 2011 @01:00PM (#34778296)
    I think that this is a very [REDACTED] article. It is so telling of our [CENSORED] that {individuals of nonspecified cultural, racial, religous origin} would [CLASSIFIED] our literature. Really, before you know it, we'll all be facing [CENSORED] and then [REDACTED] [REDACTED] with [REMOVED] a duck.
  • by Dan667 (564390) on Thursday January 06, 2011 @01:03PM (#34778346)
    is what you want to teach your children? No wonder so many kids freakout after they leave their parents house and binge drink, get into drugs.
  • Black people protest (Score:4, Interesting)

    by erroneus (253617) on Thursday January 06, 2011 @01:11PM (#34778508) Homepage

    Where I work, there are two black people adjacent to my cubicle. Both agree that this is bad. Their take is "this happened and this is how things were, what can be accomplished by denying it?"

    I heartily agree. This is just as bad as going back to old movies and editing out the cigarettes or replacing the guns with walkee-talkees in E.T.

  • MOre ignorant fools (Score:4, Interesting)

    by geekoid (135745) <(dadinportland) (at) (yahoo.com)> on Thursday January 06, 2011 @01:14PM (#34778558) Homepage Journal

    Did they even understand huckle berry fin? it's signigance? that fact that it's one of the first work to recognize a 'nigger' as an individual and not property? that fact that it was common parlance that became impolite latter?

    History doesn't need a white washing.

  • American Culture (Score:5, Interesting)

    by BJ_Covert_Action (1499847) on Thursday January 06, 2011 @01:20PM (#34778686) Homepage Journal
    You know, it's funny, I've heard a lot of folk in this country scrambling about and talking about being exposed to more culture. They want to travel to experience culture. They want to go to art studios to experience culture. They want to speak different languages to learn about more culture. That's a grand and noteworthy goal. However, many of those same people seem to make comments about how shallow and vapid American culture is. As a natural born American, I am damn ashamed to hear that about my country and my culture. We may be a young country, relatively speaking, but we have an incredibly rich culture that is more diverse than most places I've been.

    Our culture involves everything from the Puritans fleeing England up through electing a black president while seeking hope and change. Our country was the first to try the grand social experiment of a democratic republic, based loosely on ideals from the ancient city-state architecture of Greece. Our people developed an entire branch of music known as Jazz. Our people blended with, reproduced with, lived with, and learned from the Native American population that we found here. From them, we learned to place a vast amount of importance on the individual and independence. We learned an appreciation for nature, and the resources it provides (who, before us, had a national forest preservation system?). Our culture includes the blending of numerous ethnic communities into a veritable melting pot of ideas and values. We have Latin folk. We have Gaelic folk. We have Greco-Roman folk. We have Asian folk. We have African folk. We have Slavic folk. We have Native American folk. We have Arab and Persian folk. We have a land made up of a culture that combined the values and ideals of the greatest enemies and contestants from history. American culture was enriched by French folk living next to English folk, by Japanese folk living next to Chinese folk, by Grecian and Italian folk living next to Persian and Arab folk, by African folk learning to live alongside the descendants of their former slave-masters. And you know what? We were and still are stronger for that!

    We have had dark times in our short history, and we will continue to have dark times as time marches on. We had eras dominated by racism. We had eras dominated by sexism. Currently we are trying to end an era dominated by sexual preference intolerance. We have had wars. We have had depressions. We have had Civil Wars where brothers killed brothers and fathers fought their sons. Yeah, we've had some dark times. We ran the Native American population into the ground. But you know what? We learned from those times. We were hardened by those times. We took away great lessons from those times and grew out of them. And we are still growing. Those dark spots in our history are just as important as the American golden ages. Hell, I'd go so far to say that they are even more important, as they forced us to look in the mirror and learn from the ugly visages that gazed back at us. They forced us to change, for the better.

    So now we are supposed to destroy our culture in the name of political correctness? We are supposed to whitewash our history so that we don't hurt anyone's feelings? You know what I think about NewSouth Book's attempt to destroy our culture? I say fuck them! And I can say that word proudly as an American because it is part of our culture, part of our ugly, dirt ridden, blood stained, beautiful, evolving, realistic, free, and loving culture. If I recall correctly, Huck Finn was friends with Nigger Jim. That's a damn important lesson, and the full name is damn important. It showed that a straw-chewing little white boy could be friends with someone that was different to a socially unacceptable level back then. That's a lesson in friendship. That's a lesson in love. And having Nigger Jim be that character's name underscores that lesson every time the name is mentioned. That is something we should preserve, not destroy. That is our culture: a culture of brother- and sisterhood derived from ha
    • by NeutronCowboy (896098) on Thursday January 06, 2011 @03:48PM (#34781412)

      Uh, I agree with your conclusion, but I think you display symptoms of the exact problem you're decrying. Here, let me help you....

      Our country was the first to try the grand social experiment of a democratic republic, based loosely on ideals from the ancient city-state architecture of Greece.

      That would actually be the Romans. You know, the place where the word "Senate" comes from.

      Our people developed an entire branch of music known as Jazz.

      Only if you define "our people" as also consisting of the black people in the 1920s and 1930s - which no one in polite society would admit to at that time. Not to mention that Jazz music was pretty much frowned upon in the US when it got started.

      Our people blended with, reproduced with, lived with, and learned from the Native American population that we found here.

      The primary interaction that Americans had with the locals was killing them. The blending, reproducing and learning from was a small subset thereof.

      From them, we learned to place a vast amount of importance on the individual and independence.

      Nice story, but individualism, self-reliance and independence is already found in the religion of the original settlers: hard-core protestants who believed that success in life was a sign of closeness to god, and hard work a god-approved way of getting there.

      We learned an appreciation for nature, and the resources it provides (who, before us, had a national forest preservation system?)

      That would be the Germans in the 19th century. You can go back even earlier if you look into more exotic places.

      Our culture includes the blending of numerous ethnic communities into a veritable melting pot of ideas and values.

      It's understood that a better analogy is that of a salad bowl. Blending of ethnic communities is rare, and takes a very long time. Just look at the various "-towns" in major cities.

      We have had dark times in our short history, and we will continue to have dark times as time marches on. We had eras dominated by racism. We had eras dominated by sexism. Currently we are trying to end an era dominated by sexual preference intolerance. We have had wars. We have had depressions. We have had Civil Wars where brothers killed brothers and fathers fought their sons. Yeah, we've had some dark times. We ran the Native American population into the ground. But you know what? We learned from those times.

      You sure about that? Because all I see is that we're just making the same stupid mistakes again. Racial profiling a la Japanese Internment act is one large scale gun assault away from happening. A lot of people are clamoring to redo the same mistakes that lead to the Great Depression. I could go on for a while.

      I'd argue that the Golden Ages where never really that golden - maybe gilded for some, but it's been a pretty brutal slog for a lot of people. Again, I agree with your conclusion. I just think you might want to update your data points a bit.

  • by PinchDuck (199974) on Thursday January 06, 2011 @01:21PM (#34778698)

    PERSONS attempting to find a motive in this narrative will be prosecuted; persons attempting to find a moral in it will be banished; persons attempting to find a plot in it will be shot.

  • by crunchygranola (1954152) on Thursday January 06, 2011 @01:22PM (#34778736)

    ... by American's greatest writer ... and we can't let the kids read what he actually wrote.

    If the can't handle "nigger" then they aren't ready to read the story.

  • awesome (Score:5, Funny)

    by Is0m0rph (819726) on Thursday January 06, 2011 @01:24PM (#34778758)
    Now the children will only here the word nigger 219 times in their favorite rap song.
  • Context (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday January 06, 2011 @01:27PM (#34778814)

    (The following is a true anecdote that has happened to me when I was younger)

    I was once asked in high school to write a short story about a man murdering an Arab in France in 1960 when there were strong racist sentiments against Arabs among the French population. The story had to be narrated from the perspective of an eye witness.
    For the purpose of authenticity, I made the eye witness telling the story a French racist. I made the narrator use racist speech and express racist opinions such as referring to the Arab victim as "that dog" and expressing approval about the murder. I tried not to over-do it though, otherwise it would not have sounded natural.
    The teacher asked us all to read to the entire class what we had written. When my turn came and after I was done reading I realized my classmates were just staring at me as if I had just punched someone in the face in the middle of the classroom. I expected most of them would not understand the point of the racism in my story, but I did not think they would be so stunned. I think some of them must even have thought I was actually racist.
    Anyway, they were shocked... and the teacher gave me the maximum mark.

    When I tell this anecdote to people, many don't understand why the narrator had to be racist. People usually tell me I had no need to make a racist narrator and what I did was wrong. I try to explain that racism was not only important in 1960 France but also a central element to the story and the murder. If I had not placed racism in my story, I would have missed an important part of the setting. But no matter how I explain it, a lot of people just don't get it. My teacher did, obviously (as the mark suggests).

    Context is everything. You can't write a story set in a period of strong racism and pretend racism doesn't exist. I you want to be authentic, you need to face the facts. And if you're not authentic, your work is bad. Art in particular needs full immunity against political correctness.
    But ignoring racism when authenticity requires it is one thing. It only makes your art bad.
    It's a whole other thing to retroactively censor literature, particularly if it's so old it's not just considered popular culture but also historical. Now THAT is offensive.

  • by eepok (545733) on Thursday January 06, 2011 @01:35PM (#34778958) Homepage

    Because when you're ashamed of your past, it's probably best to just change it. Why bother with educating people who read about your past (telling them about ways you and your people have changed) when you can just deceive them from the start?

  • Star Trek V (Score:5, Insightful)

    by tekrat (242117) on Thursday January 06, 2011 @01:39PM (#34779050) Homepage Journal

    I'll bet you're wondering what the heck one of the worst Star Trek movies ever has to do with the censoring of Huck Finn.

    Well, I'll tell you.

    In Star Trek V, there's a guy wandering about trying to remove everyone's "pain", and in doing so, he converts them to his particular cult because they feel so "healed" by the removal of the pain. But it's a sham.

    Kirk correctly points out that "I need my pain. It makes me who I am."

    And here we are as a society trying to do the same thing: remove something we consider painful. In the hope that we'll somehow be "healed". But it's a sham. We need our pain, it's what makes us what we are. It's what keeps our society in check. And as usual, the big-brother committee, in true "Brazil" fashion, has targeted a word, and not the real problem. Changing a word doesn't change race relations in the USA, nor does it excise xenophobia.

    If anything it points out the ridiculousness of nanny-state-ism, just as much as Frank Gorshin's portrayal of a man who is black on the right side, who despises a man who is black on the left side. It's too bad our society learned nothing from Star Trek. Poor Gene. He tried so hard to explain. But nobody listened.

     

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