Beware the Teenie Weenie: Social Norms and Expressive Culture

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4 Responses

  1. Sublime is better than slime says:

    “Wimping out because of possibly imaginary fears of angry parents does us all a disservice, at least if we care more about an open-minded culture than protecting people (even little ones) from the teenie weenie.”

    Or it spares us being inundated with unpleasantness and frees up our minds to contemplate the sublime.

  2. A.J. Sutter says:

    Well, there is plenty of other “unpleasantness” , including violent song lyics, moronic celebrity criminality and substance abuse, wall-to-wall TV coverage of same, etc., with which we are inundated and that folks scarecely complain about. One who is truly drawn to the sublime can always choose not to be distracted.

    As for the role of publishers as guardians of free speech, these days that seems to be a challenge they take up only when they believe that there’s enough profit to be made from it, e.g. by wrapping gangsta rap in the red, white and blue. It used to be that a few best-sellers could support a noble but unprofitable backlist; the shift to making every book a profit center began no later than the 1980s. (See e.g. Andre Schiffrin’s The Business of Books.) While I share Neil’s disappointment, I can understand that for a non-blockbuster item like a translated children’s book, the benefits might not be worth the hassle, from the publisher’s view.

    The larger issue is not the publisher’s norms, but the parents’. That there is more of a market for Anna Nicole journalism than for a book with a picture of a pipik in a museum is one of the wonderful contradictions of American society. (Also a marvelous naivete on the part of parents, who delude themselves into believing that kids are not already aware of pipiks and such.) Apparently, most people in the US don’t want an open-minded culture. As lawyers, we need to defend the right of an open-minded culture to exist, since defending the rights of the minority in a democracy is, no less than elections, constitutive of democracy. But that doesn’t mean that the majority will necessarily want to partake of the fruits.

  3. “Well, the ability to think for ourselves requires access to a wide variety of materials.”

    Careful – some may take this as a call for political thought diversity among law professors

  4. I’ve often wondered what the results would be of the buyers at Barnes & Noble following any political agenda. If they won’t buy a book, you’d have a very hard time getting it published.

    With the continuing loss of independent bookstores, this becomes a more pressing (to me, at least) question each year.