I’m sure I’m giving you all the impression that I’m a kind of obsessed stalker when it comes to China Miéville, but everyone should read his latest blog post. It’s about the recent decision by the Belgian Supreme Court to reject the application by Bienvenue Mbutu Mondondo…
to have Tintin in the Congo declared unacceptable under the Belgian race relations law. However, he had made clear for years that he would be satisfied if, as in Britain, the book was published with a visible warning, a reminder of the context in which it was written (maybe even of the toxic ideology enshrined within). What Mondondo wanted was an official recognition that this text was a spitting in his face. That it came down to what was always clearly a nuclear option was due to the steadfast refusal of the publishers to countenance this – and thereby take responsibility for what they publish. The Belgian establishment went to cultural war, & it did so not for free speech, but for their right not to apologise for racist slander.
When human rights lawyer David Enright asks for the book to be sold as an adult work, while explicitly, repeatedly, stressing that he does not advocate banning it, nonetheless, cometh the resentment-spewing dissemblers in the comments insisting that he is supporting ‘censorship’. This is a degree of point-missing so great it is hard to believe it is not performative.
(Indeed, an astoundingly small proportion of arguments ‘for free speech’ & ‘against censorship’ or ‘banning’ are, in fact, about free speech, censorship or banning. It is depressing to have to point out, yet again, that there is a distinction between having the legal right to say something & having the moral right not to be held accountable for what you say. Being asked to apologise for saying something unconscionable is not the same as being stripped of the legal right to say it. It’s really not very fucking complicated. Cry Free Speech in such contexts, you are demanding the right to speak any bilge you wish without apology or fear of comeback. You are demanding not legal rights but an end to debate about & criticism of what you say. When did bigotry get so needy? This assertive & idiotic failure to understand that juridical permissibility backed up by the state is not the horizon of politics or morality is absurdly resilient.)
In case you don’t know the book, here‘s a link (provided by Miéville in his blog post) that will fill you in.
Had a look?
Delightful, isn’t it?
I’m not quoting it or putting any of the pictures on here. It makes me feel ill.
Herge (real name Georges Remi) was, by the way, a Nazi collaborator who featured anti-semitic stereotype villains (hook-nosed, cigar-chomping financier called Blumenstein, for instance) in his cartoons. Nice company for Spielberg and Moffat.
Aside from picking over the Tintin issue forensically, Miéville’s blog post is of relevance to this blog because he goes over the various weasely excuses always wheeled out by people who want to sleaze their way out of confronting the racism often blatant in cherished old stories.…