What “Clean Reader” Really Represents (To Me)

There seems to be an app for everything. But here’s one I’ve missed. Evidently it’s causing quite the stir in “authoring circles”:

Twitter screen capture.
Twitter screen capture.

In assailing it, author Joanne Harris is quoted in the UK Independent newspaper even invoking so-called ISIS and its wholesale destruction of Sumerian antiquities:

“No permission is sought, or granted,” Harris wrote. “There is no opt-out clause for authors or publishers. This is censorship, not by the State, but by a religious minority, and if you think it sounds trivial, take a moment to think about this…

“ISIS are currently destroying antiquities and historical sites in the Middle East, including the ancient city of Nimrud, the walls of Nineveh and statues up to 8000 years old.

“And all in the name of purity, morality and good taste.”

Others have condemned the app as “f***ing horrifying,” and apparently laying the foundation for a rerun of the 1933 Nazi Germany mass book burnings. And more.

Based on how strongly so many feel, I did as Harris asked. I did take a moment to think…..

My take after I’d had? That this app is not nearly that bad. And I’m not that “d*mn upset” over it.

Censorship by definition indeed requires the power of the State to ban, so Harris admitting there is no State involvement makes for only a muddying waters observation. Moreover, until it is destroyed so-called ISIS are not just another bunch of religious maniacs wrecking statues and friezes, but currently constitute the de facto State wherever its murderous legions tread. Above all, as for who’s “trivializing” in comparing a piddling “bad language” scrubbing app to butchering, black-clad, SS-impersonators who enslave women and behead prisoners is a question I leave for readers here to decide for themselves.

Obviously, this falls into the category of a “serious” post….

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Yes, I’d retain a lawyer to look into a violation of copyright case against anyone caught editing my books without my permission and re-selling them. However, as I understand it, this app merely “replaces” words within the app itself. It’s not permanently copyright-infringing in revising my created text for the app’s creators’ and others’ financial gain; and my original books would have already had to have been purchased for the app to “crawl” and “sanitize” anyhow.

And there is the line. Or what should I do? I suppose I should pound my desk in a blistering rage whenever I discover a parent somewhere bought my paperbook books, physically inked out passages he found objectionable, changed foul language to suit his family’s “purity, morality and good taste,” and then handed those “Rated G” copies to his teenage daughter, telling her, “Darling, this series is about traveling, Europeans, and 20-somethings. You’ll love it without any nasty language, references to communism, and mention of those rubber things sinners sometimes use in bed.”

But I just can’t be bothered. My concerns about this are instead grounded in the inventors’ voiced reason for creating the app. Forget so-called ISIS and Hitler, we’ve got big troubles much closer to home in time and place.

What do I mean? The father inadvertently reveals it. It’s a worrying issue in U.S. society regarding how we rear our youth generally:

Clean Reader is the brainchild of Jared and Kirsten Maughan in Idaho, US. The idea came to them when they were trying to find books for their fourth grade daughter.

“In order to challenge her as a reader,” Mr Maughan said, “we had to present her with books that were a little bit older.”

At first glance that seems parentally commendable. But on closer inspection we remember a fourth grader is a nine year old. My books are NOT for nine year olds and I can’t think of any books containing bad language that really are.

And supplying any child with “older” age reading material purportedly to “challenge” her, but without actually challenging her age-appropriately? That’s in line with a wrongheaded belief that maturity is somehow attainable without exposure to adulthood. Oh, and, by the way, that notion isn’t restricted to any “religious minority” either.

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The 21 year old U.S. drinking age falls exactly into that realm. As we know, a twenty year old is an adult. Yet he may NOT consume alcohol legally anywhere in the U.S.

Surely, though, banning him from booze has aided in his maturing to a dignified, sober adulthood, right? Errr, well, what we do know for sure is it has forced liquor consumption for 18-20 year olds “underground” and into the likes of binge drinking sessions in college frat houses. There, in hidden rooms and dark corners away from the eyes of State authorities who decree not a sip of a beer legally pass their, uh, “childish” twenty year old lips, decidedly otherwise adult young men, drunk out of their minds, their inhibitions gone, and no cop in sight to give them tickets, too often seem to end up sexually assaulting adult young women.

We don’t see that appalling criminality – and that’s exactly what it is – nearly as much among 18, 19 and 20 year olds at universities in Europe, where age 18 is generally the drinking age. In fact, in Europe we see American 18-20 year old study abroad students often under-prepared when thrust into a maturity denied them at home. Having had it drilled into their heads at every school dance and assembly for a decade that alcohol is only for “over-21s,” newly landed in London, Paris, or Rome where they find they may drink legally in public while socializing, understandably many don’t handle that new-found freedom that they lack in “The Land of the Free” in a very adult manner when compared to their European counterparts who are accustomed to it.

Free Stock Photo: A beautiful African American teen girl reading a book on a stone wall in the woods.
Free Stock Photo: A beautiful African American teen girl reading a book on a stone wall in the woods.

Yes, I do have some “coarse” language in my novels, but I use it sparingly because that’s how I choose to write and how I feel my characters speak. U.S. older teens need to learn how to contextualize properly. It’s inescapable that quite a few adults do use foul and blasphemous language, and understanding how to deal with it, and respond to it, is another aspect of adulthood.

A real adult knows this as well: Just because someone else drinks, or says, or smokes, or has intercourse, doesn’t require you to do so too.

Handing app-“cleaned” books to teens is not to challenge them, quite the opposite. As with banning alcohol for ages 18, 19 and 20, it shelters them and stunts their maturation process and intellectual growth. Worst of all, it fosters and conveys a mistaken, dangerous, and indeed an ironically immature impression we can manage to be adult without having to face and cope with actual adult – and often, we may feel, distasteful, yes – norms and behaviors.

Free Stock Photo: Closeup of a glass of wine.
Free Stock Photo: Closeup of a glass of wine.

Too many Americans continue to insist – and, as with the drinking age, will even resort to force of law if they feel they can get away with it – on mollycoddling and infantilizing our young, when what they truly require is proper guidance in growing up well. They don’t need still more finger-wagging lecturings and attempts at shielding them from the ugly world out there. If legally adult, what they need is the right to have a g*ddamned glass of wine at a dinner table.

Now, I come down off my soapbox. Have a good Thursday! 🙂