Friday, June 27, 2003

Little Pitchers Have Big Ears And Other Attempts To Control Thought

Both John Derbyshire and Kim Du Toit complain about a teacher who bowdlerized a song title into 'When the Band Comes Marching In'. This attempt to control thought by revising truth, history or someone else's creative efforts is rather tiresome. Thomas Bowdler did it to Shakespeare. Disney does it, for marketing reasons, to almost everything they touch. Urgh the Large, Chief of the Sunny Valley Clan probably said to Hunh, Shaman of the Anterled One, "Say, Hunh, could you tone down the Antlered One's dance in the fall festival. I don't like the way my oldest daughter was watching him last year."

I think bowdlerization is sometimes useful for small children, but not very often. Most adults rightfully resent being treated like children in this way. The idea that we should twist the truth in service of the good is an old one, and very suspect. One reason is that the truth is relatively easy to determine, but the good is not. Destroying something of known value in the service of something of unknown value sounds like A Bad Deal to me.

Update, 9 July: How could I have missed linking to Connie du Toit's thoughts on this subject? What she has to say is more important than anything John, Kim or I said, especially with all the links to Rachel Lucas on WWII.