This is not a political rant. I do want to touch on the fringes, however, and discuss a politician and his new book and the experience I had recently. Do not proceed further if politics gets your dander up. Dander riling is not my intent.
Okay, still with me?
I saw a tweet on Twitter from one of my favorite writers of all time, a guy I've been reading since I was thirteen or so, Robert McCammon. I referred to him as the real deal in a post recently. I still believe that, and if anything, I think his Matthew Corbett novels are better than anything he has ever written. That said, I strongly disagreed with his tweet and had to respond.
Mr. McCammon has a strong dislike for Dick Cheney. I likewise have a low opinion of the former V.P.Where I take issue is equating buying Cheney's new book with being evil. Mr. McCammon said, “Whoever buys Dick Cheney's memoir is buying a reservation for a shit-pit in Hell. If I may say so, in the kindest possible terms.”
I responded, “Didn't people say something similar about you in regards to Boys Life? Disagreement vs suppression- a slippery slope.”
Mr. McCammon had an issue with his novel Boys Life, which was banned by a school board, though it was never read by those who suggested the ban. He had the opportunity to address the school board in question to defend his work. The book should not have been banned or considered for a ban in the first place but school board members relied on excerpts to make their case without reading the entire novel.
I dislike the thought of banning books, or suppressing a book in this case, whether overtly or in a more subtle manner. By linking hell with those who buy Cheney's book, I felt Mr. McCammon was trying to suppress the book through tactics that I find distasteful. Who wants to be considered evil? Isn't this just a subtle attempt, I thought, to discourage readers to buy a book from a man Mr. McCammon doesn't like? To suppress the book, a sort of pre-ban on the book shelf by using bullying, name calling and broad, negative labels?
Argue the merits of the book. Tell people not to read it for some reason, be reasonable and thoughtful and intelligent. If that fails, then say, 'Don't support Dick Cheney because he's evil- don't buy his book.' Even that I'm fine with, but bully tactics? I don't like that. I agree with the post by JA Konrath, who wrote a long piece titled Be Deliberate. Within that post, Mr. Konrath argues there should be some merit and thought behind an opinion that elevates the discourse beyond, 'this sucks' or 'he sucks' or 'I don't like this.'
Mr. McCammon can do better.
The response I received from Mr. McCammon was fairly direct. He said, “Oh, I'm not saying suppression. I'm just saying: Buy the book, Go to Hell. Simple.”
Mr. McCammon has the right to frame the argument in any manner he wishes, to have opinion, state that opinion and defend that opinion. I feel the merits of a book will determine how well it is received by readers and by discussing the merits, or lack of merits, which is probably the case with Dick Cheney's book, readers can make their decision based on fact.
Telling people to go to hell doesn't argue the merits of a work. It creates division, helps to further divide groups of people and more importantly, it gives no reason beyond insult and fear of a mythical place where the 'bad people go.' There is no hell unless we allow discourse to continue to devolve to the point where we realize a hell here on this earth of our own creation.
When we leave reason behind, leave facts unsaid and instead resort to the lowest common denominator, we do ourselves and we do our readers a disservice. We also risk becoming the same type of people we profess to fight against by using the same tactics that we all should be above using. Buy a book, go to hell?
I say the road we want to travel is more civil. We can all do better.
The people, with reason on their side, will simply choose not to read crap. We don't have to be tyrants. We need to be better, we need to be educators.
End of my non- political rant.