Friday, November 14, 2008

Censorship at Waterstones

Just as it looked like Sarah Palin was going to walk away with the Bad Faith Awards, Christian 'lone' Voice Stephen Green makes a late bid for the prize, by forcing the Waterstones in Cardiff to cancel a book signing. Patrick Jones was due to sign copies of his new poetry collection Darkness is Where the Stars Are but Waterstones cancelled at the last moment citing concerns about disruption. Apparently our friend Stephen had mobilised a few believers, aggrieved at what they consider Jones' blasphemy, who sent emails and called the store. What's the deal! Are we allowed to pressure bookstores to cancel events featuring people we don't like... if so there's a few I'd like to start with.

I phoned the manager of the Cardiff Store, who wouldn't comment but referred me to John Howells in their central press office. He said the event was cancelled because of concerns about safety in the light of a high volume of complaints received yesterday (he wouldn't say how many or what proportion were emails or phone calls).


Surely it is a matter of principle that you should not be able to precipitate the cancellation of any event just by claiming it offends you or implying that you will attempt to disrupt it? Surely it is the author and publisher who Waterstones should be supporting here?

Its worrying that bookshops are running scared of causing the slightest offence to religious sensibilities, as NH say :

If you don't like the book don't read it and don't come to the books signing. End of. If bookstores start caving in to this kind of (albeit cowardly and pathetic click-of-a-mouse intimidation) then we really are in the shit.

They suggest e -mailing Waterstones and complaining :

Email Waterstones to let him know what you think: (Howells says this will be logged and it would be nice if complaints on behalf of free speech end up equally those of offended religionists)

The religious right are very good at their e-mail and letter campaigns and we who want free speech and to put the opposing view are usually quite lazy at it. I would urge readers to e-mail Waterstones. its takes five minutes and to be honest most of us waste a lot more time arguing with each other on the blogs, so no excuses !