Banning Books

31 03 2012

When I started to research this, I had no idea there was actually a Banned Books Week. It appears to occur in September, although there is a bit of confusion between the US Banned Books Week and an International Banned Books Week, promoted by Amnesty.

Anyway, in the spirit absurdity, here are some of the more surprising banned books.

John Steinbeck’s Grapes of Wrath. Now I have never recovered from reading this at school (hence it is one of my least-liked books) but it is a classic. It has been banned at various times and places in the US for obscenity and the portrayal of the US as seen by migrant workers and those living in extreme poverty. Sometimes the truth hurts.

The Dictionary. Various versions of the Dictionary have been banned for various reasons, often by local schools. For instance, Webster’s 10th Edition was pulled from classroom shelves in Menifee Union School District, California, in Jan 2010, because it include a definition of “oral sex”. Since looking up “dirty” words in the dictionary is a favourite of primary school children, I can only say, what spoil-sports! At least they are reading.

Roald Dahl’s James and the Giant Peach, and The Witches. Beloved favourite of children the world-over, these books were banned in the US for obscenity and violence (J&TGP), and sexism and devaluing the life of a child (TW). Maybe they just didn’t get the British sense of humour?

Anne Frank’s Diary of a Young Girl. This classic and heart-rending exposition of the life of a young Jewish girl living under Nazi occupation has apparently attracted the wrath of book-banners several times, most recently January 2010 in a Culpeper County, Virginia school for “sexually explicit” and “homosexual” themes. I think they are missing the point.

The Lorax (Dr Seuss). The Lorax is one of many Dr Seuss Books banned at various times for their secret messages corrupting the minds of innocent children. In the case of The Lorax, it is its environmental “save the trees” message that was seen to be anti-big-business. The latest dispute happened in 2012 during the filming of a movie based on the book, but it had previously been banned (the most recent example I could find was in Laytonville, California in 1989 from a local public school).
Mind you, Dr Seuss was asking for it – The Sneetches discusses racism, The Butter Battle Beetle is about the cold war, isolationism took a blast in Horton hears a Who, Christmas in How the Grinch stole Christmas, and the effects of fear-based thinking in Green Eggs and Ham (banned in China between 1965 and 1991 because of its alleged portrayal of Marxism). How he wasn’t blackballed by the McCarthy Commission, I don’t know.

Lewis Carroll’s classic Alice in Wonderland was also banned in a province in China in 1931 for its portrayal of animals speaking, thinking and otherwise behaving like humans.

George Orwell’s Animal Farm is probably a less surprising banned book, giving its explicit political overtones. It was banned in the US in 1945 for being overly-critical of Russia (obviously pre-Cold War). It was also banned in the United Arab Emirates in 2002 because of the talking pig.

Picture book Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What do you see? by Bill Martin Jnr was banned in 1967 in the US when its author was confused with an obscure Marxist theorist…… Bill Martin being such an unusual name… (yes, that was sarcasm you detect). Quite what it was about the book that was considered worth banning is not clear. Perhaps they were just being safe in case there was a hidden message.

Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales was banned in America under the Federal Anti-Obscenity Act in 1873. Puritans! It was of course for all the tales of sex and debauchery – if you read through the olde Englishe to understand them.

For a map of recent book bans (upheld and overturned) in the US, have a look at this very interesting map. Click on the blue pointers for details. Again, it often seems schools, those places for learning, are the ones doing the banning, often at the instigation of individual parents.

For a selection of books banned in Australia, click here Notable inclusions: The Kama Sutra, a selection by William S Burroughs, Hemingway’s Farewell to Arms, and Ian Fleming’s The Spy who Loved Me.

And if this sort of thing amuses you, google it – this list is really only the tip of the iceberg!

Advertisements




And today’s bizarre social media news……

9 02 2012

I haven’t done a social media news round-up for a while, but today seems to have thrown up a couple of bizarre stories.  Stories worth commenting on for their improbability…..

1.  Salem Witch-Hunt comes to a high-school courtesy of YouTube.   This might be a stretch for you, but when I read about the bizarre illness allegedly being spread amongst teenage girls at an American high School – an illness that has symptoms such as tics and spasms – I thought of Tituba and her nice Puritan girls throwing fits in the Salem Courtroom and accusing the gentlefolk of witchcraft.  Ergo (some may say), the internet is of the devil.

OK, a stretch too far perhaps.  But here is the actual story:  LeRoy High School in New York has had an epidemic of teenage girls coming down with strange Tourette’s-like symptoms – twitching, tics and uncontrolled verbal outbursts.  Being teenage girls and particularly now that the media is interested, they have been posting videos of their symptoms online.  Extensive environmental testing has demonstrated no neuro-active toxins in the environment that might be causing such symptoms, so experts have diagnosed conversion disorder – the modern term for mass hysteria. And now there is potential for an epidemic as the symptomology spreads via social networking. Yes, that’s right – a real life computer virus. (You knew that pun was coming, didn’t you?)

Read more in Huffington Post. There’s even a video / slide show section at the bottom where you can test your psychological resilience and/or come down with the plague yourself. You have been warned and no liability is accepted by this blogger for the link!

(For more info on this story see Arthur Miller’s “The Crucible”.)

2. Putting censorship to the test. Twitter’s recent announcement that it would with-hold content in some countries in compliance with local laws is to be put to the test by Brazil. Thank-you, contestant Number One. Brazil is using the relatively minor issue of speed-cameras and roadblocks as its test case, suing Twitter for users publicising locations of these devices to alert other road users. (Gee, cos then they might slow down and not get booked for speeding – wait, isn’t the point of it to stop people speeding? Hasn’t the Twitter message just achieved that? And if it is only for a short while and on that road – it is arguable that the speed traps have a similar effect as well, except for lightening your wallet at the same time).

Anyway, the relevance of this article comes back to the Middle East uprisings in Spring of 2011. If Twitter decides it will comply with local laws, then it is arguable that the dictators of an oppressed country will simply make a law saying that social media cannot carry information against the government – and hey presto, the end of any uprising. This comes back to my previous posting Shades of Grey for Social Media. Whether you are a “good guy” is a matter of perspective, and while you may be in favour of people slowing down on the roads (and I am) and support police enforcement of such road rules (and I am), censorship is a slippery slope.

Twitter has now said it will comply only if it believes the requests are “valid and applicable” – both a very powerful and vulnerable position to put themselves in, and one that Brazil apparently wants to challenge. Twitter’s postings on this subject are here: Tweets must flow

3. News to Sheldon Cooper: Mathematics does not hold all the answers. A study into the algorithms used by online dating services has found (shock, horror) that you are as likely to find love in a bar as you are through their websites. While the websites do at least provide you with links to people who have declared themselves available and interested, and geographically appropriate, the comparing of various interests and similarities cannot determine if the sparks will fly and true love will strike. So the Big Bang Theory’s example where they linked Sheldon up with the delectable and bizarrely appropriate Amy, is a fluke – or as Sheldon would say, “what people who don’t understand random numbers would call a coincidence.” Indeed.

Of course that is assuming that it is true love that you are seeking on these websites. (It was true love you were looking for, wasn’t it???) But then if you just want a hook-up maybe the bar is as good for that as well. Probably quicker, anyway. The article is here and will be published in an upcoming edition of Psychological Science in the Public Interest.

There are a few others in today’s bumper crop:

– something about a social network called Path(who?) accidentally uploading people’s entire address books without consent thereby ensuring that I won’t be using them anytime soon. They have fixed it, by the way. (Can anyone tell me if I am missing anything at Path? Other than privacy invasions?)

– And another one about BBC News, CNN and SkyNews grappling with how to deal with Twitter coming out of their newsrooms. They want it to go first on their website for their audiences, then onto Twitter for the rest of the unwashed masses. Oh wait – perhaps “their audience” and “Twitter followers” (aka UWM) are the same people? A watching brief, I suspect.

And finally, an article about Pinterest adding tracking codes to certain pins so they can report back to interested users (aka commercial interests) on activity and earn….money. While it perhaps would have been nice for Pinterest to disclose it was doing such a thing, I think those who have had a look at Pinterest will have spotted that amongst the very many “community” pins, there are certainly some linking back to commercial sites. So the idea that Pinterest might want to (let’s use that horrible made-up word) MONETIZE their site really shouldn’t be a shocker. As the site remains free to use, the bills have to be paid somewhere. I for one am not really bothered.

And I am very disappointed that WordPress did not pick up the word “Monetize” in spellcheck.





Developing your company’s social media policies

28 10 2011

bandwagon - or bandwidth wagon! picture credit: liako

In this day and age, even the most conservative organisations have a social media presence – or at least an awareness. Organisations that deal with high risk activities such as police, hospitals. Just as having a web-site and email is now a mainstream part of business operations, having a social media presence and operations is becoming a normal part of operations for most businesses today.

For organisations that are sales or marketing-based, thinking about social media is a relatively straight-forward effort. Basically you want to attract as many of the right people (buyers) as possible and funnel them through a sales / service / value-add process. You might want to siphon off any customer-service efforts, and keep an eye out for criticisms and complaints, ensuring that you know how to deal with them effectively and convincingly.

Other organisations – particularly those with a government / conservative / service focus, might have different needs, aims and issues for social media. These need to be carefully thought through before you jump on the bandwagon – or the bandwidth wagon!

Here are some of the things you might want to think of when developing your social media policies and strategies.

1. How can social media fit in with your Business Plan? Social media is a tool and a medium. It needs to be part of your strategic business planning as well as strategic communication planning.

2. What opportunities does social media offer for your to do your business better / cheaper / more accessibly? This will determine which platforms you want to use. Where is the value proposition?

3. Who will be doing the social media aspect of your business? While you Gen Y employees might be most familiar with the platforms and social conventions of social media, they may not be au fait with the politics of your business. As with other media contacts, this person mneeds to both understand the business and the medium.

4. How will you resource your social media involvement? Social media happens 24/7. messages get sent and resent in a split second. WHile you may not need to monitor 24/7, you do need to have timely responses.

5. How will you deal with criticisms / negative comments / misinformation? Best to know this up front. Deleting comments may bring accusations of censorship. (However you might want to establish some moderation rules about acceptable posting so you can remove irrelevant posts, abuse and spam) Responding at length can make an issue out of a minor comment. Leaving up misinformation – especially if it is positive to you – can bring lawsuits about truth in advertising. The important thing is to have thought about this in advance so it doesn’t catch you by surprise.

6. How will you record both your output on social media, and also the input you get from your customers and community? For some organisations this will have legal implications, however it is good practice to have these records anyway.

7. What policies will you have around your employees and social media? This has implications in terms of code of conduct / safe workplace issues, but also in terms of your processes around social media.

8. Will you have a main social media platform or different platforms for different parts of the business? For instance, television statsions often have different platforms and pages for different shows – versus, one main platform with pointers to different aspects of your business.

9. How will you attract business to your social media platforms? It is not a case of “build it and they will come”. Social media now needs to be part of your marketing campaign – both to sell your business and to attract people to “membership” of your social networks.

There are plenty of social media policies on the internet to work from, and plenty of examples of exemplary use of social media – Brisbane City Council’s use of facebook and Twitter during the 2011 Queensland floods demonstrate an excellent value proposition for social media and the reveiws are available online.

Social media is here to stay – but your business will want to use it intelligently.