Reader response in The Guardian

Posted by pamela mccoll on Monday, December 24, 2012

Anyone who feels compelled to fight for freedom of speech could probably find a better target than a publisher of children's books.

The facts are:
(1) The story of Santa doesn't require him to smoke, and those two lines of poetry are not especially important to the piece - removing them doesn't change its tone or appeal. It isn't like hacking back Titus Andronicus to remove the violence, rape and cannibalism: it's changing a Santa who smokes into a Santa who doesn't.
(2) Removing the lines doesn't obliterate them from history - if you want to find the original work, you can. The only people who are going to care about the original work are parents who grew up with it and scholars. These people can buy original editions if they want. They can even choose to read those original editions to their kids, if they want. No one is stopping them.
(3) There is no agenda behind removing the lines other than to avoid exposing kids to the idea of a smoking Santa - it isn't as though the publisher is pushing any other ideas on kids, or censoring any other message. If lines about Santa's political opinions (whatever they might be) were removed, then we could probably call this censorship. But they're not, so we can't.
(4) Despite what the ACA say, children are incapable of critical thought - we know from research that exposing them to images of smoking makes them more likely to smoke - so why expose them?
(5) Removing a couple of lines from one poem isn't going to do a massive amount of good, but that isn't an argument for not doing it. If you argue along those lines, you're arguing that the votes of individuals have no effect in an election. Patently ridiculous. If you're against the change for another reason, argue away, but the argument that the effect is tiny is a weak one. The idea is obviously that we generally lessen children's exposure to smoking in multiple different areas, over time.

Tags: the guardian  freedom of speech