April 2, 2002
10:21 AM   Subscribe

Literary lynching, the practice of attacking authors who make statements against the U.S. government or engage in dissent, gets a comprehensive overview with a book in progress. As 72 year old author Dorothy Bryant puts it, "More than ever, we need free exchange of facts and opinions. I hope that looking back on a few cases that have had time to cool off will help us to understand the psychology of literary lynching, and to resist it — not only in others but in ourselves." But in today's world, is there any distinction between a thoughtful response and a downright ugly rejoinder anymore? (via Moby Lives)
posted by ed (7 comments total)
Surprise! Free speech goes both ways.

It's craven to equate criticism with murder. Funny, though, how it's on the other side -- it was Clarence Thomas who popularized the debased use of the term.
posted by dhartung at 10:31 AM on April 2, 2002

I'm thinking of the way Andrew Sullivan is still trying to stick it to Paul Krugman, for one...
posted by y2karl at 10:44 AM on April 2, 2002

As dhartung suggested, criticism is not censorship. If you believe your ideas are meritorious, and your critics' responses crap, it shouldn't matter one whit that ignorant people are criticizing you. In the long run, if you what you're saying is right and true, you will be vindicated -- and that may be all that you can hope for anyway. As a testament to the last point, look at the authors who were singled out as having been "lynched": Hannah Arendt, William Styron, Thomas Hardy, Kate Chopin, George Orwell and Ivan Turgenev. Not a bad group to be in, eh?
posted by pardonyou? at 12:08 PM on April 2, 2002

Uh, Red58, this is 16014, Literature. Room 16013 is right down the hall, in the International Relations department.
posted by dhartung at 12:11 PM on April 2, 2002

I can't stop laughing at the idea that the mere act of criticizing the US government is considered somehow inherently saintly and/or courageous, and that people who engage in it must be kneejerkingly praised and/or protected from all criticism themselves. Puh-LEEZE.
posted by aaron at 12:19 PM on April 2, 2002

That is so, aaron. The people I find myself hanging out with spend 80 percent of their conversational energy criticizing the U.S. government (either from the left or right), mainstream culture, and whatever administration holds office. If you let intellectuals have their head, they will go on in this fashion forever, just building up steam as they go along. The only thing they have anything nice to say about is NPR. Everybody loves NPR. Except me. If you want to get lynched at an intellectual dinner party, criticize NPR. Of course, if you REALLY want to get lynched, just pretend to question some of the conventional wisdom on... you know. The usual topics.
posted by Faze at 1:59 PM on April 2, 2002

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