Tuesday, January 20, 2015

To market, to market to buy a fat goat (and other halal nursery rhymes)

   There's a surprising amount of misconception over a major publishing company's directive discouraging authors of children's books from writing about pigs or pork consumption to avoid offending Muslims or Jews.  The knee-jerk reaction in the immediate aftermath of the Charlie Hebdo massacre has been to accuse Oxford University Press of kowtowing to religious hardliners at the expense of free speech.
   Kowtowing they are, but it's got nothing to do with free speech.  As Oxford has patiently tried to explain over the hysterical din, they export books to nearly 200 countries, and if the material isn't culturally acceptable, the books won't sell.  What's important to understand - and it's something I failed to adequately explain in the original version of this post - is that Oxford is being sensitive about books it exports to Muslim countries.  The no-pigs-or-pork directive doesn't apply to books sold in countries where it's not an issue.  That's just smart business on Oxford's part.  In the same way that Muslims consider the prophet Mohammed infallible, western corporate interests worship the almighty dollar, and anything that infringes on profit margins or compromises the share price is tantamount to blasphemy.  It's just business.
   Of course, while religious sensitivities are assuaged and capitalist interests are served, millions of children lose because they're stuck with cheap imitation literature like the Three Little Goats, Pearls Before Bovine and This Little Mole Rat Went to Market.  And the day they come up with a pig-free version of  George Orwell's classic Animal Farm is the day camels fly.

7 comments:

  1. The most disturbing imitation:

    "That'll do wig, that'll do"

    - Final scene in Babe: Earwig in the City

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  2. I've worked hard at understanding but the reference here is lost for me. First sign of getting old (not getting jokes). So the line became popular because someone who commented on it compared it to a line used on a girl. -o.k. funny. Now, how or what links this to the article is what I'll work on. :)

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  3. Chippin' away the stone.
    When you have big Publishing house that bends like this, those are the little victories. Its grounds, gained.
    It might seam like a small thing, to allow the exclusion, not give much importance to it. After all its but one of so many animals. // The Ostridge's view. We live in a day when protecting our basic freedom rights has never been more important. Understanding this and seeing the necessity of it can't be undermined.
    This would ordinarily be trivial stuff I agree but circumstances have changed. Our limits are being tested.
    Not being aware is the first mistake on route to getting conquered.

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    Replies
    1. What I failed to adequately explain in the blog is that Oxford is being sensitive about books it exports to Muslim countries. The no pigs-or-pork directive doesn't apply to books sold in countries where it's not an issue. I think that's a reasonable business decision on Oxford's part.

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  4. And then there's Charlotte's Web. Wonder if Wilbur the Desert Hedgehog would,
    "make the cut".."pass the mustard"?

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