There’s a line from a 1990’s movie, Timechasers, where a character laments concerning the “tangents” created by time travelers run amok:
“The past changes now, every day.”
Overall, it’s a humorously bad movie (and a great MST3K / Rifftrax episode).
But, as The Trends Journal has been following and forecasting, with more people consuming content digitally, censors and history revisionists are growing bolder making changes to written works.
Over the past several months, rewrites of novels by Road Dahl, Agatha Christie and R.L. Stine have been issued by publishers, and rolled out on digital devices including popular book readers like Amazon’s Kindle and Barnes and Noble’s Nook.
An April 4 article in The New York Times noted that current digital book distribution technologies, based on licensing and not owning digital copies, gave publishers and platforms the right to push out changes to content without user consent. (“It’s Their Content, You’re Just Licensing it,” 4 Apr 2023.)
According to the NYT, some ebook owners likened the sudden changes in works they had purchased to a nighttime book thief.
One Kindle British reader reported witnessing a reference to author Joseph Conrad (deemed hopelessly politically incorrect by modern censors) vanish as she was reading.
Stine’s “Goosebumps” novels saw deletions of references to schoolgirls’ “crushes” on a headmaster, and an overweight character with “at least six chins.” Christie’s puzzles removed racial and ethnic language now considered offensive.
Digital content on proprietary platforms have provided unprecedented power to instantly change works that buyers wanted and received—and some say, dangerously rewrite and edit history.
Though so far, only a handful of cases have resulted in controversy, it’s a trend that appears likely to grow, as other politically correct rampages have destroyed and canceled historical figures, artworks, monuments, commemorations and more.
Unless protections are put in place to reserve the rights of consumers to have access and experience the original content they purchased, while opting out of expurgated or ideologically modified versions they did not intend to support, ebooks and other content, to put it as a weary person put it in that fictional movie, might “change every day.”
In addition, current writers may be looking for rights and legal protections to ensure their works remain as written.
Already, authors who meant to say something specific are being silenced regarding their observations and points of view, or via rewrites, being made to “say” something different, or even opposite to their original words, meanings and intentions.
One social media commentator offered an interesting proposal to stem the dystopian revision and re-writing of novels and other works:
“(1) Any publisher who censors an original work should be required to state this prominently, in large type, on the cover of any book so altered, or at the beginning and end of all movies. A tiny disclaimer buried in the fineprint or deep in the movie credits isn’t enough. And the public notification should provide the address to a website on which, by law, the entity altering the original would be required to maintain a fully indexed, side-by-side comparison of all changes.
“(2) Secondly, and even more importantly because it would be automatic and self-enforcing, we should then immediately end all copyright protections for all works of literature as well as all movies that have been bowdlerized by the current copyright owners. Their copyright would be deemed to extend only to their current censored version. They would be deemed to have abandoned the rights to the original, which would enter into the public domain.
“Were this to happen, I’d love to become a shareholder of Samizdat Publications, a firm dedicated to republishing the uncensored originals.”
–”sphinx”, Freerepublic.com, 16 Apr 2023
Late Breaking: Penguin Re-Writes P.G. Wodehouse
Novels by P.G. Wodehouse, who created the characters Jeeves and Wooster, are now the latest to undergo politically correct revisions, as reported on 16 April by Deadline.com and other outlets.
Penguin is issuing new digital and print copies of the books with the following advisory note:
“Please be aware that this book was published in the 1930s and contains language, themes and characterizations which you may find outdated. In the present edition we have sought to edit, minimally, words that we regard as unacceptable to present-day readers.”
Deadline noted that Hugh Laurie and Stephen Fry played Jeeves and Wooster in a 1990s British ITV adaptation of Wodehouse’s works.
For related reading, see “WOKE CENSORS FIND THE GOLDEN TICKET” (21 Feb 2023) and “AI, THE PERFECT AGENT TO REWRITE HUMAN HISTORY” (4 Apr 2023).