Neil Gaiman on Censorship

“I absolutely understand somebody going: you should not be able to depict images of violence towards women. But they’re lines on paper, and they’re covered by the First Amendment. That’s the deal here, because if it doesn’t cover that, then it doesn’t cover the stuff that you need to save. I needed to become a First Amendment absolutist, and I still find it uncomfortable being a First Amendment absolutist. I was not put on this earth to be an absolutist of anything. I’m somebody whose natural response to an awful lot of stuff is to say: yes, I see your point of view, or at least try and find common ground. But when it comes to the First Amendment, there is no common ground.

“There are people saying to me: well, are you saying people should be allowed to make snuff movies? And I’m going no, they shouldn’t, because that involves murdering somebody, and murder is a crime, and you shouldn’t be murdering anybody. And pedophilia is a monstrous crime because it is hurting kids and that’s real. A child cannot give consent, this is bad. I get this. And then I suddenly find myself having pointless arguments online with people about Japanese manga drawings of couples with babyish faces having sex or whatever. “This is being used by those pedophiles to excite themselves and work themselves up!” And I’m going, No. You can’t do that one. These are not real people. These are drawings. And if you think they’re real then you also have to imprison people for murder every time they kill a fictional character.”

Neil Gaiman, The Story of a Writer, edited by Hayley Campbell, Harper Design (2014), pp 191-192.

 

“I think there are lots of threats to freedom of speech and I think that the strange cesspit that parts of the internet, can turn into is definitely something that never occurred to any of us before. The fact that upset people can go and shout and the shoutiness and that other people can see… you get some people interpreting freedom of speech as being freedom to harass, freedom to pile on and scream. And I guess it is, but I can absolutely see it being a threat. You know, it takes one angry person pointing people at one thing that upsets them and suddenly the internet is a hornet’s nest and I don’t think that’s good. Mostly I don’t think it’s good because it means people are having to not say what they think and the point of freedom of speech is that you should be able to say what you think, defend what you think, argue with people, disagree with people. All of that stuff is hugely important.

“If you don’t like my work, that’s great and I think you should absolutely write a book saying why you don’t like my work – or write blog articles or write newspaper articles. Freedom of speech is a hugely important thing. And so is the freedom not to be a dick and the freedom not to make an idiot of yourself and the freedom not to be as unpleasant as you possibly can be. And these are all important.”

Neil Gaiman with Frances Myatt, The Guardian, Aug. 29, 2015. https://www.theguardian.com/childrens-books-site/2015/aug/29/neil-gaiman-banned-books-censorship-interview

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