The Sunday Telegraph - Sunday
There’s only one way to protect yourself from the censors
Tripping lightly across the globe; frictionless, free of encumbrance and the sheer weight of stuff, is how we moderns like to live. And it is ever easier to do so: everything is in lightweight electronic slivers we can stow easily on our person: information, communication, music, reading, visual entertainment, games. But let us not make the mistake of thinking we necessarily own our electronic caches. The songs, films and books we stream or buy and store online are merely leased to us courtesy of an internet connection.
Some Kindle readers discovered this last week. Those who had downloaded Roald Dahl’s books found, in the wake of a publishing world freak-out about how mean and nasty Dahl’s stories are, that the originals had been automatically updated with new versions stripped of the fattism and sexism. In other words, all the things that were part and parcel of the books’ gleeful, magical, memorable terribleness were creepily replaced with the asinine language of the “sensitivity reader”.
It was a sobering lesson to those of us who lazily assumed we can jettison the world of physical objects for a digital superstore.
As the censorship of vast swathes of the pre-PC past is now under way, more beloved classics are going to be locked in the digital safe. Streaming services have already begun excising films and television programmes deemed “problematic”, or restricting who can watch them – including the likes of Gone With the Wind.
It may be an effort to collect, carry, and keep physical possessions clean, but for those of us keen on hanging on to the things we love, it might be the best bet – and, in an age of digital dependence, an unexpectedly radical step.