Nick Kristof Doesn't See Any Harm in Bowdlerizing Huck Finn
The paper's iconoclastic liberal columnist Nicholas Kristof has a knack for finding silly arguments, like his January 2 column arguing that America's income inequality was literally killing people:
There's growing evidence that the toll of our stunning inequality is not just economic but also is a melancholy of the soul. The upshot appears to be high rates of violent crime, high narcotics use, high teenage birthrates and even high rates of heart disease.
Kristof offered another one ripe for ridicule on his Twitter feed Wednesday, lending support for the bowdlerizing in a new edition of Mark Twain's classic novels "The Adventures of Tom Sawyer" and "The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn" by removing the offensive N-word.
If the book is being pulled from reading lists over the historically accurate and textually important use of the N-word, then perhaps the problem isn't with the book but with the hypersensitive sensibilities of modern-day school administrators.
The paper's editorial page is often silly and uninformed itself, as in Wednesday's lead editorial referring to Republican insistence on reading the Constitution aloud to be a "presumptuous and self-righteous act." But to its credit, they were on the true liberal side on the matter of Mark Twain.
We are horrified, and we think most readers, textual purists or not, will be horrified too. The trouble isn't merely adulterating Twain's text. It's also adulterating social, economic and linguistic history. Substituting the word "slave" makes it sound as though all the offense lies in the "n-word" and has nothing to do with the institution of slavery. Worse, it suggests that understanding the truth of the past corrupts modern readers, when, in fact, this new edition is busy corrupting the past....There is no way to "clean up" Twain without doing irreparable harm to the truth of his work.