A Case Study In Intimidation: The Self-Cancelling Children’s Book Author

childrens book illustration

This could have been a standard Ethics Dunce post, but I think it warrants more attention than that category might suggest.

One of the reasons it is fair to say that the President had the election stolen from him, or, as he likes to say (and shouldn’t) “rigged,” is that his supporters have been relentlessly intimidated and indoctrinated into attitudes designed to make them doubt their own judgment and values, especially those that aligned with the President’s policies. The tactics have ranged from threatening and even physically attacking citizens for wearing MAGA hats, to forced resignations of company officials and academics for the “crime” of endorsing Donald Trump’s actions in office.

Self-censorship triggered by fear of rejection and social isolation allowed Facebook, for example, to become a progressive echo chamber with minimal dissent. (I haven’t posted on anything related to the election for a month. It’s just a waste of time, and I end up losing respect for people I would like to keep as friends while having to defend views that should require no defense.) We are also seeing the related phenomenon of self-flagellation, self-shaming and self-cancelling of the sort demanded by the “Silence is violence” mobs. Like tortured and brain-washed North Korean prisoners of war,  we are ordered to denounce our great sins, such as engaging in “systemic racism,” enjoying “white privilege,” defying the political correctness police, and daring to support the President of the United States. When Black Lives Matter terrorists burst into restaurants and demand that diners raise their fists or hands in support of the Marxist, racist, anti-law enforcement group, the photographic evidence is that they do as ordered in hopes that they be left alone. What nation’s citizens from the past, say, 85 years ago do these timid souls remind you of?

Never mind. I digress…

Adam Pottle’s children’s book “The Most Awesome Character in the World” tells of Philomena, a young deaf girl whose  deafness  has made her vibrant and  imaginative person. (The author is also deaf.)  .

Pottle did not have approval over the illustrations his publisher chose to complete his book, and with the nudging of some negative reviews online, was horrified at the illustration above.  He concluded that the single drawing was “racist,” and Pottle asked that it be changed. The publisher, Reycraft Books, refused (the profit margin on any book is small, and this would guarantee a money-losing project), so Pottle took to social media and asked people not to buy his book and retailers not to stock it. Several retailers supported him.

The publisher, Sara Reycroft, protests that “to characterize the image, which is a fun celebratory depiction of a Japanese girl in a festive yukata, as racist is flawed and problematic in my opinion,” she responded in a statement. Even the “in my opinion” is capitulation to the political correctness police in my opinion. A more forceful condemnation of this kind of “gotcha!” race-baiting is essential.

Reycroft’s company is an odd choice for such attacks: it focuses on diversity through its #OwnVoices program. The publisher begins her statement by pointing out that she is Asian, has published 48 books by Asian authors and illustrators, and denies that the character as drawn is “an Asian stereotype.” She says the artwork was “thoughtfully crafted by a very talented illustrator with careful oversight by our Asian-American editor.”

Reycroft obviously doesn’t understand the long game being played here. As with the bullying of athletic teams into eliminating names and mascots referencing Native American tribes, the fact that the actual people supposedly being stereotyped don’t see it that way doesn’t matter. What matters is bending others to the progressive bullies’ will, and establishing dominance and, ultimately, control over freedom of thought and expression….and elections.

Reycroft tried to use common sense and the fact that she, unlike the book’s critics and Pottle, actually knows what she is talking about, adding that “the implication that depicting a Japanese girl in a wheelchair wearing a yukata is racist is a problem – because Japanese girls in wheelchairs can and do wear yukata. And like Philomena, we think that is beautiful.”

The episode harkens back to this post, in which the Woke and the Wonderful moved to “cancel” that racist, Dr. Seuss.

An author telling the market not to buy his book that a publisher has paid the author for and expended funds to publish, market and distribute is unquestionably unethical, as well as a breach of contract. Reycroft should sue Pottle for breach of contract and damages He should be cancelled—out of publishing, and out of writing as an occupation. Anyone so desperate to conform to the dictates of social media and political correctness mobs cannot be trusted, with book contracts, or as a responsible member of society.

6 thoughts on “A Case Study In Intimidation: The Self-Cancelling Children’s Book Author

  1. Well, this is not an author with a large backlist, and I’d guess he never will be. What publisher from here on out would want to take on an author that might disparage his own book?

    The unfortunate part of this is that bookstores will possibly boycott other books by that publisher.

    It is a strange world we live in these days.

  2. Jack said:

    An author telling the market not to buy his book that a publisher has paid the author for and expended funds to publish, market and distribute is unquestionably unethical, as well as a breach of contract. Reycroft should sue Pottle for breach of contract and damages He should be cancelled—out of publishing, and out of writing as an occupation. Anyone so desperate to conform to the dictates of social media and political correctness mobs cannot be trusted, with book contracts, or as a responsible member of society.

    Absolutely right. It’s critical, particularly at this moment in time, that the totalitarian Left be stopped in its tracks by all people of good will, whatever their disposition. It’s time to stop issuing Kings Passes to everyone who is generally on “our side” and calling them to account when they do things to damage freedom of expression.

    Free speech doesn’t have a side, and neither Left or Right may lay claim to it, because we’ve seen both work hard to damage it. The fact that the Left is currently more invested in speech suppression does not undo the damage the Right did earlier in history. Both have unsatisfactory commitments to freedom of expression.

    Again, I urge all reading to donate to FIRE, one of the best ways you can spend your precious resources to help protect freedom of speech. They are rigidly non-partisan and focused on one of the most important issues of any time in our country’s history.

    This was an outstanding ethics post, Jack. It’s good to see these that are both relevant to the instant moment in time and illustrate why, no matter how much good we think our positions are/do, the ethical person must know where the bright lines are, and stay inside them. It is unclear that this dolt of an author even knows his actions are unethical, which makes it all even worse.

  3. I think you nailed it with this:

    “As with the bullying of athletic teams into eliminating names and mascots referencing Native American tribes, the fact that the actual people supposedly being stereotyped don’t see it that way doesn’t matter. What matters is bending others to the progressive bullies’ will, and establishing dominance and, ultimately, control over freedom of thought and expression….and elections.”

    CGP Grey makes much beloved YouTube videos that attempt to explain fairly complex processes in a digestible way. One of his newer projects involved going on to reserves and talking to native people about native issues, he started the series off with a 6 minute video explaining that throughout the series he was going to use the term “Indian” instead of “Native American” because:

    1) The word is clear in history and geography as referring to the people who originally lived in what is now the United States.

    2) The Tribal and American Governments use “Indian” (Example: Department of Indian Affairs)

    3) At the time of writing, “Indian” is used by Indians, on Indian Reservations to describe themselves.

    Video:

    What I thought was interesting was his point about how Indians (a term I think I’m going to try use more, because it actually respects the people being described by respecting their self-identity) don’t generally like the term “Native Americans” because it suffers from “overinclusivity” A Cree person probably would prefer to be called “Cree”, failing that, they would probably prefer “Indian”, failing that they would settle for “Native American” slightly above something outright derogatory. Is “Redskin” derogatory? Not according to 70% of Indians, but read the room.

    This exact same theory is repeated over and over again in history; People have labels for themselves, and other (I assume well intentioned) people ignore those desires in order to either push a narrative (Most cis-men don’t think of themselves as cis-, they think of themselves as men, and thank God that linguistic absurdity didn’t mainstream.), or out of an overabundance of caution and good intentions (To quote the video: “Is “Indian” OK? Maybe, but “Native American” won’t be wrong.”).

    Right now, Democrats in the Southeast are soiling themselves because they’re losing the Hispanic vote. Apparently, on top of not being particularly enthusiastic about socialism, some of them having attempted the 103 mile swim to escape it, Latinos are sick of performative representation including but not limited to woke hipsters referring to them as “latinx” (Which is supposed to be pronounced latin-x, but I pronounce “la-tinks” out of spite.), when they actually prefer Latino or Latina. Not only is woke-hipsterism trying to wrest Latino labels from Latino people, but they’re saddling them with a term that their accent doesn’t really process well.

    It’s almost like the point of the whole charade isn’t actually to listen to people and act on their desires so much as it’s the accumulation of power.

  4. There are 574 indian tribes or nations in this country, some members of which, for a variety of reasons, have supported the name-changing game, others go along with or insist on “Native American, ” especially with non-NAs, while others prefer in general or on special occasions to own ‘”American Indian'” with pride, the same kind of pride — and politics — that causes those who are supposed to be called, respectfully, by everyone else, “African American,” to refer to themselves as “Black.” Among them all, most dislike “indigenous,” the clinical and political description of the whole and its parts, depending on what is being examined or made use of.

    The foregoing was declared (at The American Indian Film Festival), in effect — or in other words, I wasn’t taking notes — as the long-time preference of most – ahem! – indigenous peoples, including Alaskans. The Canadians represented (on film and later in person) said that they used tribal names more frequently than Americans and implied it was the better choice. I agreed, however, reminding one filmmaker of our 574 tribes [no, I didn’t do the homework: the info was in one of the interviews.] He smiled gently and remarked that most of those were “communities,” not tribes, and that they had more than 600 of those to represent 50 “unique and independent” Canadian Indian nations. At which, an American Indian filmmaker weighed in with a pile of statistics at her disposal. The discussion became heated around the issue of Canada’s violations of the International Covenant on Civil Rights vs. the state of people’s health and welfare on U.S. reservations, and I retired when references to Aboriginal peoples were thrown in the mix. The event which has just concluded was The 45th annual American Indian Film Festival® [that] continues the American Indian Film Institute’s tradition of premiering the best of movies , , , by, for and about American Indian and First Nations people, Nov. 6-14, 2020. So there! for what it’s worth. Someday we shall look back on all this name calling and righteous calling by names, and let people call themselves whatever they like, But those Canadians are so pushy, ay?

    p.s. This year’s Closer documented a program wherein a pair appeared as Sean and Adrian, a Two-Spirit couple “determined to rewrite the rules of Native American culture through their participation in … this celebratory contest [called Sweetheart Dancers],,, at powwows across the country, primarily for men and women couples, until now“.

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