“Good Censorship”: Regarding Ethics Villain Puffin Books And Its Defender, Seth Abramson

Yes, that’s a dead and rotting puffin above. It should be the new logo for Puffin Books, a division of Penguin. According to Wikipedia, “it has been among the largest publishers of children’s books in the UK and much of the English-speaking world” since the 1960s. According to the Penguin website, Puffin Books is “prestigious.”

According to Ethics Alarms, the children’s book publisher has no regard for authors’ rights, integrity, fairness, literature or language, all rather crucial to its trade, wouldn’t you say? What’s happened at Puffin? Well, what’s happened to Disney, elementary schools and toy makers? ( Clue: Mattel has a gender-fluid line of Barbies).

Puffin has decided that the demands of wokism, political correctness and child indoctrination justify rewriting the works of iconic British author Roald Dahl. Since Dahl’s death, Puffin has made hundreds of changes to his childen’s classics, removing words and passages that The Wonderfully Woke might consider offensive or harmful, even to the extent of adding passages that Dahl never wrote.

What?? I’m assuming that Puffin owns the rights to the books somehow and can do this legally. You want to know why authors like Samuel Beckett made sure his estate had iron-clad control over his works? THIS is why. Please note: it doesn’t matter one whit that Puffin can allow some anonymous censor to rewrite “Charlie and the Choaolate Factory,” it is throbbingly unethical for it to do so.

In the original edition of “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” Grandma Josephine speaks of a “crazy Indian prince.” The 2022 edition describes the character as a “ridiculously rich Indian prince.” Augustus Gloop, one of the horrible children in the novel, is no longer described as “enormously fat” as Dahl wrote; he is now   described as “enormous”(whatever that means). Puffin apparently has a fetish about “fat.” Aunt Sponge, in the 2022 edition of “James and the Giant Peach,” is now “quite large” instead of “enormously fat,” leaving the possibility that she could be the size of  The Rock or even a T-Rex. Other passages where Aunt Sponge is described as “fat” have been excised.

Meanwhile, “two ghastly hags” has been changed to “two ghastly aunts.” “Queer” is apparently no longer acceptable to describe a house—just in case its a gay house, I suppose—and was replaced with  “strange.” In “The Witches,”  edits by Puffin made character descriptors gender-neutral, so “chambermaid” became “cleaner.” Though Dahl wrote that a character said, “You must be mad, woman!,” the line is now, “You must be out of your mind!” The line describing a, “Great flock of ladies” was changed to a “Great group of ladies.”

And so on.


Censorious morons.

Morons with power, the worst variety of all.

There can be no ethical justification for this. The Daily Caller, in its story, says that the “edits”—they are actually vandalism—of Dahl’s novels have sparked a “debate.” There is no debate, if ethics matters, just as there is nothing to debate regarding the legitimacy of totalitarian regimes, or, for that matter, murder. Absolutism applies: a world that allows third parties, for whatever reasons or rationalizations, to take an author’s words and alter them “to reflect modern sensibilities” has no literature, no history, no reference points—a counterfeit culture.

You can assess this ethics outrage by the kind of people who oppose and support it. Author Michael Shellenberger, one of the Twitter Files messengers on Twitter, called the decision to alter Dahl’s work, “totalitarian censorship.” That’s exactly right.  Film critic Noah Gittel diagnosed Puffin’s conduct as “bone-chilling. I call it head-exploding, astounding and ominous, as well as indefensible. But here’s mega-ethics dunce Seth Abramson, an extreme progressive who believes censorship is for the “greater good,”on Twitte:

If you think that the rights-holders to Roald Dahl’s work changing the adjective to describe Augustus Gloop from “fat” to “enormous” matters *at all* in the face of a land war in Europe, a global pandemic, an ever-devolving climate disaster and rising fascism worldwide, *grow up*The way we speak and the way we raise kids changes over time and *always has*, so if the options are for beloved authors from long ago to cease to be read at all or making the most minor imaginable changes so that their work can live on, that’s an *easy decision*, not a melodramaI’m an author, editor, English PhD, avid reader, and lover of the work of Roald Dahl, and if after I die someone wants to change a few words in a book I wrote so many more generations will read my words, my heirs can still make money, and my words can remain relevant, *fantastic*Dahl was a bad man and there’s no one alive today unrelated to him who particularly cares about his feelings—what we care about is finding a way to have words that meant something to us continue to mean something to kids living in a very different time, and this is how that works…Virtually every book any of us read as kids that meant a lot to us has already been lost to time completely—if they even exist in print anymore hardly anyone reads them—so the idea that changing a few words in Dahl books so that *they* can live on is a major crime is preposterous…And if what you got from Roald Dahl’s books was that Augustus Gloop was “fat” but not the *nearly synonymous* “enormous,” or that the Oompa Loompas were “little men” with nary a single woman among them, I’d say as a former English professor you *missed the point of what you read*…But here’s the main thing people are missing: this was a decision made by *capitalists* who want the lifespan of a lucrative property extended, this wasn’t some fascist government action imposed upon an artist, and if you don’t understand the difference *that* is the real problem…What it comes down to is that some people value their own nostalgia over the books or authors they claim to love *or* the children of today they claim to care about, so they claim as “principle” what is actually an emotional response that hurts books’ posterity *and* today’s kids…And when stupid people start declaring that they care deeply about “censorship” without realizing that by falsely calling capitalist rights-holders voluntarily updating a product to keep it lucrative “censorship” they’re proving they don’t even know what censorship is, I lose it…When a tempest-in-a-teapot like this crops up just to advance a far-right “culture war” I really wish all those who fall for it would just write on Twitter “I AM VAGUELY SCARED AND SAD AND ANGRY ABOUT THE WORLD CHANGING” so we could all instantly see what this is really all about…

What does it say about our society that a guy who could write that is a “best-selling author”? Well, I checked: Abramson’s best -sellers are Trump Derangement screeds; he is in favor of distorting laws, facts, the Constitution and democratic principles to prevent an elected President from doing the job our system selected him to do if he doesn’t support the Left’s agenda. No wonder he thinks censoring literature to advance progressive thought-control is no big deal.

I was going to vivisect Abraham’s ethically and logically bankrupt defense of Puffin, but it is going to take a separate post.






18 thoughts on ““Good Censorship”: Regarding Ethics Villain Puffin Books And Its Defender, Seth Abramson

  1. “What does it say about our society…”
    It says that large segments of our society -perhaps an insurmountable number- are just as “ethically and logically bankrupt” as Abraham, and they are enthusiastically supporting (whether they understand it or not) the collapse of Western civilization. The “counterfeit culture” they are building will eventually fail (and may be already failing) and must be replaced with one rebuilt from the ashes of the one they destroyed, on the same foundations of natural law, reason and morality.

  2. Jack: “I was going to vivisect Abraham’s ethically and logically bankrupt defense of Puffin, but it is going to take a separate post.”

    There is a lot of cognitive dissonance going on here, with fallacies and rationalizations galore.

    The cognitive dissonance I find most amusing is that he is arguing how great it is that these changes are made so works can live on, but it’s all the work of those greedy capitalists! [If I had to guess, he would be one of those knee-jerk “capitalism is evil” types.]


  3. Addition: WordPress is misbehaving again, so let me add this , from the New York Post piece, brought to my attention by Pennagain, whom I would give a Pointer to above if it wouldn’t risk exploding the whole post—

    Words matter,” begins the notice at the bottom of the copyright page of Puffin’s latest editions of Roald Dahl’s books.“The wonderful words of Roald Dahl can transport you to different worlds and introduce you to the most marvelous characters. This book was written many years ago, and so we regularly review the language to ensure that it can continue to be enjoyed by all today.”

    • The irony. “Words matter, but if we don’t like the words, we will change them because words matter.”

      In every single instance you cited, the change made things worse. Fat, crazy, queer. Those words are far more descriptive and vivid than the synonyms that replaced them.

      I will even grant that “queer” has gone through some changes in meaning that may make it a confusing adjective. But, that is no reason for changing it. That is how you learn about the evolution of language—by NOT changing it.

      As for fat and crazy, that is strictly a cowardly matter of getting rid of terms that some find unpopular. Unjustifiable.


  4. This guy reminds me, unfortunately, of OB Jr. He is fond of defaulting to “change is inevitable, Dad.” Which misses the point. The question is whether the change is good or destructive. It’s as if they’re saying “devolution is inevitable.” It’s incredibly defeatist. Nothing’s worth saving or (my favorite verb in this situation) conserving.

  5. It appears that Dahl’s estate, which apparently controls the rights, did sign off on the changes, so the indictment of capitalism isn’t entirely amiss. It’s difficult to accurately ascribe motives to other people’s behavior. It could be they’re terminally woke, or it could be that Puffin and/or the estate think they can make more money this way. That may or may not be all that is important to them, but there’s a reasonable likelihood it’s #1: making a profit off Dahl’s skill and fame certainly trumps keeping his work as he wrote it.

    • Yeah, I assumed that the family was substantially at fault: they don’t care about the integrity of artistic vision or the work itself; they just want the money: they’re freeloaders, essentially. The Rodgers and Hammerstein estate is in the same category

  6. Rewriting Dahl’s works 50 years after the fact is a scrotty mistake. Anyone who does ought to have a trogglehumper visit them in their sleep. Or they ought to spend some time in the Chokey…or get a visit from a Vermicious Knid…

  7. On more point regarding the bowdlerization of Dahl’s works – it destroys both the rhythm and the nuance of the author’s carefully selected words.

    Decades ago when my kids were pre-teens, my wife & I used to read Dahl’s books to them aloud – one of the most enjoyable ways of savoring his works. Listening to such fine examples of children’s literature helped them to appreciate books and went a long way toward making them the avid readers that they became. And they’re passing that love of reading on to their children.

    To replace such works of art (yes, “art”!) with politically correct drivel is an unconscionable act of censorship that only serves to stroke the oversized egos of these virtue signalling twits.

    • Ditto. I think my mother started me on Roald Dahl around six years old, and I likewise credit his books (Matilda especially), with my love of reading.

  8. Worries about accommodating every single last negative quality or unhealthy lifestyle choice people can pursue. In our worries to make sure everyone is comfortable in their particular state of laziness and disrepair, the civilization that violently replaces the decadent West will have an easy go of it. They won’t have to fret chasing us down as we huff and puff feeling great about our obesity, they won’t have to lift a finger outsmarting us as we feel great about the emotions we were taught in school while neglecting teaching how to be innovative, resourceful and hard working. They won’t be troubled at all

    And then, there will be a civilization in place that doesn’t accommodate feelings and actually expects people to work hard, carry themselves with dignity and respect, and to disdain all the qualities of our decadence.

    Until that civilization becomes decadent and gets replaced by another one that is vigorous and shamelessly disdainful of weakness.

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