As fantastic as the iPad may (or may not) be Apple’s sensitivities regarding the human nipple may seem amusing to the majority of sensible minded people but underlying the right wing Puritanism is a serious and worrying message which publishers, readers and those who want to ensure freedom extends creatively beyond the written word to concept and design. These freedoms of publishers and artists to choose words and imagery which rightly supports their work must not be dictated by hardware manufacturers, religious zealots or those so weak that they fear the downfall of civilisation could be brought about by the image of a nipple or a god or through the thoughts of a writer who dares to espouse a view which sits uneasy within a warped doctrine. This is not to say that people have the right to offend without thought or consequence, but we have to seriously look at exactly what it is which cause the offence in the first place and why. Amazon remove books from the owners of the Kindle, Apple will not publish a magazine because the cover shows, shock, horror, a nipple, a cartoonist in Denmark lives the rest of his life in fear because of a drawing, an author in England has an armed guard and endured a fatwa because of some words. There is a common connect between these actions and it is that they are all driven by fear and a lack of tolerance. If this were the dark ages one could easily understand but this is the enlightened 21st century. Art pushes the boundaries of thought and questions what it is which makes us part of the human race. Sometimes this challenges our perceptions of who we are, and I guess this is frightening to some.
Apple and Amazon’s behaviour has been as ignorant and blinkered as that of many religious fundamentalists whose only desire is to drag humanity back to the squalid pits of enslaved barbarism and it is a worrying sign when they become the ‘guardians’ of judgement rather than leaving consumers to make that call. A few years ago Janet Jackson’s nipple cause a hue and cry in the USA when Justin Timberlake ‘accidently’ ripped open her top to expose a semi-bared breast during the Superbowl final. Admittedly the pierced offering was not the most attractive sight in many peoples eyes but the furore which followed was totally hysterical and ended Ms Jacksons career overnight. This prudish censorship is mostly driven by the Christian right wing in America and I guess the over reaction of Apple and Amazon is caused by a desire not to incur a similar wrath.
As publishers we have to make decisions on whether something is going to stretch and challenge perceptions, but when words and pictures become a matter of life and death one has to ask how fundamentally weak can civilisation be that it is threatened by something so natural as a nipple or harmless as a cartoon depicting a god. There is a very serious threat behind all forms of censorship and while I am not saying we have the right to offend people with impunity we must draw a line in the sand when something so simple can lead to such unjustified outrage. We are all grown up enough to know how to protect children from harmful and hateful material, yet we willingly expose them directly to doctrines of religious hatred which enforces feelings of racism and segregation. Regardless of belief we all share a common bond and that should be one of humanity.