Salman Rushdie, actor Brian Cox decry ‘absurd censorship’ of classic Roald Dahl children’s books

Following “sensitivity readers” making hundreds of edits to author Roald Dahl’s classic children’s books, novelist Sir Salman Rushdie and actor Brian Cox are leading an angry protest against “absurd censorship” by “woke” publishers engaging in blatant “McCarthyism.”

(Video Credit: NBC News)

Cox, who has worked previously with the Royal Shakespeare Company, called the sanitization of Dahl’s works a form of “woke culture” which seeks to reinterpret everything.

Rushdie has paid a heavy price for free speech himself. He was stabbed and lost sight in one eye for defending free speech and attacking radical Islam in New York last year. He called the edits to the books “absurd censorship.”

Puffin, the publisher of the books, has employed “Inclusive Minds,” a collective of progressive editors who have instituted politically correct changes such as no longer referring to Augustus Gloop as “fat.” They have changed the genders of other characters, and words such as “mad” and “crazy” have been removed.

“I really do believe [these books are] of their time and they should be left alone. Roald Dahl was a great satirist, apart from anything else. It’s disgraceful. It’s this kind of form of McCarthyism, this woke culture, which is absolutely wanting to reinterpret everything and redesign and say, ‘oh, that didn’t exist.’ Well. it did exist. We have to acknowledge our history,” Cox told Times Radio in an interview.

Dr. Seuss’ books were also cleansed in this manner. People are now looking to hoard original copies of Dahl’s books just as they have done with Dr. Seuss. Critics correctly point out that this wholesale censorship prevents authors from portraying the world as it really is and there are many out there who prefer the original books and will keep them to hand down to their children.

Cox is joined by Rushdie in angrily denouncing the censorship of Dahl’s works. Rushdie was forced to live in hiding for years after Iran’s Grand Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini issued a fatwa in 1989 calling for his death because of alleged blasphemy in his novel “The Satanic Verses.”

“Roald Dahl was no angel but this is absurd censorship,” Rushdie tweeted. “Puffin Books and the Dahl estate should be ashamed.”

PEN America, which is a community of approximately 7,500 writers that advocates for freedom of expression, said it was “alarmed” by the changes to Dahl’s books.

“If we start down the path of trying to correct for perceived slights instead of allowing readers to receive and react to books as written, we risk distorting the work of great authors and clouding the essential lens that literature offers on society,” Suzanne Nossel, chief executive of PEN America, tweeted.

“The editors at Puffin should be ashamed of the botched surgery they’ve carried out on some of the finest children’s literature in Britain,” Laura Hackett, deputy literary editor of London’s Sunday Times newspaper, wrote. “As for me, I’ll be carefully stowing away my old, original copies of Dahl’s stories, so that one day my children can enjoy them in their full, nasty, colorful glory.”

British journalist Bel Mooney had an even harsher take on the censorship of Dahl’s books.

“The fairy tales I read as a child were a world of terror. Those collections by Hans Christian Andersen and the Brothers Grimm still sit on my shelves, next to volumes of European and world folk tales and Greek myths. They all fed my imagination, enthralling me with lessons about the darkness that’s at the heart of existence,” she wrote.

“No children’s story Roald Dahl ever concocted could match those beloved tales for cruel old witches, rapacious kings, sex-mad princes, evil dwarfs, trolls, and (of course) pretty virginal victims — who would inevitably be abandoned by adults, mistreated by wicked stepmothers, imprisoned, carried off on horses, kissed (without giving consent, of course), threatened with cannibalism, made to marry men they didn’t know, and so on. How thrilling!” Mooney noted.

Then she tore into the “sensitivity readers” for destroying Dahl’s books that millions love.

“His trademark sharpness has been blunted, his language changed to suit modern sensitivities about gender, race, weight, violence, and mental health. The Cloud-Men in James And The Giant Peach are now the Cloud-People. Tractors in Fantastic Mr. Fox are not allowed to be ‘black’ for fear that it’s racist, and a character isn’t allowed to ‘turn white’, they have to ‘turn quite pale,’” Mooney snarkily remarked.

“So it makes me incandescent to see how today’s young readers are being patronized and short-changed by adults who should know better. I pity modern authors who struggle against the rising tide of puritanism and protectionism that has swept through publishing. Nobody is safe. Not even David Walliams, who has been criticized for the earthy character descriptions in his novels,” she continued.

She went on to eviscerate “wokeism” quite nicely as well.

“It seems that the teachers, librarians, and (some) parents — who have slurped the woke Kool-Aid so avidly they have lost all reason — are quite happy for toddlers to be offered books which feed them trans propaganda. They don’t mind older kids being subject to horrifically explicit sex education which suggests that sado-masochism can be a fun part of sex,” Mooney asserted.

“None of this is remotely funny, and nobody should turn away from what is happening to our culture. Puffin’s arrogant censorship of Dahl’s acerbic, deliberately shocking prose is just another example of an insidious takeover of our heritage. Make no mistake, there really is a serious culture war going on,” she added.

“That isn’t a fantasy dreamt up by conservative journalists and politicians to attack liberal values — or whatever terms the censors might use to justify their shocking arrogance. It’s not made up by writers such as Salman Rushdie who tweeted: ‘Roald Dahl was no angel but this is absurd censorship. Puffin Books and the Dahl estate should be ashamed.’ Or children’s authors like brilliant Anthony Horowitz who has fought his own battles with sensitivity readers and warns that moral policing of literature is ‘extremely dangerous.’”

She then elaborated on how people have to stand up to this nonsense.

“This latest example of the appalling stranglehold that ‘wokery’ (or political correctness, as it used to be called) now has on our society must take us beyond weary smiles and sighs. The issue affects every one of us. Most important of all, it denies to children the right to be shocked, to be scared, to laugh at the ‘wrong’ things, and to make up their own minds about the world,” Mooney contended.

“For their sake, we have to shout: ‘Enough!’ What gives these censors — who also find Shakespeare and many other writers greater than Roald Dahl ‘problematic’ — any right to tamper with our cultural heritage? The serious backlash is overdue. How about refusing to buy any book published by Puffin? After that — I’ll meet you on the barricades to hurl their paltry, rewritten efforts at the enemy, waking them up with a vengeance,” she concluded.

The Roald Dahl Story Company, which controls the rights to the books, issued a press release saying that it worked with Puffin to review the texts because it wanted to ensure that, “Dahl’s wonderful stories and characters continue to be enjoyed by all children today.”

Any changes made to the books were “small and carefully considered,” the company claimed.

The review of the books began in 2020. Since then, Netflix has purchased the Roald Dahl Story Company and is planning on producing a new generation of films based on the books.

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