Family First are outraged

News from New Zealand: the ban on Ted Dawes’s novel Into the River has been lifted.

The New Zealand Film and Literature Board has lifted the ban on Ted Dawe’s controversial teen novel Into the River.

That little word “controversial” is a bit of cautious well-poisoning. Surely the fact that it was banned was enough of a cue to readers that it was in some way “controversial.”

In a decision that was far from unanimous, the president of the board expressed the collective felt the actions of the censor were “illegal”.

Board president Don Mathieson delivered a dissenting minority report but the remainder of the board voted to allow the book to be sold without restriction, saying a previous ban on under-14s was no longer justified.

The conservative campaign group Family First are outraged at the decision, with national director Bob McCoskrie describing the ruling a “loss” for New Zealand families.

Whence comes this idea of the whimpering fragility of “families”? Why are “families” as such so vulnerable and in need of protection from “controversial” books along with same-sex marriage? Why aren’t families understood to be as various as the people who constitute them?

Dawe, who branded the views of Family First “wrong-headed” and “repressed” explained: “It’s not Family First’s job to parent other people’s children, that is a parent’s job. I was quite surprised this kind of thing (banning of books) is still going on, even today.”

In a statement outlining their decision to lift the initial ban, the majority decision outlined: “We respect and understand those concerns and readily accept that there are aspects of this book that many will find offensive and many will regard as entitled inappropriate for children.”

Whilst many parents may choose not to allow their children to read such material, there are no grounds to restrict the book from teenage reader”.

In stark opposition board president Don Mathieson’s minority vote voiced that “no responsible parent of a 17-year old, let alone of a 12-year old, would want this repetitive coarse language normalised.”

But the state isn’t supposed to act as the universal parent. Parents are supposed to do that. There’s also the fact that one book by itself is not likely to normalize any particular use of language, and it’s not the state’s business to worry about that in any case.

It would be safe to assume Dawe however, can still see the light and the end of a very long tunnel.

“From what I’ve read, Family First have said some dreadful things about my book. Dreadful things,” he said.

“In a way I suppose it’s all backfired on them. Now more people than ever will read it, it’s all publicity and for a New Zealand book, nonetheless.”

A “controversial” New Zealand book at that.

H/t Rob.


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