Saturday, June 12, 2010

Always Check The Warning Label

A few months back, a book publisher took a lot of heat for putting a warning label on a collection of the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, the Federalist Papers, and a few other works by the Founders. The company CEO seemed surprised both by the warning and the reaction to it, and promised to look into it. As of yesterday, several reporters, including Fox News, have determined that nothing has been done about the cautionary wording.

The warning that Wilder Publications opens the collection with goes as follows: "This book is a product of its time and does not reflect the same values as it would if it were written today." I mentioned this little piece of self-censorship a few months back, assuming that once the owners and publishers became aware of its silliness, they would remove the warning. I was wrong. Facts and circumstances change, but eternal values do not. I hope this house doesn't publish Bibles too.

The Constitution embodies the hopes and aspirations of a free, self-governing people. In order to save the states from breaking apart after the failure of the Articles of Confederation, the Founders who took the Declaration at its word reluctantly allowed the Southern states to obtain Congressional representation by counting a slave as three-fifths of a person. That might require a cautionary warning, but short attention spans shouldn't overwhelm the necessity for reading the entire document, including the Civil War Amendments which in blood and ink corrected that mistake.

I keep a copy of the Declaration and the Constitution (published by the Cato Institute) next to both of my computers. Walter Olson, who is a senior fellow at Cato, was feeling a little generous when he said of Wilder Publications: "Any idea that's a hundred years old will probably offend someone or other. but if there's anything that you ought to be able to take at a first gulp for yourself and then ask your parents about this or that strange thing, it should be the founding documents of American history."

That sensible remark tracks the remainder of the warning, since the collection is aimed largely at children and adolescents. "[Parents] might wish to discuss with their children how views on race, gender, sexuality, ethnicity, and interpersonal relations have changed since this book was written before allowing them to read this classic work." Ignoring the fact that "this book" actually refers to a collection of several different historical documents, isn't it always a good idea for parents to know what their children are reading when the material was written by adults for adults?

Whether the warning was put into the collection out of cowardice, an abundance of caution, or a liberal view of "old documents" as not comporting with the times, it may be having the opposite effect from what was intended. Instead of protecting the publishers from lawsuits, or refusal of bookstores to carry it, or mass book-burnings, it has brought a torrent of criticism. The works have stirred no controversy, but the warnings have.

A few of the words used at Amazon.com to describe the warnings are "insulting," sickening" and "frankly, horrifying." These collections are printed by many different publishers, but since the word got out about the warnings, sales from this particular publisher have fallen through the floor. Some very angry parents have called for a boycott of the publisher, but it seems that such a thing is not necessary. The warning has offended so many people of so many different political and social persuasions that the publisher has essentially boycotted itself.

Coming up next: Wilder Publications issues warnings about its collection of words and stories from the Bible, paying particular attention to the controversial portions of the Sermon on the Mount.

12 comments:

BevfromNYC said...

Thanks Law. I hadn't heard about this. All I can say is "Dear Lord, what next?" I was never afraid for our country until 2009 and stuff like this only makes it worse.

I noticed that Wilder Publications doesn't have an active website and they only link through Amazon. The comments on Amazon are great though.

LawHawkRFD said...

Bev: This warning thing gets sillier and siller. It's one thing to warn kids not to stick their hands in a running garbage disposal, but quite another to start warning them about the content of words written by the nation's founders.

HamiltonsGhost said...

Lawhawk--I gave up hope when they started putting warning labels on mop buckets showing the disastrous results of what happens if you stick your head in the bucket, fill it with water, then lock the handle over the back of your neck.

StanH said...

Too me it speaks volumes, to the mindset of a liberal. They are so anxious to relegate “The Constitution,” into the dust heap of failed ideas as a provincial text that has no merit in a modern progressive society…yuck!

In my mind we need to move aggressively back to original intent, repeal the 16th & 17th Amendments bringing the 10th Amendment back to the fore. Reintroduce this amazing document to our children, as has been stated before, a re-Founding of our great nation, and relegate progressivism into the dust heap of failed ideas instead…where it belongs.

LawHawkRFD said...

HamiltonsGhost: Warning labels have become increasingly ubiquitous, as if sticking a nonsensical message on a product to explain the obvious is going to stop a stupid person or a willful child from doing exactly what the label says not to do. In fact, there's some research that indicates that some of the labels have given kids the idea to do the forbidden thing, even though they hadn't thought of it until they saw the warning label.

LawHawkRFD said...

StanH: I can't really add much to what you said, nor could I agree more. The "educators" are peddling filth to kids, the pervert schools czar wants to teach healthy homosexual acts to first-graders, yet somehow this publisher manages to slap a warning label for kids on our founding documents. Talk about the world turned upside-down.

Joel Farnham said...

Things are changing as we speak. Unions are failing left and right at the Election box. People are becoming more aware just how damaging unions can be. The Teachers Union ten years from now might be defunct.

Absurd warning labels are just the latest in a series of absurdities coming from the left. People do have long memories. This chokehold on thought will not be long forgotten.

LawHawkRFD said...

Joel: Notice that they experimented with the warnings on things that by some great stretch of the imagination could be dangerous under extraordinary circumstances. That was the test. Then, as in this case, they've moved on to warning about words rather than things, and ideas rather than genuine physical dangers. The nanny state has advanced much farther than most of us had hoped it could ever do.

AndrewPrice said...

That's ridiculous. These people are fools.

LawHawkRFD said...

Andrew: Now that's what I call cutting to the chase. They ARE fools. LOL

packerfaninbhc said...

Next thing will be "parental advisory" labels on recordings of The Star Spangled Banner and reminders that "this material may not be suitable for children (of liberals)" before it's sung at events across the country.

LawHawkRFD said...

Pckerfan: Don't give them any ideas. What we consider ridiculous, they take very seriously.

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