By Hudson Kingston
Stately, plump [David Cameron] came from the stairhead, bearing a bowl of lather on which a mirror and a razor lay crossed.* And though he may have tried to use this Christological imagery to cut the worldwide public news offerings his government graciously provides, he seems to have failed in delivering on the economic recovery he said his cuts would bring. In fact, it’s very nearly Bloomsday and it seems his projections were wrong. He seems to have bought a double-dip recession with austerity instead.
The prime minister of the UK seems As decent a little man as ever wore a hat, but some commentators believe that he may be hiding horrible secrets. With the News of the World scandals that followed on the heels of his attempt to constrict the BBC, it seems that he was ready to turn the free press over to a man who is known for presenting but one side of the story. Now it is possible that the scandal is driving a wedge through his coalition – something to watch in the coming days.
Bloomsday, mentioned above, is the quintessential Irish holiday, held every June 16th, to celebrate the – arguably – greatest novel of the 20th century and the writer who created it, James Joyce. While Ulysses is now acknowledged by many as a masterpiece, it was nearly never allowed into the United States, because it risked running afoul of our puritanical 1920s obscenity law. The reason for this 90thanniversary in June is that Joyce commemorated one day in his young life by making it the center of his country’s great epic. The book details the wanderings and interactions of Stephen Dedalus and Leopold Bloom, two iterations of Joyce’s stream of consciousness. Unfortunately for the readers of last century, Joyce and his characters had a few salaciously dirty thoughts now and then.
In the Cameron era the BBC is constrained in what it can report, and the threat of regulation does not encourage hope for the ongoing health of the fourth branch of government. However, with news that the British public press is going to spend Bloomsday celebrating an Irish book that barely made it into the U.S. for its indecency, there is some hope left. Everything speaks in its own way. Perhaps the resilience of the UK’s media in face of a multi-pronged attack is a testament to what Joyce sought in writing a book that reads, in part, like a newspaper.
In any case, From the sublime to the ridiculous is but a step. This Saturday please do raise a glass (regardless of contents) to Leopold Bloom, the journalists of the world, and all people who hope to thwart censorship – be it a result of budget cuts or state-permitted monopoly. In some countries it has been a while since a thought could be banned for being inappropriate, but in others, democracy falters for the lack of a free press.
If you are of a literary sort please read this copy of Stephen Gillers’s law review article. It may be a novelette in length, but it tells a story of art’s victory over the censor that American lawyers should be well acquainted with. As bad as contemporary censorship may seem sometimes, it is good to know there are people like Judge Hand out there to protect freedoms.
*All italicized words drawn from Ulysses.