2 min read
I'm fairly certain that beginning your speech by describing yourself as a "renowned iconoclast" is a trigger warning that the following content is by someone with a dangerously inflated sense of self.
Starting your argument with "Taken to their logical conclusion, ideologies recently come into vogue challenge our right to write fiction at all" is also a pretty naked declaration that you're about to deploy the appeal to extremes fallacy. Never mind that the sombrero controversy, which is the anchor of Shriver's entire claim that "cultural appropriation" is on the verge of becoming an existential threat to a free society, is not about the sombreros, one of a string of various trumped-up kerfuffles about the threat of political correctness and safe spaces on college campuses, where, shockingly, immature young adults are sometimes debating issues immaturely. As they always have. Arguing that because some students on some campuses have protested, and in some cases attempted to leverage student government and university policy to combat what they perceive as discrimination, real or imagined, means we're a short step from no one publishing or selling books where authors imagine characters from other cultural backgrounds is utter nonsense. Likewise that somehow the brave craft of making up imaginary people for entertainment is under threat because a reviewer thought you were kinda racist, as Shriver does.
Having lived for over a decade in a country with actual oppression of free speech, I find the slippery slope hand-wringing of cosseted elite writers like Jonathan Franzen, Tom Wolfe, Jonathan Chait, and Lionel Shriver maddening, tiresome, and ignorant. They wrap themselves in a long tradition of authors standing up against actual tyranny - by oppressive governments and institutions, where silence is codified in law and policy - in defense against those who have no actual power, namely passionate youth and nasty book reviewers. It's pathetic.