The following is an email I received from ‘The Oregonian’ a few months back while trying to get press for an event we did with revolutionary John Sinclair, artists Dave Archer and Ugly Shyla, poet Dave Densmore, Shane and I and several other “cutting edge” personalities, called WTF Fest:
Thanks for your message and phone call. I wanted to let you know that our listings team has all the info they need to include the event in this week’s A&E.
As far as other coverage goes, while the lineup is intriguing, we struggled a bit about highlighting the event because of the name of the festival. We don’t shy away from mentioning risque performers, but as a general-interest publication it’s our policy not to publish profanity, even in abbreviated form, unless it’s essential to the newsworthiness of the story. The compromise we came up with was that the festival will appear in the listings under Performing/Visual Arts Festival. I hope you understand.
Best, Jillian Cohan Martin
I took this note in stride, after all I am married to the man behind Michael Hunt Publishing, and over the years we have had some serious issues with censorship and prejudice. When Shane was preparing to publish Mike Diana’s ‘Worst Of Boiled Angel’ we had printers refuse to print it – multiple printers, the one who finally did said he had employees leave while it was being printed, and one of the book’s distributors Last Gasp – who prides themselves on being edgy – actually censored the cover of the book with a sticker.
When we published the 100 year old tome ‘Might Is Right’ we again had printers refuse it, and once it was finally printed, book stores that did carry it told us the books were being vandalized and defaced, so much so a few had to put them behind the counter.
We have had a number of issues over the years. I have been refused work, we have been refused places to live because of the work Shane, and Shane and I have done. We were shunned and run out of a town while having a totally unrelated, happy go lucky, mainstream business of gourmet soda pop!
Oddly, I still never see these issues as being BANNED, I didn’t see WTF Fest as being a “Banned Event”. Banned books, I for one always considered to be the types of works brave men and women wrote, often during periods of political distress or oppression, that roused the anger of the powers that be and landed the author and/or publisher in prison. Banned is serious, banned is life endangering.
Even when people get up in arms about Mark Twain’s controversial ‘Huck Finn’, I laugh thinking of the REALLY controversial stories from him I have read over the years, but I guess since they didn’t have an outdated slang for another race they are brushed aside – funny how that works.
So when I recently read, during Banned Books week or month or what have you, that a particular author was told by a major teen focused, grocery store type magazine that they “were passing on their review because “the book contained drug use and they didn’t want to promote it to their readers.”” And THIS somehow qualified her work of literature as “Banned” I nearly wet my pants.
The article went on to define a banned book: “Books are banned in all kinds of ways. Sometimes it is a school denying a book to their students. Sometimes it is a library refusing to shelve it. Sometimes it is a media outlet refusing to review a book because of content.”
If this is what qualifies as banned when there are journalists dying in war zones, and whistleblowers are hiding in embassies for their life, then it’s fucking time for a parade of Banned Books Lovers to stop by the house with a float and a crown for my husband and the artists he has fought to keep in print over the years. In fact, bring an elephant for him to ride, he likes elephants. HE Deserves a fucking elephant ride!
I am absolutely furious, flabbergasted, and my gut is on fire over this! When I think of how Mike Diana has been beaten down ever since he was JAILED for his comic books, his family destroyed by harassment — Where were the Banned Book lovers then? Oh right, he didn’t have a million dollar publisher and a publicist.
As we struggle to survive because of the books and artists we have supported, and especially that Shane has stood up for, for what is going on THREE DECADES, our teeth hurt, we always have to keep an eye over our shoulders, and we are both acutely aware my last layoff and subsequent inability to find work is directly related to the views expressed in our writing and online history. But don’t cry for me Argentina, this is not some pity party, poor me, we were banned and nobody noticed. I would not change it for a moment. I am proud of all of the projects I have been part of, and most of all I am proud of Shane, who fought against all odds since he was a teenager printing his first Zine at a copy shop.
The thing is, I still see “Banned Books” as a much loftier accomplishment, surpassing even all Shane has accomplished, no one has made us drink hemlock – yet, the military henchmen haven’t shown up to stomp us. The banning of books is a serious, deadly serious thing. So to see ‘a refusal of reviews’ being a criteria for being a banned book just blows my mind, it trivializes all of the people who have sat imprisoned, and been hung or shot for putting words to paper, the people who have lost everything for telling a story, and those people exist, lots of them. I realize it all comes down to marketing, the absolute worst kind of marketing, over and over again, and I guess that most of all is where my sickness resides.
Here is the article that spurred this rant: http://novelnovice.com/2012/10/04/banned-books-week-guest-blog-pretty-amy-author-lisa-burstein