July 12, 2005

On the other hand, at least their gays are allowed to marry

What always makes me truly appreciate the First Amendment (what's left of it) is news stories about restricted speech in foreign countries. Not, as you might imagine, the wholesale censorship that goes on in autocratic countries -- which is too run-of-the-mill to get my blood flowing -- but the minor incidents that crop up in otherwise democratic nations like Canada.

"VANCOUVER - Some lucky readers who were accidentally allowed to purchase the new Harry Potter novel before its release date are under a court order to clam up and not reveal the plot. The judge has even ordered the 'small number' of Potter fans involved to return the book to the Raincoast Books store near Vancouver that jumped the gun on this weekend's release date."

I understand that many people don't want the plot of the new book spoiled for them (though I've bristled at the subtext of this in the past) and that the publishers have a huge marketing blitz staked on preserving secrecy -- but since when are citizens obliged to assist a corporation in its publicity schemes? Buying a book from a book store is not a contract with a publisher to help it promote that book on its own terms, and any individual who purchased the book legally, albeit early, should have the absolute right to speak and publish freely about it. This is not a matter of national security after all; it's a freakin' kids' book.

Besides, I'm sure Bloomsbury doesn't want people spoiling the ending immediately after the book goes on sale either, so should a judge be allowed to prevent reviewers from publishing spoilers (or kids from telling their friends) for the first week after the book is on sale? The first month? Canada should be ashamed of itself, and I hope some courageous Canuck blogger tells Raincoast to shove its thank you gifts up its ass and posts a big fat review of HP6.

Update: Well, how about that... "It appears that the accidental sale of 14 copies of the latest Harry Potter book at a Coquitlam store last week may have been a marketing blessing in disguise." A store spokesman has the gall to say: "The people who have returned it are 'honourable and obviously have the Harry Potter ethic.'" That's nice coming from someone with the Dolores Umbridge ethic. If you wanted to appeal to the Harry Potter ethic, why didn't you just do that, politely, without making it a legal requirement.

I mentioned in a comment that it galls me that a publishing company is complicit in this restriction on speech. It also kind of pisses me off that news outlets -- which have some stake here -- are treating the whole story as a lighthearted Hey Martha, without even questioning the propriety.

Update: The blogosphere is roiled! Canadian law-guy Michael Geist has several informed posts (as opposed to my own, which, blindly following the article I cited, mixes up the names of publisher and the store). Colby drops the f-bomb ("fascist").

Update: Meanwhile, in the land of the free and the home of the brave...

Posted by Daniel Radosh


I couldn't agree more. I was flabbergasted when I saw the story about the court order. WTF? A book's plot? I also agree with your point: it is a slippery slope.

Should I be happy our ocuntry (US) isn't the only one with its courts running amok?

I hope some courageous Canuck blogger tells Raincoast to shove its thank you gifts up its ass and posts a big fat review of HP6

Sound like somebody really really wants to know what happens!!!

The other thing that galls me is that a publishing company is behind this. Way to stick to your guiding principles.

I also recall that very recently a situation like this arose in the US, when a USA Today reporter snatched up a copy of Bob Woodward's new book a week or so before it was supposed to be on sale. The paper quickly and correctly published an article about the book's revelations. Sales, by the way, were not hurt.

Wow, that really sucks... Canadian courts should be dealing with bigger issues! like vegitables... (no, not the produce, idiot!) ^_^

I came over from Colby.

To be fair, I know some people will accuse Colby Cosh of dropping the "fascist" bomb really easily, but I don't think this is the case at all. I almost think Cosh is inspired here.

I always hesitate to speak for others, but it does seem to me this quite reminiscent of corporatism. It's more operational fascism than, say, regular corporate shenanigans.

And by this, I always assumed the differences between hardline capitalists and corporatists in fascism was that in the capitalism of Lefty imagination, the corporations absorbed the State. Whereas in fascist corporatism (and pre-civil war Leninism) the State absorbed the corporations. It was two seperate models of control. So what is the Canadian state, with its crossed lines of ideological control and corporate corruption?

Give the Liberals credit for blurring the lines so efficiently. Trying to determine if das Partied is the controlling mechanism here is a task almost guaranteed to create a panglossian insanity. This little group of top-feeder Left-liberal types in the anglo-corporate world (which Rowling typifies so exatingly with her soft-edged default Left-liberalism) is almost perfectly interchangable with your average power-dressing Manitoban MP.

Personally, I would never have thought fascist corporatism would be so easily transposed to the anglosphere, but how completely wrong I was. It does give succor to the argument that fascism always was, in a very important way, post-ideological and even post-political. It does still seem to clearly require a one-party state, or at least a stand-in oligarchy without recourse to the need for a stated or coherant political program.

It also seems to have deep popular root in a public fervently wishing not to engage in politics at all. Like Hitler, the Liberals seem content to rest their appeal on a vague negative-nationalism on the one hand (yay us, boo The Scapegoat) and a promise not to involve the public in any of that messy political stuff on the other. "Vote for us and we promise not to bother you with politics" seems to be the offer. That could also be the source of the interchangability of the corporate grandee's and their public-office clones.

This Rowling matter is small change, in the end, but clearly indicative of something else. It's odd how quickly and easily this nonsense is imposed in Canada, almost entirely without argument.

Wow. That is the most erudite triggering of Godwin's Law I've ever seen.

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