The Point of Publishing

The Anonymity of the Centre

Category: permit restrict

7.9

Balanced views, discoverable bias, curated juxtapositions are needed by learners of all ages, a library of contexts against which to see power’s actions and intentions.  Publishing is more of a mash-up than it pretends, somewhere where ‘no comment’ is a pointed comment, and all use is fair use.

Releasing published pages from what binds them may send down a shower of disconnected leaves, cause havoc on the roads and rails, or lie productive as mulch under, in and above which fragrant growth can thrive.

If numbered well, the pages reassemble as a whole, or wholly new in a refreshing random pattern.

7.8

The discourse of Internet that changed from liberty to control produces echoes across other publishing landscapes.  Power has not been spoken truth to; ignorance is promoted; critique and transgression are monitored with a benevolent smirk.

As publication in one place becomes publishing in every place, all jurisdictions, militias and vigilantes are empowered to cajole and cudgel, deny and denigrate, cripple and kill voices that are not approved.

Prose and verse, data and opinion, drawing and photograph, caricature and cartoon, can all be used to mobilize national, religious, ethnic and ideological arm-band identity.

7.7

Another mantra of protecting innocents resonates around a hollowed-out hall of mirrors with grotesque figures on every side.

Fear and loathing, laughter and ridicule shade interpretation of the images, bleeding at the edges.  It is just us.  The real thing, the unreflected image, tainted by distortions on every side, which could be rescued by the firm reference point of published thought, is hidden from view through the darkness of the glass.

The image is no longer attached to the angular horrors it created at the first and second unbalanced reflection. Varieties of publication feed off each other to create just such abominations.

7.6

Self-censorship comes from knowing the dangers of speaking out.  It can be difficult to discern if the point of law is more abstruse, impossible to determine which law or custom has been offended against.  Local and larger level consequences are both little known, more worrying.

Do the sensible thing, not looking for trouble. Making a point, taking a stand, can be deadly, dangerous to health or financial wellbeing.  Taking it down, making a ‘not for publication’ declaration, compliance can soothe the pulse but not the spirit, resulting in pulping and clandestine disposal, burning books.

High passions, high temperatures, 451 degrees, 10 May 1933, black milk memories in smoke.

7.5

And the thing that brings on fear, the need to kill and threaten and bring into line, is the stark immutability of published work.  Try and burn it if you can in all its copies, but another will likely appear, be further copied, here or there, and spread by channels uncontrolled and uncontrollable.

Until the time when there may be no unsurveilled handing on of books, no hidden copies in the cloud, no trustworthy badge of authenticity, no guarantee of inviolate reproduction, no need perhaps to threaten the author, publisher, reader when the work itself can be so easily perversely sanitized and brought into line.

7.4

There are few places, few times, when authors have not been discouraged or prevented from writing, publishers threatened with violence and economic ruin, readers monitored and investigated because of books on their bookshelves, library loans, download history or even talking of books.

Everywhere simple rules apply: restrict authors, threaten publishers, punish readers, from Big Mama in China to Patriot Acts in USA.

A list of names attached to the long list of bullet-pointed dead and damaged: S. Z., Y. S., R. A., A. P., L. X., W. N., V. N., and thousands more, semi-anonymized or unknown.

7.3

Publishing must dare to risk the terrible possibility of misjudging the market, of losing out to a competitor, of investing in the wrong thing, acting too soon, or too late. It  must fight the fear of the risk of risking more than money: reputation, integrity, honesty, belief, solidarity, publishing values. If not this risk now, then when, and what risk it is that’s worth the risk.

Courage comes too late when there is long pause in which such questions can be asked. And integrity works through fact, fiction, humour, gravitas and clarity.  Eventually it may rely on letting go, drowning the book, seeing what happens when the old powers have gone.

7.2

National statutes and international conventions govern what can be done with the results of creation, but, as digital bounds from one jurisdiction to another, there is a greater fragility of possession.  Newly designated commons are welcomed as places of sharing and growth, though vulnerable to new robber barons, who use an intriguing range of possibilities to buy, borrow or steal. Property shared does not become shared property.

Income derived is not the same as benefit derived.  Publishing purpose and publishing risk cannot be split, in spite of a frequent pusillanimous desire to sidestep daring.  Lazy power and profit without responsibility underlie lessons learnt from demagogues.

7.1

Ownership, copyright, intellectual property determines control over the financial benefits derived, supposed to last for decades after death.  There are pockets in authors’ and publishers’ shrouds, inheritances based on previous generations’ talents, declarations of stewardship and legacy.

The arrogance of custodians.  Any marginal note, disguised reference, use of names, locations, stylistic tics and vocabularies irks them. Protecting against prequels or sequels, the intellectual property regime attempts to govern time itself.

Law bows to moral entitlements, and permission is mostly granted or withheld at the calling of money changers, merchants and praetorians. Permission is power.