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Sanitizing History

NewSouth Books publishing is releasing a controversial printing of Mark Twain’s “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn” and “Tom Sawyer”as many of you know, and many of you have been asking about Simpson/Hemstead’s stance on this controversy.

For those of you unaware of what makes this printing controversial, it comes down to primarily two words that Twain used in his original publishing that many Americans find insensitive now-a-days.  The first word is the name of one of the characters, “Injun Joe.”  Apparently “Injun” is heap no-goodum in today’s society and we need to be more racially aware, so the publisher is changing the name to “Indian Joe.”  Ahh, don’t we all feel less oppressed by a 125 year old book that was written as a scathing look at southern racism?

The other word is I’ve been told, the most offensive word ever to be created.  It starts with an “N” and ends with an “R” and has a spattering of repetitious consonants and common vowels in between.  That word is so thoroughly reviled that journalists are afraid to use it when commenting on the subject of racism.  It carries the same media charge and fear as printing an image of Muhammad did in 2010, but not before 2005.*  Weird.

Although I'm not sure I want to cross the right jab of Muhammad either...

That word is of course, nibbler.

Goddamn you so much censorship.  Really, I can’t even write the word?  Seriously?  I can’t even write the word for fear of appearing racist.  It’s the name of one of the Goddamned characters.  Really?  Are you kidding me?




So anyway, Nibbler Jim is a character in this book that is a scathing look at southern racism from the point of view of a boy who befriends a black man in the time of slavery.

Concept art of what a Nibbler Jim might look like.

These changes were made to reflect teacher’s concerns, primarily in Alabama, that students found the word “Nibbler” off-putting, and in turn, this great work of American Literature was going unread in schools.  That’s a problem…

But what does Simpson/Hemstead think of changing history for the sake of smoothing out the emotions of our progeny?


Why make our kids think in abstracts?  Why make them confront the dark pockets of U.S. and World history if they find it emotionally challenging to do so?  We should, as a nation, sculpt history, art, religion and the natural world into whatever we find the most physically, intellectually and emotionally pleasing!  There is absolutely nothing wrong with updating history to reflect current sensibilities.

In fact, Simpson/Hemstead will start the initiative by creating the Office of Historical White Washing. Let’s take a look through history and see if we can’t make a few of history’s undigestibles more digestible.


Religion is a hot button topic with a lot of people, many fearing that religions other than their own create an unsavory environment in which to raise their children.  Especially a religion like Christianity, which has been responsible for a lot of plundering and violence against indigenous people on this continent… They might see the book of Genesis as a bit rough…

But what if we replaced every instance of “God” with “Peter Gabriel.”

Every instance of “Adam” with “Phil Collins.”

And every instance of “Eve” with “Mike Rutherford” because a bitch playing bass is pretty rad.

Why, suddenly the book of Genesis doesn’t offend anyone, as it’s just a rock doc.

The hairdos all stay the same from the original, so bonus there.


If we’re going after Mark Twain, who is a champion of freedom and equality, then I can imagine some more controversial authors should probably be censored as well.   I mean, who really wants to read this book by the king of creepy uncles?  A man responsible for the death of more than 12 million people.

Doesn't matter how pretty the font is, it's still written by HITLER!

Adolph Fucking Hitler.  It’s not a good book, I’ve read it.  It’s not good, but it’s an important book.  It’s a window into the mind of a man who would lead one of the most fearsome revolutions against freedom in the history of the industrialized world.  But some people think Nazis and it makes them uncomfortable, and sure, I get that what with the whole genocide thing.

But what could make an Adolph Hitler book more palatable to the American sensibility?

half-naked Daniel Radcliffe to bring the teenage girls and pervy cougars to the table

J.K. Rowling.  The British Queen of American Literature.  Sure she has the grammatical sensibilities of a web blogger, but people eat this shit alive.  We take Hitler out of the book and change every reference of Jews to “Muggles.”  Problem solved.


Social protest is a bitch.  It’s an uprising of the people against the government.  Unless it’s East Germany or North Korea, Americans can’t really handle it.  It’s not their thing.  And Peter Gabriel forbid we should ever have to roll up our sleeves and dig elbow deep in the social protest of the Vietnam War.  American college students experiencing the Timothy Leary vibe, connected to a war in what felt like real time through television for the first time in history, shit got real.  And it got very real.

Not pictured: Passive Resistance

Kent State massacre.  Man.  This is rough.  Nervous National Guardsman opening fire on protesting students at Kent State University.  Horrible tragedy, and it didn’t do shit for the government image as baby-killers and unfeeling thugs.

Well, this won’t do.  We gotta clean this up.  We can’t have government portrayed this way, and man, dead college kids and crying college kids just really bums out today’s delicate hipster snowflakes.  So let’s take away the bummer parts.

Even the fudge ripple couldn't turn the tide of social unrest

National Guardsman give ungrateful hippies free ice cream in a desperate attempt to calm and disrupt a heavy, misinformed trip.  See?  We don’t have to get rid of Vietnam, protest, or any of that, we just tweak a couple little unsettling things… Problem solved.


As long as we’re on the subject of Vietnam, it pretty much sucked.  And you wanna know what sucked the most about it?  A guerilla enemy who dressed and mingled with the civilians.  Made them hard to find.  REAL hard to find.  Sometimes innocence got caught in the crossfire.  Sometimes innocence got caught in the crossfire of napalm.  One photo encapsulates that horror for my generation, and history up until now:

There's no way to spin this shit funny.

Naked burning children running away from a burning village while soldiers casually follow behind.  There’s a certain “taken out of context” vibe to this photo, but the imagery of that little naked girl running down the street crying can give a person nightmares.   I mean, I’m sure everyone in this picture had serious nightmares for years, but it gives people who have never seen a dead body up into their 20’s nightmares.  Well, that’s gotta have something to do with burning naked children.  I can’t think of any other reason.  But what if we replaced “naked children” with “sale on capri pants” and “napalm inferno of Hell” with “Snuffleupagus”?

I imagine they're happily running home to tell mom and dad about the day they met snuffy and got cheap pants.

Ahh, doesn’t your history feel so much more digestible now?

On second thought… no.  Hell no.  The minute it becomes okay to modify a word of art or history is the minute history becomes meaningless, and art becomes wasted.  Everything I mentioned above happened.  It’s ugly, but it happened.  The same applies to the history of blacks and native americans in this country.  There were some dark times.  We are all the children of those times.  Mark Twain was a brilliant, progressive thinking man.  To modify his critical social commentary even by one word is to modify the plea he is making in his parables about equality of man.  To take out this word, “nibbler” because it offends some people doesn’t point out progression toward racial sensitivity, it celebrates emotional immaturity in the face of empathetic thought.  Pandering to immaturity will NEVER garner a harvest of maturity.  It will validate continued immaturity at the price of progress.  We will give future revisionists a precedent upon which to brutalize history further for their own intentions.

Our children live in an age of entitlement.  We shield them from death, sex, profanity and competition at every turn in a misguided attempt to “protect” them.  From life.  What we leave behind are inept, fragile, and self-important husks of people increasingly dependent on a system to continue protecting them.  We give kids trophies just for showing up now.  shame on us all.

And shame on us for attempting to modify literature, history, and art to pander to these crippled and fragile souls.  Mark Twain wrote The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn to teach us a lesson about loving each other.  He named a character “Nigger Jim” because nigger was a word that, like today, was painful to hear and challenged the reader to face some important social issues in post-civil war America.  And it should be hard to hear and it should not be used lightly.  Ever. (I’m looking at you, Gangsta Rap)  But it shouldn’t be ignored, replaced, or glossed over either.  Don’t further cripple our children intellectually by removing the challenge presented by Nigger Jim.  And don’t destroy literature, art or history for fleeting social guilt.  To alter the wording is tantamount to book burning, it’s destroying the intention of the written word, and posthumously emasculating the artist.

Oh, and while we’re on the subject, “Injun Joe”?  Indian Joe is supposed to be racially sensitive?  Go point to India on a map, assholes, then point to the Mississippi River.  Notice a problem with your logic?

Great, you made the Injun cry.

*look it up kids.  Images of Mohammed were routinely published (often respectfully, sometimes SouthParkedfully) in the media before 2005.

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