A Dangerous Threat to Freedom and Fun

The new “community guidelines”* announced by tumblr are, to me, insidious and dangerous. We’re being told that anything with “adult content” will not be allowed. It is limiting free expression in so very many ways and leaves us at the mercy of the repressive tastes of others.  In effect, tumblr is setting itself up to be an “adult filter”. In 1964, Supreme Court Justice Potter Stevens wrote “I shall not today attempt further to define the kinds of material I understand to be embraced within that shorthand description [“hard-core pornography”], and perhaps I could never succeed in intelligibly doing so. But I know it when I see it, and the motion picture involved in this case is not that.“ Bullshit!

My fear now is that the mystery and crime and noir images that I have spent years assembling may fall prey to tumblr’s new rules and old images may have to be removed, new images will be rejected, or this entire site may be turned off by them against my choice.

It is very true that a majority of the images I have posted over the years involve violence and cruelty by one person against another: thugs roughing up women, gunman blasting tommyguns at g-men, femme fatales shooting marks, dames stealing and tux-clad dandies smiling while they turn the screws. These are the dark streets of American culture as Chandler eloquently wrote, accompanied by “the raucous laughter of the strongman.”

I do not support the violence included in these images but they are images that we can no more suppress or ignore than we can ban Mark Twain for the language of his time that he used in his books. This is the way it was, ladies and gentleman, deal with it. It is our cultural history, our cultural landscape. You cannot have “Chinatown” or “LA Confidential” without the pulp images of the early 20th C. Do we no longer show “Psycho” because a naked woman is slaughtered in a shower?

And while we’re at it, some of those who painted the covers for the early pulps were Great American Artists: Dalton Stevens, H.J. Ward, Norman Saunders, Gloria Stoll, Robert Maguire, Robert McGinnis, Walter Popp, Robert Stanley, Modest Stein, Jes Schlaikjer – the list is large. No one should be able to tell you you can’t see any of them due to a painting of a fist, a knife, an unclad bust, or a face twisted in fear. That’s just un-American. It is also ludicrous.

I reject that anyone can tell me what I can see. I reject that anyone has the right to monitor and decide for themselves what can be seen. Tumblr may say they are doing this to create a safe place for all but censorship to achieve safety is a slippery slope. Are you prepared to “exchange a walk-on part in the war for a lead roll in a cage”?

I will continue to post what I want, what I think is good and worthy of being shared. I do not post what I find to be cruel or salacious. I post what I find interesting visually. There are thousands of images of true crime magazines from the 60s on what are stupidly ugly and there’s nothing at all, for me, redeeming in how they’re presented or designed or composed.They’re just mean and I won’t use them. Others may think what I have posted are mean and that’s fine. Turn away, don’t look. But I filter myself, you don’t get to do it.

I began this blog as a creative outlet for myself and for something else for the customers and fans of the bookshop. Since then, as of this moment, I’ve posted 15,561 images, I have 61 in queue to post and have 142 in draft form. I had never thought about how long I’d continue but rebel at the idea that others may decide what I can and cannot post. That’s unacceptable.

So it may come some day that there are no more posts on the Seattle Mystery Bookshop Hardboiled site. My bookshop is gone, living only in our memories and in places like this. Building this collection has been a labor of love. I hope to continue. If it ends, it will not be by choice.

If you enjoy this site, if you like sites like this, take the time to let those who have instituted it know.

~ JB Dickey

*From tumblr’s new guidelines:

Adult Content. Don’t upload images, videos, or GIFs that show real-life human genitals or female-presenting nipples —this includes content that is so photorealistic that it could be mistaken for featuring real-life humans (nice try, though). Certain types of artistic, educational, newsworthy, or political content featuring nudity are fine. Don’t upload any content, including images, videos, GIFs, or illustrations, that depicts sex acts. For more information about what this guideline prohibits and how to appeal decisions about adult content, check out our help desk.

Violent Content and Threats, Gore and Mutilation. Don’t post content which includes violent threats toward individuals or groups – this includes threats of theft, property damage, or financial harm. Don’t post violent content or gore just to be shocking. Don’t showcase the mutilation or torture of human beings, animals (including bestiality), or their remains. Don’t post content that encourages or incites violence, or glorifies acts of violence or the perpetrators.”

 

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