Thursday, June 21, 2018

Mark Twain, John Oliver & Xi Jinping

On March 28, 1885, the American author Mark Twain penned a letter commenting on the banning in Concord, Mass., of his book "Huckleberry Finn:"
... [A] committee of the public library of your town have condemned and excommunicated my last book and doubled its sale. This generous action of theirs must necessarily benefit me in one or two additional ways. For instance, it will deter other libraries from buying the book; and you are doubtless aware that one book in a public library prevents the sale of a sure ten and a possible hundred of its mates. And, secondly, it will cause the purchasers of the book to read it, out of curiosity, instead of merely intending to do so, after the usual way of the world and library committees; and then they will discover, to my great advantage and their own indignant disappointment, that there is nothing objectionable in the book after all.
It is hard not to wonder if British comedian and commentator John Oliver isn't likewise reveling in a similar implicit opprobrium after the Chinese government clamped down on his 20-minute take on the cult of personality being woven around Xi Jinping:
The British comedian John Oliver has been scrubbed from China’s version of Twitter after the host of Last Week Tonight ran a 20-minute segment satirising Chinese president Xi Jinping.
New posts mentioning his name or the show have been blocked on the microblogging site Weibo.
Oliver’s scathing parody of Xi on Sunday covered human rights abuses, “dystopian levels of surveillance and persecution” of Uighurs in China’s western Xinjiang province, the continued detention of Liu Xia, wife of Chinese dissident Liu Xiaobo who died last year in state custody, and online censorship, including memes comparing Xi’s figure with that of Winnie the Pooh.
 Is it a truism or just something I wish were true: The more dictatorial they become, the less capable they become of laughter.

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