Tuesday, May 5, 2015

The Streisand Effect

Sherman Alexie is a Native American writer who had a movie out years ago called "Smoke Signals," about the lives of some people out West on reservations.  Alexie has also had his work published in The New Yorker, which I bring up to make the point that he didn't just ride into town on a head of cabbage.  He's a seriously talented writer, but try telling some parents in Idaho about it.

The junior class at Mountain View High School in Meridian, Idaho has a young lady named Brady Kissel among its students. Her school recently banned Alexie's 2007 book “The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian” from the school curriculum. The novel concerns a 14-year-old Native American student who goes off to attend a school where “where the only other Indian is the school mascot.”  It's been a best seller, all the critics loved it, and it won a National Book Award.

So naturally, it joined the list of books that had to be banned, lest young people read them and learn a little about someone's life.

Ms Kissel went to the school board meeting with a petition signed by 350 other students who wanted to read the book, only to have the school board ban it anyway.

So, stop me if you've heard this one before.  The school board says, "You can't have this in school," and it sold like hotcakes at the local bookstores and the library reported there were 61 people on the waiting list to borrow it and people who have better sense than the board raised the money to buy a copy of the book for every one of those 350 students.

They set it up to hand out the book in a town park on National Book Night, and there they were - the kids who want to read a book, the young firebrand who stood up for their right to do so, and...the town cops.

Someone called 911 to report that kids were getting books to read!

Ms Kissel and the book
Here's where the story veers away from "Footloose" and becomes a little more reasonable. The police determined that no laws were being violated (!) and the kids all got their books and the publishers shipped an additional 350 copies of “The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian” to Ms Kissel, to be distributed to others who wish to be so bold as to read a book.

Speaking of books, if you ever write one, be sure to remember the Streisand Effect.

Barbra Streisand, a talented woman who just gets a liiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiitle full of herself now and then, once filed a $50 million lawsuit against a man who took aerial photographs of her beachfront property for use in trying to get the state of California to take remedial action against coastal erosion.
This is not Barbra Streisand's beachfront home
(But wouldn't it be funny if it were?)

Streisand was certain that people were going to see a picture of her estate. After all, six people had seen the picture (known as "Image 3850" in the photo array) of her joint before she filed the lawsuit!

A month later, the picture had been seen by 420,000 people attracted to it by the publicity from the lawsuit.

Good move, Babs.

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