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Crystal Salt
  • Writer's pictureCristina Deutsch

The Grunting Censorship: A Clinical Case

Yesterday evening, I saw something on Facebook that, at least initially, I thought was a joke. It was about the scandal regarding the modification of Agatha Christie's writings in the name of respecting the idea of “political correctness”. Essentially, some knuckle-draggers/ HarperCollins editors thought it would be nice and educational to start butchering/ “gently modifying” Agatha Christie's books. So, they set about diligently making changes to the original texts, “eliminating words and expressions that could be considered offensive or insensitive from the perspective of current social and cultural values.” “Well, are you guys crazy? Are you bored?” screams my poor, tormented neuron. That is, “Censorship is dead, long live Censorship? Or what else?”. How can you stick your claws and teeth into the text of an author (who is also dead, not to mention this – so she can’t defend herself) and commit such an atrocity?

Because I was still on this subject, while I was drinking my coffee and smoking my morning cigarette/s, with my neuron still not fully awake from the coma, I put my friend, ChatGPT, in the game. I quickly offered him/ it a text with a fat and a fool, nothing too creepy. Okay, the dialogue is bad, but it's here as work material only. So: you take one piece of a random idiot, detectable in the real world as often as possible, and one piece of a fat/ overweight person. Put them in the same jar and shake. It is clear that the “negative character” is that son of a bitch and not that plump one. Voila:

“Dude, what the hell are you doing here?”, the young man asked Vasile in an aggressive tone.

“I came to buy a coffee”, answered Vasile, trying to keep a calm voice.

“You came to get a coffee, no shit...”, he frowned. “What a walking ham you are, you came to bolt some food like a pig, that's why you came, I tell you...".

“This is a public place”, Vasile whined, trying not to give in to the pressure. “I can come here as often as I want.”

“Come on, no shit... fat ass, go and try finding me outside for a while... Come on, get out of here, you moron!”

And he looked at Vasile with an angry, swine-like look. “Are you the working part of an asshole, aren’t you? But don't play hard with me, or I'll make you salami.”

Vasile was with his eyes on the ground and his hams were moving smoothly as if hit by a slight earthquake. Her fat goiter was shaking too, at the beginning of a fit of crying.

But he didn't have time to react, not even when he got booted into his round ass like a full moon, being whipped directly into the seats in front of him.

Good. Now let's say that the scene takes place in 1992, in a pub in a Bucharest neighborhood. To give it a little more spice, Vasile and Ghiță (let's say... no, not Ghiță, it can be interpreted...), Vasile and Marian are two high school boys. One is fat, and the other is the class idiot. Does it ring a bell? Of course. It's a common scene, nothing out of the ordinary, it fits the era well blah blah. Blah.

Do you think so, that this is good? Well, it's not. Citizen Marian, although he's a character (and not a real person), needs to be re-educated. The solution was given by ChatGPT because I gave him/ it an assignment and made him/ it force the text. I think he's throwing up a little on the edge, he shrugs disapprovingly. And he produces the following text, rewritten according to the golden rules of political correctness:

“Hello, how are you?”, asked the young man, trying to give Vasile a friendly note.

“I came to get a coffee”, replied Vasile, smiling politely.

“I just got one myself”, said the young man, smiling back. “Do you have any preferences other than classic coffee?”

Vasile shook his head, satisfied that the tone of the conversation had changed.

“No, thanks, regular coffee is perfect.”

The young man smiled and continued on his way, leaving Vasile to enjoy his coffee in peace.

“Hello, how can I help you?”, the young man asked Vasile in a firm tone.

“I want to buy a coffee”, answered Vasile, trying to speak calmly.

“I understand, you need a coffee”, said the young man, trying to be kind. “But could you tell me where you came from?”

“I'm a customer, I came here to buy a coffee”, answered Vasile, trying to defend himself from the aggressive attitude.

“I'm sorry, I didn't mean to be offensive”, the young man said with a calmer demeanor. “However, could you please be more aware of the public space and behave yourself civilly?”.

Vasile felt a strong humiliation, but he tried not to give in. “I agree, thank you for the suggestion”, he said in a low voice.

The young man looked at Vasile with an unpleasant look. “Don't make me regret trying to be kind”, he said, before walking away.

Vasile felt humiliated and angry but chose not to answer. He continued to buy his coffee, but he could not forget the unpleasant incident.

The dialogue above takes place, obviously, between the subject Marian, after being lobotomized, and the object Vasile who, despite his 120 kilos, has a gorgeous body (because all bodies are beautiful, right?). We no longer have a discrimination scene because... it's not politically correct. But was a wannabe literary text, right? That means neither Vasile nor Marian exists as such, they only illustrate a potential situation – a situation that, in their opinion, can no longer be illustrated. Because wait, maybe someone mistakenly identifies with Vasile and feels discriminated against. Although the problem would be, in fact, that the majority identify, without any problems, with Marian.

But let's leave these two in peace.

I give him/ it another assignment, I put in a text about the French Revolution (the Ai is already flapping his/ its wings, terrified...) and I make him rewrite it from bright perspectives.

The original text sounds like this: “Blood flowed in the streets of Paris. Woodcutters sharpened their axes to cut off the heads of those considered traitors to the revolution. Public executions were frequent, and the mob cried out for blood. The prisoners were imprisoned in inhumane conditions, without food or water, before being taken to the guillotine. A sinister noise was heard every morning, the guillotine running non-stop until sunset. Those who opposed the revolution were considered enemies of the people and were executed without mercy. At La Force prison, people screamed, maddened with pain and despair, as they were whipped by guards. Women were raped and tortured, and men were tied up and brutally beaten. A boy was tortured to death because he said he wanted the king to live. In the public square, a woman was stripped and beaten to death for wearing a ring with the nobles' coat of arms. Those who tried to protect her were shot or stabbed. The French Revolution brought freedom and equality, but it was achieved through violence and blood. While many were celebrating the beginning of a new era, others were at that moment rising to the guillotine. People had to choose between freedom and safety, and the price was too high for some.”

Well, some will say, this is history. This is what we have, this is what we parade with. Or that “history cannot be changed”. Maybe, just wait and see. And ChatGPT starts to rewrite it: “During the French Revolution, there were acts of violence and serious abuses against human rights. Many people were considered traitors to the revolution and were executed without due process or the right to a defense. Prisoners were imprisoned in inhumane conditions and subjected to cruel treatment, including flogging, rape, and torture. These actions were unacceptable and go against the fundamental values and principles of human rights. It is important to look at these events from our modern perspective and commit to preventing such actions in the future.” After which, cautiously, he/ it comes to his/ its senses and continues: “The French Revolution was a tumultuous period in the history of France, in which people mobilized in the name of freedom, equality, and fraternity. Although there were episodes of violence and abuse of rights, they need not define the French Revolution as a whole. Instead of focusing on the individual actions of lumberjacks or prison guards, we should focus on the noble goals of the revolution: to end the privileges of the aristocracy and create a more egalitarian society. Furthermore, we should recognize the significant contribution of women and other marginalized groups to the revolutionary movement. Through its followers, the French Revolution inspired other emancipation and liberation movements around the world.”

Personally, I'm looking forward to the modified texts, by some capable and dedicated “sensitive readers”, of Sven Hassel's or Stephen King's novels. Until then, get the hands-off Agatha Christie! What do you need books for? What do you imagine they could ever serve you for? Oh, don't tell me I'm discriminating against you... Maybe you'll also start burning books in the public square, right? Is it that you like the idea?

P.S. I have the feeling that the idea of the French Revolution didn't come to me just like that, randomly, out of the blue sky ... I was thinking that, at one point, I would write a novel about a pig. But now I see that technical problems intervene: the pig can't be fat/ overweight (no, it can't be...). It can't be thin either, because that will mean it's not doing well, maybe it has nutritional issues... The most suitable thing for it would be not to have a body at all. The Ethereal Pig. In terms of color, it can't be pink, black, furry, or Mangalitsa (because we're dealing with breeds and it's not ok). It's going to be a neon green pig, constituted only by its head. It won't be in danger to be eaten (because vegans may be mad at us...) but it will be raised, in a perfectly balanced and fair environment, to share its experiences with the world. It will preach freedom of expression through grunts/ sweet sound emissions through its snout/ speaking and digging organ. It will talk to the chickens and cats (at least one of the cats will have to be blind—and gimpy, let’s be generous—to vividly illustrate the diversity of the animal world) calmly and politely about the organization of farm life and about the re-education, in the spirit of political correctness, of the animal breeders/ human co-participants. The goats will be the most reluctant to this new approach but, under the veiled threat of being turned into pastrami, they will also subscribe to these ideas, in the end. The final scene will be dedicated to a neon ham, hanging from the beam, to which all the characters will bring organic seeds and roots as an offering.


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