Friday, April 3, 2015

Clean Reader can go right to Hell!

There is a new app available called clean Reader. In essence, it's a program that sterilizes your e-books to whatever degree you wish. The creator offers this story for the inspiration for Clean Reader...
One day our oldest child came home from school and she was a little sad.  We asked her what was wrong and she said she had been reading a book during library time and it had a few swear words in it.  She really liked the book but not the swear words.  We told her that there was probably an app for this type of thing that would replace profanity with less offensive words and perhaps we should get her a tablet that she could use to read books with.  To our surprise there wasn’t an app like this.  The more we thought about this idea the more we wanted it to be a reality.  Eventually we decided we would do all we could to bring Clean Reader to the world.  We’ve been putting as much time and money into it as we could over the last few years and we’re excited to see it launch soon!
You know what I have to say? Too damn bad! This tells me that this person is a terrible parent. If you are a parent that doesn't want their child to swear, the answer is not to keep them in a ignorant bubble of isolation and block any and all 'bad' words from ever reaching their precious little eyes. The best course is to make them aware of this language and that it isn't appropriate and they shouldn't repeat it.

Susie reading 'bitch' in a book isn't going to magically cause her to start swearing like a sailor any more than seeing a cheeseburger is going to give someone heart disease. And if your child truly is that bothered, just talk to them for crying out loud! By simply insulating them, you will only be coddling to the point of setting them up for future failure, or at the very least a very rude awakening.

So one of my problems with this app is that it shouldn't even exist. And not just because the reasoning behind it is bad parenting, but because this is but an extension on the war on profanity. In fact, Clean Reader uses the tag line 'Read books, not profanity'. But I must ask, who the hell cares! Sometimes reading a certain book means reading profanity. And so what if it has profanity? Letters arranged in such a way to form a recognized word. Swear words are just other words.

Some people are so afraid of swear words and act as though they are intrinsically bad. This is utter rubbish. The word is not important so much as the context and intent in which it is used. the word 'fuck' has no actual power of it's own and can be used to convey any number of meaning and feelings depending on how and where it is used. But that arrangement of letters has no power on its own. The irony is that the ones giving 'fuck' power are those that oppose it so fervently. They are the ones hoisting it onto a pedestal. Making it elusive and seductive. Making it a go-to curse word for kids and adults alike.

It's like a person who is on a diet. They tell you not to eat the burger. The burger is bad. No it's bad. Don't touch it. Don't eat it. Don't even think of it! What happens? You hold out a while, but you eventually give in. And instead of having the standard hamburger, you jump straight to the triple-cheese with bacon.

So I don't feel that curse words are even inherently bad, and should thus be avoided like the plague as this app would suggest. They are part of language. They allow us to emote feelings and themes not otherwise possible. And this is coming from someone who almost never curses. People I have known for years are almost always shocked when they do here me curse. While I don't curse often, I will when appropriate. And authors will likewise use profanity when they feel their story calls for it.

And that's another problem with this God-damn app (yes I'm going to purposely 'curse' throughout this on purpose)... It's censorship. Authors are artists that create tapestries of words, and the worlds and stories they create are their intellectual property. To edit their work in this way without their consent is just plain wrong. If you like the book except for any curse words used, you have a few choices:

1) Get over it.
2) Replace the word in your head.
3) Don't read the damn book!

The author created it how they did for a reason. If you don't like it, don't read it. Those words were used to define a character, build a theme, express ideas or feelings, or maybe the author just likes to curse. The why doesn't matter. It is their book and it's shouldn't be changed without their consent.

Do you go to a R rated movie and demand that all the curse words be changed? No. You either go see it anyway, or wait until the creator edits it themselves for TV. The same is true of music. You can either buy the album version, or you can buy the version the artist edited for radio themselves. In both cases the content creator is the one creating the 'clean' version. And that is the way is should be.

This app isn't even good for the reader. You see, it replaces words it views as dirty with a '•'. So passages that include a large concentration of 'expletives' may become a string of incomprehensible dots. Suppose you want to read erotica, but for whatever reason want it sterilized. One example I saw online showed that Clean Reader would change a sentence like "She longed for him and clutched his penis with her hand." to "She longed for him and clutched his  •  with her hand."

So the edit makes the passage a bit unclear in isolation. But then there is the next feature of Clean Reader. You can click on that dot and the app will suggest alternatives. So it would suggest that the very same passage should now read "She longed for him and clutched his groin with her hand." How is that any better? The word is different, but the intent is still there. The 'clean' version is no cleaner at all. It's like saying 'Jesus Christ!' or 'Jiminy Crickets!'

We all know the intent. We all know it's just a replacement of one JC for another. Same with 'fudge', 'gosh-darn', 'sugar' and the other inane alternates. They only actually succeed in making the person making those utterances sound silly. If a person yells 'fudge you!' at another person, they didn't better that statement by not loosing 'fuck' from their lips. The anger is still there and it is real. So other than making things sound silly, this app really accomplishes nothing while it violates the work of other people.

Then there is the cruel truth behind all this. Part of this app's wish is to sanitize books for readers that want more to read than the terrible genre of Christian fiction that they are typically confined to. But the pushing of an overly Christian agenda by way of 'cleaning up' books seems very odd to me when you consider how vile the Bible is. Off the top of my head, I can't think of much cursing in the Bible apart from 'fool'. But it is still far from a clean book. It actually contains plenty of violence and adult themes.

•God commits and commands genocide.
•Women as prizes of war.
•Smashing babies against rocks.
•Offering daughters up to be gang raped.
•Selling daughters as sex slaves.
•Allowing concubines.
•Forcing women to marry their rapist.
•David has to kill the king's enemies and bring back their foreskins so he can marry his daughter.
•Denigrates women.
•Has passages promoting violence and division.
•Condones slavery.
•Drunken Incest.

It even describes the size of ones genitals and the volume of their ejaculate. Don't believe me? Read Ezekiel 23:20: "There she lusted after her lovers, whose genitals were like those of donkeys and whose emission was like that of horses." That's pretty graphic for a book that is forced on kids at an early age if you ask me.

So if the Bible that they love so much isn't clean, why ruin all these other books? And why be surprised that authors don't like it? Many Christians hate the Jefferson Bible since it omitted the divinity and all the magic that they love. Yet the creator of this is fine with doing what they hate. Jefferson could do it because he was working from a source that was public domain. But Clean Reader is working from copyrighted materials that shouldn't be changed by anyone other than the creator themselves.

Some proponents have said that the authors shouldn't care how people are reading their books. But I disagree. They should absolutely care if people are enjoying their books as intended. When the
Awkward Moments (not found in your average) Children's Bible book was launched it garnered plenty of hate mail. Why? Because Christians thought they were changing the meaning of Bible verses, and they were pissed! Now, the truth was that they didn't actually change the meanings, and those that were upset were just Biblically ignorant. But the fact remains that they were mad at them for thinking they were doing exactly what Clean Reader does. Yet when it's the other way around they think there's no reason to be upset.

Screw that double-standard bull-shit! There's plenty of reason for artists to oppose this app. If you don't like books with expletives don't use this app. Either read something else or write your own books, and leave the creative work of others unmolested and in it's true and intended form rather that foisting undue censorship upon it.

-Brain Hulk

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