Monday, November 24, 2014

Dystopian bias

Writing for The Guardian about modern young adult dystopian novels, Ewan Morrison complains kids are being exposed to right-wing propaganda when really, they should be exposed to left-wing propaganda.

You might say, wait, they're all about freedom and truth and oppressive societies, but the kind of freedom that's being advocated in The Hunger Games and Divergent is, as Salon magazine recently pointed out, more like "agit-prop for capitalism". 
What marks these dystopias out from previous ones is that, almost without exception, the bad guys are not the corporations but the state and those well-meaning liberal leftists who want to make the world a better place. Books such as The Giver, Divergent and the Hunger Games trilogy are, whether intentionally or not, substantial attacks on many of the foundational projects and aims of the left: big government, the welfare state, progress, social planning and equality.

See what I mean? Morrison gives a cherry-picked history of dystopian novels to try to present them as being woven with left-wing messages, focusing on The Handmaid's Tale and some of the work of Philip K. Dick.

The science fiction of William Gibson was also championed by the Marxist critic Fredric Jameson. In this period the capitalist dystopia was a respected left wing "cultural strategy" and its dominance endured till around 1993 which, coincidentally or not, was the time of the fall of the old left and the rise of neoliberalism.

Please note that his examples are fiction, not young adult fiction. Also note his open support for a propagandist "cultural strategy" to encourage political ideas through works of fiction.

What Morrison left out is the long history of dystopian novels that take place in left-wing societies, including socialist ones. There are the major two dystopian novels of the 20th century, 1984 and Brave New World. There's also the trailblazing We, Kurt Vonnegut's Harrison Bergeron and some of the work of Philip K. Dick.

Face it, there have always been dystopian novels about overarching left-wing governments. Plus, any argument that gives a poing credit for being published by is setting itself up for failure.

Check out the creepy way he starts his concluding parapgrah:

If you see yourself as a left-leaning progressive parent, you might want to exercise some of that oppressive parental control and limit your kids exposure to the "freedom" expressed in YA dystopian fiction.

Spoken like a true hack. Ewan Morrison only hates propaganda when it gores his ox.

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