On October 1st, Castle Point Publishing released a parody of the timeless children’s book, If You Give a Pig a Pancake. An illustrated piece of satire, If You Give a Pig the White House, by Faye Kanouse, takes direct aim at Donald Trump and his administration. And conservatives are sounding off.
Boycott Barnes and Noble
As the release took hold and the book climbed the ranks of the Amazon Bestsellers List, horror and disgust leaked into the internet. Many posted pictures of the book, calling for a boycott of Barnes and Noble, who has the audacity to sell such a piece of presidential mockery. Such calls only reveal that conservatives are just as sensitive as the liberals that they enjoy taunting.
Satire and Double Standards
The United States has a long history of political satire, going back to the days of Ben Franklin. The target of such satire can be outraged, but can take their own swing afterwards, bringing a balance to the universe. Mocking politicians is not merely tradition but is our birthright as Americans. Calling one of our leaders a foul name is as protected as a thoughtful debate on an administration’s policies.
One need only consider other popular parodies of children’s books to see the glaring double standard. Goodnight Obama is a parody of Goodnight Moon, which was critical of the Obama Administration. Go the F*ck to Jail is an adult coloring book containing the public Clinton scandals. The list goes on, with plenty of shots taken at Obama, the Clintons, Bush, the rise of socialism in Congress, and Trump.
It’s tragic that this grumbling started just days after Banned Books Week and Constitution Week. We first celebrated our rights and the framework of protections that allow us to freely share ideas. Then we celebrated the literature that upsets us, embracing the spirit of the First Amendment and the writers who have had their work repeatedly challenged, censored, and removed. If conservatives are to be believed as defenders of the Bill of Rights, particularly Freedom of Speech, they need to toughen up a bit.
Freedom of Choice
Consider consumer choice within a free market. Consumers have remarkable power, with a boycott being near the top of our abilities. But there is a difference between boycotting a brand and boycotting a retailer, let alone an idea. If a consumer has a problem with a brand, such as Chick-fil-A, Hobby Lobby, the NFL, or Nike, then they can choose not to consume their products.
In the context of a retailer, such as Barnes and Noble, boycotting the store over one product is needlessly shortsighted, especially when there are similar products targeting Democrats sharing the same shelves. Choosing to reject a bookstore because they carry a popular book that you find offensive is like boycotting a grocery store for carrying your least favorite brand of soda.
As a children’s author, I am no stranger to someone not caring for my work. I receive the occasional email or comment on Facebook, suggesting that teaching children to assert their rights in the face of authority is unacceptable or inappropriate. And I feel fine. I do not expect everyone to purchase my book, just as I do not expect everyone to purchase If You Give a Pig the White House. I also do not expect cries of “Boycott Amazon.”
“Snowflake” Outrage is Free Advertising
Shaping the market and influencing publishers is certainly possible. If enough persons refuse to buy Kanouse’s book, then Castle Point Publishing may refrain from releasing similar works in the future. However, the beauty of sensitivity and hypocrisy in the face of personally uncomfortable ideas, especially in the age of Cancel Culture, is that it gives credence and popularity to these ideas for others.
To use a favorite term of conservatives, being a “snowflake” in 2019 is one of the greatest free advertisements one can receive. Satire, parody, and criticism will only be increasing as we head into 2020, and I can only hope that it comes down like a tidal wave from all sides. Our collective inability to handle criticism, satire, parody, or general mockery is a more destructive force to our society than competing ideas and values. To satirize our President’s popular slogan, “Make America Thoughtful Again.”