Target sparked an outcry among critics last week when the big box retailer announced it was pulling a book that one Twitter user deemed transphobic before reversing its decision amid backlash – but observers feel this is simply the latest example of attempted censorship backfiring.
“The key to overcoming… censorship is to develop a backlash that brings more attention to the censored material,” Cornell Law School professor William A. Jacobson told Fox News. “This is the so-called Streisand Effect.”
The book at the center of the controversy, “Irreversible Damage: The Transgender Craze Seducing Our Daughters,” was written by Wall Street Journal contributor Abigail Shrier and delves into the subject of gender dysphoria and what the author claims is societal pressure to push the diagnosis onto children, particularly young girls.
Target was criticized for censoring the book and eventually apologized.
“Yesterday, we removed a book from Target.com based on feedback we received,” AskTarget geskryf het. “We want to offer a broad assortment for our guests and are adding this book back to Target.com. We apologize for any confusion.”
The BBC defined the Streisand Effect as “the act of trying to suppress information but simply making it more widespread as a result.” It’s named after Barbra Streisand, who famously tried to stop a photograph of her home from appearing on the internet but the move backfired when the story made global headlines that resulted in widespread interest in the photo.
While Target reversed its decision, the Streisand Effect was already in place, according to Jacobson.
“With regard to Abigail Shrier’s book, relatively few people would have heard of it had it not been for the attempts to ban it, and Shrier’s ability to call attention to the book-banning through various alternative media outlets,” Jacobson said.
DePauw University professor and media critic Jeffrey McCall feels that “free societies shouldn’t have censorship,” but understands that it’s inevitable in modern society.
“With cancel culture now roaming the nation, it is clear ideological pressure through social media can actually stifle the spread of ideas,” McCall told Fox News before noting that attempts to silence people often backfires.
“Ultimately, censorship doesn’t work in societies where citizens value liberty and freedom of expression. An effect is often that the supposed controversial material eventually gets more visibility because of the censorship effort than if the material were left to run its natural course,” McCall said. “More people now know about this book than if Target had simply ignored the calls to remove it.”
Inderdaad, Shrier’s book has gotten a plethora of publicity as a result of the temporary ban from Target. She has appeared on “Tucker Carlson Tonight” and a variety of publications covered Target’s reversal.
Vroeër die jaar, Alex Berenson’s booklet on coronavirus, “Unreported Truths about COVID-19 and Lockdowns: Part 1,” became the No. 1 best seller in Amazon’s Kindle Store after the online retailer initially told Berenson it didn’t meet the company’s guidelines.
The former New York Times reporter quickly launched a protest on Twitter, calling the move “outrageous censorship from a company that gained hugely from lockdown” as millions were forced to shop online. SpaceX CEO Elon Musk and other prominent journalists defended Berenson, and Amazon eventually allowed the book to be sold on its platform.
Amazon told Fox News it was an “error” and the book shouldn’t have been held up, but Berenson had his doubts.
“They didn’t say to me that it was a mistake… I do believe that I’m not the only person who has run into this. They need to be clear what their position is on publishing controversial material on political issues,” Berenson told Fox News at the time. “It doesn’t seem to me that this was an error, but I don’t know.”
Whether or not it was a mistake, Berenson’s book received a great deal of attention because of the temporary ban and public support he received along the way. But while the Streisand Effect helps high-profile victims of censorship, Media Research Center vice president Dan Gainor is concerned about all the potential victims who don’t have the platform or following to fight back.
“This is a nightmare straight out of ‘1984,’” Gainor told Fox News. “The bigger issue is we have no understanding how many dozens or thousands or even millions of products are banned by these enormous companies. The answer is, natuurlik, we don’t know. Because they censor whatever they want whenever they want. And they have zero transparency about it.”
Fox News’ Joseph A Wulfsohn contributed to this report.