Goodnight Reality:

Goodnight Moon is one of the best-selling children's books of all time (and with good reason). Yet in response to anti-smoking sentiment, Harper-Collins is doctoring photos of the book's illustrator Clement Hurd, to hide the fact that he smoked. It's not censorship, and I fully support discouraging kids from smoking, but I find Harper-Collins decision shameful nonetheless. The creator of this site does too.

Anon1ms (mail):
Perhaps they should have cropped the photo rather than Photoshopped it, but does this really rise to the level of being "shameful"? Seems to me that you have a pretty low threshold.
11.28.2005 1:52pm
Justin (mail):
Ditto comment.
11.28.2005 2:09pm
Anonymous coward:
When you look up 'overreaction' in the dictionary, this is it - comparing Stalin to airbrusing a cigarette out of an author pic? You can find better causes to fight than this one, I hope.
11.28.2005 2:11pm
I think it is an underaction, as how is it not censorship? I suspect that the prior posters support the anti-smoking sentiment behind the censorship (as do I), and therefore fail to see the dangerous slippery slope and interference with artistic integrity that this represents. Parents can explain to their children that at one time smoking was widespread, but that now people know better. Or should they not tell their kids about slavery, the Holocaust, or anything else bad from our past?
11.28.2005 2:21pm
sorry -- I meant "underreaction"
11.28.2005 2:22pm
Cornellian (mail):
Would it be equally shameful if they just chose a picture of him not smoking? Left out his picture entirely?

I'm with the other posters, seems like overreaction to me.

Interesting hypo, suppose he wasn't a smoker but they photoshopped a cigarette into his hand in his picture? More objectionable, less objectionable or about the same?
11.28.2005 2:23pm
I think this is great. As a parent, I wouldn't buy a children's book if I noticed a photo of someone with a cigarette. Better to change or remove the photo than to lose out on getting the book.

A lot of libertarians fall into the trap of thinking that anti-smoking things are just P.C. nonsense to be opposed. IMHO, the publisher's and consumers' freedom is more important than your notion of what is or is not P.C.
11.28.2005 2:23pm
BTW, you people should try reading the book. It is more of a beginning reader or an infant/toddlers read-along book that a book for say 10 year olds. It is not Harry Potter or Lord of the Rings. No, it is NOT the right book to engage your kid in a discussion of smoking or slavery or any other complex moral issues.

The biggest moral issue most kids face with this book is whether the pages are meant to be eaten or looked at.
11.28.2005 2:30pm
Bob Bobstein (mail):
IANALibertarian, but, there's a debate in libertarian circles as to whether anti-smoking laws are pernicious statism, or a Good Thing because second hand smoke is at least unpleasant and at worst dangerous.

Not all Photoshopping is shameful. There is no slippery slope here, just good old capitalism doing good things. Harper isn't trying to eliminate smoking from the pages of History, but from one image on the back page of a children's book. "Shameful" is overreacting; even mild criticism might be overreacting.
11.28.2005 2:31pm
DaveK (mail):
As I understand it, the objection is not to hiding of the fact that the author smoked, but rather to the widespread publication of a falsified photo. To disseminate the modified photo without annotation and without the author's knowledge and consent distorts the historical record: his smoking is simply quietly obliterated from any of the millions of copies of Goodnight Moon hereafter published.

I'm all for efforts to discourage children from smoking, and I would support replacing the photo with a different one or simply publishing the book with no author photo. Cropping the photo might even be an acceptable alternative. But digitally airbrushing the cigarrette out of the author's visible fingers seems irresponsible and inappropriate.
11.28.2005 2:33pm
Juan Non-Volokh (mail) (www):
DaveK's comment nails it. Omitting the photo or finding an alternative photo without a cigarette would be perfectly acceptable. Doctoring the photo without acknowledgement is something else entirely, as it is a deliberate falsification of the historical record. "Irresponsible and inappropriate," in DaveK's words; "shameful" in mine.

11.28.2005 3:11pm
steveh2 (mail):
What obligation do the printers of Goodnight Moon have to the "historical record"? To the extent they even have such an obligation, it would be far outweighed by their obligation to the parents of the toddlers reading (or eating) the book.
11.28.2005 3:13pm
JohnO (mail):
My kids LOVE that book. I noticed the cig that Hurd has going in the picture right away and am glad they are getting rid of it. The details beyond that are irrelevant to me. I do assume, however, that his heirs have some say-so in the marketing of his work.
11.28.2005 3:14pm
Which is shameful? The exercise of First Amendment rights by a publisher? Or the modification of a photo with the consent (via a release form) of the subject of the photo?
Stalin killed 20 million. What has Harper Collins done?
There are several suggestions here that cropping is preferable to photoshopping. I suspect this is a generational difference in opinion - one is old technology, one is new technology. Both alter a photograph; I see no moral difference. I no longer see any photograph published after the advent of Adobe Photoshop as authoritative evidence of anything except the existence of a photographic artist.
I note that the owner of the linked site is not above manipulating the election results. He claims he's making up for OTHER people's manipulation. Publishing an IP from a major ISP and saying that the vote rigging started there is not substantiation. This is silly and petty, and not like Stalin at all. More like Kafka.
I now return from lunch to work, having overreacted to an overreaction. Kafka indeed.
11.28.2005 3:30pm
Such alterations have taken place on a bigger scale. The Postal Service removed cigarettes from photos of blues singer Robert Johnson and painter Jackson Pollock when it used the images on stamps.
11.28.2005 3:36pm
steveh2 (mail):
JNoV, how is posting a picture of someone not holding a cigarette a falsification of the historical record? Are you saying he held a cigarette in his hand every second of every day? Of course not. There were clearly times when he held a cigarette, and times when he didn't. Therefore, it does not falsify a historical record to depict him not holding a cigarette.

If you replaced the cigarette with a joint, maybe that would be falsifying the record. Or maybe if you superimposed "I Love Communism" on his shirt, fine. But a picture of someone not holding a cigarette, when there were truly times where that person didn't hold a cigarette, doesn't falsify anything.
11.28.2005 3:45pm
frankcross (mail):
Sure it's a falsification. The picture displays him at a particular time and place but changes what he is doing. Stalin surely could have on this theory justified eliminating Politburo members on the theory they sometimes went to the bathroom and were not present.

But this, unlike Stalin, is very trivial. It has nothing to do with PC, despite some paranoia, and everything to do with capitalism. Parents are more likely to buy the book without the cigarette. And I suspect it's an utterly harmless falsification, absent some objection from members of the family.
11.28.2005 3:56pm
Anderson (mail) (www):
They can't find a SINGLE photo of this guy without a cigarette in his hand?

Remind me never to be photographed without a glass of Scotch.
11.28.2005 4:14pm
Artemis (mail):
"Goodnight, Moon" was one of my children's absolute favorites. To be honest, I'd never noticed the photo of the smoking Clement Hurd on the cover, but it wouldn't have bothered me if I had. While I *do* think it's an overreaction to compare Harper Collins to Stalin, I also disagree with the decision to alter the photograph. Is it trivial in the grand scheme of things? Probably, but it fits in with a trend toward a mostly politically correct kind of sanitizing of children's literature and entertainment that *is* troubling.

I remember watching an HBO television production entitled "Goodnight, Moon," which contained animated versions of a couple of children's stories, interspersed with interviews with children. It was, for the most part, a very nice production, but its animated version of "There's a Nightmare in My Closet," by Mercer Mayer, edited the story in a way that bothered me. The young boy in the story discovers a monster in his closet, and he aims his pop-gun at him and says, "Be quiet or I'll shoot you." In the video, the boy points a rubber sword at the monster and says, "Be quiet or I'll get you." I assume the change was made with the author's permission, which makes it less objectionable, but, trivial as this particular issue seems, it suggests a willingness to bowdlerize the artistic and cultural productions of the past to fit a more "enlightened" ideology. And while I'm not ready to light the torches and gather the pitchforks and march on Harper Collins or HBO, I am bothered by that kind of sanitizing.
11.28.2005 4:21pm
Juan Non-Volokh (mail) (www):
But a picture of someone not holding a cigarette, when there were truly times where that person didn't hold a cigarette, doesn't falsify anything.

Ummm . . . no. First, it falsifies the picture. The picture in question contains a cigarette. Editing or cropping it out falisifies the picture. Second, insofar as the picture is presented as a true visual representation of what was -- the historical record is falsified by doctoring the photo. Replacing one undoctored photo with another undoctored photo, on the other hand, would serve the same purpose and not falsify the historical record.

For those who seem perplexed, I called this action "shameful" because I believe a publisher should be ashamed to falsify photos in this way, even if for a good cause. I didn't say it should be illegal, call for boycotting the company, or otherwise express outrage. Disapproval comes in many gradations. In my opinion, Harper-Collins actions are worse than "silly" (Michelle Malkin's word), but hardly "sinister" or "outrageous."

I'll also note that I avoided making any comparison to Stalin because he was a sufficiently monstrous individual that any validity the comparison may have (Stalin &Harper-Collins both doctored photos, and such historical revisionism is commonly associated with Stalin) is outweighed by the orders-of-magnitude difference between Stalin's crimes and the merely "shameful" actions of Harper-Collins here.

11.28.2005 4:23pm
Master Shake:

Ummm . . . no. First, it falsifies the picture. The picture in question contains a cigarette. Editing or cropping it out falisifies the picture.

I'm pretty sure that something between a substantial minority and a significant majority of pictures in newspapers, magazines and the like have been "edited or cropped". This may not be ideal, but it is reality.
11.28.2005 5:06pm
Sans cigarette, Clement Hurd's right hand looks ridiculous in that photo. Fwiw, Goodnight Moon is one of my alltime favorite books, and I managed not only to be a non-smoker, but virulently so. (Viva Bloomberg!) My sentimentality regarding the book outweighs my anti-tobacco instincts. HarperCollins is being ridiculous. You cannot eliminate smoking in the young by pretending it never existed. Full disclosure is the way to go.

The objections to the Stalin reference miss the point. Just because something is not like Stalin in all respects, or even most salient aspects, does not mean that there aren't areas of overlap. Doctoring history to fit a pre-approved narrative, however, happens to be one area where Stalin's legacy lives on. I would have taken it the next level of metaphor up and refered to "thought police," but who are they supposed to be, allegorically?

Goodnight room.
11.28.2005 5:14pm
Alex R:
Comment (1): I saw this story a little while ago, in The New York Times, and would note that according to this story, in response to the "controversy", The next editions of "Goodnight Moon" will likely feature a different photograph of Mr. Hurd, without a cigarette in hand. So most of this argumentation is a bit moot...

Comment (2): I can't resist the chance to link to the best summary of the book ever, in Daniel Radosh's Power Point Anthology of Literature.
11.28.2005 5:14pm
Jim Rhoads (mail):
If H/C altered the picture without the permission of the subject, its actions are legally suspect unless the release form permits such alteration. IMO, unilateral action without permission is the problem whatever the social utility of the action.
11.28.2005 5:17pm
Really, the answer here is that we should adopt the bill Ted Kennedy proposed to give artists rights over subsequent resales and/or modifications to their work. When JNOV and Ted Kennedy agree you know they must be right!

(note the above is tongue-in-cheek)
11.28.2005 5:26pm
I think the most shameful thing about this is that you linked to Michelle Malkin.

"How about shut up and publish, and leave the anti-tobacco zealotry to the ashtray cops?"

Classy lady...
11.28.2005 5:35pm
For all we know, without the satisfaction the author derived from smoking, he never would have written the book at all.
11.28.2005 5:44pm
Bob Flynn (mail):
Thank God for JNOV!

Lotta situational ethicists read this blog, I infer, from the comments above.

Is it proper or not to doctor a photo for commercial purposes? Artistic purposes? Moral purposes?

Answer: I think not

This holds, even if the expressed purpose is to save us from the evils of smoking.

Hell, I'm tempted to teach my kids to smoke, if this politically correct nonsense continues to gain currency. Goodnight, Moon, Hello, Mr. Marlborough Man!
11.28.2005 6:03pm
So they photoshop the cigarette out of this dude's hand, and yet the frightening visage of Shel Silverstein continues to strike terror into every child with a copy of The Giving Tree . . . .
11.28.2005 6:22pm
Owen Hutchins (mail):
Is it a slow day, that people are reduced to being affended by this?
11.28.2005 6:24pm
JosephSlater (mail):
As a father of a 2-year old who loves "Goodnight Moon," I think Michelle Malkin really, really needs to listen to the quiet old lady whispering, "hush."
11.28.2005 7:08pm
JBurgess (mail) (www):
I seem to recall that the US Postal Service removed a cigarette from the hand of a jazz musician being featured on a stamp around 1994-96. Anyone remember that?
11.28.2005 7:15pm
There seems to be some confusion about why Harper Collins changed the photo. They didn't do it to "save us from the evils of smoking." Rather, "HarperCollins said it made the change to avoid the appearance of encouraging smoking [from NY Times article]." This is a key distinction. HC isn't worried that toddlers and pre-schoolers would be led to a (short) lifetime of smoking through this classic work. Instead, for reasons based either on the bottom line or on moral principle, they were making a deliberate effort to seperate their commercial activities from the perception that they endorsed smoking. I have a feeling it was more the former (bottom line) than the latter (principle), but I applaud the move regardless of the motivation.
11.28.2005 7:16pm
Photography is inherently a "falsification of the historical record." To take the example of just one parameter, each time a photographer makes an exposure he or she makes choices about what to edit in and what to edit out of the frame. That decision may be changed at the point the photograph is printed, published, or reprinted by further cropping. Every photograph involves many such editorial decisions: exposure, dodging, burning, selective focus, etc. all of which might be said to "change reality." The availability of digital techniques has increased the number and precision of tools available to make these changes, but, as the Stalin example shows, photo manipulation preceded Photoshop. So why are some alterations acceptable and others not? Jerry Uelsmann's extreme manipulations don't seem to bother anyone, but (some) people became quite upset when it came to light that several of Eugene Smith's most famous images involved much less significant "compositing" from different negatives. This is a hotly debated issue among photographers and critics, but the answer may have to do with what a particular image purports to represent and the expectations of the audience in viewing it. Photojournalism is likely held to different standards than pure art photography because it is understood that the purposes of the two forms is different (although distinctions between them are not always clear). In the Stalin example, the image was (presumably) manipulated to alter the representation of a specific historical event being reported in the photograph. In the Hurd example, the photograph isn't intended to represent Hurd on a specific occasion, but just to represent a general likeness. For that reason, I find the alteration ethically trivial.
11.28.2005 8:34pm
therut (mail):
They did the same thing to the FDR statue in Washingon.
11.28.2005 10:55pm
Cornellian (mail):
If H/C altered the picture without the permission of the subject, its actions are legally suspect unless the release form permits such alteration. IMO, unilateral action without permission is the problem whatever the social utility of the action.

I would think it would be the copyright holder who would have a legal objection if anyone does, not the subject of the photograph. Pretty hard to get a false light tort out of a picture of someone not smoking.
11.28.2005 11:46pm
Jeff Davidson (mail):
Hi -

Am I correct that some are arguing that any change in a photo is a falsification of the historical record? Does that also count with cleaning up photo portraits, formal wedding pictures, your daughter's senior HS picture, etc.? If we ever do see a photo of JNV, will it be warts and all under harsh light designed to reveal the truth of his face, or will he choose a context that minimizes his physical flaws and thus presents a warped view of the historical record?
11.29.2005 5:11am
Yeah, and I've heard that a few magazine photos of famous actresses/actors are 'airbrushed.' What a travesty of censorship! They should shut up and publish, and leave the anti-splotching zealotry to the Noxzema cops...
11.29.2005 7:57am
Rich (mail):
I think malkin was on about this. I do not need HarperCollins protecting me from anything. Harper is thinking that I (or a young person) will observe the photo and run out and buy a pack rather than me observe the photo and note the subject is holding a cig. It's pretty damn presumptous of Harper to do this. Shut up and publish.
11.29.2005 11:43am
markm (mail):
The difference between airbrushing and cropping: In this case, editing out the cigarette left his hand hanging out there, looking ridiculous. Cropping it at shoulder height would have eliminated the hand and cigarette, leaving a normal head shot. (I hope the face doesn't scare the children.)

More generally, any photo is just part of the truth. A cropped photo might be a little less of the truth. An edited photo introduces falsehood. But this case is so trivial...
11.29.2005 2:21pm
Jeremy Pierce (mail) (www):
This isn't the first time. Publishers of C.S. Lewis' books have sometimes airbrushed cigarettes out of photos of him, because a large enough percentage of his potential audience considers smoking immoral.
12.1.2005 10:58am