I’m very disappointed that a professor of Journalism at a respected University in a country could commit what seems like the worst form of censorship on a respected newspaper, Business Day, on what book(s) not to read. I expected better from both the professor and the newspaper.
Anton Harber, a Caxton Professor of Journalism at Wits University, pleaded on his Business Day column today, 1 August, that readers of his column – and by extension anyone and everyone who happens to read it from anywhere in the world – should not bother buying Glenn Agliotti’s biography by Peter Piegl and Sean Newman, published by Penguin this year, 2013. It’s title “I hate to say it, but please do not buy this book” says a lot about the author than the book itself. Or even its subject. Harber claims the book is “second-rate” because – like many other similar books – it is “appalling” and its publication is “egregious”. You would think, dear reader, the processor’s column is a review of the book but it isn’t.
He only tells us why we should not bother buying and or even reading it for reasons mentioned above. Harber further insinuates that instead of buying the book, “[Our] money is better spent on the Lotto, where at least someone might benefit.” Really? Maybe this is why he never writes book reviews because he has nothing better to say about them. Another grave mistake – in my opinion – he commits is accusing the two authors as Agliotti’s “acolytes” whose biography of the man is “badly researched, written” and is “riddled with factual errors”.
Our dearest professor, one who should be encouraging people to read whatever nonsense is published, including Agliotti’s biography and let us decide for ourselves (which we are able to do, or at least I will be once I finished reading it, whether the said book is as horribly written as he claims), somewhat seeks to dictate, indirectly, what we should and should not read. He goes on to question the business ethics behind the publication of the book as if he’s got something against its subject. God help him, I hope he doesn’t.
Unfortunately I cannot speak on behalf of Harber or any other person who might have book the book already or intends buying and reading it – thank to Harber – but I specifically bought the book about two months ago which at the time of writing I had only read until page 8 because I wanted to learn more about Agliotti and anything and everything there is to know about him. What further influenced this decision is because the biography – other than what Harber implies is already public knowledge – gives a further insight of the man through interviews with those who are close him (family, etc).
Maybe it is the professor’s opinion on what books to buy and not buy that should actually remain private. Or at least, this is the most absurd appeal from a professor that should rather remain published on his blog – The Harbinger – and not published on and endorsed by a respected newspaper as it happened today. But I’m glad I bought the book when I did and intend finishing it by the end of this month and decide for myself whether the professor’s advice is worth taking seriously or not.
I mean, surely Harber can’t be the FPB (Film and Publication Board) of books. Or can he?