Southern writers in the 30’s was only a temporary interruptionnin the smooth running of the New York-Bostonnhegemony. Hilariously, Kostelanetz thinks there was anSouthern mafia dominated by Allen Tate and WilliamnFaulkner, who more or less couldn’t stand each other.)nConspiracies aside, our literature exhibits all the ugliestnfeatures of monopoly: our writers are smug, uncompetitive,nand incompetent; they are so obviously satisfied with theirnown performance, they cannot understand why no one innhis right mind (i.e., people who are not in the business) evernreads their stuff. The most conspicuous exceptions proventhe rule: interesting articles still appear in the Hollins Criticnand the Sewanee Review, or in The American Scholar,nwhich is edited in Chicago by a Chicagoan (JosephnEpstein).nIn this context, the great debate over censorship innAmerica is nothing more than a distraction from the mainnpoint. It is hard to believe that the defenders of intellectualnfreedom really want us to take them seriously. University ofnMinnesota librarian David Berninghausen, in a tract publishednby the American Library Association {The FlightnFrom Reason), continues to fear a rightist conspiracy againstnthe First Amendment. From it you can see how thenfanaticism of the New Left in the 60’s and 70’s has reallynresulted in an upsurge of McCarthyism. That Berninghausen,nwho has also held positions in the ACLU and thenAAUP, does not see himself and his organizations as part ofnthe reigning establishment, can only be due to the blindersnof regionalism. If he lived in New York, he would be eithernmore perceptive or more candid.nWhat does the ALA’s Library Bill of Rights mean, fornan industry that is, for the most part, so tightlyncontrolled? All the news that’s fit to print, of course. If ideasnand writers too exotic or too conservative for PublishersnWeekly, Library Journal, and the various buying services donmake it into print, they usually will not have to face actualncensorship: they simply won’t be reviewed, distributed, ornpurchased. If a comparatively small number of publishers,neditors, and critics don’t happen to like you or if, like GeorgenGilder and Kingsley Amis, you step on the toes of feministsnor homosexuals, even the prospects of a healthy sale will notntempt most publishers. If we accept the old definition ofncensorship as prior restraint on publishing, then the only realncensors in the US are Alfred Kazin and the Our Gangnmembers who have spent their lives patting each other onnthe back, and funding and honoring each other’s books.nWriters and editors who had the courage to “break ranks,”nin Mr. Podhoretz’s phrase, are insulted in the vilest terms.nFor this reason, the so-called neoconservatives probably cannnever go back to the old alliance. In comparison with thenheavy-handed power of the Northeastern left, a few scatteredncases of book-burning in middle America are hardlynworth the attention they have received in the press.nConsider a few fairly recent censorship cases that arensupposed to boil the blood of every right-thinking civilnlibertarian:n— The case oiHazelwood School District v. Kuhlmeidernin which a superior court declared that a high-schoolnprincipal could in fact censor the school newspaper.n— The Reagan administration’s decision to close downn10/CHRONICLESnnnthe FLO information office in September 1987.n— The district court ruling against the Librarian ofnCongress who dropped Playboy from the Library’s braillenpublication series; the judge declared the action to be “antype of censorship.”n— Complaints against the National Endowment for thenArts for funding allegedly pornographic poets; the NEA’snpredictable answer was the cry of “censorship.”n— The several cases in Canada, West Germany, andnelsewhere, in which teachers and writers have been prosecutednfor challenging the standard view of the Holocaust.n— Finally: Tipper Gore and rock music, textbook casesnin Alabama and Tennessee, attacks on Huckleberry Finnnand other literary works for racist and sexist stereotypes, newnfeminist pornography laws in Indianapolis and Minneapolis,nthreats of violence against performances of Vanessa Redgrave,nwho supports the FLO, and the PTA’s national callnfor rating rock music.nThe most striking of these cases are little more thannminor league conflicts between ethnic, political, and religiousnfactions: feminists against liberals, fundamentalistsnagainst atheists, Jews against Arabs, blacks against whites.nMeanwhile our intellectual life is dominated by the samenpeople who have been running things since the 30’s; whichnbrings us back to the question of how it happened.nI don’t have a complete answer, but I can guess at part ofnit. Once upon a time there were rivals to the literarynmonolith of the Northeast; once upon a time New York wasnindependent of New England, although even James FenimorenCooper saw the change coming. Even after the NewnYork-Boston axis took over American letters, regional centersnlike Charleston, Richmond, and Baltimore were able tonsupport the careers of Poe, Gilmore Simms, and Lanier.nHowever, regional and local diversity were only possiblenunder a political and economic system that guaranteed thenrights of states and local communities. In the past twongenerations. Congress, the federal courts, and countlessnregulatory agencies have done their best to destroy thenfederal structure of our government. All our businesses,nincluding publishing, are now dominated by national andnmultinational corporations regulated by national (and evenninternational) agencies. The various trade groups and interestngroups representing writers, editors, and publishers arennational (or, in the case of PEN, international) in scope.nAlthough some small measure of local autonomy is permitted,ncensorship per se is more and more a matter for federalncourts to decide.nOne speculative conclusion emerges from all of this, thatnin any enterprise there is a rough correspondence betweennthe locus of control and organization and the locus ofnregulation: if a business is locally regulated, there is a greaternlikelihood that it will be locally owned and operated. Whennfederal courts, the FCC, the FTC, and the ICC regulatenthings, there are obvious advantages that accrue to nationalnorganizations, whether the business is hardware or literature.nThe Emperor Caligula, who apparently understood thenvalue of centralization, is said to have wished that all ofnRome had but one neck. For some time now, our nationalnliterature has had something like one neck. Small wonder itnhas proved so easy to lop off our collective head.n<^n