Writing on the Telegraph's blog section today, Andrew M Brown, recounted an incident in which he discovered that his local library does not stock Tintin books on the grounds that they are not "politically correct".
While Asterix is freely available, "only a handful of elderly dog-eared Tintins" remained at the unnamed Library, the head of which put a stop to all attempts to get more "politically incorrect" Tintin books.
This is not the first time Tintin books have come under attack, although usually the attacks are made on one specific book, Tintin in the Congo.
The depiction of Africans in the book as ignorant, childish, ridiculous and big-lipped is so outrageous that it verges on the comic. One Congolese student recently attempted to get the book banned in Belgium and France he said he found it so offensive.
Equally, the way Tintin guns down a whole herd of gazelle in the book, and blows up a rhinoceros with dynamite would shock anyone, no matter how uninterested they are in animal rights.
Incidentally both cases of extreme animal cruelty were committed in some sense by mistake. Tintin only wanted to shoot one gazelle and, if memory serves, he only wanted to kill the rhino for its ivory, rather than completely destroy it. Still one cannot really say that's much of an improvement.
Yes there is no doubting that Tintin in the Congo is the most un-PC of all Herge's works. Herge himself later expressed regret about the book, saying that it reflected common attitudes at the time.
Yet Tintin in the Congo is not the only question mark over Tintin. A number of apparently Jewish characters in other Tintin books, usually villains, are portrayed rather stereotypically, with some looking like they came straight from the pages of Der Sturmer. This combined with Herge's associations with fascist sympathisers and newspapers all form something of a blemish on him and his work.
However there is much to be praised in almost all the other Adventures of Tintin and a lot that one could describe as "politically correct".
Tintin in America, written just after Tintin in the Congo, strongly criticises the treatment and exploitation of Native Americans by the U.S. government and big business, while Tintin in the land of the Soviets, although ridiculous in parts, at least exposed the evil of the Soviet Union at a time when most leftists and liberals where apologising for or even praising the Georgian butcher Stalin.
Herge went on to specifically denounce racial stereotyping in The Blue Lotus, still one of his earlier works. In it Tintin saves a young Chinese boy, Chang, from drowning. Chang expresses his surprise that a white boy should save him, saying he was brought up to believe that all white men were foreign devils. Tintin in reply says that equally there are Europeans who believe that all Chinese are sinister baby-eating Fu-Man-Chu types. Both laugh at the absurdity of this and Chang becomes one of Tintin's greatest friends, with Tintin flying half way across the world to save Chang after he is apparently killed in an air disaster.
Racial stereotyping, while not absent from Tintin, was practised far more in the Asterix books, which appear not to have fallen foul of the inquisition at Mr Andrew M Brown's local library.
In Asterix the Corsicans are all lazy, grudge-bearing mafia-types, the British are tea-drinking, cricket players who can only be conquered because they refuse to fight at weekends, the Germans are goose-stepping, spiked helmet wearing militarists and the black characters are just as thick lipped although nowhere near as stupid as those shown in Tintin in the Congo.
Attempting to suppress Tintin because he is not "politically correct" is foolish. While it is quite understandable that libraries might not wish to supply Tintin in the Congo to young children almost every other Tintin book has a positive message or is just a harmless rip-roaring adventure for people of all ages.
Many great artists had views that would not be acceptable today, but that is no reason to suppress their work. Should Romero and Juliet be banned because Shakespeare created the character of Shylock in The Merchant of Venice? Should we lock up the works of Dickens because of Fagin in Oliver? Will we have to live in a world where the overture of Wagner's opera Tannhauser can never again be played? Such a world would be too dull to be worth living in.