Monday, August 7, 2023

Book Banning

Important article about the supposed book banning going on across America: 

It’s not a ban when we do it

If the headlines are to be believed, book banning is exclusively the purview of the political right. The restriction of the graphic Holocaust memoir Maus at a school in Tennessee; the reshelving of Amanda Gorman's inauguration poem, "The Hill We Climb," for middle school instead of elementary school readers at a school library in Florida; the ongoing imbroglio over the graphic memoir Gender Queer, which features a strap-on blowjob scene that is simultaneously too boring to qualify as pornography yet also too explicit to be shown on television: every one of these incidents became a global news story, fueled by a media class that is heavily invested in the narrative of a national censorship crisis, and even moreso in the idea of a slavering mass of would-be book burners rioting in MAGA gear on the steps of every library in America.

It's true that incidents like these tend to be initiated by conservatives concerned that the content of certain books is inappropriate for children — although in many cases, it's more like one conservative for whom trying to get books removed from the library has become something akin to a weird hobby (one analysis found that 60 percent of challenges from the 2021-2022 school year were initiated by just eleven people). But this isn't the whole story when it comes to the removal or restriction of books that someone finds morally objectionable. For every parents' rights group demanding the removal of Gender Queer from the school library, members of the political left have their own, no less ideology-driven ways of restricting access to books. The only difference is there's no oversight, and no media outcry.

Every year, librarians and educators quietly purge their shelves of titles they've deemed outdated, irrelevant, or offensive in a process known as weeding. This is standard practice in school and public libraries across the country, and just as reflective of political pieties as the highly-publicized challenges to books like Gender Queer. Like so many other professions, library science has become increasingly preoccupied with progressive politics in recent years, while the notion that the library should remain apolitical is increasingly unpopular among those who work there. In 2016, librarians donated to Hillary Clinton's campaign over Trump's by a ratio of 419 to 1. The annual conferences of the American Library Association (ALA), the oldest and largest professional consortium of librarians, are packed with DEI-related programming, and librarians are instrumental in the DisruptTexts and Decolonize Your Bookshelf movements designed to steer readers away from the problematic classics written by straight, white men. Even the Dewey decimal system has been declared racist.

The archetypal librarian ingrained in the American imagination (and whom many of us still remember from our youth) might have shushed you for talking too loudly, but she'd happily connect you with any book you wanted. Today's librarians, on the other hand, often see themselves not only as custodians of literature, but gatekeepers, educators, and activists, and they've been as instrumental as anyone in turning the library from an ideologically neutral space into a political battleground.

Once a book has been deemed "harmful" — that is, guilty of one of the -isms or -phobias — it's not unusual for librarians to look for ways to keep it out of children's hands, if not pull it from the shelves entirely. There are many ways to suppress a library book when you're the one in control of which titles get displayed, promoted, and included on reading lists (just this week in the UK, a "best practices" guide for librarians reportedly advised keeping books by "transphobic" authors out of sight and off recommendation lists lest the reading public become distressed). As one blog post on the American Library Association website coyly explains, "While I’m not saying you need to out-and-out remove Tikki Tikki Tembo, Dr. Seuss or Little House on the Prairie from your library, what I am saying is we all — most especially white librarians — need to be more conscious of the messages our recommendations send to our public, and the lessons children are learning from those recommendations. If a classic isn’t circulating the way it used to, if it no longer meets the criteria set for inclusion in your collection — maybe it’s time to weed."

In other words, we're not saying you need to remove this book. We're saying, you should do everything in your power to stop people from reading this book, and then remove it because people aren't reading it anymore… for some strange reason.

If you want to have some fun with your local woke librarian, ask why they do not have The Turner Diaries in their collection.  Is it important?  For understanding the tiny neo-Nazi movement and the destruction of the Oklahoma Federal Building in 1995, yes.  Would it provoke young people to turn neo-Nazi?  Some, perhaps.  It is a well-written, entertaining novel, once you get past the racism, anti-Semitism, and incitement to violence.  

Do they have Dan Giffords' documentary Waco: The Rules of Engagement (1997)?  It is certainly important.  But it raises questions about the honesty of the FBI and the integrity of the official news media.

Oh yes: The Myth of Extermination of the Jews and Holocaust: The Greatest Lie Ever Told.  Of course, some progressives might appreciate those.

These are public libraries.  If the people funding them have no say in how the collections are curated, then the "woke" should fund them.

1 comment:

  1. What the Leftists call book banning is parents complaining about the porn inflicted on their children as elementary school indoctrinees.
    Disappearing Huckleberry Finn or Charlie and the Chocolate Factory for outdated language now deemed offensive is merely updating the collection, weeding as Librarians call it.