Censorship: I’ve Lost Track

It’s finally happened; I’ve lost track of who’s censoring what.

Everyone’s up in arms about the Florida school library mess, and from the outside that seems perfectly reasonable. We can’t be banning books just because we don’t like them, right? I mean, banning Harry Potter just because he’s a wizard is so 1980s.

Except that’s not why we’re banning him. No, Harry is out because Dumbledore is gay — this despite the fact that he’s in no relationships whatsoever in the books.

Ah, but I tell a lie: Rowling isn’t being censored due to that; it’s old news, and the law only considers the contents. No, she was canceled three years ago because apparently she’s a TERF, whatever that’s supposed to mean. No; don’t tell me. I don’t want to know. More to the point, I already know all about what happened in 2020, what came before, and what’s happened since, and I’m thoroughly fed up. Ever read her explanation, or are you judging her based on what other people told you?

Honestly, I don’t much care about Rowling’s Twitter mess. She’s a writer, not a sociologist or an educator; as far as the politics of transvestitism and transsexualism, her opinion is worth exactly that of any celebrity — perhaps a touch more, since she at least is well-read. But on the whole, the amount I don’t care about what she thinks of this or that outside of the contents of her works is difficult to overstate.

Bear in mind: The government of Florida hasn’t been the organization that has emptied school library shelves. That’s the schools themselves, more than once as a publicity stunt by a librarian or a small group of teachers. The law that’s being called a book ban, HB 1467, “requires districts to catalog every book on their shelves and put a formal review process in place for complaints.” (Tallahassee Democrat, 02 Mar 23) It doesn’t ban books; it formalizes community feedback into schoolroom contents — which has always existed. I recall my own school librarian getting fired for loaning out Br’er Rabbit and Anne McCaffrey after two wildly different parents complained; before then, she had fully stocked a section on Religion, but insisted that the Bible be shelved in Literature instead. Amusing, but hardly politic.

Bear in mind, I’m not saying it’s a good law; in point of fact, it’s rather poorly written, and can interact with existing anti-pornography statutes in some unforeseen ways. Worse, as the Democrat reports, the guidance sent out for schools is heavy on the punishment aspect and light on permissions. Still, as laws go, it’s not as bad as it could be, and it’s better written than some I could mention.

School libraries are too small to hold all the books they ought to, and censorship within them is a commonplace and always has been. I’d wager that, if Dilbert books used to be on display, across half the country they aren’t now. I challenge you to find Br’er Rabbit and Stagolee in any one high school library. “50 Shades Of Grey” doesn’t belong on the shelves, but that’s only because it’s very badly written. I’m of two minds about “Lolita”; the kids can handle it, but I’m afraid it’ll give the teachers ideas.

If it seems that I’m taking this lightly, that’s because I am. Governor DeSantis is being vilified not because he’s a terrible person (though he may well be) but rather because it’s well-known he has presidential ambitions. Any reasonable coverage of the new school library law would accurately state its terms, but instead the stories are all about framing pictures of canvas-draped shelving. More to the point, any fair treatment would vilify all censorship in schools, and not merely the most recent Republican fiascoes — abhorrent though some of the latter attempts have been.

An honest description of book bans would conclude that the Left censures (and censors!) as surely as the Right; Mrs. Grundy is apolitical. The difference lies in the reasons. Conservatives of late have been working to remove LGBTQ+ content; activists of another ilk have at times banned the Bible, “Mein Kampf”, “I Rode With Stonewall”, and “Huckleberry Finn”. It seems that those who would riot at the removal of “This Book Is Gay” have no problem sanitizing Roald Dahl or rewriting Mark Twain.

Bear in mind: I’m not attempting to classify the two as equivalent in anything except hypocrisy. Is it worse to ban Bibles than Korans? Not my concern; it’s equally inane to ban either, but also absurd to pretend that, left to its own devices, every school library will eagerly supply every book that a kid might request. Should the choice be left to educators without any parental oversight? Scarred veterans of school board meetings all over the country will tell you that it never has been before, so why would be start now?

The bottom line: If we’re going to call every would-be school library censor a racist book-burning Nazi, we’ll find them on both sides of the political aisle — and in no small numbers. Any discussion of which side has more at the moment is missing the point.

ADDENDUM: I’ve been asked about the proposed HR 999, and accusations that it’s literally Naziism. I offer the text, the observation that it hasn’t passed or even been finalized, and the observation that of course it’s drawing extreme criticism since it offers a method to fire state college professors who have tenure — even though it’s only for cause.

The department of Politics at state colleges is being renamed to Government and Civics, and it’s being completely restructured to teach the American system of government rather than formalized classes in the practice of activism. Race-based analyses are removed and replaced by class-based.

That last does bother me; a decent university would teach both, not as alternate theories but instead where applicable. Apart from that, it’s difficult for me to quibble; I’ve been over the current curriculum, and it’s difficult for me to imagine any possibility of gainful employment of a current graduate. (Marx would be horrified; the concept of class doesn’t even enter into it.) All I can offer there is the hope that the text be revised during the legislative process in favor of academic flexibility.

You can send cash to PayPal in order to help support us, set up a subscription donation at Patreon, or buy us a coffee. Remember: Today’s dollar will only be worth 87 cents tomorrow, so donate now while it’s still worth something!

Besides, you know if you don’t donate to us, you’d just end up piddling the money away on rent and groceries.

Buy Me A Coffee

NOTE: Image taken from “Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade”; since this article is intended to educate, it’s here under Fair Use. All rights belong to the owners, not me, and if they want me to take it down, they can quite easily ask me nicely. I’m always happy to cooperate with our benevolent corporate overlords.

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s