Saturday, October 3, 2015

Media Sees Banned Books Week Hoax; True Censorship Ignored

Media is starting to see Banned Books Week for the bullying campaign and hoax it is.  They know keeping inappropriate material from children is not censorship; parents are allowed to challenge public schools without being labelled "censors."  They see the creator of Banned Books Week ignoring true censorship in colleges and by foreign governments and instead leading a bullying campaign to force communities to accept allowing school children to read sexually inappropriate and exploitive material it is perfectly legal under the law to keep out of schools.

I would like to think this is the result of my exposing the issue by listing many Banned Books Week hoax articles (link), but who knows.  By the way, the American Library Association is working to convince schools and the FCC to relax school Internet filtering restrictions, but that part of Banned Books Week called Banned Websites Awareness Day (BWAD) is a hoax to explain at another time.

Here are five recent articles on the "crock" that is called "Banned Books Week":

.... Every right-thinking person agreed: This was an outrage. 
.... But in feeding off of conflicts like Sims vs. the school board, Banned Books Week also traffics in fear-mongering over censorship, when in fact the truth is much sunnier: There is basically no such thing as a "banned book" in the United States in 2015. 
The statistics certainly sound alarming. Since Banned Books Week was instituted in 1982, the event’s website informs us, 11,300 books have been challenged. In 2014 alone, 311 books were banned or challenged in schools and libraries in the United States, with many more cases unreported. It would be easy to assume that the literal banning of books is still a routine occurrence in the United States. 
But take a closer look, and there's much less for freedom-loving readers to be concerned with. The modifier "banned or challenged" contains a lot of wiggle room, for one. A "challenge," in the ALA's definition, is a "formal, written complaint, filed with a library or school requesting that materials be removed because of content or appropriateness." By that definition, Sims' one-woman freak-out in Tennessee qualifies as a "challenge," despite the fact that it posed no real threat to Skloot's book, let alone the "freedom to read."

Much of the rhetoric around Banned Books Week elides not just the difference between the past and the present but some other important distinctions: the difference between "bans" from public libraries and from school libraries, and between inclusion in school curricula and general availability in a library. A parent merely questioning the presence of a book on a required reading list is the same, to the organizations that run Banned Books Week, as the book being removed from circulation at the local public library. But the former, I would argue, is part of a reasonable local conversation about public education (even if the particular parental preferences are unreasonable). The latter comes closer to a "book ban." 
Some, or even all, of these challenges may be misguided, silly, or narrow-minded. But even if you're firmly opposed to "banning books"—and I am!—it's hard to argue that parents should have no right to weigh in on what their children read at school. There's an enormous difference between parents saying a book shouldn't appear on their kid's required reading list and a citizen demanding that adults should have no access to a book at a public library. And it should shock no one that in a country of 300 million people, there are a few hundred cases each year in which someone objects to a particular book’s availability, especially to children.
This Banned Books Week, instead of hand-wringing about a nonexistent wave of censorship, let's celebrate the obvious: The books won.
Upon closer inspection, and a little bit of Googling, it turns out many of these banned books were merely "challenged" — which means one or two ignorant and/or censorious parents filed a complaint with their local school or library about some innocent tome. 
Claiming a book has been banned, or willfully misunderstanding the difference between a challenge and a ban, is no doubt good for business in a world that despises censorship. It certainly worked on this book buyer. 
But if you indulge in that sort of thing, not only are you making yourself less trustworthy (sorry, local bookstore), you're also flooding the market with fake stories — and reducing the amount of attention paid to real book censorship problems when they come along. 
So, nutty overprotective mom doesn't understand basic medicine. Big whoop. The challenge went nowhere — except the websites of the BBC, Salon, the Guardian, and dozens of other outlets. Skloot let her indignation be known on her Facebook page, and no doubt sold a few extra books. Imagine the furor if the Knoxville school district had actually agreed with the mom. 
As a Salon columnist noted, books simply aren't banned in the U.S. any more, calling the whole basis of Banned Books Week into question. (The most recent ban in any U.S. school, according to the ALA's own material, was in 1994.) 
Or rather, it begs this question: Why aren't we paying this much attention to parts of the world, including free-speech-friendly countries, where forms of book censorship are still in effect? Why aren't we paying this much attention to parts of the world, including free-speech-friendly countries, where forms of book censorship are still in effect? Why wasn't it news around the world when a book was burned by religious extremists in India, and the intimidated author gave up writing and asked his publishers for the book to be withdrawn? 
But we can't begin to discuss the real problems of censorship if our awareness is dulled by a focus on cranks who think they see a nipple in Where's Waldo. That's what got the famous kids' book briefly banned from a few pubic [sic, unless intended] schools in Michigan and one in New York in 1989 and 1993, respectively. 
I'm not trying to minimize the dangers of cranks, or say that there's no chance the overzealous and prudish could see their way clear to banning a book in the future. But by and large, those days are over. America, a few ill-informed attention-seeking parents notwithstanding, has learned its lesson. Let's stop fighting old battles, because there's a new global frontier where we could effect some change. 
In the war against book banning, it's high time we turned the page.
As we wrap up 2015’s Banned Book Week (September 27 – October 3), Ruth Graham at Slate rightly takes the American Library Association (ALA) to task for trafficking “in fear-mongering over censorship, when in fact the truth is much sunnier: There is basically no such thing as a ‘banned book’ in the United States in 2015.”
That’s true, but Graham understates the problem with the ALA’s campaign of disinformation. 
She points out that to maintain the semblance of relevance in an era of ever-freer access to books of all kinds, the ALA has begun to conflate the categories of banned books and challenged books. “The modifier ‘banned or challenged’ contains a lot of wiggle room,” says Graham. 
The ALA presents itself as championing freedom, but what the organization is really doing is waging a campaign of “fear-mongering over censorship” to make us feel grateful to them as guardians of our rights, when they are, in fact, the guardians of tax-funded librarians. 

This week is Banned Books Week, and in libraries all over the country, librarians are making displays of books on fire to illustrate the great danger we all face of Amazon setting its warehouse aflame, or something. Not really. There is no possible way for any book to be censored by any stretch of the imagination. Books are not censored. Period. Should one school library remove a book from its shelves because of parental concern or otherwise, that book is still readily available, well, everywhere. 
Libraries themselves take part in the censorship of books, except they say they "select" them. This is the process where they choose which books to make available to the public and which books to throw in the trash. It’s a joke of colossal proportion that librarians don’t censor. Here is a discussion I found on the American Library Association (ALA) Think Tank’s Facebook page during Banned Books Week, addressing this very issue.

Notice the calls for these books about controversial topics to be thrown in the dumpster. These are the same people who wax sanctimonious about all the bad parents out there who want to "ban" books because they complained about violent sexual content in a reading assignment (a growing problem in public schools). This is a far cry from "banning" a book which would make it unavailable to the general public. A complaint is not a "ban." 
Modern librarians put themselves on pedestals, claiming to be champions of intellectual freedom and the First Amendment. They make no judgements (they claim) and fight against parents who would prefer that some judgements be made about the content that is given to their kids. 
In case you think it's extreme to suggest that librarians are fighting against parents, consider this. Titled Censorship and Intellectual Freedom, ALA acolyte and assistant director of the Office of Intellectual Freedom Kristin Pekoll laments the involvement of parents in book selection, among a litany of other complaints (because only librarians are allowed to throw books in the dumpster). 
Do I stand strong against the onslaught of vocal parents demanding cleaner libraries? 
If there was ever any doubt that ALA was concerned with the welfare of children, this should end that debate. The ALA prides itself on encouraging librarians to stand against parents, to put books that are rife with sexual violence, drugs, alcohol, abortion and other adult topics into the hands of your children without your permission or consent. 
Here is my favorite find on the ALA's website. This infographic shows you exactly what they are actively pushing on your kids during Banned Books Week.

Don't be fooled by Banned Books Week; it's just more trumped-up fakery to push cultural rot on your kids.
Banned Books Week, the American Library Association's annual self-advertisement, has now ended for this year. Bookstores will disassemble their earnest displays of "banned books," public libraries will return to the semblance of normality in public libraries. And we will be left with the sobering thought that, in 21st-century America, there remain people who would ban the works of Harper Lee or J.D. Salinger or Judy Blume, to give some favorite examples.  
Except that this year, I'm happy to report, a tiny crack appeared in the ALA's great Banned Books Week edifice. Slate, a publication not known for its skepticism toward liberal pieties, ran an essay with the intoxicating title "Banned Books Week Is a Crock." I was, and remain, astonished, and yet encouraged, that it should have been published—and not banned!—by the right-thinking editors at Slate.  
Yet what intrigues me about Banned Books Week publicity, and the likely political agenda over at ALA headquarters, is not what it features but what it excludes. For there is, in fact, an ongoing effort to ban books in America in 2015—that is, to exclude them from classroom reading lists, if not prevent their publication and sale – but it is taking place not on school boards in our nation's rural communities but on college campuses in some of the most progressive and sophisticated communities in the United States. At Columbia University in Manhattan, for example, Ovid's Metamorpheses has been excluded from the syllabus because of objections about sexual violence and replaced with—irony alert!—Toni Morrison's Song of Solomon. Rutgers is considering the attachment of required "trigger warnings" for The Great Gatsby and Huckleberry Finn, and based on individual complaints, innumerable other colleges and universities are pondering the future of such works as Mrs. Dalloway or The Merchant of Venice on student reading lists. 

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