A flagging journalism industry is one arm of the octopus that has allowed book bans and censorship to thrive in the current environment. It’s not just the loss of local news, however. Another contribution is the insistence on labeling book censorship as a “culture war” issue.
Censorship is not a culture war and never has been.
A “culture war” is what happens between two (or more) factions working to assert the supremacy of their belief system. If we stick to this part of the definition, censorship could fall under the umbrella of the term. But “Culture War” describes more than a fringe movement – and to be clear, despite power groups like Moms For Liberty, No Left Turn and others, they are still fringe groups. “Culture war” occurs when it comes to an issue where there is broad disagreement in society on the issue. Book bans and censorship are fundamental principles enshrined in the First Amendment rights of all Americans.
Also, they are extremely unpopular with the general public. Opinion polls in recent years show that:
In Florida, as reported here, where parents have considerable leeway to limit their students’ access to library materials, an extremely small percentage actually choose to do so.
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Too few journalists have bothered to challenge the rhetoric of these marginalized groups, and by portraying their behavior as part of a “culture war” they create misinformation about what is actually happening. What these news outlets are sharing and how they are framing it suggests that the right-wing push against freedom of reading is a much larger and more popular movement than labeling a culture war.
But the data is pretty clear: This is not a societal culture war. It’s a fringe movement, funded with big bucks and political connections, by adults who want to impose their unique white, straight, Christian nationalist norms on the next generation of cis-heterosexuals. The same next generation that already sees through their bullshit.
Journalists are not the ones who just repeat what they hear. They get the job done by sorting through swaths of information and then dealing with the reality of the situation. To quote Journalism 101’s oft-quoted statement: “If someone says it’s raining and another person says it’s dry, it’s not your job to quote both. It’s your job to look out the window.”
Calling these blatant attempts at censorship a “culture war” is a failure of journalists to do their job.
Book censorship news: December 2, 2022
“‘Education about gender change should be totally taboo,’ she said. ‘If the school wants to go that route with social and emotional learning because they hide that under that guise, then we should be able to choose not to.’” This is about a second grade lesson about Julián is a mermaid in Darien, Connecticut. The Donegal School District (PA) school librarian has resigned over guidelines about what could and could not be available in the library. You can’t blame the librarian, and at the same time it’s exactly what right-wing censorship wants. Gender Queer will stay on the shelves at Bow High School (NH). The headline, which calls the book “explicit,” is biased journalism. Chicago Free Media reports on the recent Lincolnshire, Illinois library board meeting where advocates for queer books in the collection outweighed complaints. I shared this last week, but here’s another account of how one parent managed to pull the entire graphic novel collection into the Owasso School District (OK) for review. The Hempfield Schools (PA) have been arguing about book policies for 10 months and decided this week that they should focus on how books are selected as it is easier for them to grade at this point than once the books are in of the collection (so will they all get around Island Trees?). The Waseca-Le Sueur Library System (MN) had a challenge for It’s Perfectly Normal. From the reporting, the outcome of this challenge has not yet been determined. The reason this feels like censorship at the Orem Public Library (UT) is because it is censorship. The intimidation in this particular library over the last year and a half has led to this. “GASD Superintendent Jason Perrin said the Littlestown Area School District (LASD) has an opt-in to opt-out process that requires students to get parental consent before placing books on the top 100 The American Library Association (ALA) list of most challenged books to borrow.” The Gettysburg Area School District (PA) is also considering this. Can you imagine? The titles on this list contain some fundamental classics. The Dallas Center Grimes Schools (IA) are considering updating their book challenge policy and removing the right of students on the review board to vote on the materials under discussion. Makes perfect sense: to silence the actual audience of the books completely and instead listen to well-connected right-wing adults who might not even have students in the neighborhood. In Natrona Public Schools (WY), Gender Queer and Trans Bodies, trans selves are allowed to remain on library shelves but need parental permission to access them. Still censorship. Check out the book ban for (attempted) takeover by the school board in this story from the Salem-Kinzer school district in Oregon. Adults in the Glenbard (IL) School District are complaining about books like Gender Queer and other “inappropriate” titles in the libraries. This link will take you to the public comments section of the last board meeting as recorded and shared by the group coordinating these challenges (so traffic to this YouTube page actually goes to them). However, it is important to share to see how rude, ill-informed and illogical these arguments are. December 12th is the next board meeting at 7pm if you are local and able to come. “Pyle also questioned why, out of more than 1,400 students in the district, she understood only seven children didn’t want to read certain books. “If these books are so detrimental to their education and future life, why aren’t more parents choosing them? That’s parental control to me,” Pyle said. Exactly. This is from Pennsylvania. It turns out that patrons aren’t happy that the City Council is planning to cut the budget for the Ephrata Public Library in northern Lancaster County, Pennsylvania. Finally, a must-read article from the Southern Poverty Law Center about one of the Illinois far-right figures who participated in book challenges in suburban Chicago. Particularly important in this story? Calling out all major media outlets who have never questioned or identified this person’s “testimonies”. The media are complicit. Book Rating Systems Are No Solution: Book Censorship News, November 25, 2022 My Book and Over 300 Others Banned in Missouri: Book Censorship News, November 18, 2022 There are no two sides to the Holocaust: Book Censorship News, November 11, 2022 Arming book banners Legitimate Resources: Book Censorship News October 28, 2022 Republicans propose federal “Don’t Say Gay” law: Book Censorship News October 21, 2022 What’s a Book Sanctuary?: Book Censorship News October September 14, 2022 Book banners insist That They Don’t Ban Books: Book Censorship News, October 7, 2022 Who’s Skipping “Parent Rights” Groups: Book Censorship News, September 30, 2022 Who Are the Groups Banning Books Near You?: Book Censorship News, September 23, 2022