In Defense of "Censorship" (Scare Quotes Intentional)


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roo_ster
June 15, 2006, 04:44 PM
Some worthy in the Ann Coulter ban/boycott/whatever thread linked to The 100 Most Frequently Challenged Books of 1990Ė2000 (http://www.ala.org/ala/oif/bannedbooksweek/bbwlinks/100mostfrequently.htm).

I mashed the link to see just what books were on "the list."

Yes, indeed, there were 100 books listed. :scrutiny:

What is more interesting is the link, Challenges by Initiator (http://www.ala.org/Template.cfm?Section=bbwlinks&Template=/ContentManagement/ContentDisplay.cfm&ContentID=40912).

Delving into the data lead me to some conclusions:
1. Despite all the breathless verbiage about "censorship" and "book bans," there are relatively few challenges, let alone actual bans, and no censorship.
Between 1990 and 2000, of the 6,364 challenges reported to or recorded by the Office for Intellectual Freedom

2. Oddly, the American Library Association does not understand what censorship really is, given their quotation of Judy Blume on the top of the web page:
[I]tís not just the books under fire now that worry me. It is the books that will never be written. The books that will never be read. And all due to the fear of censorship. As always, young readers will be the real losers.
(Yeah, folks in the USA quiver in fear that the book cops are gonna bust down thier doors for writing inane tracts in support of the secularist, leftist viewpoint currently ascendant in the culture. Let the Utne Reader subscriber base quiver in their hemp trousers!)

3. The overwhelming majority of challenges originate in the public school system (71%). The second largest portion originated in the public libraries (24%).
Seventy-one percent of the challenges were to material in schools or school libraries. Another twenty-four percent were to material in public libraries (down two percent since 1999). Sixty percent of the challenges were brought by parents, fifteen percent by patrons, and nine percent by administrators, both down one percent since 1999.

4. At least 95% (71% + 24%) of the "challenges" are perfectly legitimate political footballs to be kicked around, since the books in question were to be bought with taxpayer dollars.

Which brings me to my point:
If a book is being bought with taxpayer dollars and some taxpayer challenges the expenditure for that book, it is not censorship.

If someone can't get the local taxpayer's representatives to buy "Heather Has Two Mommies" for the public elementary school library, they can always buy it and warp their kids' minds on their own dime.


Note: I do not support the current gov't school system setup. If we want to spend taxpayer dollars on educating the young, give their folks a voucher & let the market fill the need. Until this is the reality, taxpayers ought to have a say in how their taxes are spent.

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Thefabulousfink
June 15, 2006, 05:37 PM
jfruser,

I am going to disagree with you on a point. I do not feel that a taxpayer should be able to demand that a public library ban a certain book because it doesn't sit with their sensabilities. If we did that the the libraries would be empty. Look at the books on that list, a healthy portion of them were the books I read growing up, right next to Heather Has Two Mommies or The New Joy of Gay ***. Libraries are publicly funded to be diverse repositories of knowledge, not your private bookcase. A Library should have lots of different types of books in it for the public to use as they need. It is up to the parent to know what their kid is reading, and see that he/she understands it.

If you feel that a public library caters overwhelmingly to Heather's two mommies and not your interests, then you can pettition the city council to buy other types of books or appoint a new head librarian.

Art Eatman
June 15, 2006, 07:05 PM
:) You shoulda been around during the "Banned in Boston" daze. Such books as Henry Miller's "Tropic of Cancer" and "Tropic of Capricorn". Or "Lady Chatterly's Lover" by D.H. Lawrence.

Some of the protests have been rather foolish: Objections to Lenin's works; I guess maybe folks aren't supposed to know the enemy.

I believe it was in Pennsylvania that a bunch of folks went all ga-ga against "Lord of the Flies"...

Some of the school objections are to texts' lack of factualal material: One proposed history book contained the "history" that Truman used the A-bomb to end the war in Korea.

Art

roo_ster
June 16, 2006, 10:39 AM
Libraries are publicly funded to be diverse repositories of knowledge, not your private bookcase.

"Publicly funded" = compulsory taxation

I guess that my ultimate point is that those who pay the costs ought to have a say in what is bought or the context in which it is used.

Also, I doubt materials are removed on the basis of single complaints.

longeyes
June 16, 2006, 10:48 AM
And the reality is that both the public ed hegemons and the ALA lean strongly to the Left.

svtruth
June 16, 2006, 11:04 AM
run out and buy all those books.
It is depressing that so few challenges are for inaccuracies.

cuchulainn
June 16, 2006, 11:34 AM
In the Diary of Ann Frank, there's a paragraph or two involving the genitals of a cat. When I read the book in 7th grade English back in the 1970s, that page was ripped out of everyone's book.

Of course, our primary objective became finding out what had been censored. I suspect I wouldn't remember the cat genitals bit otherwise, suggesting censorship usually backfires.

EttenBoom
June 16, 2006, 11:35 AM
I find it alarming that the Harry Potter books are so high on the list.
Every kid I've ever known that reads these has been sophisticated enough to know that the books are fantasy, you know, fairy tales.

The ones that want them censored believe that they promote sorcery.

I know a well known and popular book about a great, allmighty invisible man that lives in the sky. One day, he decides to have a son so he goes out and through magic (sorcery?) knocks up a virgin. The kid grows up, and his knowledge of magic, plus his outspokeness end up pissing a lot of people off, so they torture and murder him. But, through magic and sorcery, the kid comes back from the dead, and floats away into the sky to join his magic father.

These same parents believe that book, that telling their kids that fairy tale is true does not warp their little minds? With the sex, sorcery, and violence in that story, perhaps they should ban that one :scrutiny:

Boudicca
June 16, 2006, 11:37 AM
You all make excellent points. While the ALA and public libraries generally do list leftward, there are a few of us toiling on the reference desk who do "get it." As a library manager and a selector of adult non-fiction material, I modestly submit that I have been able to make a difference in my system's collections. I have always maintained that our collections should have something to offend everyone or we're not doing our job.

By the way, you'll all love this: In the recent monthly managers' meeting one of my colleagues breathlessly reported that a patron had removed his jacket while in her library, revealing (gasp!) that he was carrying. Turns out he had a permit to do so. I did submit that I'd rather have a library full of armed citizens with concealed carry permits than the gang-bangers, tweakers, and mentally ill who haunt our establishments.

Nehemiah Scudder
June 16, 2006, 12:07 PM
Earthís Children (Series) by Jean M. Auel
A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine LíEngle
To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
Brave New World by Aldous Huxley
Cujo by Stephen King
American Psycho by Bret Easton Ellis
Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut
Lord of the Flies by William Golding
Carrie by Stephen King
The Dead Zone by Stephen King
The Adventures of Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain
Private Parts by Howard Stern


I only got 12 out of 100. I definately have to do better. :D

I don't object to having a process intact to move books around sections, etc. It's only when the reason for "banning" the book is stupid, that I object.

longeyes
June 16, 2006, 12:10 PM
I've always said, an armed library is a polite library.:D

Thefabulousfink
June 16, 2006, 12:14 PM
Thank you for doing your part Boudicca.

I can walk past any number of books on "alternative lifestyles" as long as I can find early reprints of Machiavelli's The Prince, The Guetenberg Bible, Mark Twain, J.D. Salinger, John Steinbeck, Roald Dahl, and many other "evil" books and authors.

BryanP
June 16, 2006, 12:22 PM
I know a well known and popular book about a great, allmighty invisible man that lives in the sky. One day, he decides to have a son so he goes out and through magic (sorcery?) knocks up a virgin. The kid grows up, and his knowledge of magic, plus his outspokeness end up pissing a lot of people off, so they torture and murder him. But, through magic and sorcery, the kid comes back from the dead, and floats away into the sky to join his magic father.

I've read that book. Earlier in the book it has this bizarre sequence involving talking shrubbery. :neener:

Lucky
June 16, 2006, 01:08 PM
"Originally Posted by Judy Blume (Bold face by jfruser)
[i]tís not just the books under fire now that worry me. It is the books that will never be written. The books that will never be read. And all due to the fear of censorship. As always, young readers will be the real losers."

I think it's a fine argument against censorship. Censorship is thought control. No-one has a right to tell anyone else what they can think. I realize this article was leaning to the left, but that's irrelevant.

longeyes
June 16, 2006, 01:20 PM
I don't see "Heather's Mommy Has Two Glocks" on that uh-oh list.

roo_ster
June 16, 2006, 03:49 PM
[i]tís not just the books under fire now that worry me. It is the books that will never be written. The books that will never be read. And all due to the fear of censorship. As always, young readers will be the real losers.

I think it's a fine argument against censorship. Censorship is thought control. No-one has a right to tell anyone else what they can think. I realize this article was leaning to the left, but that's irrelevant.
Two Points:

#1: Why is an argument against censorship placed on a web page that has nothing to do with censorship? (Hence my "scare quotes" in the title.)

#2: Just what is censored, nowadays, in the USA? We can not freely print classifed documents*, child pr0n, and copyrighted materials (without paying royalties or getting permission). That's about it. Folks can even write that they want to kill the prez or incite others to do so, without too much hullabaloo.

I think all the fuss over "censorship" is akin to the Salem Witch Trials: no real witches, but something/someone has to be propped up to throw rocks at.


* Unless you are a Dem (Sandy Burglar) or those docs will hurt GWB

Thefabulousfink
June 16, 2006, 04:32 PM
jfruser,

You are right on those points. For all the talk of censorship in this country, there is acctually very little. Most attempts at it usually come from fring groups who get in a twit over "Harry Potter" or Anne Coulter's books. All they usually end up doing is protesting or steal a few minutes of media time and end up boosting the sales of what they wanted to ban.:rolleyes: Look at "The Passion of the Christ", it owes about half of its profits to the contoversy that people stirred up about it.

Right now I could write and publish a book called "Hitler loves the little children" and I guarantee that people would buy it just to see how offensive it is.:evil:

dfaugh
June 17, 2006, 09:26 AM
If a book is being bought with taxpayer dollars and some taxpayer challenges the expenditure for that book, it is not censorship.

I'll disagree, sort of...

What is th BASIS for the challenge? If it's because they don't like the content of the book, or disagree with the writer's philosophy or politics or opinions, then it's not a valid reason to challenge. That's a de facto "ban".

In the case of schools, the books they buy should be judged on "educational merit". The kids are there to LEARN, so some amount of bias should be placed to give the broadest range of books, that cover any/all subjects taught in the schools. A reasonable amount, and variety, of fiction should be included(both "classic" and "modern"), so that writing styles and such can be compared and analyzed.

In the case of public libraries, the range of books should reflect the interests of the general population. It's easy for them (with the advent of computer systems) to check and see which topics are "hot" and adjust their buying to reflect the interests of their constituency (which may be very localized, and different). Also, check which authors are most popular, and when they write a new book, it should probably move near the top of the "to buy" list.

My ex-girlfriend worked in the library a couple towns over, and they had a very high "allowance" for buying new materials. The town I live in, spends almost nothing, to the point where I've read a significant portions of the fiction they have, as well as much of the non-fiction that interests me. I would gladly pay a few dollars more in taxes IF the money was spent to improve the library. What's actually happened over the last few years (even though I've had tax increases 2 years running) was to CUT the library budget. In the summer time, they are no longer open on Saturday OR Sunday, becasue they can't afford to pay people to remain open. This is not a small town, and besides a significant population, it has lots of commercial development, more every day, so they could certainly afford to improve the library. I suspect, compared to other things my tax dollars go for, the cost would be miniscule.

One last comment...I was shocked to see such a large quantity of fiction on the list...Can't see how ANYONE can object to any work of fiction. Come ON folks...it's FICTION.

longeyes
June 17, 2006, 11:37 AM
In the case of public libraries, the range of books should reflect the interests of the general population. It's easy for them (with the advent of computer systems) to check and see which topics are "hot" and adjust their buying to reflect the interests of their constituency (which may be very localized, and different). Also, check which authors are most popular, and when they write a new book, it should probably move near the top of the "to buy" list.

Why would you need brainy librarians if you just want to use sales volume lists at Borders and B&N? A library should reflect more than current commerical success.

Fiction is dangerous. Always has been. Stirs up men's minds. And thank God for that!

Boudicca
June 17, 2006, 12:12 PM
We are fortunate in my system in that we have millions to spend on acquiring new materials. Therefore, we can select materials that add depth and breadth to the collection as well as the new, in-demand titles. For example, we bought 450 copies of the most recent Harry Potter.

New works by hot authors are featured in "pre-pub alerts." We will always purchase those works and have them available for our patrons to reserve before the book is published. In addition, patrons may submit suggestions for purchase via our website.

There is an art to building a collection. While it is important to reflect current trends and interests and to purchase multiple copies of those items whenever possible, it is arguably more important to build a collection that has depth and will remain relevant over time. That's why we buy replacement copies of Machiavelli, Homer, Melville, Rand et al. every year. Chances are we won't be replacing either Michael Moore or Ann Coulter 100 years from now.

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