Banning Books and People

I’ve written about this before, but the issue seems to have come around once again (truly, it’s never ending). There has been a huge kerfuffle in recent weeks and months over the “banning” of certain books. Yes, parents in some school districts have argued for the removal of certain books from the school library as not appropriate for the age group of the school (does anybody really think that third graders should be reading books more appropriate for middle-schoolers or high-schoolers? Yes, it’s happening in some school libraries). But in the end, that is not banning books. If you can go out and get the book from your local public library or pick it up off the “banned books” table at Barnes and Noble, the book is not banned. And if your small-town library doesn’t have a copy of the scandalous book you’re looking for… they’ll use interlibrary loan to get it from elsewhere for you.

I don’t think there’s a true librarian anywhere who would prevent somebody from reading a book, no matter what book. They might warn, they might try to stop a child from reading an adult book (I had to get my mom’s permission to roam the broader YA section of our library when I was in fourth or fifth grade), but at the end of the day, a real librarian will bend over backwards to help you get the books you want to read even if he or she thinks they’re ridiculous.

Make sure everybody in the store sees you browsing and buying these books! Because you are just that cool and intellectual and clear-thinking.

If you’re curious about the difference between what we’re seeing right now and actual, for real book banning, look at the history of samizdat in the former Soviet Union and the Warsaw Pact countries. First off, when the government declares a book to be off limits, and punishes people for not only owning the book, but merely reading it… the book is banned. Cuba is a great example of this… the left and Cuba like to brag that Cuba has a 98% literacy rate due to their extraordinary government school system. That’s great. But Cubans are only allowed to read government approved books and propaganda. Most western books are banned there. 98% of the population is literate, but there’s nothing to read.

Samizdat essentially means “self-publishing” in Russian. It’s a spoof of the official name for the state publishing house in the Soviet Union. The word refers to both the system for reproducing banned books and articles as well as the books and articles themselves.

In the Soviet Union not only were books banned, but it was illegal for individuals to own typewriters, carbon paper (go ask your grandmother what that is), and photocopiers. Why? Well, if those things weren’t banned, just about anybody could write a book, or far worse… copy a banned book! Quelle horreur!

The system of samizdat was simple in plan, and extremely dangerous and complex in execution. Books and articles, including academic articles, were smuggled into the USSR by Russians returning home or visitors from other countries. Copies were made by somebody typing out or writing by hand, the whole book using carbon paper (special paper that allowed multiple copies to be typed/written out at one time). The carbon copies were then passed around among readers who oftentimes made copies of copies in order to pass along to even more people. Getting caught with any of these copies resulted in anything from job reassignment (yes, the USSR government decided where you were allowed to work), to permanent banning from working, to jail and/or Siberian exile. Getting caught producing samizdat… well, that was even worse.

If you know of anybody in the U.S. who is currently in jail for reading a book, any book, or publishing a book… please, do let me know.

The left loves to accuse the right of voraciously banning books every chance it gets. Yes, there are those who call themselves fundamentalist Christians who would like to get rid of the Harry Potter books, or Anne Frank’s Diary of a Young Girl or others. But those people are a miniscule percentage of the population and are usually laughed at (as should be anybody who wants to actually ban a book from the population). And you have to ask yourself… as an adult, has anybody ever successfully forbidden you to read a book? Punished you for reading a book? Have the police broken down your door, confiscated all your books and dragged you off to prison because you owned those books?

But the left is the loudest and most public advocate for banning books and people. Activists on the left would love to ban not only Jordan Peterson’s books, but the man himself. The left has turned on JK Rowling and screams that everybody should immediately throw out their copies of Harry Potter books and she shouldn’t be allowed out in public. Larry Correia (author of Monster Hunter International) has been disinvited from cons because some spineless twit found his discussion of guns to be threatening and somehow homophobic. Some on the right would like to get rid of Ibrahim Kendi’s How to be an Antiracist and whatsherface’s White Fragility. Both of those are more temper tantrums, but still… if you want to read them, go ahead. And yet, despite the haters on all sides… all these books are still available in public libraries all over the country. Shocking.

If you are truly concerned about books being “banned.” Then start collecting them. Buy them, read them. Read authors who are banned by either the left or the right. Do the worst thing you can against book banners… READ THE DAMN BOOKS FOR YOURSELF!

But for Heaven’s sake, quit whinging about books being banned in this country (they’re not yet, but I wouldn’t put it past the Biden Administration and others of their ilk to try to ban books). And quit patting yourself on the back for picking up a book from the B&N table and telling yourself how brave and subversive you are for reading a banned book.

Oh, and just because a book is banned, doesn’t mean it’s good. So, you don’t have to pretend it changed your life either.

Read the books you like, and if you find yourself saying “somebody needs to write about…” well, then, go write that book.

I’m off to keep writing and then I’ll go read whatever’s next in my queue.

11 Replies to “Banning Books and People”

  1. I’d argue that there are a few banned books– that is, their publication is not allowed, via heckler’s veto.

    …uniformly, it’s been Progressive activists attacking publishing houses, who then don’t publish the book to which they have the rights.
    Those books, you’re actually stopped from reading.

    Other than that, all the accusations of “banning” I’ve seen have been either pointing out legal issues with providing the material in them to minors (infamously demonstrated by parents removed for public indecency when they read selections of the book in a public meeting), parents objecting to a book being required, or in one case a flat-out lie when the actual objection was to purchasing a large number of the books to be required reading. (With a possible attempt to violate a state’s curriculum disclosure laws mixed in, but the cost alone was prohibitive.)

    1. There was a case in (I think) S. Carolina where some parents wanted to take books out of the public library, and there always seems to be at least one fundamentalist sect that screams against Harry Potter for advocating witchcraft. But, yes, it is the progressive left that does the most harm and wants to cancel all the books.

      1. :points at the 80s D&D scare, with the hard chargers being very noisy democrats well into the 90s:

        Being some sort of Christian fundamentalist doesn’t make one right wing.

        Not cutting edge Progressive, no, but not right wing.

        1. No, true. But my point being that they have always been seen as right-wing. So, I was speaking to those who would say that there is censorship on all sides.

          Where would you put fundamentalists on a political spectrum? Just out of curiosity.

          1. Where would you put fundamentalists on a political spectrum?

            Very much depends on their actual views; religion is not inherently American Right wing.

            I’m Catholic with my dad’s family being English Protestant, from the Pacific North West, and of the observant fundamentalists I am familiar with, they go from late 90s mid-to hard Democrat into rather squishy/middle of the road Republican.

            In my circle of acquaintances, about half of the activist liberals use religion as their bludgeon. They’ve fallen out of fashion in the last several years, but it’s not like there’s a lack of “Jesus is Love” types buying into the current progressive fashions, they’re only excluded in so far as one defines the “left” as atheistic. (Which isn’t unknown, yes, but when some of the cases I am familiar with involve literal physical assault by supposed fundamentalists against those who oppose redefining marriage, when even in California a straight line vote opposed such a redefinition, I do not agree with such a standard.)

            1. Progressives are religious. Progressivism is a religion – a Christian heresy, as a matter of fact.

              Claiming you don’t worship some “mythical god” does not make you irreligious.

          2. FWIW, I’d argue that after the fad has passed and/or become embarrassing, it is framed as “right wing.”

            For an example, look at the framing of Al Gore’s wife’s “moral majority” as being some kind of far right freak out.

  2. There is a single category of information/book that cannot be published today: child pornography.
    But even that is now a very narrow category of actual pictures of actual children. Illustrations are allowed.

    There are ideas that should never see the light of day and books that should never be published. But that should be because they are awful ideas and awful to spread, and society should turn their nose up at them and make them unprofitable to express. And because “the people” are smarter than to actually take them up.
    But never because gov’t says so. NEVER.

  3. The Anarchist’s Cookbook is a book which, while not actually banned, is one that no library should purchase, unless they want liability lawsuits for explosives and poisons.

    1. You just made my point. It’s not banned, even though the library may not have it. You can still find it and you won’t be arrested for possessing it or reading it.

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