Friday, September 27, 2013

Celebrating the Right To Read (Junk)

As the fiscal year winds to a close, the time has once again rolled around for librarians, the ACLU, and other supporters of free-speech-so-long-as-it’s-the-right-speech to pat themselves on the back for their firm commitment to defending ‘civil liberties’ and guaranteeing that adherents of all unorthodox,  esoteric, and sometimes even downright perverted viewpoints have an opportunity to share their voices.   Like affirmative action, the anti-bullying movement, promiscuity-based sex education in government schools, homelessness advocacy, and any number of Save the Planet mantras, Banned Books Week purports itself to be a noble and nonpartisan cause that all Americans should unite to endorse regardless of their political beliefs, but this week of awareness-raising hype was founded less to call out and decry real violations of the Constitution and more to make its participants feel better about themselves for committing an imagined act of civil service.  While fabricating illusionary crises revolving around the mass censorship and suppression of a particular minority’s writing can certainly elevate the self-esteem of “1st Amendment advocates” and delude them into thinking that their lives have significant meaning, throwing about words like “banned books” and sensationalizing the harm inflicted by vigilant parents who would regulate what materials are circulated in their children’s schools can have severe consequences that aren’t easily anticipated under a campaign which emphasizes lofty and seemingly infallible concepts of “free access to information” and “the right to read”.

Hosted by the American Library Association, Banned Books Week is convened once annually to recognize and simultaneously recommend books which have historically endured or presently face challenges from disapproving parents (by whom half the complaints, approximately 2535, are filed) who have questioned its academic validity or substantive propriety in the setting of public school classrooms and libraries.  The event hails freedom of speech and thought as its primary goals, but a merely cursory overview of past Top Ten Challenged Books Lists reveals that the promotion of 1st Amendment rights is hardly the first item on the Association’s agenda.  Banned Books Week, far from encouraging thoughtful debate, philosophical diversity, and the other fruits that we rightly reap from the Bill of Rights’ first branch, seems more concerned with glorifying filth and breaking down all critical barriers that scholars currently use to separate true literature from drivel.  Whereas America’s Founders understood the 1st Amendment to be a vital article in ensuring man’s ability to pursue truth, beauty, and virtue, the American Library Association lauds it instead for enabling writers to publish and distribute the most repulsive and meaningless crap to people of even the most vulnerable age and mental development.  Observe the Top 10 Challenged Books of 2012:

  • Captain Underpants (series), by Dav Pilkey.
    Reasons: Offensive language, unsuited for age group
  • The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, by Sherman Alexie.
    Reasons: Offensive language, racism, sexually explicit, unsuited for age group
  • Thirteen Reasons Why, by Jay Asher.
    Reasons: Drugs/alcohol/smoking, sexually explicit, suicide, unsuited for age group
  • Fifty Shades of Grey, by E. L. James.
    Reasons: Offensive language, sexually explicit
  • And Tango Makes Three, by Peter Parnell and Justin Richardson.
    Reasons: Homosexuality, unsuited for age group
  • The Kite Runner, by Khaled Hosseini.
    Reasons: Homosexuality, offensive language, religious viewpoint, sexually explicit
  • Looking for Alaska, by John Green.
    Reasons: Offensive language, sexually explicit, unsuited for age group
  • Scary Stories (series), by Alvin Schwartz
    Reasons: Unsuited for age group, violence
  • The Glass Castle, by Jeanette Walls
    Reasons: Offensive language, sexually explicit
  • Beloved, by Toni Morrison
    Reasons: Sexually explicit, religious viewpoint, violence

  • This chart, arguably the ALA’s parallel to Michael Bloomberg’s inflammatory recitation of “gun violence” “victims” that included Marxist and jihadist terrorists Christopher Dorner and Tamerlan Tsarnaev, offers some intriguing insight on what the Banned Books establishment deems to be high literature.  God – I mean Mother Environment – forbid that anyone should try to strip children’s library shelves of bestselling toilet humor comic books, anti-Christian pond-scum that indulges in F-bombs and the sexually deviant fantasies of a high-school boy, glorified portrayals of teen suicide, hard-core pornography written at a 3rd grade level, homosexual penguin propaganda aimed at 4-year-olds (which was later proven to be false), and other assorted modern classics of the multiculturalism, Heather Has Two Mommies, and sex comedy genres!  Obviously, there’s a fine line between censoring certain documents for advancing a particular political or religious worldview and regulating others for being gratuitously distasteful and disgusting.  The vast majority of those books recently touted by the ALA have been “banned” for entirely legitimate reasons: to uphold basic standards of decency in the midst of children and young adults, and to foster a desire in the youth for books that will sharpen his intellect and nourish his soul.  Were any public school teacher to present his students a copy of Fifty Shades, even while pleading ignorance to its subject matter, he would promptly suffer accusations of negligence or sexual harassment and would be placed on leave for an extended period, if not fired.  That’s a true story, actually, and a teachable moment at that.  If such a book is not fit for educators to distribute amongst their students, why, I ask, should it be fit for librarians to distribute amongst other minors?

    There’s an even finer line between a governmental body like Nazi Germany or Communist China banning/criminalizing speech that disrespects itself or its allies – as we are now seeing happen on public college campuses, where so-called Hate Speech like “Shut up, you water buffalo!” and efforts to educate students on the Constitution are strictly prohibited – and a parental body ‘banning’ ‘speech’ it considers inappropriate to the adults’ aisles of the library.  One of the main principles underlying the whole Banned Books hoopla is the assumption that all written words are equally suitable, nay expedient even, for all people at all ages.  Few proponents of this principle, when prodded to completely extend its logic, would apply the same reasoning to adult-oriented movies; no one, for example, would argue that the MPAA is ‘censoring’ intellectual property by branding certain films with an R-rating (unless it’s a Really Important And Totally Factual Documentary like “Bully”), but when public school administrators and parents make any attempt to discriminate between works according to their propriety for different age groups, self-righteous alarmists in constitutionally ignorant unions cry foul with idiotic charges that E.L. James’ and Dav Pilkey’s “viewpoints” are being censored, banned, and relegated to second-class protection.  What Banned Books Week symbolizes is little more than a veiled effort to transfer ever more control over the upbringing of children from their respective parents to the state, a move that’s either shockingly anti-democratic or altogether despotic depending on how you look at things.  Mothers and fathers, these arrogant egotists assert, cannot be entrusted with the power to condemn or restrict any controversial author’s writing at the risk of impairing another youth’s access to it; accordingly, they must cede sole authority over their own kids’ education to disinterested men in black robes who will provide the state’s young properties with the most culturally and (a)morally diverse curricula possible.  If anything, we as Americans ought to celebrate, not lament, the bold and responsible actions taken by watchful parents to secure to their descendants a spiritually and mentally cultivating education, one that will certainly wither and perish on the foundations of Captain Underpants, part-time Indian diaries, and porn.

    In an age of moral relativism and institutionalized Atheism, one can easily understand why so many people should set aside a week for solemn reflection on the victims of religious bigotry, to acknowledge the casualties of a cultural war waged by misguided and hateful patriarchs who continue to blind themselves with false conceptions of an absolute right and wrong, a moral code that should ultimately shape all policy decisions affecting the rearing of young skulls full of mush.  But when one looks underneath the attractive platitudes of Free Speech and Intellectual Diversity, a gross double standard becomes strikingly apparent. The ALA, ACLU, and other self-professed champions of the Constitution stress that all books are equal, deserving the same level of analysis and representation in public schools, but at the same time these elitists clearly hold that some books are more equal than others.  The most challenged text in the United States is neither Captain Underpants nor Fifty Shades of Grey, but the oldest surviving, bestselling, and most important book of all time.  Ever since the iron reign of KKK member-turned-Supreme Court Justice Hugo Black, corrupt judges and lobbyists from Atheist churches have gone to extreme ends in order to expel this book and any written by its followers from state-administrated schools, all the while venting outrage and indignation that anyone should try to redistrict contemporary YA twaddle, none of which will last more than a decade, from the sphere of public education to its appropriate place in the garbage bin.  In this sense, they’re roughly the literary world’s equivalents of those liberty-without-morality activists who support taxpayer funding for ‘artists’ who shove Jesus in a jar of urine and call the display a masterpiece. Just as Labor Day is a monument to non-work and Martin Luther King Day has lately morphed from an occasion to condemn racism into an opportunity for exercising it, Banned Books Week appears to celebrate a great ideal imprinted in the American Constitution, but actually contributes to a steady and dangerous perversion of the 1st Amendment that will eventually destroy this country’s moral bedrock and upend civilized society in a raging torrent of Relativism.  It is an ode to all things vile and disgusting, a flagrant distortion of the Constitution, and an unconscionable assault on the natural right of parents to raise their children as they see fitting.

    Unrelated side-notes –
    * The Republican Party is exhibiting strategic illiteracy.  Necessity dictates that they either strike Obamacare down entirely or allow the government to shut down under the Democrats’ refusal to enact spending cuts.  Kicking the can another $1,000,000,000,000 dollars down the road and delaying Obamacare’s main implementation yet another election cycle until after the midterms aren’t viable options, and neither is any other course.

    * George Zimmerman’s wife finally laid out in clear terms yesterday exactly why she’s filing for divorce, saying, “I don’t know him and really don’t know what he’s capable of,” which reminds me of a romantic George Lucas movie…

    * The editorial board continues to expand the New Newspeak lexicon with additional entries; please feel free to check it out on a regular basis.

    * “Tell them what you’re gonna tell them.  Tell them.  Tell them what you told them.”
    Bill the Cat on Signposting

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