This week is Banned Book Week, a week-long “annual event celebrating the freedom to read,” a subject near and dear to my heart. It’s sponsored by the American Library Association, along with a number of related organizations, such as the ASJA (of which I’m a member). I was reading an article about this on the Daily Kos tonight, and here’s a portion of what author Doctor RJ wrote about how censorship happens:
Invariably, some parents somewhere are going to find a book on a list that offends them, and will decide they need to protect not only their child but all of the children in the community by marching down to the school and library to demand it be removed from the shelf. Since there is never anything too stupid if it allows certain government officials to get before a camera or send out a press release claiming they’re “protecting children” from the horrors of the world, you end up with school boards and administrators that give in to pressure. And since no one wants to be against protecting children, that leads to the other set of government officials: those too chicken shit to speak up and oppose something they know is wrong.
In his dissenting opinion in Ginzburg v. United States, Justice Potter Stewart wrote that censorship reflects “a society’s lack of confidence in itself,” and is the “hallmark of an authoritarian regime.” All censorship is done in the name of protecting and defending society from ideas or truth that are deemed dangerous, harmful, or inconvenient.
Here’s what struck me about this. Change the word “book” to “beer,” and “school and library” to “local politician” — along with a few other obvious changes — and it’s every bit as relevant for prohibition and the modern prohibitionists. I certainly agree with Justice Stewart that prohibition reflects “a society’s lack of confidence in itself,” and is the “hallmark of an authoritarian regime.” Look at the nations that still have outright bans on alcohol. And the notion that “all prohibition is done in the name of protecting and defending society from alcohol that is deemed dangerous, harmful, or inconvenient” also rings true. The banning of books seems every bit as sinister as the banning of alcohol, and uses the same rhetoric for its justification. Scary.
Nice article – censhorship has NO PLACE in a free society!