Supreme Court Questions State Efforts to Regulate Social-Media Content

From The Wall Street Journal:

The Supreme Court sounded dubious Monday of state laws requiring online platforms such as Facebook and YouTube to publish nearly all user content, although several justices suggested that the ability to remove noxious social-media posts should not mean tech companies are free to block personal communications such as Gmail or chat messages.

The court heard nearly four hours of argument to determine the constitutionality of a pair of state laws that seek to prevent online platforms from moderating users’ posts. By the end, it seemed clear the court was unwilling to accept either side’s conception of what social media is: an edited publication entitled to full First Amendment freedoms; or a common carrier like a phone company that must transmit information without discriminating among its users.

“So you say this is just like a newspaper, basically. It’s like the Miami Herald,” Justice Samuel Alito told Paul Clement, the lawyer representing the industry. “And the states say no, this is like Western Union. It’s like a telegraph company” that just delivers messages, he said.

“I look at this and I say it’s really not like either of those,” Alito said.

In 2021, when Donald Trump was banned from Twitter (now known as X) after the Jan. 6 Capitol riot and conservative activists asserted their views were being suppressed by social-media sites, Florida and Texas passed laws requiring the platforms to post nearly all user content without regard to the viewpoints expressed.

The moves set off battles in lower courts, with judges reaching conflicting conclusions on whether the state regulations were lawful. Together, the two cases could set important ground rules for free-speech protections online.

Trade groups representing Meta, Google and X sued the states, saying such requirements infringe on their First Amendment rights to decide what is said on their websites. To require viewpoint neutrality meant that “if we have suicide prevention [content], we have to have suicide promotion,” Clement said. “That should be a nonstarter.”

Several justices expressed sympathy with that argument but observed that ruling against the states might also entitle the internet companies to police what messages are transmitted via other services they provide, such as individual email accounts or direct messaging.

Justice Amy Coney Barrett asked Clement how the court could write an opinion saying state restrictions were unconstitutional regarding news feeds on Facebook and YouTube, but not when it came to services such as the shopping platform Facebook Marketplace “or Gmail or DMs.”

Clement didn’t want to give ground on that point, but U.S. Solicitor General Elizabeth Prelogar, who also argued against the state laws, suggested there was a legitimate distinction between social-media sites focused on expression and those that were more akin to a service.

Different rules could apply to different functions a company performs, said Prelogar, representing the Biden administration. A railroad such as Amtrak is a common carrier and can’t discriminate among passengers. But if Amtrak publishes a magazine passengers can read during their travel, it would be entitled to First Amendment protection for the editorial decisions the company makes over what to include, she said.

Arguing in the Texas case, Prelogar agreed that social media didn’t fit neatly into Supreme Court precedents. “It’s not necessary here to try to figure out how the First Amendment applies to new technology in general or to every possible website or the internet in particular,” she said.

She recommended the court rule narrowly against what she said was a singular defect in the Texas law: the state’s aim of amplifying some voices on the platforms “by suppressing the platform’s own protected speech.”

Not so said the Texas solicitor general, Aaron Nielson. The platforms could say anything they want, even criticize user posts, he said. Users were free to block unwanted content, he said. “All that’s left is voluntary communications between people who want to speak and people who want to listen,” he said.

. . . .

Chief Justice John Roberts, disputing the idea that the platforms hold a monopoly over public discourse, said Texas had gotten the First Amendment backward.

“What the government’s doing here is saying, You must do this, you must carry these people; you’ve got to explain if you don’t. That’s not the First Amendment,” he said. Rather than impose requirements on private parties, the First Amendment bars the government from telling them what they must or can’t say, Roberts said.

Among other provisions, the Texas law prohibits platforms from discriminating against users based on their viewpoints. Justice Elena Kagan asked if the platforms claim to have the categorical right to ban users for what they believe—to decide, for instance, that when it comes to antisemites “we’re not even going to let them post cat videos.”

Clement said yes. If “you are a notorious antisemite, we do not want you to participate in this conversation,” he said.

The cases, Moody v. NetChoice and NetChoice v. Paxton, are the latest in a series the court has used to project the First Amendment into the online world.

Link to the rest at The Wall Street Journal (Sorry if you encounter a paywall)

Governor calls for reform of Florida’s book ban policies, after classics removed

From WUWF Radio:

Gov. Ron DeSantis is walking back Florida’s policies that make it easier to challenge or ban a book in the state.

The announcement in Orlando Thursday comes days after a Miami school required students to get a signed permission slip to read books for Black History Month.

DeSantis said he’s calling on the Florida legislature and Florida Department of Education to “reform” the state’s book ban policies.

He said classic books like “To Kill a Mockingbird” should not be allowed to be challenged. Same goes for the dictionary. And under no circumstances should an entire classroom or school library’s books be banned.

“For example, there was a teacher, I think, in Manatee County that papered over every book in the classroom. Whoa, I can’t show. But that’s a lie. That is not true. That is performative nonsense,” said DeSantis.

DeSantis suggested limiting the number of challenges a person who does not have a child in a district can make, or even fining people for challenging certain books.

“Although we like people wanting to be involved in what’s going on, to just show up and object to every single book under the sun, that is not an appropriate situation here,” said DeSantis. “You should not be reviewing dictionaries, and encyclopedias, and just basic things that have been a part of education for a long time.”

DeSantis said the policy was intended to keep sexually inappropriate content out of the classroom.

The Florida Department of Education stepped in earlier this week after a Miami school required students to get signed permission slips before participating in a Black History Month read aloud.

Commissioner Manny Diaz and Governor Ron DeSantis also pointed out that several of the books that have been challenged in some schools like “The Diary of a Young Girl” by Anne Frank were actually part of the commissioner’s book of the month club, a list of books the commissioner recommends students and their families read every month.

Link to the rest at WUWF Radio

Art is always political

From The Bookseller:

On Tuesday, Arts Council of England (ACE) released a statement about the organisation’s funding policy. You have all probably read it by now. The statement warned creatives and organisations against “reputational risk” which ACE defined as any “activity that might be considered overtly political and activist and goes beyond your company’s core purpose and partnerships with organisations that might be perceived as being in conflict with the purposes of public funding of culture”. This was not limited to activities directly funded by ACE.

Is any form of art unpolitical? I write from several places of marginality. Author Bell Hooks calls this marginality a place of resistance. I too see this place of otherness not as a place of deprivation but as a place of opportunity and possibility. Anything and everything I write is political. It has to be. My lived experience, much like any other marginalised writer, is a space of refusal to accept what is laid out for us, the boundaries that are set around our existence, the spaces we are not allowed to inhabit. We learn to oppose these norms that limit our existence, and opposition becomes a necessity, not a choice. Writing is a way of writing ourselves into the mainstream, telling stories that are not necessarily heard, challenging the colonisers and oppressors, and imagining a radical new world where these boundaries and hierarchies do not exist anymore. Writing is a way of finding a counter-language, that hooks calls a “space of refusal” where we say no to the language of the colonisers and oppressors and find a language to name the repression. Once we silence these counter-narratives then we silence the language of resistance.

While I am writing this ACE has released an update, a sort of pushed-into-a-corner, we-are-not-really-bad but only-thinking-of-your-own-good statement; a faux-benevolent backtracking. It mentions “freedom of expression” and “artistic freedom” a few times to allay concerns and outrage expressed widely by artists on social media and elsewhere. Nevertheless, it refers once again to reputational risk, to polarisation and puts the onus on the organisations to make sure “that if they, or people associated with them, are planning activity that might be viewed as controversial, they have thought through, and so far as possible mitigated, the risk to themselves and crucially to their staff and to the communities they serve”.

There are larger questions at stake here as to what the public funds are for if not to fund art that resists the artificial oppressive structures inherent in our society and systems

Perhaps the timing is merely a coincidence as we are witnessing a artificial oppressive structures inherent in our society and systems among artists against the genocide happening in Palestine. If this is silencing and censorship, then of course it isn’t anything new, but to couch it within a concern for “reputational risk” seems disingenuous. There are larger questions at stake here as to what the public funds are for if not to fund art that resists the artificial oppressive structures inherent in our society and systems. If not this, then culture can never evolve beyond the limits of our current imaginations. Preventing creatives from challenging dominant norms, questioning, speaking their truth will only result in a monolith ossified culture, stagnant and festering with dissent and paralysed with fear.

Marginalised writers have lived with these fears for so long. Reputational risk is not something to be taken lightly. For anyone who is an “other” it is an anxiety that lies heavy on their shoulders, something that lurks silently at all times intent on pushing them away further into the margins. The warning against “reputational risk” feels like bullying, and intimidation. And the whole purpose of bullying is to create self-doubt, uncertainty and unease. As we face even more cuts to arts funding and public funding becomes even more scarce, creating a culture of fear is counter-productive to encouraging and supporting innovative art. The ACE stance is silencing of those who have been marginalised, and those who speak up against oppressive forces, telling artists to stay within their boxes, quiet, unchallenging, unresistant, fearful of the repercussions. When people are silenced, it creates hopelessness and despair.

Link to the rest at The Bookseller

  1. PG doesn’t agree with more than a bit of the OP. Don’t ask him to identify the bit.
  2. “[fill in the blank] is political!’ is a now ancient technique used by all sorts of people, right, left and center, to shut down argument.
  3. Marginalised, silencing, bullying, intimidation, self-doubt, uncertainty, unease, paralysed with fear, speaking their truth, challenging dominant norms, oppressive structures inherent in our society and systems are in the eye of the beholder. If these conditions are so widespread, horrible and heavy, why doesn’t everyone notice them?
  4. PG’s favorite horror was “faux-benevolent.” Heaven forfend!
  5. “What the public funds are for if not to fund art that resists the artificial oppressive structures inherent in our society and systems.”
    • Does anybody think to ask the public how their taxes should be used? Whether they do or don’t want to fund the creation of things they find abhorrent.”
  6. “outrage expressed widely by artists on social media and elsewhere.” Oooh! Outrage! On Social Media! Who would have imagined there was outrage of any sort on social media? How could we possibly miss outraged artists on social media amid so much reasoned, quiet, calm, and polite conversation with never a hint of anger everywhere we look on social media?
  7. And finally, genocide, the all-purpose horror, not to be missed in any tirade.

Extreme Anti-Free Speech Codes Rule American Universities, A New Report Reveals

From Newsweek:

You can’t make this stuff up: Stockton University investigated a college student for the crime of making Donald Trump his Zoom background. American University launched a harassment investigation against pro-choice students who criticized the Supreme Court’s abortion ruling. Syracuse University investigated another student for a slightly risqué scavenger hunt. And these colorful incidents of campus hostility toward free express from recent years aren’t outliers, if a new analysis from the Foundation for Individual Rights and Expression (FIRE) is anything to go by; they are sadly representative of the repressive, fun-killing and anti-free speech atmosphere that has infected our system of higher education.

FIRE’s annual free speech report, which dropped today, evaluated 489 of America’s colleges and universities and found that an alarming 85 percent maintain “speech codes” that imperil free expression. It rated each university with either a red, yellow, or green light based on how restrictive their policies are on students’ free speech. In an unsurprising twist, some of the country’s most elite universities like Princeton and Northwestern were awarded “red light” ratings, while other top-tier institutions such as Harvard and Yale were flagged as “yellow light” schools for their less-egregious but still restrictive policies.

While the percentage of schools receiving a “green light” rating for their free-speech-friendly policies did increase in the last year, so did the proportion of “red light” schools—for the second year in a row.

Let’s face it: Illiberal policies that suppress free speech, which is a basic human right and the foundation of this country, are still rampant on American college campuses.

. . . .

This is a serious issue that should concern everyone, not just college students or their parents.

Why?

Well, because the censorious attitudes that start on campus don’t stay there. People used to dismiss what was happening on college campuses as just isolated pockets of extremism and reassure us that people would “grow out of it” after they enter the real world. Instead, we’ve seen many graduates take the hostility toward free speech that they’re immersed in during college with them out into their jobs in business, technology, and government.

Progressive Spotify employees now openly try to censor Joe Rogan, one of the platform’s most popular voices, because he dares air opinions and information they disagree with or believe is inaccurate. Netflix staffers dramatically walk out in protest against their employer for daring to air Dave Chappelle’s hit specials which include jokes about transgender people. Random tech and support staffers at the New York Times somehow feel entitled to dictate what opinions are off-limits for the opinion page to publish.

You get the picture.

It’s sad that so many people in positions of relative power and influence have internalized such overt hostility toward free expression, but it’s ultimately not surprising. College is where we send our young people to become adults and prepare for the workforce; for many, it’s some of the most formative years of their lives. If the campus cultures they’re immersed in are hostile to the traditional American principle of free speech, is it any wonder they come out having internalized this message?

Regrettably, it’s a tough sell to convince people who matured into adults while drinking this Kool-aid that their worldview is wrong. So, while some may be swayed, there’s really no fixing this problem unless we root it out at the source. And deeply ideological college administrators are not going to magically wake up one day and see the light.

We must force public colleges and universities to respect free expression and adopt policies that protect free speech.

The first step is transparency, which institutions like FIRE are doing a great job of providing. Yet transparency alone won’t change things unless we back it up with action.

Americans should vote with their wallets, and pointedly refuse to send their children to any college that receives a “red light” on FIRE’s index. Money talks, and even the wokest of administrators will be forced to course correct if their schools see a large decline in interest and start to slip down the rankings.

Moreover, public universities are taxpayer-funded, and as taxpayers, we are fully entitled to attach strings to that money. Whether it’s at the state or federal level, lawmakers can and should attach requirements that public schools enact policies that respect students’ First Amendment rights and embrace a culture of free expression—or else see their funding slashed.

Link to the rest at Newsweek and thanks to F. for the tip.

PG hopes that a large percentage of college students can recognize propaganda when they see or hear it. He has read that alumni donations have been dropping for a great many institutions of higher education across the country and hopes that this sort of protest continues and grows to increase the pressure to clamp down on the speech police wherever they are found.

Additionally, he sees no problem for state and federal legislators to object loudly to this sort of forced indoctrination in public colleges and universities and take further steps in funding to demonstrate the seriousness in their objections.

Unless things have changed a great deal since PG was in college, government-guaranteed student loans is a big contributor to tuition at private universities in addition to numerous government research grants, work-study programs, veterans benefits, etc., etc., so even private institutions with large endowments would feel a pinch.

The People Behind Bookmarked Are Behind Book Bans in Texas–One Is a School Administrator

From BookRiot:

At the end of August, we broke a story about the development of an app meant to “assist” schools in determining whether or not books within their libraries are appropriate materials. Founded by Steve Wandler, who works in the education technology space, BookmarkED aims to “empower parents to personalize school libraries.” The purpose is to ensure that parents get to decide the “individual literary journey for their children, based on their personal values and interests,” while teachers and librarians can keep “confidently recommending and providing more personalized books to their students, knowing precisely the learning outcomes they will achieve.” As a bonus, the technology will help libraries “simply and efficiently navigate the ever-changing challenged books landscape.”

BookmarkED’s website states the idea was conceptualized by a Texas superintendent. The app, BookmarkED, was developed in Texas by an educational technologist, and when contacted, the team behind the app stated the following:

At the end of August, we broke a story about the development of an app meant to “assist” schools in determining whether or not books within their libraries are appropriate materials. Founded by Steve Wandler, who works in the education technology space, BookmarkED aims to “empower parents to personalize school libraries.” The purpose is to ensure that parents get to decide the “individual literary journey for their children, based on their personal values and interests,” while teachers and librarians can keep “confidently recommending and providing more personalized books to their students, knowing precisely the learning outcomes they will achieve.” As a bonus, the technology will help libraries “simply and efficiently navigate the ever-changing challenged books landscape.”

BookmarkED’s website states the idea was conceptualized by a Texas superintendent. The app, BookmarkED, was developed in Texas by an educational technologist, and when contacted, the team behind the app stated the following:

In our conversations with school districts, we have heard that many do not have a centralized, up-to-date source for data on challenged books. While we cannot divulge the exact sources of all our data, we can say that we gather data from a variety of credible sources every day, including school district sources and non-profit datasets. This enables school districts and librarians to have access to this data in real-time on a state and national level.

Link to the rest at BookRiot

Booksellers, Industry Groups File Suit to Block Texas Book Rating Law

From Publishers Weekly:

A coalition of booksellers and book industry advocacy groups filed a federal lawsuit this week seeking to strike down a controversial new book banning law in Texas. Among the law’s provisions is one mandating “library material vendors,” including booksellers and publishers, to create and implement a rating system for books sold into Texas schools and school libraries based on the book’s “sexual” content. The 28-page complaint claims that the law—which is set to take effect on September 1—would impose sweeping, vague, and unconstitutional content-based restrictions on readers and unduly burden booksellers.

“By giving the state unbridled and arbitrary discretion to declare books ‘sexually explicit’ and ‘sexually relevant’ and prohibit the sale of constitutionally protected materials by a bookseller, with no recourse and no provision for judicial review, the [law] constitutes a prior restraint that violates the First and Fourteenth Amendments to the U.S. Constitution,” the complaint alleges. If the law is allowed to take effect, the complaint claims, it would “cause a recall of many books in K-12 public schools, bans of even more, and the establishment of an unconstitutional—and unprecedented—state-wide book licensing regime that compels private companies and individuals to adopt the State’s messages or face government punishment.”

The plaintiffs in the case include two Texas bookstores, Austin’s BookPeople and Houston’s Blue Willow Bookshop, together with the American Booksellers Association, the Association of American Publishers, the Authors Guild, and the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund.

Dubbed the “Reader Act” (formerly known as HB 900), the law was passed on April 20 and signed by Texas governor Greg Abbott on June 12—although the complaint refers to the law under an apt new shorthand, referring to it throughout as the “Book Ban.”

Among its provisions, the new law requires book vendors to review books—including both new books and books it has previously sold—and to rate them, under a vaguely articulated standard, to be either “sexually explicit” (if the book includes material that would be “patently offensive” by community standards) or “sexually relevant” (if the books portrays any kind of sexual conduct). Booksellers are banned from selling books rated “sexually explicit” to schools, and students would be able to access books rated as “sexually relevant” only with written parental consent.

Furthermore, the suit notes, the state has the power to “review and overrule the ratings for any book,” effectively imposing a state standard. There is no transparency requirement for the state, and no appeals process. And if a bookseller or publisher refuses to adopt the state’s rating, it can be barred from selling to Texas schools “unless and until the bookseller acquiesces to the government’s demands.”

In a statement, plaintiff Valerie Koehler, owner of Blue Willow, called the law unfair to local communities across the state “who have the right to set their own standards” and argued that it is simply “not viable” for book vendors: “We would be forced to seek legal opinions about every book we will sell and have sold. We do not have the human or capital resources as a small independent bookshop to comply with the law as it is written.”

Plaintiff Charley Rejsek, the CEO of BookPeople, agreed. “Setting aside for the moment the fact that this law is clearly unconstitutional, booksellers do not see a clear path forward to rating the content of the thousands of titles sold to schools in the past, nor the thousands of titles that are published each year that could be requested by a school for purchase, neither do we have the training nor funding needed to do so,” Rejsek said. “In addition, booksellers should not be put in the position of broadly determining what best serves all Texan communities. Each community is individual and has different needs. Setting local guidelines is not the government’s job either. It is the local librarian’s and teacher’s job, in conjunction with the community they serve.”

Link to the rest at Publishers Weekly

Free Expression: French and US Industries’ New Challenges

From Publishing Perspectives:

For some time, the United States book market has stood as the de facto capital of the world’s far-right efforts in literary censorship.

A new government-imposed limitation on sales of a novel for young readers in France, however, is drawing stark criticism as censorship: Support for Manu Causse’s Bien trop petit (Far Too Small) from Éditions Thierry Magnier now includes the full-throated backing of the powerful French publishers’ association, the Syndicat national de l’édition (SNE).

The SNE has issued a particularly forthright demand for a review of a 74-year-old law used by the French national government to limit sales of a single children’s book.

The association writes in a terse statement delivered today to the international press corps, “The National Publishing Union (SNE) recalls its unwavering attachment to the principles of freedom of creation and publication, in compliance with the legal provisions intended to protect minors.

“Taking note of the decree of July 17, 2023, prohibiting the sale to minors of Manu Causse’s work Far Too Small published by Éditions Thierry Magnier—taken in accordance with the law of July 16, 1949, revised in 2011—the SNE requests that [there be] carried out an evaluation of the system for the protection of minors established by this law. The SNE questions the consistency and effectiveness of the rules defined almost 75 years ago when the main current vectors of exposure of minors to the content covered by the law did not exist.”

Not only is this case clearly defined and—thanks to the SNE—now very high-profile, but its content lies in areas that society isn’t always comfortable discussing, even in the name of free expression: young male sexuality.

This makes it, of course, of particular value as an instance in which publishing can test its own critical allegiance to producing its best work and resisting self-censorship.

The author Manu Causse’s Bien trop petit was published in September as part of a series, Éditions Thierry Magnier’s Collection L’Ardeur.

In the publisher’s descriptive copy about the book, accompanying an audio sample from the novel, Éditions Thierry Magnier writes:

“A novel full of humor that explores the complexity of adolescence and a tribute to the powers of the imagination in the construction of our sexualities.

“Grégoire has a small penis. If he had never really realized it, after the derogatory comments of his comrades at the swimming pool, he is forced to face the facts. He’s convinced that his love and sexual life is now over before it even started because of this insurmountable flaw.

“His immediate solution to cope with his frustration: take refuge in his fan fiction. He has been writing for a long time the adventures of the brave Max Égrogire and his sidekick, the beautiful Chloé Rembrandt. But this time, his story will take an unexpected turn since Grégoire writes an erotic passage for the first time. And among his readers, one person will challenge him: Kika encourages him, jostles him a little, and pushes him to go farther.

“From message to message, Grégoire delivers the sequel to Chloé Rembrandt’s erotic adventures to Kika. Through their exchanges, he explores his own fantasies and can’t believe he can share them with someone. Perhaps excitement and desire can go through many other things than bodily contact?”

According to French press accounts, the publisher wasn’t aware until July 18 that France’s interior ministry had issued a decree on the book, which is said to have had an initial print run of 2,500 copies with sales of some 500. Apparently, however, the book had been reported by the Commission for the Supervision and Control of Publications for  Youth to the interior ministry in January.

Link to the rest at Publishing Perspectives

PG wonders why censorship is so often connected with the far right, especially when woke censorship and trigger warnings, the most common species of censorship in the US at present, are most certainly far-left.

Most Banned Authors of All Time

From WordsRated:

As there is a lack of consistent and reliable sources regarding book banning for most of recorded history, it’s impossible to determine which books and authors have been banned the most. It’s also important to note that, even with the more accurate and reliable reports over the last few decades, over 80-90% of all book bans and challenges remain unreported.

We used the most extensive available database on book-banning efforts, ALA’s list of banned and challenged titles, to compile this report that shows the most banned authors since 1990. We calculated our WordsRated Ban Score to rank authors by the frequency and the number of banned titles during this period.

Who is the most banned author of all time?

  • Toni Morrison has been the most frequently banned author since 1990. Her books have been on the list of the 100 most banned titles in each of the previous 3 decades, reaching the top 10 between 2010 and 2019.
  • Judy Blume is the second most banned author since the 90s, appearing on the 100 most banned list from 1990 to 1999.
  • Robert Cormier’s titles appeared on the list of the 10 most frequently banned books between 1990 and 2009, making him the third most banned author of all time.
  • Books written by the 10 most banned authors since 1990 account for 33% of all top 10 most banned titles for each of the past 3 decades.

The list of the 25 most frequently banned authors, according to our metrics, is presented in the table below:

AuthorBanned titlesWordsRated ban rank
Toni MorrisonThe Bluest Eye, Beloved, Song of Solomon155
Judy BlumeForever…, Blubber, Deenie, Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret., Tiger Eyes141
Robert CormierThe Chocolate War, We All Fall Down, Fade118
Alvin SchwartzScary Stories to Tell in the Dark (series), Cross Your Fingers, Spit in Your Hat106
Robie HarrisIt’s Perfectly Normal: Changing Bodies, Growing Up, Sex, and Sexual Health, It’s So Amazing104
Lois LowryThe Giver, Anastasia Krupnik (series)99
Dav PilkeyCaptain Underpants (series), The Adventures of Super Diaper Baby98
Katherine PatersonBridge to Terabithia, The Great Gilly Hopkins96
Mark TwainAdventures of Huckleberry Finn, The Adventures of Tom Sawyer88
Phyllis Reynolds NaylorAlice (series)88
John SteinbeckOf Mice and Men, The Grapes of Wrath86
Harper LeeTo Kill a Mockingbird75
J. D. SalingerThe Catcher in the Rye74
Alice WalkerThe Color Purple72
Maya AngelouI Know Why the Caged Bird Sings68
Walter Dean MyersFallen Angels, Monster64
Peter Parnell, Justin RichardsonAnd Tango Makes Three63
Aldous HuxleyBrave New World61
Lauren MyracleInternet Girls (series)60
Stephen ChboskyThe Perks of Being a Wallflower58
Chris CrutcherAthletic Shorts: Six Short Stories, Whale Talk, Staying Fat for Sarah Byrnes, Running Loose56
Lois DuncanKilling Mr. Griffin, Daughters of Eve53
James Lincoln Collier, Christopher CollierMy Brother Sam Is Dead, Jump Ship to Freedom52
AnonymousGo Ask Alice52
Maurice SendakIn the Night Kitchen51

Link to the rest at WordsRated

Book bans are getting everyone’s attention — including Biden’s. Here’s why

From National Public Radio:

President Joe Biden named checked “MAGA extremists” and attempts to ban books in his video on Tuesday announcing he was officially running for office again. Here’s why it’s the topic that just won’t stop.

What is it? Put frankly, it’s a rising trend of parents and politicians pushing for censorship on material available to students in public schools and public libraries.

According to the American Library Association’s Office of Intellectual Freedom, the number of challenges to unique titles last year was up nearly 40% over 2021.

As reported by NPR’s Meghan Collins Sullivan, the ALA says that 2,571 unique titles were banned or challenged in 2022.

From July 2021 to June 2022, 40% of the banned titles had protagonists or prominent secondary characters of color, and 21% had titles with issues of race or racism, according to PEN America, a non-profit tracking book ban data.

What’s the big deal? It appears that public libraries are another battleground for the United State’s ever-present culture wars.

Another 41% of titles challenged or banned have content relating to LGBTQIA+ identity and themes, according to PEN.

This dynamic has existed for decades. Famed novelist Judy Blume faced heavy scrutiny and calls for censorship in the 1980s for her books that discussed sexuality and self-image.

The number one banned book is once again Gender Queer by Maia Kobabe, a graphic memoir that follows Kobabe’s journey into exploring their own gender and queer identity.

. . . .

Here’s what he said at a White House event honoring educators earlier this week:

I never thought I’d be a president who is fighting against elected officials trying to ban, and banning, books.

Lessa Kananiʻopua Pelayo-Lozada, president of the American Library Association, on how the campaign for books being banned has ramped up in past years:

Now we’re seeing organized attempts by groups to censor multiple titles throughout the country without actually having read many of these books.

Elle Mehltretter, a 16-year-old who spoke with NPR’s Tovia Smith about circumventing book bans online in her home state of Florida:

You can say you ban books all you want, but you can never really ban them because they’re everywhere.

Link to the rest at National Public Radio

For those visitors from outside the United States, the politics of the 2024 presidential election are already simmering and the aroma is, for PG, very off-putting.

Assuming Trump manages to snatch the Republican party nomination, both candidates would be the oldest ever elected. Trump will be 78 in 2024 and Biden will be 81.

A recent survey by Reuters-Ipsos shows more than 60% of American voters feel Biden is too old to work in government… and two thirds don’t want Biden or Trump to run.

Censoring the classics is a ticket to the Dark Ages

From Fox News:

Among the most tragic events in human cultural history was the destruction of works from the great library of Alexandria. Blamed on Julius Caesar as well as later Christian and Muslim zealots, the net loss of knowledge from this font of ancient wisdom roughly coincided with what we call the Dark Ages, and we may be repeating history.

From its beginnings one of the great promises of computer technology was the possibility of maintaining a library of all human writing that could not burn, that would neither fade nor wither. The irony, that has not been considered closely enough, is how easily this same technology can revise or fabricate literary and historical classics, which is tantamount to destroying them.

In recent months we have learned that major publishers are using sensitivity editors to censor the works of Roald Dahl, Agatha Christie, PG Wodehouse, and many other classic writers. Forthgoing, all new print and digital versions of their works will reflect the moral sensibilities of the current year, as the originals make their way from used book stores to landfills, never to be seen again.

Make no mistake, this is every bit as much a tragedy as the flames licking through the walls of Egypt’s great library, in fact it might be worse. At least the lost works of Alexandria may rest in eternal peace rather than have their mutilated corpses played like macabre marionettes through the ages.

The goal of preserving human knowledge is being twisted into the goal of reconstructing and rehabilitating human knowledge. It is a kind of imposed, culture-wide forgetfulness of the fact that people ever held beliefs or said things offensive to modern sensibilities.

History may be written by the victors at first, but we are learning that in the age of computers and sensitivity publishing it is rewritten by the aggrieved. But where will this lead us?

What goes dark in a dark age is the past. Things that had been common knowledge in science, history, ethics, legend, erode and disappear, most often replaced with presentist dogma, be it that of the Medieval Catholic Church or the modern priestesses of Wokeness.

Once this process begins it is difficult to slow. As the supposed racism is squeezed out of Jeeves and Wooster, as the founding of America changes from 1776 to 1619, as the N word is removed from Huckleberry Finn, as Queen Elizabeth I becomes trans, a new fabricated history of mankind is wrought.

This new version of events is reinforced by every Chatbot, every digital textbook, every Google search result, and every passing reference in entertainment.

As William Faulkner famously said, “The past is never dead. It’s not even past.” He means that it is only the past that can give meaning to our present lives and culture, there is nothing else to compare it to.

By imposing present morality on the past we erase the struggles that our ancestors went through to arrive at where we are. Instead of a complex tapestry that can aid us in our own cultural battles and divisions we see a past that does nothing but confirm modern progressive ideology.

Is it any wonder that so many people feel disconnected, desolate, lacking meaning and purpose? There is nothing to strive for.

. . . .

So certain are the arbiters of our present day culture that their beliefs are the only right and just ones that they not only impose them on us, but on the dead as well, leaving no light behind us to guide our way forward. Because there is no forward, there is only now.

Link to the rest at Fox News and thanks to F. for the tip.

ALA: Book Bannings in the USA Broke All Records in 2022

From Publishing Perspectives:

Last year saw 1,269 attempts to ban or restrict library materials in the United States, the highest level since the compiling of data began some 20 years ago, according to a new report from the American Library Association‘s watchdog agency on the issue.

The numbers make compelling reading, particularly in a week when effects similar to the wave of book bannings in the United States is echoed by a Wisconsin elementary school’s removal of a song from its spring concert because the Dolly Parton and Miley Cyrus duet “Rainbowland” could be, in the words of the school administration, “perceived as controversial.” Here is Harm Venhuizen’s write-up for the Associated Press.

The American Library Association’s Office for Intellectual Freedom tracks censorship demands made on libraries in the United States. The sheer magnitude of book challenges this office recorded in 2022 the growing threat of censorship in libraries.

. . . .

  • A record 2,571 unique titles were targeted for censorship, according to the report, constituting a major, 38-percent jump in such activity over that seen in 2021.
  • The 2022 number of reported book challenges relayed by the library association nearly doubles the 729 challenges reported in 2021.
  • Some 58 percent of those reported book challenges were made to books and materials in school libraries, classroom libraries, or school curricula, according to the report.

. . . .

Organized censorship groups, the report indicates, are creating lists of books they want to see banned from libraries. The use of these lists, the Office for Intellectual Freedom points out, “contributed significantly to the skyrocketing number of challenges and the frequency with which each title was challenged.”

Prior to 2021, the agency says, “the vast majority of challenges to library resources only sought to remove or restrict access to a single book.” Now, 90 percent of challenges include multiple titles, contributing to the increased numbers the agency is reporting:

  • 12 percent were in cases involving two to nine books
  • 38 percent were in cases involving 10 to 99 books
  • 40 percent were in cases involving 100 or more books

Link to the rest at Publishing Perspectives

These sorts of articles raise a question in PG’s mind: Do children’s book publishers really understand their market – parents of children?

Giving up Is Not an Option: Book Censorship News

From Book Riot:

We’re all tired.

The coordinated attacks on everything from Drag Queen story hours to Pride displays to individual books in libraries is going into its second year.

While many have been waking up to this — which happens when it’s not just in those red communities, but in your own as well — we’re hitting the point of quitting.

. . . .

In this week’s recap of the American Booksellers Association’s Winter Institute, the response to book bans was a resounding…we don’t have solutions.

. . . .

As the largest organization for booksellers whose majority are not public employees and thus, not subject to the laws and governance of the public, this level of giving up is complicity. It is lazy, it is unethical, and it’s blatantly incorrect.

How many of us have laid out the solutions for you, week after week, day after day, for nearly two years? Who have done the work for you in writing talking points, in petitions, in tireless and often thankless (and stolen and uncredited) work that exposes exactly who is behind the rise of fascism book bans.

The solution is showing up to the polls.

The solution is writing to your representatives.

The solution is informing your customers through accurate, up-to-date information, more than a book display highlighting the same tired white men classics wheeled out every time it’s convenient to make a buck, rather than educate or enlighten communities about what’s really at stake — and who.

The solution is running for school and library board.

Link to the rest at Book Riot