From The Wall Street Journal:
I never thought book banning would be respectable in America, much less that I’d be the target, but here we are. Last Thursday Target stopped selling my book, “Irreversible Damage: The Transgender Craze Seducing Our Daughters,” in response to two Twitter complaints.
One read: “In 2016, @Target, you released a statement affirming your support for transgender customers. @AskTarget why you’re selling a book notorious for its harmful rhetoric against us. Historically, harmful products have been pulled from this shelf, and this should be, too.”
The other: “I think the transcommunity deserves a response from @AskTarget @Target as to why they’re selling this book about ‘the transgender epidemic sweeping the country.’ ”
That’s a caricature of my view. I think mature adults should have the freedom to undergo medical transition. But teenagers are another matter. Social contagions exist, and teen girls are particularly susceptible to them. The book takes a hard look at whether the sudden spike in transgender identification among teen girls is yet another social contagion to befall girls who, in another era, might have fallen prey to anorexia or bulimia.
Many transgender adults, including some I interviewed for the book, agree that teen girls are undergoing medical transition too fast with too little oversight. Others disagree and have written books. Amid a sea of material unskeptically promoting medical transition for teenage girls, there’s one book that investigates this phenomenon and urges caution. That is the book the activists seek to suppress.
“Abigail Shrier’s book is a dangerous polemic with a goal of making people not trans,” Chase Strangio, the American Civil Liberties Union’s deputy director for transgender justice, tweeted Friday. “I think of all the times & ways I was told my transness wasn’t real & the daily toll it takes. We have to fight these ideas which are leading to the criminalization of trans life again.” Then: “Stopping the circulation of this book and these ideas is 100% a hill I will die on.”
You read that right: Some in today’s ACLU favor book banning. Grace Lavery, a professor of English at the University of California, Berkeley, went further, tweeting: “I DO encourage followers to steal Abigail Shrier’s book and burn it on a pyre.”
Link to the rest at The Wall Street Journal (PG apologizes for the paywall, but hasn’t figured out a way around it.)
PG is reflexively opposed to banning books or any form of expressive speech on the basis of its content except for a small group of carefully-delimited topics. Photos of adults having sexual relations with children would be one of those exceptions.
From a legal standpoint, the Constitution is a document that creates a national government, grants it certain rights and, via the Bill of Rights (the first ten amendments to the Constitution) limits the government’s exercise of its powers in some specified ways.
Target is not, of course, a government entity. As a commercial retailer, Target is free to decide what products it will sell and what products it will not sell.
The ACLU or any other group or individual is free to communicate its opinions about any book. Reviewers do that very thing, likely at least tens of thousands of times each day, on Amazon and other online bookstores, on websites, blogs, Twitter, etc.
That said, PG has concerns about the growing trend in the United States (and perhaps elsewhere) to silence those with whom some groups disagree. Pressuring a retailer (like Target or Amazon) to remove a book from its retail offering is, in effect, silencing or partially-silencing (“deplatforming” is another term) that book’s author.
While the United States Constitution protects the freedom of individuals or groups of individuals to speak, write, etc., their beliefs, it also protects the rights of those who believe otherwise to object to those beliefs, including the right to say that books or other writings that include such objectionable writings should not be stocked or sold by Target or another commercial or non-profit entity.
That said, one of the purposes of the First Amendment to the Constitution that protects free speech is to encourage discussion, writings, even arguments, concerning just about anything. The unstated assumption is that such activities are important for the discovery, discussion, analysis, understanding and, in some cases, resolution of issues that may impact the welfare of individuals, groups and the nation as a whole.
The Preamble to the US Constitution explains the purpose of the specific designation of rights, powers, structures, etc., set forth in the document:
We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.
The expressed intent of the authors of the Constitution was to create a structure of government that, among other things, would “insure domestic Tranquility.”
PG will note that there are many places in the United States that do not presently comport with his understanding of “domestic tranquility.”
PG is reminded of a quote attributed to Benjamin Franklin, one of the delegates to the Constitutional Convention that created the document:
“Someone shouted out, ‘Doctor [Franklin], what have we got? A republic or a monarchy?’
To which Franklin supposedly responded: ‘A republic, if you can keep it.’”
The Washington Post published a short article in December, 2019, about the origin and various accounts of the wording in the oft-repeated quote.
The Post concluded that the most-likely version of the quote was a response to a question from Elizabeth Willing Powel, a prominent society figure and the wife of Philadelphia Mayor Samuel Powel. Ms. and Mr. Powel had hosted the convention delegates and their wives at their home for various social occasions while the convention was deliberating the Constitution.
Instead of the question being put to Franklin on the street, it was more likely to have been asked by Ms. Powel, a woman known for her wit and knowledge, when Franklin entered a room in her house.
“Well Doctor what have we got, a republic or a monarchy?”
“A republic” replied the Doctor “if you can keep it.”
To which Ms. Powel is reported to have said, “And why not keep it?”
The Post article doesn’t include any information about what Franklin’s answer to the second question was.
PG does suggest that keeping a republic is an ongoing task and domestic tranquility will make that task easier.