From Publishers Weekly:
As a historian of literacy, I coined the phrase “the literacy myth” to identify, explain, and criticize the former consensus that reading and writing (and sometimes arithmetic) are sufficient in themselves, regardless of degree of proficiency or social context, to transform the lives of individuals and their societies.
In late 2021, I’m confronted with an unprecedented “new illiteracy”—another version of the ever-shifting literacy myth. The historical continuities are shattered by, first, the call to ban books in innumerable circumstances; second, the banning of written literature without reading it; and, third, calls for burning books. This constitutes a movement for illiteracy, not a campaign for approved or selective uses of reading and writing.
Banning books from curricula, erasing them from reading lists, and ridding them from library shelves has mid-20th-century precedents; the burn books movement does not. Nor does the banning of books without censors reading them to identify their offending content.
Banning books is an effort, unknowingly, to resurrect the early modern Roman Catholic Counter-Reformation against both radical Catholics and early Protestants, which attempted to halt unauthorized reading, including curtailing the ability of individuals to read for themselves. Then seen as a “protest,” individual access to written or printed texts was perceived as threatening in ways that controlled oral reading to the “masses” by a priest or other leader was not. It enforced orthodoxy and countered both collective and individual autonomy.
The similarities and differences between today and a half millennium ago are powerful. Both movements are inseparable from ignorance, rooted in fear, and expressed in both legal and extralegal struggles for control and power. Both are inextricably linked to other efforts to restrict free speech, choice and control over one’s body, political and civil rights, public protests, and more.
Once led by the established church, censorship crusades to ban written materials of all sorts are today supercharged by right-wing politicians, radical evangelicals, and supporting activists. In the eyes of some, these politicians are opportunistic.
Despite media comments and condemnation by professors, teachers, librarians, and First Amendment attorneys, these issues are poorly understood. Parents of school-age children are confused. The young, supposedly in the name of their protection, face the greatest threat to intellectual and psychological development. That danger is most severe for the racially and gender diverse, who see themselves being erased or banned.
Link to the rest at Publishers Weekly
The author of the OP is a professor emeritus at Ohio State University. PG suggests that, while he undoubtedly knows the history of book bans, etc., he doesn’t understand or ignores the current nature of this type of activity on college and university campuses across the United States and, perhaps, elsewhere.
Today, it’s more often the radical left that is attacking individuals and their writings for wrongthink.
From The Washington Times:
“Mr. Bean” actor Rowan Atkinson compared cancel culture to a “medieval mob looking for someone to burn.”
No one is immune to woke politics. It doesn’t matter how long ago a person made their irredeemably “offensive” comments, or how passionate their apologies are — the social media mob takes no prisoners.
. . . .
Below is a list of the top 10 cancellations, all that have occurred within the last year. Many on this list are notable names, people who will find other work and/or have the position and power to stand up to the woke crowd.
It’s the names not represented who are the true victims — like those who have had their college acceptances rejected because of a social media post they made in high school — who were canceled before they ever could get started. They are not famous, and their names are not known.
Not surprisingly, cancel culture cuts one way. If you say something too conservative and mildly offensive, the woke hall monitors on social media will find you. And if you’re famous, all the better, as Hollywood and corporate America seems to have embraced this new form of blacklisting:
- Mike Lindell — The CEO of My Pillow said his company was ditched by nearly 20 retailers after he publicly questioned the electoral results of the 2020 presidential election and made his election fraud claims into a movie. Lindell is an unwavering supporter of former President Donald Trump and visited him in the White House on Jan. 15 — five days before Mr. Trump left office.
- Chris Harrison – The longtime host of ABC’s “The Bachelor” franchise decided to “step aside” after defending current contestant Rachael Kirkconnell when old photos surfaced of her attending an Old South antebellum party. “While I do not speak for Rachael Kirkconnell, my intentions were simply to ask for grace in offering her an opportunity to speak on her own behalf,” Harrison explained. “What I now realize I have done is cause harm by wrongly speaking in a manner that perpetuates racism, and for that I am so deeply sorry.”
- J.K. Rowling — The famous author of the Harry Potter series has faced backlash for voicing her fears that the push for transgender rights will ultimately endanger women’s rights. She’s since defended her comments on her website and joined 150 authors and academics denouncing “cancel culture.” These actions have only further infuriated her critics, who called for a boycott of her books and for her publisher to stop paying royalties.
- Adam Rubenstein — The former New York Times opinion editor and writer resigned from the paper in December, six months after its staff went into an uproar over a piece he edited by Sen. Tom Cotton. The column by Arkansas Republican argued for the federal government to “send in the troops” to quell violence in cities throughout the country in response to civil unrest following the death of George Floyd. Former editor Mari Weiss wrote on Twitter about the resignation: “Adam was hung out to dry by his own colleagues. Then he and his work were lied about, including in this mendacious editor’s note.”
- Gina Carano — The “Mandalorian” actress was fired by Disney after posting on social media that being a Republican in 2021 was similar to being Jewish during Nazi Germany. Her Hollywood agent dropped her, and Hasbro scrapped her “Star Wars” action figures
. . . .
- Matthew Yglesias — The liberal opinion writer resigned from Vox, a publication he co-founded, after many of his woke colleagues found his articles too right of center. Mr. Yglesias argued against defunding the police this summer and took aim at the liberal term “Latinx” as alienating many people from progressive politics and the Democratic Party. He has since joined Substack, so he can voice his opinions more freely.
- Washington/Lincoln/Jefferson — The former U.S. presidents’ names have been wiped from San Francisco public schools after the school board decided to rename 44 schools that had “ties to racism” and “dishonorable legacies.”
- Sen. Josh Hawley – The Missouri Republican was dropped from his publisher, and Democrats have called for his resignation after he raised a challenge to the electors in Pennsylvania, siding with Mr. Trump and saying the state violated its own Constitution in conducting the 2020 presidential election. In the New York Post, he defended his actions, writing: “I, for one, am not going to back down. My book will be published, and I will continue to represent the people of my state without fear or favor, whatever the left or the corporations say.
End of Washington Times quote.
PG doesn’t doubt that some on the radical right are doing or attempting to do the same thing. However, in the United States, the mainstream media are generally controlled by those who are well left-of-center and contemporary wokism is a creation that originated on the left.
PG is suggesting that a group of people loudly attacking an individual or small group for their words and opinions and attempting to harm them financially or physically, as opposed to making an alternative argument to the one they believe is wrong-headed is a slippery slope that has and can lead to a great deal of harm to a society that is difficult to remedy.
Consider the bourgeoisie in Soviet Russia, the Jews in Nazi Germany and a great many other examples of ethnic cleansing as examples of where great intolerance of those who differ in opinion, race, etc., has and still can lead to horrible consequences.