Banned book week in modern America


Who are the book banners in 2014? We recently celebrated "Banned Book Week," an observance that highlights the many titles that have historically "banned" or at least requested to be removed from required reading lists.

Those books run the gamut from "Huckleberry Finn" to the ever-popular (but rarely read) "Catcher in the Rye."

But the thing is, we seem to always celebrate Banned Book Week badly. It's seen as a non-conformist high holy day, as if we all live in the fictional town of Bomont, where the film "Footloose" is set.

Yet there are attempts at censorship in the nation today, and it's not the Baptists and the prudes doing it.

"For thoughtful people, Banned Books Week is tennis with the net down," wrote Bart Hinkle in Reason magazine. "The targets are easy and mostly deserve the hits they take: the prudes who object to the potty humor of "Captain Underpants." The narrow-minded scolds who can't see past the racial language in "To Kill a Mockingbird" to its broader values. The zealots who think harmless "Harry Potter" leads to Satanism."

But those examples are petty (and pretty rare) compared to the real threat to the First Amendment.

"Ever since the Supreme Court's 2010 ruling in Citizens United, liberals have railed against the decision, which they say ‘opened the floodgates' to unlimited corporate spending on elections," Hinkle explained. "President Obama claimed the decision ‘strikes at democracy itself.' Efforts to reverse the decision culminated last month in a Senate vote on a constitutional amendment, sponsored by 48 Democrats."

You'll recall that the Citizens United case involved a movie about Hillary Clinton. The McCain-Feingold campaign finance laws prohibited a not-for-profit group from distributing the movie within 30 days of the 2008 primary election.

"That raised another quite obvious question: If the government could forbid distribution of a movie, then could it also forbid distribution of a book? The government's lawyer gave the only logically consistent answer possible: yes," Hinkle noted. "The Supreme Court wisely said: No, the government cannot ban books — nor can it ban movies, or TV ads, or billboards, or other forms of independent communication. No matter who produces them, and no matter when."

That's pretty simple, and it's something that supporters of Banned Book Week should understand. But they don't seem to.

"Those who seek to roll back Citizens United want precisely what the American Library Association objects to: They want to limit the free flow of information," Hinkle contended. "They have reasons for this, which they think are good ones: ensuring a level playing field. Preventing big money from drowning out smaller voices. Stopping corporate interests from influencing politicians. Well, those who want to restrict access to "Captain Underpants" and "To Kill a Mockingbird" have their reasons, too, which they also think pretty highly of. Liberals cannot open the door to censorship for reasons they consider good without also opening the door for reasons they consider not-so-good."

Banning books is always a bad move — ideas should be refuted, not silenced.

Got that, liberals?


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