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Port: Let's talk about the modern book burners

The First Amendment has, historically, been at the center of what it means to be an American, but these days it seems millions of Americans are less concerned with protecting ideas, and their expression, then silencing them.

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Photo by Patrick Tomasso on Unsplash
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MINOT, N.D. — In Llano, Texas, local ideologues “have taken works as seemingly innocuous as the popular children’s picture book ‘In the Night Kitchen’ by Maurice Sendak off the shelves, closed library board meetings to the public and … stacked [them] with conservative appointees — some of whom did not even have library cards," The Washington Post reports .

In Flathead County, Montana , citizens are using antiquated obscenity laws to ban books.

In Lafayette, Louisiana, the local library board has appropriated to itself the authority to ban books.

PEN America, an organization formed to defend the right to free expression, is sounding the alarm about a paroxysm of censorship driven by moral panic. "Over the past nine months, the scope of such censorship has expanded rapidly," the group says .

But how many Americans care versus the number who are in the trenches fighting to suppress books and art and music?

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Last year The New York Times reported that groups such as PEN, who are defending First Amendment principles at the heart of what it means to be an American, are appealing "to a principle that has lost its luster for many on the left and right."

Yes, the left too.

Much of the attention is focused on right-wing efforts to fight against the "gay agenda" boogieman, but our progressive friends are doing much the same, albeit with different targets.

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In liberal Burbank, California , "teachers in the area will not be able to include on their curriculum Harper Lee's 'To Kill a Mockingbird,' Mark Twain's 'The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn,' John Steinbeck's 'Of Mice and Men,' Theodore Taylor's 'The Cay' and Mildred D. Taylor's 'Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry'" because of concerns over racism.

Book shops are refusing to carry Harry Potter author J.K. Rowling's books over her supposed transphobia . Not even the librarians themselves, who normally are the heroes in the fights against the book burners, have their hands clean.

Supporting the bookstore cancel campaign against Rowling was Jacqui Higgins-Dailey, a public librarian writing, with apparently no sense of irony, on the "Intellectual Freedom Blog" maintained by the Office of Intellectual Freedom of the American Library Association.

Even some at the ACLU have lost the thread. Last year Abigail Shrier's "Irreversible Damage," was published. It's a book about the "craze" of transgenderism which the author feels may be harming children.

A controversial idea, to be sure, but a good book lauded by many respected publications as one of the best of 2021. Yet the political the reaction to it prompted Shrier's publisher to post a groveling apology for the book on Twitter while Chase Strangio, the American Civil Liberties Union’s deputy director for transgender justice, tweeted , "Abigail Shrier’s book is a dangerous polemic with a goal of making people not trans. ... We have to fight these ideas which are leading to the criminalization of trans life again.”

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The ACLU's mission has morphed from protecting ideas, even the odious ones, to fighting them.

It seems that has happened to a lot of us.

It must stop.

Related Topics: BOOKSFIRST AMENDMENT
Opinion by Rob Port
Rob Port is a news reporter, columnist, and podcast host for the Forum News Service. He has an extensive background in investigations and public records. He has covered political events in North Dakota and the upper Midwest for two decades. Reach him at rport@forumcomm.com. Click here to subscribe to his Plain Talk podcast.
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