The banned book myth

The banned book myth

In case you missed it, this is Banned Book Week, as so declared by the American Library Association, and everyone is getting in on it, including Google. To hear them talk about it, you’d think that books were being pulled from the shelves of Borders and Barnes & Noble and tossed in bonfires.

Just what are these banned books? How about “The Great Gatsby” and “The Grapes of Wrath” and “To Kill a Mockingbird” for starters. Wait a minute, you say, those books aren’t banned. You can still buy them, as the Amazon links right there attest.

Aha, says Jeff Jacoby in a 2001 column, that’s because you haven’t bought in to the myth of the banned books.

For a “banned book,” it turns out, doesn’t mean a book that has been banned. It means a book about which somebody, usually a parent, has raised an objection—typically that it is too violent or sexually explicit, that it contains offensive language, or that it is not age-appropriate. The vast majority of these complaints deal, as you might expect, with books assigned in school classes or found in school libraries. And as even the ALA acknowledges, the complaints usually go nowhere and the books stay where they are.

What all this talk about banned books is supposed to do is to equate parents who are vigilant about what their children read with the censors of totalitarian regimes afraid of literature that undermine their oppression of their people.

Book banning acceptable to liberals

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