A new PEN America report finds that the right wing's systematic effort to block reading, learning and thinking is spreading
I am sorry that you did not come out stronger in articulating the similarities to early 1933 -1935 Nazi Germany. The book banning, banning of the teaching of history, denigration of the legitimacy of respected news organizations, voting restrictions, gerrymandering, overturning of Roe V Wade, and more all are part of a truly nefarious plot to grab minority control of the USA.
It is far more dangerous than you articulate in your column. Remember the Nuremberg laws were not imposed until 1935, Kristalnacht didn’t happen until 1938 and the first concentration camp was not created until around the same time. The Republicans aka Fascist,/ Christian Nationalist movement is accelerating and increasingly acquiring power in many states. Book banning is just one tactic it is using very effectively to achieve its nefarious objectives. The independents, Democrats, and even the pathetically small group of Republicans who don’t want to live in a dystopian authoritarian state need to wake up now. Otherwise it will be too late. Your column failed to articulate the gravity and need for urgent response to this existential threat to democracy.
Thank you, Steven Beschloss, for explaining the increase and extent of book-banning going on in our nation. If we don't understand the problem, then we cannot appropriately address it. I was hearing more about this last year, but TFG indictments and drama- his political aims (Desantis too) have taken the light off this very important and urgent topic. If we don't get a handle on book-banning (slam the door shut on it!), it will only get worse. MAGA/GOP are using school books as a form of political propaganda, of all things! Yes, our youth will be deprived by not having access to books that help them to understand their own experiences and lives. Please keep speaking out on this. Thank you so much, and I'll do my best to share this newsletter and to get involved in with this issue in Montana.
Steven, it is so bad in many districts in FL if we lived there we would be providing her books she should know about and history she should know about. We live in Alachua County (U of Florida) and while DeSantis has gutted my alma mater with the clearly political choice of Ben Sasse, Alachua County schools have taken a stand against all the nonsense and have won in court. But I do not know how long this will continue. Things are so bad in FL we are contemplating a move to GA which feels and seems more progressive...something I never would have said even 20 years ago.
I happen to think you have not gone far enough in comparing the book bans and such to Nazi Germany or Russia and the Soviet Union (Russia has always had this streak before and since the USSR). We are in a dangerous place that Orwell warned us about. That Sinclair Lewis warned us about.
What the education taliban in this country do not get is that everybody has a right to free speech and go to believe in dumb things that are not true or backed by facts. But that does not mean that you also deserve equal time of respect for those views. It is the latter part they bristle at so they create dog whistles like “woke” or “CRT” to kill any speech that may be based in fact and history because their little minds cannot cognitively handle the false narrative they live under and the reality in the ground. And they do not want to be confronted with that dissonance.
I leave you with a great paraphrase from Kurt Vonnegut (I cannot recall the exact quote): I may not like or agree with what you say, but I will defend your right to say it.
The through line from this banning of books to the current efforts to ban mifepristone is showing in plain sight the work to delegitimize government authorities at federal (the FDA) and local (school and library boards) levels and assert control over issues they know they cannot win at the ballot box. We keep silent because we can’t believe anyone of a right mind would behave this way, so we say nothing. That our press is not reacting stronger to this cynical book banning from the point of view of the first amendment is a deep failure on all their parts.
Whats most frightening are the threats of violence to school board members and librarians that go along with these book bans.
Since the 2016 election I have become increasingly concerned and actual frightened about the future of Democracy and Justice in our country. Eric Holder was Attorney General under President Obama, serving from 2009 to 2015. I naively believe former Attorney General Holder would have acted with urgency to do whatever he could to protect our First Amendment rights to a free press and free speech. Holder would have acted with urgency to protect our Fourteenth Amendment rights to equal protection under the law, including voting rights. I have also seen very few comments from any elected official concerning the disgraceful, immoral use of child labor in states such as Arkansas, Iowa and other states. Only rarely do I read of anyone in our federal government speaking out about these issues, and nothing from the Department of Justice. I look on their website for press releases several times a week. There's a lot going on, I know. But aren't these issues important?
The book banning and threats to close libraries are the present fad on the right that will soon begin to fade. Democrats winning more school board races than Republicans in the news recently shows that an all hands on deck pushback works. It once looked as though Republicans would have control of school boards, and that this was a winning political tactic for them. It's failing, and shows we can pushback effectively against the right since most of what the right does is unpopular with the public. We just have to stir ourselves to do it. Pushback will work with the book bans and library closure threats too if we work hard enough.
So many individual voters on the right are desperately searching for meaning in their lives and have turned to our roiled politics to provide it. You can imagine yourself as a hero as you bravely (and angrily!) venture forth to save children from knowledge. It's really very sad that people are being used as political pawns this way.
As always, brilliant, compelling, timely and important. As talented and helpful as you are on TV, where of course you are limited, these essays are really essential reading for people who care about the country. . . And maybe a related point: what did Europeans and other foreign countries say about Jan 6? They said that they could understand how the violent attempt to overthrow the election and the gov't, could happen in other countries. But America? And then "book burning?" Even if only 10 or 20% of the people support these horrible actions, where is the anger and resistance of the other 80 to 90%? We need to spend a metaphorical day with George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, Kennedy, and Eisenhower re-learning about our home.
No matter what the polling says, many on the extremes of both parties are more close minded than open. Maybe that’s the way it’s always been and is just more visible. Shutting down debate or exploration of different views in a educational setting because someone might find thinking offensive is akin to banning books, IMO. There is no thoughtcrime in the US, but we are heading there.
Is any organization systematically filing lawsuits nationally to overturn book bannings for violating the first amendment? I would send them money.
I live in Canada, an can assure you that America's northern neighbours share your concerns. It seems like America is virtually sliding backwards into the abyss of a virtual caste system. By its very definition, 'caste is the division of society based on differences of wealth, inherited rank or privilege, profession, occupation, or race.' The book bans and restrictions are occurring in some of the same States that were part of the Confederacy that wanted to limit the power of central government. Knowledge is power, and by limiting access to something as fundamental as reading books, is an attempt to rule the protelariat. This is a stand or fall issue for the country, which must be won at the Voting booth. The Hollocast started gradually with a rejection of freedoms of a secular group, and became a systematic, state-sponsored persecution and murder of six million Jews by the Nazi regime.
Why be reluctant to see the connection with Nazi Germany? Same playbook. Same methods. This is a combination of our neo-Nazis, Christian Nationalists, and selfish oligarchs all working together to bring down the Constitution and all the progress we have made since the Civil War, WWII, and since the Civil Rights/Women's Rights era of the 1950s, 60s, and 70s. The Christian Right would be horrified if this were Muslims banning books from their perspective, creating a Muslim-based autocratic, authoritarian government - but they feel very justified in doing this from their "Christian" perspective. The oligarchs of course don't care at all about the Christianity of it - but the Christian Nationalists/White Power people will help deliver the oligarchy, so they are good with it. This is all so much bigger and deeper than Democrats seem to understand - and certainly more than we can deal with given the bifurcation of the media into actual news and "news."
It is not surprising that book banning has become popular and parents carry on at school board meetings. 50% of US citizens cannot read at an 8th grade level. 33% of high school and 42% of college graduates never read another book 21% of Americans are illiterate. A few authoritarian types who want an uneducated population they can control, say these are bad books. ( The Catholic Church of Gutenberg's time was against his printing the Bible, for they did not want people to have any interpretation except what the church told them.)Books about slavery will make white people feel guilty. Books that mention gay people as well as teachers who may be gay, will produce others like them. Books that tell history's truths are unacceptable for they bring dishonor on the country. We can't have these happen. But Mein Kampf is for sale on Amazon for $9.95 while Huckleberry Finn is pulled from bookshelves, librarians and teachers afraid of being arrested. Both should be allowed. Are movies and art next?My high school required 12th graders to take a sex ed course. Heaven forbid that now. No to contraceptives, abortion, living together, any sexual content, yet most that you read about who have done perverted things, are Republicans. No discourse on near nakedness of celebrity women, they have influence and can speak up against candidates. But holy!! Have you seen the latest JLo ad for lingerie?
But back to books. I have read Demon Copperhead by Barbara Kingsolver. One character is gay. The language used by the characters makes your hair stand on end and is offensive, but by the end, you have so much empathy for forsaken, forgotten, thrown away children, their feelings of aloneness,, fear, being unwanted, bullied, what they go through in abusive foster care. Information to know about perhaps, why some of the crime, shooting, murder takes place. Probably on the list.
It is unfortunate that Texas plays such a large part in American history textbook information and production.Big state, lots of sales,money. Its Dept of Ed has decided history will no longer be taught because it gives students too much information. If they are to be proud of Texas & the US, they should have as little access too historical facts as possible. Gov. Abbott says kids are starting to ask questions.Top running way to fill in the extra empty period is to have kids lie face down on grass with covered ears so young minds are exposed to as little as possible. 800 books banned in Texas 7/21 to 6/22. What more is there to say about Florida. I have 3 grandchildren there in public school. A concern.
All that said, it is interesting, however, that Newsom's California has the lowest literacy rate in the country with only 77% adults able to read and write. Manchin's West Virginia is the lowest educated state. Both with prominent Democrats, while Florida is among the best for higher education and public school districts that perform at an elite level. Go figure !!
Good news: Carlson gone from Fox. But Lemon who has made some mistakes, is pro Democrat, gone from CNN. I guess they cancel each other out.
Banning books is just another way the GOP is taking away our freedoms. We can’t let that happen. People can choose not to read certain books and they can choose to not let their children read certain books; but the rest of us must be able to read what we eat to read and educate ourselves in as wide a way as we want. This is America, the land of the free !!!