Annoyed Librarian
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Inside Annoyed Librarian

Everybody’s a Victim

Today we try to answer the important question, when is a book ban not a book ban?

This is a little different than the one I normally ask, which is when is a book ban not censorship? That question is ridiculously easy to answer if you’re thinking clearly and haven’t drunk the ALA Kool-Aid.

If the book is still widely available online, in stores, and in other libraries, then it’s not censored. The ALA just likes to use that language to make themselves feel like they’re fighting against a mighty injustice when they’re usually just fighting against powerless reactionaries who don’t like gay penguins or teenage wizards.

Sometimes libraries do actually ban books, and when they do we can call it a book ban with good reason. Most of the challenges are successfully fought off, thus insuring that everyone can have access to gay penguins and teenage wizards. If that kind of stuff was banned from libraries, our society, such as it is, might collapse.

It’s understandable that librarians would use library book bans to draw attention to intellectual freedom. What’s much stranger is that conservative non-librarians would use a non-library non-book ban to associate themselves with the ALA.

And yet, it’s happened, as this strange opinion column shows. It’s another example in the increasing pile of evidence that conservatives, once so diligent about criticizing a culture of victimhood when those victims were women, ethnic minorities, or homosexuals, are now happy to claim victim status of their own.

Although the column claims that “banning books” is bad whether it comes from the left or the right, the case in question is definitely not a book ban and the writer is almost assuredly of the right. If nothing else confirms this, the fact that he got his information from a post should be evidence enough.

There are extensive comments to both the columns, but I didn’t read them. Reading comments on sites like those is only enjoyable if you like watching people rant about other people they don’t know much about but hate anyway.

Now to the “book ban” in question. The Children’s Book Council (CBC) chose a children’s book of history, or possibly “history,” by Rush Limbaugh as one of its finalists for a Children’s Choice Book Award. I’ve never heard of that award, but choosing children’s books isn’t a high priority with me.

People protested. No, that’s putting it strongly. People complained via Twitter. How frightening! Twitter might have aided the Arab Spring protests as lots of people claim, but if so that was because it helped organize actual protests, with people actually leaving their computers and assembling in real places.

If a “Twitter war” is is the worst of your problems, then you’ve got it pretty good.

There have been successful social media campaigns to organize boycotts and such, but the CBC doesn’t seem to be selling anything that I can tell, so what would people boycott?

Anyway, upset people wanted the book removed from the list of finalists.

The CBC responded by saying the finalists weren’t chosen by the CBC, but rather by bestseller lists, on the assumption that those are the books that children are choosing, and the award is the Children’s Choice Award. Later, supposedly, real children vote for the finalists.

Supposedly, some of those in the “Twitter war” complained that Limbaugh was a bigot and the book terrible. How anyone could think the race-baiting, woman-bashing Limbaugh is a bigot is beyond me. He’s a warm cuddly teddy bear who just tells it like it is to his thousands of caring and considerate fans who definitely aren’t hateful or emotionally disturbed.

The conservative columnist from Alabama doesn’t think he’s a bigot, and that’s enough bona fides for me.

Add to those bona fides his clever argument using the ALA’s information on library book banning to defend Limbaugh against the Twitter warriors, i.e. Tweeters, who aren’t calling for a library book ban. That seems pretty relevant.

I guess there are only a few flaws in the argument, like the really obvious one that the Children’s Choice Award isn’t a library. At least, I’m pretty sure it’s not a library.

Then there’s the problem that removing books from a list of award finalists doesn’t make it harder for anyone to read the book in question, which is the worst case scenario with library book bans.

From what I can tell by reading through the ALA’s list of frequently challenged books, the challenges probably come mostly from the right of the political spectrum, especially the ones that complain about sex or homosexuality. Challenging books in libraries just isn’t something liberals do very often.

So it’s a little weird to make this left and right comparison by saying it’s bad whatever side “book banning” comes from when it almost always comes from the right.

And it’s definitely weird to compare the CBC-Limbaugh flap to a library book challenge unless you wanted to claim you’re a victim of repressive forces, just like whoever those people are who write the books challenged in libraries.

There’s a subtle difference in the relationship to intellectual freedom between these positions.

Despite the misguided claim that viewing Internet porn in the children’s areas of libraries is “intellectual freedom,” and despite the foolish inability to admit the obvious fact that not all books are appropriate for every age of reader, the ALA folks do like the exercise of intellectual freedom.

Sure, they’re unable to defend their cause except in extreme claims that make them look ridiculous to the rest of us, but it’s still a good cause they’re defending.

So what are the “Twitter warriors” doing except exercising their intellectual freedom? No books are being banned. Nobody’s trying to keep books out of anyone’s hands. People are tweeting.

But I guess in the new America, everyone gets to be a victim, even rich, old, angry, white guys like Limbaugh who never viciously smear anyone. The poor dears.



  1. benny the jet says:

    Rich, old, angry, conservative white guys are the only people group for which it is still open season. The PC police have somehow managed to miss all the rich, old, angry, conservative white guy bashing that goes on — especially among open-minded librarian types. Oh well, we’ve had it sooooo goooood for the last 6,000 years. Guess it’s someone else’s turn.

    • There’s a subtle but important distinction between “bashing” rich old white guys and calling out bloviating bigots who also happen to be rich old white guys.

    • Wow, I would love to live in whatever universe you inhabit.

  2. Sarah K says:

    The primary issue with Limbaugh’s book, as far as the CBC is concerned, is his own statement that he sent “over fifteen thousand” copies of his book to schools, which would artificially inflate his sales figures. (There’s a transcript of the call where he discussed it on, if you want to brave those waters.) So yeah, the take on history is…interesting, to say the least, but there’s a legitimate reason to reconsider the book’s status if the numbers are being manipulated–something that the article does not deign to mention.

  3. I’m pretty sure that Martin Luther King Jr. didn’t say “I have a dream that everyone except old, white men will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.”

    • MK Fowee says:

      Considering the “character” that Limbaugh regularly profits off of on the radio, the judgements being made here are at least a fair consideration.

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