Banning books has recently come back into fashion. Earlier this month, a viral tweet from a Massachusetts school teacher emerged online. In it, the teacher proclaimed that she was “very proud” to have removed Homer’s The Odyssey from her classroom in the name of social justice. In the past two years, there has been an 8.6% increase in books that were “challenged” in the United States. This means someone has taken offense to the book’s availability to the general populace and requested it to be taken out of their local school or library. A hefty ten percent of these ever-increasing challenges result in books being banned from the institution entirely.
Most recently, books like Irreversible Damage by Abigail Shrier and Unmasked by Andy Ngo have come under serious heat for their message. Shrier had her book pulled from Target for a brief time, but fought to get it back onto shelves after tireless legal exchange. Ngo’s book has not yet released and bookstores are already saying they will not display it. Powell’s Books itself said,
“This book will not be placed on our shelves. We will not promote it. That said, it will remain in our online catalog.” The statement continued, “We carry a lot of books we find abhorrent, as well as those that we treasure.”
Not only is this behavior childish, but it is also antithetical to all that a civilized society should desire. No free civilization should permit “cancelling” books, much less banning them outright. If you disagree with their arguments, rebut them, and write better books. Censorship knows no end—one day they are attacking the books you disagree with, and the next they will come for your favorites.
The inevitable conclusion of this practice is a state-ordained reading list. This is already evident in totalitarian countries like China. Their efforts to combat “misinformation” that runs contrary to the goals of the state are nothing short of Orwellian. However, Americans should take comfort in their own Bill of Rights, as it provides the greatest defence against the slippery slope that book-burning entails. The strongest combatant of totalitarianism and misinformation itself is free speech.
We are at a critical point in American history. Self-censorship, “cancel culture,” and mob justice all run rampant. Free message board apps like Parler, Twitter, and Facebook all have their own varying degrees of information control. Even in American classrooms, teachers are celebrating getting tried-and-true classics banned. If we are to prevent the total forfeit of our freedoms, we must defend the freedom of speech in even the most unassuming circumstances.
President John F. Kennedy said it best when he said, “If this nation is to be wise as well as strong, if we are to achieve our destiny, then we need more new ideas for more wise men reading more good books in more public libraries. These libraries should be open to all—except the censor. We must know all the facts and hear all the alternatives and listen to all the criticisms. Let us welcome controversial books and controversial authors. For the Bill of Rights is the guardian of our security as well as our liberty.”
The views expressed in this article are the opinion of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Lone Conservative staff.