Libraries and Book Banning

How much say should the community have in what's included?

CC0 Public Domain

Guardian (“US library defunded after refusing to censor LGBTQ authors: ‘We will not ban the books’“):

A small-town library is at risk of shutting down after residents of Jamestown, Michigan, voted to defund it rather than tolerate certain LGBTQ+-themed books.

Residents voted on Tuesday to block a renewal of funds tied to property taxes, Bridge Michigan reported.

The vote leaves the library with funds through the first quarter of next year. Once a reserve fund is used up, it would be forced to close, Larry Walton, the library board’s president, told Bridge Michigan – harming not just readers but the community at large. Beyond books, residents visit the library for its wifi, he said, and it houses the very room where the vote took place.

“Our libraries are places to read, places to gather, places to socialize, places to study, places to learn. I mean, they’re the heart of every community,” Deborah Mikula, executive director of the Michigan Library Association, told the Guardian. “So how can you lose that?”

“We are champions of access,” she added, including materials that might appeal to some in the community and not others. “We want to make sure that libraries protect the right to read.”

The controversy in Jamestown began with a complaint about a memoir by a nonbinary writer, but it soon spiraled into a campaign against Patmos Library itself. After a parent complained about Gender Queer: a Memoir, by Maia Kobabe, a graphic novel about the author’s experience coming out as nonbinary, dozens showed up at library board meetings, demanding the institution drop the book. (The book, which includes depictions of sex, was in the adult section of the library.) Complaints began to target other books with LGBTQ+ themes.

One library director resigned, telling Bridge she had been harassed and accused of indoctrinating kids; her successor, Matt Lawrence, also left the job. Though the library put Kobabe’s book behind the counter rather than on the shelves, the volumes remained available.

“We, the board, will not ban the books,” Walton told Associated Press on Thursday.

We’ve seen this story play out before, although mostly with respect to school libraries rather than community libraries. The issues are similar but not identical.

On the one hand, the librarians are overlaying their hands here. No books are being “banned” and the “right to read” is not impinged by the exclusion of any given book from a public-funded library. Something like a million books are published in the United States alone every year; no library can possibly acquire all of them. And graphic novels, for a whole variety of reasons, tend not to make the cut.

At the same time, the primary job of the librarian is curation. They’re trained to make hard choices about what books to acquire to meet the needs of their audience. And, while I have zero desire to read Kobabe’s work, it has won multiple awards and is presumably therefore an exemplar of the genre.

Does the community have a say here? Well, they’re the paying customer, so I’d think so. And, indeed, they’ve decided that they’d rather not fund the library than have it featuring books in conflict with its mores.

Still, the argument that controversial books shouldn’t exist in the library is troubling in a country founded on Enlightenment principles. That’s true whether it’s the Left purging Huckleberry Finn and To Kill a Mockingbird or the Right purging The Handmaid’s Tale or A People’s History of the United States.

At least with regard to schools, there are reasonable arguments to make about age appropriateness and parental rights. While I tend to think kids will naturally select books they’re ready for and that it’s better for parents to engage with their kids on controversial matters that interest them, I recognize that a lot of folks disagree.

It’s a much harder argument to make, though, with regard to community libraries. Especially those, like the one in question, that segregate books by age and prohibit children from checking out “adult” books without parental permission.

And, rather obviously, the current obsession is with books with racial justice and LGBTQ themes. The American Library Association reports these were the most challenged or banned books last year:

“Gender Queer” by Maia Kobabe
“Lawn Boy” by Jonathan Evison
“All Boys Aren’t Blue” by George M. Johnson
“Out of Darkness” by Ashley Hope Perez
“The Hate U Give” by Angie Thomas
“The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian” by Sherman Alexie
“Me and Earl and the Dying Girl” by Jesse Andrews
“The Bluest Eye” by Toni Morrison
“This Book is Gay” by Juno Dawson
“Beyond Magenta” by Susan Kuklin

While not a new phenomenon by any means, it’s at an intensity not seen in decades. Which really isn’t surprising. We’re going through some pretty radical cultural changes and elite values—including those held by those who set school curricula and curate library collections—are currently very much at odds with those of a huge chunk of society. It probably shouldn’t shock us that they’re pushing back.

FILED UNDER: Books, Society, , ,
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. CSK says:

    I wonder how many people objecting to the contents of the library actually use the library.

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  2. MarkedMan says:

    Busy body culture gone wild. They have to get in everybody’s business and judge them.

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  3. Stormy Dragon says:

    The government using its funding to exclude books on the basis of viewpoint violates the first amendment.

    End of story.

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  4. Jen says:

    Fair warning: this is one of my hot button topics. I am a library trustee and am a huge advocate for libraries.

    On the one hand, the librarians are overlaying their hands here. No books are being “banned” and the “right to read” is not impinged by the exclusion of any given book from a public-funded library.

    Wrong. They are not “over[p]laying their hands” and demands to pull a book or risk funding is most certainly banning. “Right to read” is actually a library term which means that the individual has a right to choose what to read–not the community at large. Libraries carry a wide range of books, including what I consider to be garbage, like stuff from Tucker Carlson, and that anti-Fauci book that came out. Librarians are trained to pick books that reflect the community, but that means more than just picking only what they want to read–they also select books that maybe the community SHOULD read.

    We’re going through some pretty radical cultural changes and elite values—including those held by those who set school curricula and curate library collections—are currently very much at odds with those of a huge chunk of society.

    “Currently very much at odds with those of a huge chunk of society.” Mmm. Not a “huge chunk.”

    Pew Research on this has turned up complex results. 64% “Strongly favor” protecting trans people from discrimination. In 2020, 72%(!) said that homosexuality should be accepted by society. Lots more research at the links.

    Maybe instead of banning books and defunding libraries, these people should be reading the materials they are so upset about. They clearly need to.

    Does the community have a say here? Well, they’re the paying customer, so I’d think so.

    Yes and no. At the risk of getting too out there, I’ll point to Federalist 10. Just because some people in the community have their panties in a twist, does that mean no one in the community can have access?

    Why do people think that it’s their right to determine what SOMEONE ELSE READS? If you don’t want to read a book, don’t check it out. If no one checks it out, then the library will de-accession it (our library has an ongoing weeding process, if books aren’t taken out, they get pulled and sold at the next book sale).

    One of the few reasons I never see myself leaving New Hampshire is because we have rock-solid protections for our libraries. If a community here has a library, the town is required, by law, to adequately fund it.

    These attacks on libraries absolutely send me into the stratosphere.

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  5. Tony W says:

    Imagine having such low confidence, being so unsure of your worldview, that you are threatened by the ideas contained in books.

    Imagine noticing that somebody else might have a viewpoint that would help form your own ideas about the world – and having that be perceived as threatening, rather than as a gift to you.

    Personal weakness and trembling fear is a hallmark, even a cornerstone, of Conservative politics.

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  6. Michael Reynolds says:

    Well, the good thing is that if you ban a book for sexual content you’ve absolutely put a stop to your kids being exposed to such filth because there is nowhere else – nowhere at all – that a young person can go to see that kind of thing.

    Worth noting that Sherman Alexie’s book is also being attacked from the left because: Multiple women have reported that he made inappropriate comments or unwanted advances toward them. He has declined a literary prize and delayed the publication of an upcoming memoir. To whom did he make those allegedly inappropriate remarks? Adult librarians and aspiring authors.

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  7. Mimai says:

    I’m walking distance from my local library. I support it and advocate for it. I hope the residents of Jamestown reverse course.

    This discussion of “banning” reminds me of the semi-regular discussion of “cancelling.”

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  8. Kathy says:
  9. Modulo Myself says:

    This is a small-town library in a backwater town fighting a losing battle. Fewer and fewer people (especially younger people) think it’s radical to have graphic novels for non-binary teens with a bit of cheery affirmative sex in them. Virtually any teen with more than four brain cells can figure out how to watch stepson/MILF porn and these people are pulling books about wholesome LGBQT+ teens exploring sex. It’s worth pointing out that there have always been phobias and bigotry, but not every bigot has been Anita Bryant. The current Republicans anti-grooming stuff is so heavily invested in making everyone of their marks an Anita Bryant, and that stuff just doesn’t fly in the real world, where being terrified of sex and difference is less than useful.

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  10. CSK says:

    @Jen:
    I completely agree with you, but bear in mind that NH is a high I.Q. state whose residents value literacy and knowledge.

    As you know, not everywhere is like that.

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  11. Jen says:

    @CSK: True, but the reason that protecting libraries is baked into our constitution and laws here has more to do with the fact that NH is where the first publicly supported library in the US was founded (in Peterborough, NH), and also a strong strain of individualism–with the idea being that libraries allow one to self-direct their own personal education.

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  12. Kurtz says:

    @Michael Reynolds:

    Is his book being attacked, or is he being criticized for his behavior? I didn’t go nuts, but I didn’t see instances of the Left trying to get his work removed from libraries.

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  13. CSK says:

    @Jen:
    I didn’t know that about Peterborough. Fascinating.

    Live free to read whatever the hell you like or die, right?

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  14. CSK says:

    @Kurtz:
    As far as I can tell, the left objects to Alexie’s behavior, and the right has been trying to get his books banned from schools for years.

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  15. gVOR08 says:

    A few more quotes from the Guardian article:

    “We’re seeing what appears to be a campaign to remove books, particularly books dealing with LGBTQIA themes and books dealing with racism,” Deborah Caldwell-Stone, head of the ALA’s office for intellectual freedom, told the Guardian last year.

    I’m not quite sure what instigated the culture wars that we’re seeing, but libraries are certainly at the front end,” Mikula said.

    If community members oppose the inclusion of certain books, there are formal means of requesting their removal, involving a review committee and ascertainment that the person making the appeal has actually read the book in question. But recently, she said, people have been “going to board meetings, whether it’s a library board meeting or a school board meeting and saying, ‘Here’s a list of 300 books. We want them all to be removed from your library.’ And that’s not the proper channel, but they’re loud and their voices carry.”

    If this was a few church ladies getting their panties in a twist it would be one thing and James’ cavils about community standards and involvement would have some validity. But it is not. It’s of a piece with CRT. Most of the activists couldn’t spell CRT until a couple years ago. Then, in a story that’s well documented , ethnic entrepreneur Christopher Rufo picked it out of boring corporate and government diversity programs and made it a school issue. Just as nobody was worried about grooming until FOXGOP made it a buzzword.

    This is driven top down. The GOPs need culture war issues. Nobody cares about gay marriage anymore and they shot themselves in the foot on abortion. So they’re desperately trying to keep immigration alive as an issue and searching for any new tiny cleavage the can drive a wedge into. They elevated CRT and grooming and stumbled on a new tactic, contra Tip O’neill, of nationalizing local politics. They used to be content with destroying individuals like Lois Lerner and Peter Strzok, and Shirley Sherrod and Hillary. Now they’re eager to destroy local libraries, schools, and my local hospital in their desperation to hang onto minoritarian power.

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  16. Lounsbury says:

    @Stormy Dragon: That is nonsense. Freedom of expression does not contain the positive right to either be distributed or published (as a certain Orange person found out), with or without state funds.

    If the town in question wishes to cut off its own nose to spite its face in shutting their public library, they are perfectly free to do so. Complete fools, but there is no censorship as such. Provincial stupidity, certainly.

    Given I am sure one can find the same “offensive” texts online in e-libraries… profoundly idiot move, but doubtless pleasing to the blue-hairs and associated provincial bumpkins.

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  17. OzarkHillbilly says:

    Cowards, one and all. Afraid of anything and everything that doesn’t conform to their small parochial minds. I’ll lay even money that 50% of these folks have never ventured beyond their state lines, and more than few have never left their county.

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  18. CSK says:

    @OzarkHillbilly:
    And that 50% hasn’t opened a book since high school.

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  19. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @Stormy Dragon: Indeed. Now all you’ve got to do it get Congress to demand that this community fund it’s library and/or get the Supremes to order the library reopened. What we’re seeing in this little community is a grassroots and immediate example of the social contract being modified by citizens sacrificing rights that they don’t value in return for security (in this case emotional, evanescent, and worthless) they value more. And no, the rights/needs/security of the minority will not be taken into account–indeed appear to have been trampled on quite nicely, thank you.

    To draw on a Biblical allusion for a moment, we are witnessing a modern-day counterpart to Joseph’s dream about fat and lean cows. The nation has had it’s 7 fat years rights wise and we’re coming up on the seven lean years decades. Only it’s not a dream. But it is a reminder of how little *less worse than all the other systems* democracy is capable of being.

    Government is no better than the people choosing/serving in it. Maybe this little town will choose better in its next election and reverse the damage.

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  20. Michael Reynolds says:

    @Kurtz: @CSK:
    The Left doesn’t make us much noise publicly because librarians are the Left and what happens is basically shadow-banning. It’s all done inside the club. I’ll give you my favorite recent case: objections were raised to a book in which a bunny rabbit falls into some soot and comes up with soot on his bunny face. And that is, can you guess? It’s blackface. They’re re-drawing it.

    There was quite a big blow-up (well, tempest in a tea pot) recently because a very prominent librarian was on a panel at ALA I think, and was asked whether a book on holocaust denial should be allowed in a library and she said basically, yes. On the panel with her was a very well-liked Black author (who according to my wife is quite a good writer) and he evidently made some vague noise supporting the librarian’s position.

    Long story short the librarian had to do the full Maoist recant and confess to her ideological error. The poor author got caught in the middle and also had to grovel.

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  21. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @CSK: @Jen: Good points all around (with appropriate allowances for snark). It’s good that Jen lives in an area with a more carefully thought out contract.

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  22. Modulo Myself says:

    @CSK:

    American political debate is pretty much driven by books read in high school. Have you read 1984? Animal Farm? Brave New World? Well then you have read all three novels necessary to understanding politics in the 20th century.

    Imagine if Brave New World was switched out with The Island, which is Huxley’s very optimistic (and horny) take on how a society might meaningfully balance spirituality and hedonism.

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  23. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @Michael Reynolds: Gee, I dunno, but I think in my role as a privileged and very white male, I’ma stay out of the argument and let the people who may actually have been offended decide about this one. Moreover, I don’t know the author’s motives or what the illustration looks like, which makes another reason for me to stay out of it and let the stakeholders operate in peace. YMMV (and usually does).

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  24. JKB says:

    Voters on Tuesday rejected the millage renewal by a 25-point margin — 62 percent to 37 percent — on the same day voters approved millages for road improvements and the fire department.

    Ten years earlier, a library millage at a slightly lower rate was approved by 37 percentage points.

    I thought that was what democracy looked like? The bureaucrats at the library chose to challenge the taxpaying public and the taxpayers simply decided not to renew the tax the bureaucrats seem to think they have a right to. And the bureaucrats are free to seek other funding sources, just not get the taxes taken at the point of the government’s gun. There’s even the possibility of another vote in November if the bureaucrats put in some work.

    Oh, and this wasn’t the only millage that failed across the state, just the only one where the those opposing the 50% increase used the intransigent insistence on LGBTQ+ books as the focus for sending the message.

    The voters have spoken and in favor of the property tax payers. Democracy in it’s most basic form, you know.

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  25. Michael Reynolds says:

    @Just nutha ignint cracker:

    let the people who may actually have been offended decide about this one.

    I see. So, you’re siding with the much offended rightwing book banners.

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  26. Gustopher says:

    A small-town library is at risk of shutting down after residents of Jamestown, Michigan, voted to defund it rather than tolerate certain LGBTQ+-themed books.

    They aren’t after certain LGBTQ+-themed books, they are after all of them. These are just the books they have found so far.

    This is about erasing an entire class of people. Erasing every sign of their existence and then moving on to get rid of the people themselves. This shouldn’t be viewed as an individual incident, but part of a larger trend that includes Florida’s “don’t say gay” bill, the criminalization of gender affirming care, and the hysteria over queer people in sports.

    It will end in bloodshed. And every queer person in this country should be thinking about whether the risks of owning a gun are greater than the risks of not owning a gun.

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  27. James Joyner says:

    @Stormy Dragon:

    The government using its funding to exclude books on the basis of viewpoint violates the first amendment.

    That’s clearly not true. Public libraries exclude all sorts of unpopular viewpoints. Surely, they’re not required to buy white supremacist/white nationalist tracts? Books advocating the overthrow of the government? Books on bomb-making? Confessions of a proud goat-humper? The latest rantings of Alex Jones?

    @Jen:

    demands to pull a book or risk funding is most certainly banning.

    I mean, sure, it’s banned from the holdings of that particular library. But there are other libraries. There’s inter-library loan! There’s Amazon.

    “Right to read” is actually a library term which means that the individual has a right to choose what to read–not the community at large.

    Ah. I didn’t realize this was trade jargon. I support the concept wholeheartedly; I just think it’s a silly name for it.

    Not a “huge chunk.” Pew Research on this has turned up complex results. 64% “Strongly favor” protecting trans people from discrimination. In 2020, 72%(!) said that homosexuality should be accepted by society.

    I’m skeptical those numbers reflect true belief but rather what they think they’re supposed to believe. Regardless, the national society isn’t necessarily reflective of a given locality.

    I’ll point to Federalist 10. Just because some people in the community have their panties in a twist, does that mean no one in the community can have access?

    Again, it not being in a given library doesn’t mean “access” doesn’t exist. Respect for the rights of the minority seldom requires the majority pay for things they disapprove of.

    Why do people think that it’s their right to determine what SOMEONE ELSE READS? If you don’t want to read a book, don’t check it out.

    Most of us, I think, accept that there will be books in public libraries that we disagree with. But a lot of people think certain ideas are simply evil and want to do what they can to stop their spread. I’m much more concerned at pressuring publishers not to put out books by certain authors than I am with communities keeping a handful of controversial books off the shelves.

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  28. Michael Reynolds says:

    @Gustopher:

    It will end in bloodshed.

    “Where they burn books, they will also ultimately burn people.” Heinrich Heine,

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  29. Gustopher says:

    @Modulo Myself:

    American political debate is pretty much driven by books read in high school. Have you read 1984? Animal Farm? Brave New World? Well then you have read all three novels necessary to understanding politics in the 20th century.

    Brave New World is probably the worst book I have ever read. Between the Sexaphones and the Tarzan Returns To England second half… I kept waiting for the good part that made the book a classic but it never came.

    I would be in favor of taking some other book, publishing it in the cover of BNW, destroying all the existing copies, and just moving on with life with everyone pretending that this other book was the classic people have been raving about for decades. I don’t really care which book.

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  30. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @Michael Reynolds: I see it more as respecting the need to appeal to the moderates among us instead of going around all cancel culturey and virtue signaling.

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  31. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @Gustopher: Indeed!

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  32. Jen says:

    @James Joyner:

    Respect for the rights of the minority seldom requires the majority pay for things they disapprove of.

    I think our entire system of taxation would struggle and eventually collapse if we went to majority vote on everything in, say, the federal budget. Or state budgets.

    We’re all asked to pay into a system that supports the whole–even if we disapprove of specific items or categories. This is as true for an individual library as it is for the federal budget, it’s just a heck of a lot easier to target (and demonize) a local librarian than it is to go up against a provision of the national budget.

    This “everyone chips in” is how we function as a society, and I’m becoming increasingly concerned about the disconnect on this. Libraries benefit entire communities, and going after them because people don’t like specific books or categories of books is astonishingly short-sighted.

    I mean, sure, it’s banned from the holdings of that particular library. But there are other libraries. There’s inter-library loan! There’s Amazon.

    The inter-library loan aspect is a valid point. Amazon, not so much–requiring a purchase is not the same as availability through a local, public resource.

    Ah. I didn’t realize this was trade jargon.

    And I’ve heard it so often that the plain reading of the phrase no longer even resonated with me, I need to bear that in mind in the event I’m ever embroiled in one of these situations. It’s a good reminder, so even though it came about by accident, I’m glad you flagged that phrase. It’s interesting that even things like my library position have their own inside baseball terminology.

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  33. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @Gustopher: The Mustafa Mond soliloquy that takes up most of the last third of the book is what makes it a “classic.” O’Brien’s speech, the rambling tract by the kid in Anthem, Santiago talking to the fish, Howard Roark’s and John Galt’s speeches, there’s a lot of “classic” literature in the early to middle 2oth Century that used the same device. And generally, it is those portions that make these novels “classics”–whatever the term means.

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  34. Mu Yixiao says:

    Zero.

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  35. Stormy Dragon says:

    @James Joyner:

    That’s clearly not true. Public libraries exclude all sorts of unpopular viewpoints. Surely, they’re not required to buy white supremacist/white nationalist tracts? Books advocating the overthrow of the government? Books on bomb-making? Confessions of a proud goat-humper? The latest rantings of Alex Jones?

    It is axiomatic that the government may not regulate speech based on its substantive content or the message it conveys. Police Dept. of Chicago v. Mosley, 408 U. S. 92, 96 (1972). Other principles follow from this precept. In the realm of private speech or expression, government regulation may not favor one speaker over another. Members of City Council of Los Angeles v. Taxpayers for Vincent, 466 U. S. 789, 804 (1984). Discrimination against speech because of its message is presumed to be unconstitutional. See Turner Broadcasting System, Inc. v. FCC, 512 U. S. 622, 641-643 (1994). These rules informed our determination that the government offends the First Amendment when it imposes financial burdens on certain speakers based on the content of their expression. Simon & Schuster, Inc. v. Members of N. Y. State Crime Victims Bd., 502 U. S. 105, *829 115 (1991). When the government targets not subject matter, but particular views taken by speakers on a subject, the violation of the First Amendment is all the more blatant. See R. A. V. v. St. Paul, 505 U. S. 377, 391 (1992). Viewpoint discrimination is thus an egregious form of content discrimination. The government must abstain from regulating speech when the specific motivating ideology or the opinion or perspective of the speaker is the rationale for the restriction. See Perry Ed. Assn. v. Perry Local Educators’ Assn., 460 U. S. 37, 46 (1983).

    These principles provide the framework forbidding the State to exercise viewpoint discrimination, even when the limited public forum is one of its own creation. In a case involving a school district’s provision of school facilities for private uses, we declared that “[t]here is no question that the District, like the private owner of property, may legally preserve the property under its control for the use to which it is dedicated.” Lamb’s Chapel v. Center Moriches Union Free School Dist., 508 U. S. 384, 390 (1993). The necessities of confining a forum to the limited and legitimate purposes for which it was created may justify the State in reserving it for certain groups or for the discussion of certain topics. See, e. g., Cornelius v. NAACP Legal Defense & Ed. Fund, Inc., 473 U. S. 788, 806 (1985); Perry Ed. Assn., supra, at 49. Once it has opened a limited forum, however, the State must respect the lawful boundaries it has itself set. The State may not exclude speech where its distinction is not “reasonable in light of the purpose served by the forum,” Cornelius, supra, at 804-806; see also Perry Ed. Assn., supra, at 46, 49, nor may it discriminate against speech on the basis of its viewpoint, Lamb’s Chapel, supra, at 392-393; see also Perry Ed. Assn., supra, at 46; R. A. V., supra, at 386-388, 391-393; cf. Texas v. Johnson, 491 U. S. 397, 414-415 (1989). Thus, in determining whether the State is acting to preserve the limits of the forum it has created so that the exclusion of a class of speech is legitimate, we have observed a distinction between, *830 on the one hand, content discrimination, which may be permissible if it preserves the purposes of that limited forum, and, on the other hand, viewpoint discrimination, which is presumed impermissible when directed against speech otherwise within the forum’s limitations. See Perry Ed. Assn., supra, at 46.

    –SCOTUS in Rosenberger v. Rector and Visitors of University of Virginia

    Viewpoint discrimination is forbidden by the first amendment. Overcoming that requires strict scrutiny. What is the “compelling state interest” in categorically eliminating all materials on LGBT? Because putting all LGBT people in the same category as Nazis and Terrorists seems a pretty extreme position.

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  36. Stormy Dragon says:

    @Lounsbury:

    Freedom of expression does not contain the positive right to either be distributed or published (as a certain Orange person found out), with or without state funds.

    Again, I’d reference the case I just mentioned where a public university was ordered to pay for the printing of a particular organization’s newspaper, so in some cases you quite literally do have the right to be published. Namely once a government entity starts paying for the production and distribution of external speech, their decision on how to filter requests can’t be based on the specific viewpoints being expressed.

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  37. wr says:

    @Kurtz: “Is his book being attacked, or is he being criticized for his behavior? I didn’t go nuts, but I didn’t see instances of the Left trying to get his work removed from libraries.”

    Don’t you understand? Being criticized by someone on the left is exactly the same as having your books pulled from libraries, banned from stores, and burned. Maybe it’s even worse, because some of those people doing the criticizing are on Twitter.

    It’s the Bill Maher philosophy of life — of all the crimes against people and civilization, there’s is none more heinous than a college kid choosing not to laugh at a comedian who was big in the 80s.

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  38. wr says:

    @CSK: “And that 50% hasn’t opened a book since high school.”

    I have long remarked that when rightwingers choose to reference a book to make an allusion, it’s always 1984, Animal Farm, or Atlas Shrugged — all of which are books most commonly read it high school. It’s as if they never noticed there were books after they graduated… or didn’t.

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  39. wr says:

    @JKB: “The voters have spoken and in favor of the property tax payers. Democracy in it’s most basic form, you know.”

    In much the same way that originally only property owners were allowed to vote. And then only white men.

    Hope you don’t mind if I don’t waste my time explaining to you why this is bad.

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  40. Kari Q says:

    Mein Kampf is available at my local library. I just checked. I don’t really have a point, other than that in a good library, everyone will find something that offends them.

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  41. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @James Joyner: But a lot of people think certain ideas are simply evil and want to do what they can to stop their spread.

    Hmmm… Puts me in mind of the Bible. Certainly a lot of evil stuff in that book.

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  42. wr says:

    @James Joyner: “There’s Amazon.”

    There’s American freedom for you — anyone is allowed to read any idea as long as they can afford to pay for it. Poor people can stick to what we want them to see.

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  43. wr says:

    @James Joyner: “Respect for the rights of the minority seldom requires the majority pay for things they disapprove of.”

    Really? That’s funny, because fundamentalist churches are a minority in this country, and yet they get all societal perks tax free, which means my taxes are paying for them. My taxes are used to send little Orthodox kids to yeshivas in which they will learn nothing but to study useless texts that are thousands of years old.

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  44. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @Just nutha ignint cracker: Howard Roark’s and John Galt’s speeches,

    Having waded thru the Fountainhead and throwing it against the wall multiple times I found nothing in that horseshit speech worth remembering. Something tells me Galt’s is just as bad. I don’t think it could possibly be any worse.

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  45. wr says:

    @Kari Q: “in a good library, everyone will find something that offends them”

    For God’s sake, they’ve got The Davinci Code in most of them.

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  46. wr says:

    @OzarkHillbilly: ” I don’t think it could possibly be any worse.”

    Roark’s speech is about two pages. John Galt’s is sixty.

    Care to rethink that?

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  47. CSK says:

    @wr:
    Yes. I too have noted that phenomenon.

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  48. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @wr: Holy fck. No wonder I avoided that book like the plague.

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  49. CSK says:

    @wr:
    I plowed through The DaVinci Code (it was the guest room offering at a place I was staying) and when I finally finished, I said: “What the hell was all that about?”

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  50. Just nutha says:

    @OzarkHillbilly: No complaints from me! And it’s been rumored that I taught literature some time in the past. Some people even said I was good at it.

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  51. Gustopher says:

    @Michael Reynolds:

    objections were raised to a book in which a bunny rabbit falls into some soot and comes up with soot on his bunny face. And that is, can you guess? It’s blackface. They’re re-drawing it.

    Do you have a link to the picture in question? When I google “bunny blackface” “rabbit children’s book blackface” etc, I keep coming up with links to Bugs Bunny in blackface from decades ago.

    If the rabbit looks like he is in blackface, maybe they illustrator should redraw the page to make it a little less accidentally racist. It it likely going to be closer to what the illustrator and author were intending to convey… (unless, you know, they are racists who were just trying to slip a blackface picture past people)

    There was quite a big blow-up (well, tempest in a tea pot) recently because a very prominent librarian was on a panel at ALA I think, and was asked whether a book on holocaust denial should be allowed in a library and she said basically, yes.

    Libraries should make information accessible on pretty much all sides of cultural debate, but I’m not sure that has to go all the way to fake history and lies about genocide. Things like Mein Kampf and The Protocols of the Elders of Zion are of historical importance, but there the library can find editions that attempt to present the works in that context rather than just getting the text and filing it under Dewey Decimal 296.666 “Jews, why we need to get rid of them”.

    Libraries are there to provide access to information. They should tread gently with misinformation. Is there a responsible way to provide access to random conspiracy shit that is used to justify violence?

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  52. Mimai says:

    @Kari Q:

    Paging Father Zossima.

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  53. Lounsbury says:

    @Stormy Dragon: I find it exceedingly doubtful said case (barring seeing the precise reference) is one of freedom of speech and not one of non-discriminatory equal access in a group funding access context, a rather different basis in common law.

    Else the simple fact of selectivity becomes censorship and then, well Trump being deplateformed becomes censorship – a stupid position to adopt.

    The idea of ‘right to be

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  54. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @Lounsbury: There is a difference between a library (a govt entity) and twitter (a corporation).

    Your last bit got cut off.

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  55. Lounsbury says:

    @OzarkHillbilly: cut off, the idea of right to be published or distrbuted is at once bonkers and unworkable.

    As for library, in the end the principle is the same – as otherwise any selectivity (as e.g. white supremacist tracts) becomes censorship, which if one uses just a modicum of reasoning (above all reasoning not from position, My Side My Team) has nonsensical and negative end results.

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  56. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @Lounsbury: the idea of right to be published or distrbuted is at once bonkers and unworkable.

    But everybody does have that right. If they can’t get a publisher to print it (who have their own rights) but one always has the right to self publish. Assuming they can afford it. And as far as distributed, there is always the internet. One can’t make Amazon sell it but nobody can stop you from selling it on your own website. Presuming you can find a carrier which as I understand it there are a couple who cater to the far right and I assume the same for the far left. And if you can’t, you can stand on a street corner and hawk it there.

    My point is only that private actors, twitter, me, have the right to limit what gets said and done on their property. If somebody comes onto my little 12.5 acres in Klan dress and tries to burn a cross… Ummm, no, not gonna happen. Twitter has the same rights. One can not get on their site and say whatever the f one wants and they get to set those parameters.

    A library however is a part of the govt. IANAL and I certainly don’t know all the particulars as they pertain to libraries, but the constitution limits what govt entities can and can not do.

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  57. Chip Daniels says:

    Its critical to grasp the timing and motive here.

    Banning books didn’t “just happen” due to some tectonic demographic changes.
    The book bans are a political invention created by the Republican Party to trigger and organize the cultural fears of their base. The bigotry may have been there but was dormant and unfocused until just a couple years ago during the Trump administration when the Republican Party needed a way to keep their voters engaged and enraged.

    And the need to grasp this isn’t academic- Its critical to being able to resolve it for all of us as citizens.
    There is no middle ground here, no compromise position because that’s not what the creators of the moral panic want.
    They WANT division, not unity, they WANT fear and anxiety, not resolution and closure.

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  58. Lounsbury says:

    @OzarkHillbilly: I think rather self-evidently the comment embedded (in the context of reference to selectivity) publication by another party, it really does take some tedious misreading…. Of course self-action is own’s own right, that’s rather bloody self-evident.

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  59. Gustopher says:

    @JKB:

    And the bureaucrats are free to seek other funding sources, just not get the taxes taken at the point of the government’s gun.

    I’ve actually never had the government show up, guns drawn, to demand I pay my taxes. Seems a little extreme, and I have to wonder what JKB has been doing that local tax collectors need to take such precautions around him.

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  60. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @Lounsbury: And once again, you just can’t resist putting your own interpretation on other’s words in an effort to ignore the realities.

    Got it.

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  61. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @Gustopher: Just like certain others, it’s his fantasy.

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  62. Gustopher says:

    This seems relevant:

    https://www.nbcnews.com/nbc-out/out-politics-and-policy/republican-attorneys-general-sue-federal-government-lgbtq-school-meal-rcna40250

    More than 20 Republican attorneys general filed a lawsuit Tuesday against President Joe Biden’s administration over a Department of Agriculture school meal program that prohibits discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.

    None of this is about libraries other than incidentally. It’s about Christian Nationalism and having someone to hate.

    I’m pretty sure that the risks of having a gun are still greater for me than the risks of not having a gun, but that’s mostly because I live in Seattle, and I am really fucking clumsy. And I’m on blood thinners.

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  63. Gustopher says:

    @OzarkHillbilly: No, no, I see no reason to doubt JKB. He has people coming by to collect property taxes at gunpoint.

    Unless… Maybe he is just being robbed? Maybe these are just muggers claiming to be county tax collectors….

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  64. Jay L Gischer says:

    The thing I don’t see much mention of are the people who are reading these books and benefiting from doing so. Are they being read? I think they must be, how else would someone know they were at the library?

    So, those constituents are silent here, because they don’t want the heat. But they seem to me to be quite real. There is likely quite a few people in that community that are interested in reading such books, and that’s what’s scaring the ones who want it banned. It seems to me.

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  65. Lounsbury says:

    @OzarkHillbilly: A deliciously ironic remark as you are the person responding to a set of remarks that for anyone of an ordinary capacity in joined up reading should be able to understand are aimed at Other Actors (the subject of the overall conceept, third party), not one’s self distribution, self-publication. Of course I quite well understand that as you lot rather dislike commentary challenging or deviating from the current Lefty commentary orthodoxy, this leads to a red-haze miscomprehension on your part.

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  66. James Joyner says:

    @Stormy Dragon: I understand that viewpoint discrimination is prohibited with respect to public fora. Libraries don’t obviously fit into that category, at least in terms of their acquisitions. Now, if the library was providing free rooms to various community groups to do book readings, I think they’d have a hard time justifying excluding a reading of the books in question, at least to adult audiences. But, as already noted, there are already plenty of viewpoints that we don’t deem worthy of inclusion in our libraries.

    @wr:

    There’s American freedom for you — anyone is allowed to read any idea as long as they can afford to pay for it. Poor people can stick to what we want them to see.

    I mean, most of that which is available for reading and viewing requires payment. Libraries don’t stock most books. While they increasingly offer movies and the like for borrowing as well, it’s still the case that most movies and television shows aren’t going to be at the library.

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  67. Stormy Dragon says:

    @James Joyner:

    Libraries don’t obviously fit into that category, at least in terms of their acquisitions.

    Federal courts have repeatedly ruled that they do fit into that category and that the criteria for selecting books are subject to strict scrutiny.

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  68. James Joyner says:

    @Stormy Dragon:

    Federal courts have repeatedly ruled that they do fit into that category and that the criteria for selecting books are subject to strict scrutiny.

    Ah. Then why did you quote a case that had nothing to do with libraries and which itself cited half a dozen cases having nothing to do with libraries? Offhand, the principles seem rather different.

    The only direct case I’m finding is Pico (1982) but it’s a hot mess of concurrences with no consensus on the 1st Amendment basis. But maybe there’s been something subsequent I’m not seeing?

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  69. Jen says:

    One additional thought on this topic. Librarians are connected to individuals in the community in ways that people don’t really realize. The depth of their understanding is considerable.

    I want everyone to take a beat and think about the possibility that the librarian selecting these books has seen one or more kids in or near crisis and decided to add this book to the collection to broaden public understanding of these issues, and to make that kid or kids feel less alone.

    Fighting for this book might have more to do with than the book itself.

    Can I guarantee this is what happened? Absolutely not. But I do know that our librarian understands our community on a very deep level. It really isn’t hyperbole to say that librarians on occasion save lives.

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  70. James Joyner says:

    @Jen: Yes, a very good point.

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  71. wr says:

    @Lounsbury: “Of course I quite well understand that as you lot rather dislike commentary challenging or deviating from the current Lefty commentary orthodoxy, this leads to a red-haze miscomprehension on your part.”

    If there was anything in the world I wish I could make you understand, it’s that the commenters here don’t respond negatively to you because of your opinions — it’s because you write in such a pompous and convoluted style, using words in the manner prescribed by Humpty Dumpty, that it often brings physical pain to try to parse your sentences. And this is coming from someone who has read and studied Proust, Mann and Faulkner.

    Make your points. Engage in the arguments. But stop trying to write like you’re one of the Queen’s corgis. Your grasp of the language is so much less than you are aware, and your lengthy screeds are frequently impossible to understand.

    I’d love to have an honest conversation with you. (Well, at least until you resorted to the “All you lefties” gambit that you use when you’re out of argument.) But until you stop writing in the “it’s spelled Luxuryyacht but it’s pronounced Throatwarblermangrove” style you’ve pioneered, it’s just not possible.

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