Tag: library
Book-Banning 'Moms For Liberty' Remind Me Of 'Harper Valley PTA' (And '1984')

Book-Banning 'Moms For Liberty' Remind Me Of 'Harper Valley PTA' (And '1984')

Here we go again. What we have here is a classic moral panic, a repeating theme in American public life.

Remember the McMartin preschool trial in Los Angeles back in the 1980s? Bizarre allegations of satanic sexual abuse were made against a family-run day care center in Manhattan Beach. Replete with sensational media coverage, the investigation and two criminal trials ended up lasting for seven years and costing almost $15 million — the longest criminal trial in U.S. history. A total of seven day care workers were charged with 321 counts of sexual abuse involving some four dozen children.

Prompted by true believers using anatomically correct dolls, little kids too young for kindergarten told fantastic tales involving flying witches, hot air balloons, dinosaurs and secret tunnels that children accessed by being flushed down the toilet before being abused by famous movie stars.

In the end, not a single episode of child molestation was ever proven, and there were no convictions, although some of those accused spent years in jail. All charges were eventually dropped. In the end, the mother whose accusations prompted the original probe was diagnosed with acute paranoid schizophrenia and died of alcohol poisoning.

Lawrence Wright’s terrific book Remembering Satan tells a similarly horrific tale of “recovered memory syndrome” that convulsed Olympia, Washington, around the same time. Father-daughter incest, orgies, unholy rites and mass infanticide — under the right circumstances, it appears, suggestible individuals can be persuaded to confess to almost anything.

If all that sounds reminiscent of the QAnon cult belief that Hillary Clinton conducts murderous satanic rituals in the basement of a Washington pizza restaurant (that has no basement), then you must be paying attention. Exactly why Americans are so prone to these repeated episodes of collective hallucination is hard to say. But fundamentalist Christianity appears to be the common denominator.

Which brings us to "Moms for Liberty" and their impassioned crusade against, yes, public librarians. Exactly what these women think the word “liberty” means is not clear. They are censors and book-banners of great passion and determination. Rather like the Junior Anti-Sex League in George Orwell’s 1984.

In Arkansas, near Little Rock, the Saline County Republican Women have even erected billboards declaring war on “X-RATED LIBRARY BOOKS.” Judging from the examples cited on the related website, most are R-rated at best. They’re largely earnest tomes such as Let’s Talk About It: The Teen’s Guide to Sex, Relationships, and Being a Human. It is shelved in the “Young Adult” section of the library.

“The opinion/instruction in this book directly and continuously opposes Christianity and the Word of God,” readers are told. The group accuses the county library staff of pushing “the LGBTQ agenda” and sneers that they should instead serve “the people of Saline County, not the interests of people in California.”

California, which gave the nation Ronald Reagan, is now synonymous with Sodom and Gomorrah among the GOP elect.

How many young women in Saline County become pregnant during high school for lack of understanding of what used to be called “the facts of life,” I can’t tell you. But I can assure you they learn more about sex in pickup trucks than in the public library.

Seriously, how many libertine librarians have you known? A less subversive cohort would be hard to imagine.

Even granting that the institution known as “Drag Queen Story Hour” has got to be the dumbest example of liberal folly since “Defund the Police,” the notion that junior high librarians — of all people — have dedicated their careers to “grooming” children for sexual purposes ... well, it’s just too silly to talk about.

Besides, if you follow the news, it’s in the churches, not the libraries, where all the action is. Scarcely a week passes around here without some preacher being busted for sexual misconduct.

Well, coaches and English teachers, too.

During my own long-ago youth, the naughtiest book I read was Peyton Place, the scandalous 1950s bestseller that lifted the lid off a small New England town. I certainly didn’t borrow it from the library. Paperback copies were everywhere.

The novel portrayed sexuality as fascinating, yes — also intoxicating, ubiquitous and dangerous. Kind of scary, actually. If anything, the women were worse than the men. After the lights went down, hardly anybody in Peyton Place, it seemed, was who they pretended to be.

That’s why Jeannie C. Riley referenced the novel in her classic country song Harper Valley PTA: “This is just a little Peyton Place/And you’re all Harper Valley hypocrites.”

I can’t help but start humming the tune whenever the Moms for Liberty take the platform.

Anyway, I could tell you what I think these pious crusaders do when they get back home after reading aloud naughty passages from library books to audiences of fellow Holy Housewives. (Assuming they do go home, instead of checking in at the No-Tell Motel for a couple of hours.) But never mind. Imagine it yourselves. I’m sure you can.

Gene Lyons is a National Magazine Award winner and co-author of “The Hunting of the President.”

Reprinted with permission from Suntimes.


Right-Wing Legislators Threatening Librarians With Imprisonment

In the Netherlands and other European democracies, comprehensive sex education starts at an early age. Dutch officials reason that the more youths know about sex, the more likely they are to avoid unplanned pregnancies and sexually transmitted diseases.

But in the United States, the religious right has a radically different viewpoint. Far-right white evangelical Christians who oppose abortion often oppose any type of sex education.

According to the Washington Post's Hannah Natanson, MAGA Republicans in state legislatures have been pushing bills threatening librarians with either heavy fines or prison time if they give minors a book they consider "obscene." And material doesn't have to be explicit to fit the Religious Right's definition of obscenity.

In an article published on May 18, Natanson reports that "at least seven states" in the U.S. have, in the "last two years," passed laws that "permit criminal prosecution of school and library personnel" for "providing sexually explicit, obscene or 'harmful' books to children."

According to Natanson, "Another dozen states considered more than 20 similar bills this year, half of which are likely to come up again in 2024, The Post found. Some of the laws impose severe penalties on librarians, who until now, were exempted in almost every state from prosecution over obscene material — a carve-out meant to permit accurate lessons in topics such as sex education. All but one of the new laws target schools, while some also target the staff of public libraries and one affects book vendors."

The religious right movement, led by white evangelicals like the Rev. Pat Robertson and the late Rev. Jerry Falwell, Sr., has been a major influence in the GOP since President Ronald Reagan's 1980 campaign. But Keith Gambill, a teachers union president in Indiana, believes that religious right-inspired bills and laws of the last few years have been especially bad.

Gambill told the Post, "This is my 37th year in education. I've never seen anything like this.… We are entering a very frightening period."

Natanson notes that school librarians in Indiana have "begun removing books that deal with LGBTQ issues, sex, race and violence" in order to avoid legal problems.

"All 50 states maintain obscenity laws, which typically prohibit the distribution of obscene material to minors and impose heavy fines and prison sentences for violations," the reporter explains. "But the vast majority adopted exemptions for schools, public libraries and museums in the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s to ensure educators could provide full information to children on topics such as biology, health and sex education without facing expensive litigation, according to a research report from the advocacy group EveryLibrary."

John Chrastka, EveryLibrary's executive director, told the Post, "We are, as a country, at a very broken place right now. We have a fundamental break in trust between some groups of society and the educational system."

Reprinted with permission from Alternet.