Banned Books and the Power of Ideas Tim Hynes Mass Communication
Thanks • To the Library and its program • ALA and Banned Books week
Outline of discussion • Why be interested in banning books (besides be in the Library during ALA Banned Books Week?) • What are some Hard Questions about banning books? • Why do people wish to ban books? • Are there every reasons why we should approve the banning of books—are there some ideas too dangerous to be exposed? • What are some of the hard tasks facing those of us in the academy who wish to resist the banning of books?
Why Am I interested? • Profession—professor of communication studies, and student of first amendment protections of speech and press • Early Education—American History Education framed in the context of constitutional history—”understand the basic document.” • Habits and upbringing—books provide foundation for learning and understanding, and access to the American Dream (see 60 minutes interview, Clarence Thomas or Uris’ Trinity for characters using reading as key to intellectual liberation)
Hard Questions • Why do people wish to ban books? Rowling talks about the hidden Ministry of Magic in British Government to free remainder of Muggle Government from the fears created by witches and wizzards—thus book banning comes from a fear of certain ideas
Hard Questions, Continued • Lombardi, books challenged or banned on political, sexual, or social grounds • http://books.google.com/googlebooks/banned/ • Re; Harry Potter censors: “Christianity simply doesn't fit, and Mr. Norfolk of the Pagan Federation thinks he knows why. The Christian Church has failed to provide ‘the right degree of spirituality for young people,’ he explains. In contrast, paganism involves ‘direct communication with the divine.’
Hard Questions, Continued • http://www.ncac.org/literature/20060421~GA~Harry_Potter.cfm • Fear of ideas—political, social, cultural grounds • Fear of loss of control for the ideas of others • Failure to trust in the ability of education to limit the harm to individuals and society from dangerous ideas
Hard Questions • Bans may occur over disagreements over time place or manner restrictions—pornography comes to mind • Bans may be over disagreements about who has authority to control access to knowledge found in books—there may be agreement about the “inappropriateness” of a text, but a disagreement about whether this could be left to parents or others
Second Hard Question • Are there ever reasons why we should support denial of access to books? • Are some ideas too dangerous to expose? • Should government ever be giving the right to evaluate that danger?
Hard Job Ahead • How can educators provide the counterpoint to ideas that are deemed to be too dangerous for consumption? • Media Literacy efforts are a start • Colleague reminded me a episode with Timothy McVey
Dangerous Material • And one of McVeigh's favorite books: The Turner Diaries written by former American Nazi Party honcho William L. Pierce, under the pen name Andrew Macdonald. Its hero - Earl Turner - responds to gun control by making a truck bomb and blowing up the Washington FBI Building.
Concluding thoughts • Obviously we should be concerned about any government that would ban a book • We must be forever eager to find ways to expand the ability of readers to interpret texts in ways that do not lead to fears caused by religious, social, or political causes
Banned books Websites • http://www.banned-books.com/ • http://www.banned-books.com/bblistj-z.html • http://www-personal.umd.umich.edu/~jyanosko/forbidden/
Some web sites • http://www.cs.cmu.edu/People/spok/most-banned.html • http://classiclit.about.com/od/bannedliteratur1/a/aa_whatisban.htm