Sunday, November 22, 2009

It's not Censorship, It's parenting! (Or is it?)

In a November 18th post on, writer Erin Manning presents us with a dazzling display of ideology shutting down all logic.  The opinions she expresses are dear to SafeLibraries' heart, as he repeats her entire article on his blog.

Ms. Manning engages in a huge error of binary thinking, assuming that parenting cannot be censorship, even if one is trying to "parent" somebody else's children, and the "parenting" includes deciding what somebody else's child can read.  She clearly does not understand the definition either of parenting or of censorship.

Manning claims that since most challenges come from parents, these challenges are somehow beyond any wrongdoing.  She seems unaware that even if their motivations are pure, parents don't agree even with each other about what a given child should or should not read, let alone with a school board or library board.  She seems to think that parents who challenge books are making informed judgments, ignoring the history of book challenges, which shows that few challengers ever read the books they challenge.

She crosses the line from spin to either ignorance or  outright deception when she writes:
To put it bluntly, the ALA puts itself in the position of defending lousy, substandard, second-rate writing that would probably not even be published in the first place, were it not for the insatiable appetite for inappropriate content usually euphemised as "dark"or "edgy" by the sort of pre-teen who thinks angsty, brooding, sparkly vampires are a good idea.
Even a quick scan of the ALA sources she's obviously checked reveals the extreme falseness of this statement: many a challenged book is an award winner, some even of Pulitzers and Nobels.

And the list of what she thinks is bannable! Not just obscenity or pornography, but a list of objectionables that would pretty much empty library shelves of all but the most mind-numbing pablum: sex, drinking, drugs, profanity, "chat speak," prostitution, witchcraft, voodoo, devil worship, violence, implied sex, anti-religious and anti-Christian messages, homosexuality, suicide, nudity, eating disorders, and smoking (I assume she did not intend this as a complete list).

And after labeling almost any piece of worthwhile literature "inappropriate for children," she has the gall to claim that "removing books that are inappropriate for our kids is not the same as banning books."  The same self-contradicting statement is made by many censors across the U.S.: "we don't want to ban anything, we just want to remove . . . ."  Ms. Manning made a serious blunder years ago when she decided not to take that introductory course in logic and critical thinking.


  1. Oh for the love of-. Does she honestly believe that anything parents(and the only qualifications you have to have to be a parent is to have had a kid) do for the children(or at least what they say is for the children) is right no matter what?

    Every single book that has been challenged is poorly written? And it only gets by because of "dark, edgy" content? Does that make And Tango Makes Three a Gothic picture book?

    I wonder...If she ran a library, what books would she allow in it?

  2. Her library would be limited to The Cat in the Hat.

    I can understand a certain amount of denial: people who want to censor but at are at least aware of Free Speech principles will feel some level of cognitive dissonance. But Manning's position goes well past that, into some loss of contact with reality.

  3. You're probably right.

    Yeah, it's a tad frightening. Does she think that if there aren't books about rape, violence and profanity, those things won't exist?

    Very well written blog by the way ^^

  4. By "chat speak" Manning is referring to abbreviated writing such as teens (and adults these days) often use in cellphone text messages and online chat rooms. She refers specifically to Lauren Myracle's TTYL. Why this is objectionable, per se, is beyond me.

  5. Good one on Censorship-Free Libraries - it helps a lot!

    We clearly share similar parenting experiences and views.
    I've been reading one that I'm hooked on -
    I have a feeling you'd get a lot out of it.

    Incredible job on your blog; keep it up.