Banning/Burning and exercise in futility

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Banning/Burning and exercise in futility

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Mar 31, 2007, 7:15pm

It seems to me that banning and burning books is an exercise in futility. Banning books does the exact opposite of what the people doing the banning want, IE, it drives up sales instead of driving them down. Also, why is it that its always the popular, widely known stuff that gets banned? Why is it that we never see fringe series like the Dresden Files, that are less well known, but in many ways more graphic and magic centered than Harry Potter for example, banned or challenged? You know why? Banning and challenging really isn't about the material in the books, its about controlling what people are exposed to, so its really not worth going up against a series that isn't widely known, these people's egos won't be massaged because the books aren't widely read, so no one cares.

As for burning books, they have to get the books somewhere, which invariably means the publisher and author get paid anyway, and the book gets bumpeed up on the sales lists. In short, people who ban and burn books must be pretty damn stupid, as these acts end up doing the exact opposite of what the person intends, and yet closed-minded individuals continue to ban and burn books, apparently unable to comprehend the simple fact that their actions are completely ineffective.

Mar 31, 2007, 10:05pm

Interesting analysis of why books get challenged.

I would add that the reason you don't see things like "American Psycho," a truly horrendous book, in my opinion, is because most librarians understand that those types of books have no literary merit and appeal only to the most purient interests.

If you look at the most frequently challenged books, they're largely having to do with sex and/or the occult.

Few of those that feature hideous violence get challenged. The "Left Behind" series is an exception, but I think it's being challenged more because of it's religious orientation than the violence.

Abr 1, 2007, 2:02am

I wasn't aware Left Behind was being challenged. Interesting how things can get turned on their heads. It seems as though the kind of people who promote the views expressed in Left Behind are generally the ones doing the banning. Nice to see things aren't so one sided. As much as I loath that series, having read the first two or three books, I will still defend their right to write them and for others to read them. The only stuff I have a serious problem with is hate propanganda and white supremacy.

Abr 1, 2007, 8:23am

Let's not forget that the people trying to ban books aren't always the brightest bulbs in the pack, and aren't likely to be voracious readers. :-)

On another forum, a teacher was telling us about a woman in her town who was crusading to get Harry Potter books banned from school libraries. When asked if she had read the books, she said that she had to work, and care for her child (the one in the school), and hadn't had time to read any of them. (The 5th book was out then.) How long has the first book been in print?? When you are dealing with adults who can't find time over the course of years to read one book that children blaze through. . . .

I'd imagine that some of the people who start the campaign to ban a book do it to get publicity, and for fund-raising purposes --- they can send a mass mailing to their "base" seeking contributions to fight the latest evil book.

Abr 1, 2007, 8:37am

#2 "I would add that the reason you don't see things like "American Psycho," a truly horrendous book, in my opinion, is because most librarians understand that those types of books have no literary merit and appeal only to the most purient interests."

Seems to me that this smacks of the same "reasoning" that book banners use in the first place. Just because you personally didn't like/get/appreciate something doesn't mean it has no merit for other people. And how can you possibly know why it would appeal to others. Prurient indeed.

Abr 1, 2007, 9:06am

Bookmarque, before you get all huffy, let me hasten to add that I would not challenge "American Psycho" if it DID turn up in my library.

I am free to develop my own criteria for good literature that involves writing skill, theme and handling of subject matter. That's called THINKING CRITICALLY. I'm sure you are an intelligent person and do this yourself.

My freedom to think critically and judge books for myself does not, of course, extend to denying you the right to read whatever you want and think for yourself.

Editado: Abr 1, 2007, 9:56am

Getting back to "futility":

The more I think about it, the more it strikes me that it ain't futile if you can use it to whip up indignation among your members/supporters, get time on tv or space in the newspapers, and get the contributions flowing in.

No need to have read the book, or to care a hoot about it one way or the other --- it can be used. And the more popular the book, the more publicity your "crusade" against it will garner.

Abr 1, 2007, 10:49am

THINKING CRITICALLY has nothing to do with the assumption you made about people who like/appreciate/get American Psycho.

Abr 1, 2007, 2:10pm

OK folks; let's cool it. Remember: Be Nice.

Abr 1, 2007, 3:32pm

Bookmarque, I think "American Psycho" is a horrid book, and I can understand why a librarian with a finite budget would not choose to add it to the library's collection.

However, I do not assume that anyone who read the book and liked it is a horrid person. If it sounded like I did, I beg your pardon.

Neither did I advocate banning the book.

Neither did I mean to imply that my own critical thinking and aesthetic taste ought to be adopted as a universal standard.

Perhaps you could tell us why you think the book is worthwhile and help me "get" it.

Abr 1, 2007, 3:52pm

I, also, did not know "Left Behind" was being challenged somewhere. I've not read them (and never will), but a friend of mine who is a bookseller and feels that it is his duty to read everthing, told me the "Left Behind" books he read are among the most poorly written he has ever read. Maybe that's why someone wants to ban them.

Abr 1, 2007, 4:15pm

I've been trying to document what I heard about a challenge to the "Left Behind" books.

All's I can find is the challenge to the video game version. Read that here:

It's not on the top challenged books over at the American Library Association's Web site.

Abr 1, 2007, 4:17pm

Who was challenging the Left Behind books, and in what context?

If anyone set out to ban all poorly-written books, he'd have a full time job. :-)

Editado: Abr 13, 2007, 12:05pm

To the person who commented on the fact that they thought only the religious right or the right tend to be censors/book banning folk:

Both sides of the isle love to try and ban the other. It’s very easy to see reasons why someone you completely abhor should be shut up. There are times when it’s quite easy to think, “I can't believe a human being is allowedto spout such vile stuff.” But one can NEVER go that route. If you believe in free speech, then you believe in the right of ideas you hate to exist and be spoken/broadcast/printed.

I, and most of the people who know me, think of me as a liberal. (Some would say extreme. I wouldn’t.) So take what I say next with that in mind.

What is politically correct speech if not censorship. When liberal folks (back in the eighties) started trying to change the names we used for everything because some of them might have negative connotations, it drove me crazy. At the time I was pretty young and I couldn’t articulate why I hated something that most people who knew me thought I would agree with. As I got further along in my college studies, I began to understand why. At some point I realized that politically correct speech was just as ridiculous as the “double plus good” junk of 1984 and its intention was just as heinous. PC speech wasn’t just about changing the worlds. It was about controlling the way people thought.

Today we are in the midst of debates over hate speech and various other (in my mind ugly) forms of speech. As much as hate speech makes me ill, I would defend to the death a person’s right to think and spew these sorts of ideas. I disagree with laws which try to control it. (Laws will never be able to accomplish that anyway.)

In the end if you believe in free speech, then you believe in the right of your neighbor to say things you despise.

Abr 13, 2007, 11:47am

14 > You hit the nail on the head, unfortunately too many see Freedom of Speach 'as I can say anything I want, but you can't say anything I truely find offensive'.

This however has to be balanced with people's right NOT to be forced to listen as well. We don't want hate speach here at LT, any minority should not have to listen to a NeoNazi speach, nor an atheist be forced to listen to a serman etc.

Editado: Abr 13, 2007, 12:25pm

Harassment and intimidation are not protected by freedom of speech and should not be. I merely think that hate speech folks have a right to print and say what they want. They even have a right to speak publicly (though it makes me ill to think of them doing it). However, you are right they should not be allowed to try and make it so people who don’t want to hear it have to. That said, if a hate group makes a march through my downtown and holds a rally in a city park, I think they have just as much right to that as a gay rights parade and rally. (That gay rights parade would be just as offensive to some folks as the Neo-Nazi one would be to me.) Eventhough both occur in public areas, we all have the ability to go somewhere else and not give them our time if we choose.

As far as LT speech goes… well this technically is a private residence. So the folks who created/own it can make the rules as they see fit. That’s quite different from the lawn of a state capitol or other public areas. If I went to a hate group's web forum, I would thoroughly expect to hear things I abhor and would expect to get trashed if I tried to speak against those ideas.
If a NeoNazi came here and started writing hate stuff all over the place, I would think that Tim would give him/her the boot just the same as you or I would if that person came to our front door with such talk.

Abr 13, 2007, 12:27pm


Any thoughts on that "God hates fags" group that pickets funerals? That tactic puts a helluva strain on my "liberal" tendencies.

Abr 13, 2007, 12:36pm

myshelves: one can still be a liberal and be against hate speech and intimidation ... and, since I agree with inkslinger's message #16, I'll point out that he/she makes a delineation between public speaking in a park or something and intimidation at a private gathering.

Abr 13, 2007, 12:48pm

inkdrinker > just to clarify I WAS agreeing with you, just adding to the definition of what is free speach.

Stopping someones opinion merely because you don't like it (no matter how much you'd like to give them a baseball bat sandwich), is a dangerous slippery slope (when backed by a government). I'm sure we all say things that will piss off someone else.

Abr 13, 2007, 12:49pm


Yes. But these characters picket on public property, outside the cemetery gates. And they apply for permits.

Editado: Abr 13, 2007, 1:22pm

Harassment and intimidation are not protected by freedom of speech and personally I would see those god hates folks as crossing both of those lines. Although they may stand on pub. land, their intent is to attack a private gathering.

#19 - I'm sorry. I know you were in agreement on the whole. Some of the comments you made just made me want to clarify. Once again, sorry. It wasn't intended as a backlash.

Abr 13, 2007, 1:19pm

The difference comes down to my ability to hate the message, but not the ability of the person to deliver that message. I can't see myself having an issue with anyone's ability to say whatever they want, but I do have problems w/some of what it said.

Insofar as the picketers at funerals thing goes, I believe that can be mitigated to some degree by proximity regulations. In places where it became a problem, laws were created to keep a physical distance between the funeral party and the picketers.

Abr 13, 2007, 7:59pm


As I recall, they were bought off with air time on a radio show to keep them from picketing the funeral of the little Amish girls who were murdered. They had signs reading "Your daughters are burning in hell."

They'd apparently win in court if forced back to a point where those attending the funeral wouldn't get the benefit of their free speech. I read a lot about it at the time of the Amish funeral, and it didn't seem that anyone had a solution that would withstand court tests.

Abr 13, 2007, 9:20pm

Good post. I totally agree. I do get really tired of the whole PC speech. It gets to the point where are you really safe uttering anything or maybe it's best to keep quiet? You never know when someone is going to pounce on you and cry you're being "anti-pc" or hate speech. It's scary.

Anyways, I believe banning or censoring of any kind is wrong. In regards to the OP, I'm not sure what the uproar is about the HP books. I have never read the books (though I've watched every but I don't see the harm that some do (the occult or witchcraft). If parents have a problem with the books, they shouldn't complain to the schools or libraries. They should take parental responsibility for their child and don't let their children read books they don't approve of.

I remember hearing about this one family (I think it was in Texas, I forget now) that had a problem with Farenheit 451 of all books! The father complained to the school. I guess the class was reading the book together and he threw a fit about that book and wanted it off the reading list. Did anyone else hear about that story?

Abr 28, 2007, 10:11am

Two things, one about PC and one about dealing with bigotry. First, about PC. I am a white person who tries not to offend people with my speech and the words I use to describe. But I remember the late sixties and early seventies when African-Americans were very political and every group had its own preferred name. I never knew if I was speaking to a black person, a person of color, a negro, an African-American or an Afro-American. If I used the wrong form I might get lambasted. Of course on the other hand it was simple. I was a honky. As those of us know who lived through this era it is impossible for the victims of racism to be racist themselves. This idea covered a multitude of sins.

The other thing is just downright funny. In North Carolina in the early sixties some areas were beginning to integrate their schools, which not only meant black children attending white schools, but in some places native Americans were being integrated as well. One of these groups were the Lumbar Indians. In protest the Klan held a large rally in a field outside Lumbarton, North Carolina and the Grand Kloogle, or whatever he was, the top man in the Klan in the state was in attendance and scheduled to speak. Word of this event got back to the Lumbar Indian tribe, so they planned a little surprise for the Klan. They dressed up in war paint and leathers, grabbed their tomahawk's and hid out in the woods next to the scene of the rally. The rally started, a couple of crosses were set ablaze and the Grand Kloogle was introduced to speak, when suddenly, from the woods came such a whoopin' and a hollerin' as hadn't rung out in those woods for two hundred years. The Indians swept down on the klansmen and chased them through the field with bloody murder in their eyes. The next morning the Grand Kloogle was found caught in a barbed wire fence at one side of the field all bloody and scratched up, along with several other klansmen. That put an end to the desegregation problems in Lumbarton.

Abr 28, 2007, 3:42pm

So, myshelves, your saying that basically they'd win because the parents of those murdered girls should have to be subjected to hateful, closeminded christians who apparently have no respect for what people are going through at that time in their lives? I know there's the whole free speach thing, but thats going way too far in my opinion.

Editado: Maio 1, 2007, 2:14pm


Don't blame me! That does appear to be the law, yes.
(Though the reasons you give are, of course, not the ones a court would cite. 1st amendment, protection of speech even if we deplore the content, etc. etc. Remember the furor over the Nazi's holding a march through a Jewish neighborhood? Illinois, was it?)

Why else were the nut cases bribed to stay away from the Amish funeral? No legal way to prevent them.

Maio 1, 2007, 2:34pm

To my way of thinking, we're letting free speach go too far. There's free speach, and then there's being an asshole. There's a difference between a shock jock on the radio, and a bunch of jerks picketing right outside a cemetery during a funeral. While I personally abhor both, I have a lot more of a problem with the second. Say whatever you want, just have some respect for people grieving the death of a loved one.

Maio 1, 2007, 2:52pm


Well, I don't disagree. (See #17)

Seems to me that the courts might find some privacy rights (which may be explicit in a state constitution) under which they could uphold laws banning picketing of funerals.

As for shock jocks, I don't know of any constitutional right to have your own radio or tv show for which you are paid big bucks. What scares me is that so many people listen to and enjoy shock jocks.

Maio 1, 2007, 3:00pm

Unfortunatly it is not illegal to be an asshole...

which thinking back is probably a good thing for me...

Censuring for a differance of opinion is what China does.

If you can stop one party from deminstrating because you don't like thier opinions WHO decides which opinions can and cannot be voiced? Your voice might be the next one silenced. Without free speech the civil rights movement would have been greatly hampered. Same with womens lib.

Now I agree the deminstration should not be allowed, BUT it should be using some law that treats it like harassment one way or another, dealing with the situation. Like yelling 'FIRE', you can do that anywhere except a theater etc.

Maio 1, 2007, 3:04pm


BUT it should be using some law that treats it like harassment one way or another, dealing with the situation.

I think that's what I just said. :-)

Maio 1, 2007, 3:05pm

Yep, you posted while I was writing 8)

Maio 1, 2007, 3:11pm

There's a difference between voicing an opinion, and being an unfeeling closeminded asshole. Besides, there's historic precedent that the free speach thing was meant to let people speak out against the government without worrying about their family disappearing. enforcing PC speach and letting assholes yell about someone's dead daughter burning in Hell at said daughter's funeral have nothing to do with that. For that matter, nor does banning books. Freedom of information and all that.

Maio 1, 2007, 3:22pm

To echo readafew, there's no law against being an unfeeling, closedminded asshole. And one man's uca is another man's saintly religious leader, in this case.

I sure would like to be on the jury if some bereaved relative ever suffers from a bit of temporary insanity and takes out one of the uca's.

Editado: Maio 1, 2007, 3:30pm

In many parts of New England 'speach' is what folks will answer when you ask them what kind of pie they're eating. ;o)

Speech is what we want freedom of, I believe.

Maio 1, 2007, 4:04pm

#21 Those 'God hates Fags' types came to our town, Yakima,WA, to protest at soldier's funeral . They had to stay a certain distance away by court order. But, & this is the best part-they showed up-all 5 of them (all of them the Rev's family members). But so did about 500 flag-waving locals in support of the soldier's family & the hate-mongers slunk away & left town after only a few minutes. He seems unable to gather any following outside of his family & his flawed (non)logic is just too weird!!

Maio 2, 2007, 9:32am

Great story and absolutely hilarious.

Unfortunately, I've also seen where large groups of public can turn on someone who is trying to do their job. I once sat and listened to a high school librarian tell a tale of her first years out of grad school and how a town turned on her. She was trying to buy books she felt were appropriate for her teens and some older folks in the town took it upon themselves to clean up the school library. Soon they had they entire town in a frenzy and the majority of the town was on their side. The librarian and the few cooler heads who tried to stand with her found themselves threatened and nearly ostracized. She mentioned a town meeting where a parent asked (with tears in eyes) how she could do this to their children. She left the town and she noted that she knew of at least one of the families who sided with her that left the town. They left because they couldn't live in that community any longer due to threats and how they were generally treated. The censors won.

Maio 2, 2007, 9:52am

#37 - That is a very distressing story, inkdrinker. May I ask how long ago this happened, and in what part of the country this happened? I'm guessing it was either in the Midwest or the Bible-Belt, and I'd love to know if I'm wrong.

Editado: Maio 2, 2007, 10:17am

This event happened in a small town in the Midwest. She now runs a high school library in a large metropolitan area of the same state. Fortunately this did occur over 15 years ago, but I know that this same librarian recently was in the news with another set of concerned parents questioning her choices. Again, fortunately I only heard a few news reports and hope that the matter didn't gather much steam. However, I don't live in that area of town and couldn't say for sure that she didn't get raked over the coals again.

Jun 12, 2007, 1:58am

>25 geneg: geneg
Loved your story of the local Indian tribe running off the klan! Showed them as the cowards they are.

The Pacific Northwest is generally a tolerant place, but we have been plagued by the Aryan Nations and other neonazi groups - quite a few in Idaho, but also some in Washington and Oregon. They have applied for parade permits and cannot be denied because of their first amendment rights. In some cases, they have brought large groups from across the country to march in communities that definitely did not welcome their presence. There are almost always large counter-demonstrations by local community members, but fund raisers have been more successful.

The basic premise is this: upon learning of a planned neonazi event, you organize a fund raiser in which locals can pledge donations, which are scaled to the event in some way - number of marchers, duration of the event, or whatever. The donations are given to the NAACP, local synagogues, gay rights groups, or other groups the hate mongers are targeting. This approach has been successful in Coeur d'Alene (Idaho), Olympia (Washington), and other areas where hate groups have been active.

Jun 30, 2007, 10:10am

this dialogue is probably the best i've read in awhile. i have two questions.

what is a uca or UCA?

#2: If millions of people didn't tune in for jerry springer or howard stern (both of whom basically are thinly-veiled hate-mongers) who would know their names?

in a democracy, we get what we pay for.

this time we got george bush and it is damned near killing us.

Jul 1, 2007, 11:36am

#41 - Some might debate ( I, for one) that we got Bush legitimately, at least the first time.

You're oh so right about the hate mongering run rampant. Although I'm not so sure I get Jerry Springer as a hate monger. I see him more as the ring master of a freak show, trying to pass his 'guests' off as an accurate cross-section of Americans.

Jul 1, 2007, 11:55am

*waves at clam*

If Jerry's guests are "an accurate cross-section of Americans" then I'm moving! :) I agree with clam's desccription as "the ring master of a freak show." Clam, mind if I use that the next time my son wants to watch that crap...ummm...I mean talk show?

Jul 1, 2007, 12:03pm

*shoos Clam and GD into the GD chat room*

Jul 1, 2007, 12:44pm

I'm on my way. Better late than never!

I apologize to the others in this thread for the brief departure from the subject. :)

Editado: Ago 19, 2009, 1:02am

If you liked 'American Psycho', try reading Commander Amanda Nightingale. It is the WWII version of The Story of O. I do not recommend it for ladies.
Remember, tell the horrified and offended would-be censors to ban these books only in their own homes, not mine.
Another book that will kill your appetite, or make you want to do violence, is Bastard Out of Carolina. That one made me sick-at-heart.
And let's not forget the 'Gor' series of fantasy novels where all women are kept as nude sex-slaves and made to practice obscene body poses as a sign of willing submission. This should keep the Feminists busy for some time, and increase sales.

Jun 7, 2010, 8:22am

Here's XKCD's take on book burning.
I'm not html adept so if anyone can post the cartoon without going through the link feel free.

Out 11, 2011, 10:55am

Well this is just too depressing to contemplate. Burned or pulped it's all the same. :'(

Dez 28, 2011, 1:35am

I enjoyed reading 'AMERICAN PSYCHO,' but had to stop reading 'READING LOLITA IN TEHRAN' due to the horrific treatment of the Iranian women by the theocratic oppressors who took every opportunity to abuse, humiliate and frighten the women. Time will tell if 'AMERICAN PSYCHO' will be considered 'Literature', even though I can understand why women librarians would not wish to keep it in public libraries.