Just WOW…

It appears that our fearless (okay, feckless) lawmakers have identified a dire threat to America and its children–librarians. The Washington Post recently reported on one of the current allegations–this one by Senator Mike Lee of Utah–

“The goal is to sexualize children — to provide minors with sexually explicit material … and then hide this content from the parents.”

The American Library Association is facing a partisan firefight unlike anything in its almost 150-year history. The once-uncontroversial organization, which says it is the world’s largest and oldest library association and which provides funding, training and tools to most of the country’s 123,000 libraries, has become entangled in the education culture wars — the raging debates over what and how to teach about race, sex and gender — culminating in Tuesday’s Senatorial name-check.

Lee isn’t alone. The increasingly insane Right is intent upon painting the ALA as a defender of pornographic literature for children. MAGA warriors insist that the nation’s libraries, including school libraries, are filled with sexually explicit, inappropriate texts.

Attacks on libraries are part and parcel of what Isaac Asimov called the “cult of ignorance,” a phenomenon that we see in contemporary dismissals of expertise as “elitism”and the cyclical eruptions of anti-intellectualism in the United States. Asimov’s famous quote probably says it best:

There is a cult of ignorance in the United States, and there always has been. The strain of anti-intellectualism has been a constant thread winding its way through our political and cultural life, nurtured by the false notion that democracy means that “my ignorance is just as good as your knowledge.”

America’s libraries are our intellectual gatekeepers, safeguarding our ability to access practical information as well as hard-won wisdom that has been built up over centuries. Attacking them is an attack on human intellectual progress–a declaration that, as Asimov aptly framed it, ignorance is just as good as knowledge.

We’ve been here before. In a speech in 2014, I argued that libraries as we know them are important protectors of what I call “the American Idea.” I spent six years as Executive Director of the Indiana Civil Liberties Union, and of all the lessons I learned during that time, the most profound was this: the future of western liberal democracy rests on the preservation of intellectual freedom.

That preservation, of course, is the library’s mission.

America’s Constitution is grounded in the Enlightenment concept of the individual as a rights-bearing, autonomous being. That concept is integral to our legal system; it is the foundation upon which our forbears erected the Bill of Rights. The Founders envisioned the good society as one composed of morally independent citizens whose rights in certain important circumstances “trumped” both the dictates of the state and the desires of the majority.….The First Amendment is really an integrated whole, protecting our individual right to receive and disseminate information and ideas, to consider arguments and theories, to form our own beliefs and craft our own consciences.  It answers the fundamental social question– who shall decide? — by vesting that authority in each individual, subject to and consistent with the equal rights of others.

Implicit in the First Amendment is the legal system’s concept of personal responsibility, the University’s commitment to academic freedom, the moral authority of the clergy, the independence of the media, and the legitimacy of the political process.

That exercise of personal responsibility requires untrammeled access to information. For that matter, protection of civil liberties of every kind depends upon  and requires intellectual freedom.

As I noted on this site back in April, the culture warriors out to terrorize Marian the Librarian are seeing considerable success. In an Urban Library Trauma study conducted in 2022, more than two-thirds of respondents reported encountering violent or aggressive behavior from patrons at their library.

Groups such as Moms for Liberty, No Left Turn in Education and Parents Defending Education aren’t the only ones fighting to remove books by Black and LGBTQ+ authors.  Proud Boys have taken to storming into Drag Queen Story Hour events, for instance, causing serious fear for patrons and librarians.

Lest we give these censors the benefit of the doubt, thinking they are identifying mostly trashy books, it’s instructive to consult the AIA’s annual list of the most frequently challenged books. They include Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird, John Steinbeck’s Of Mice and Men, and Toni Morrison’s The Bluest Eye.

Challenges are overwhelmingly aimed at books by or about LGBTQ+ people, and books critical of racism. (The most censored books of all times are 1984, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, The Catcher in the Rye, The Color Purple, The Great Gatsby, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings and Lord of the Flies.)

The culture war isn’t “just” about democracy versus Christian Nationalism. It’s also about ignorance versus knowledge.


  1. Libraries provide so many necessary services to people. Librarians really are the quiet professionals that mostly go unnoticed and do much heavy lifting in our country. Bravo to them!

  2. The crazy folks are just exhausting. They never stop the crazy stuff. I wonder where they get all that energy.

  3. The GOP is a corporation with Ronna McDaniel as CEO.

    They measure their growth in income versus expenses like all corporations.

    Their income is trending downwards. They are reacting as all corporations do when faced with those circumstances. They first focus on marking to their brand demographics. Standard MBA approach.

    Their income vs individual customer contribution is, like for most US corporations, heavily weighted towards the few wealthiest consumers.

    Richard Uihlein, donated $80,692,168. Kenneth C. Griffin $68,571,500, Jeffrey S. & Janine Yass $44,075,100, and so on.

    All of those “top rollers” get wined and dined and all of the attention such top donors get, including any future favor they mention. “Comps” is what casinos call them.

    Such favors as new laws when and where (now in red states) Republicans have the most political influence.

  4. Like the terrible salesmen they are, they’re overselling their stupidity, evil, corruption and fascism. As long as the billionaires keep funding these weak-minded idiots, their messages will continue to emulate those of the Nazis under Hitler.

    It’s all they have because it’s who they are. Sickening. Yes, they are exhausting, but that’s the point of the GOP: Get people so disgusted with politics that they stay home from voting and allow the drooling right-wingers to put them back in power.

  5. The cost for book censoring and the rearranging of books at the Hamilton East Public Libraries is estimated to be $300,000. That is an insane amount of money that was not in their budget.

  6. Vernon, yes they are terrible salesmen, but they are successful only because they have so many terrible customers… ignorant, selfish, bitter men and women all. It breaks my heart that so many of my fellow citizens have truly lost their way in life by wallowing in their greed and intolerance.

  7. In other news… Has anyone seen the interviews with Cassidy Hutchinson? Very impressive young woman, a confessed true patriot, but still a “moderate” Republican.

    Well, she’s young. If we last as a democratic republic long enough, she’ll see that the Republican brand is terminally flawed – as exemplified by Mike Lee – and she’ll have to adjust to something else.

    Good book, by the way.

  8. I’ve always wondered about librarians within the school district. 😉

    I know a few good Republicans, but most of them share their beliefs, demonstrating ignorance on one level or another. Attacking books or calling knowledge a “left-wing conspiracy” against them is embarrassing. Why do we patronize these idiots? Letting these dolts ban one book is a sign our country has lost its backbone. Spineless and weak people allow these yahoos to interfere in educating young minds.

    One objection I have is having drag queens read a story to kids. I’m not sure who thought this was a good idea, but let’s leave that adult exercise to other adults. I wonder what Asimov would say about men dressed as women, reading books to our youth. Frightful!!

    Are there no sane Republicans who can take a stand against the intellectual war raged by the right-wingers? You’d think real conservatives would step up to hold the yahoos accountable within their party. Aren’t there any intellectuals remaining in the Republican Party?

  9. Oh My, proud Boys using their guns and mean tactics against those of us who spend time with a book rather than “target practice” with an AK….what a picture that is!

    Maybe Mike Lee knows about porn from personal experience? Psychology seems to support the idea that “to see it is to know it”. It makes one wonder.

  10. Vernon’s reference to the Nazis called to my mind descriptions of the numerous elections in the final year of the Weimar Republic. Many of the German people were worn down. Cynicism about democratic values grew. Once the Nazis had the government, it was too late. And the would-be Lt Gov of Indiana, Hamilton County preacher Micah Beckwith, touts himself as a Christian Nationalist. Some might think I compare this iteration of the GOP w/the Nazis. Huh.

  11. They have always been there, but they haven’t had this much power since the 1920s, during the reign of the KKK in Indiana. That ended when D. C. Stephenson lost control over the governor, with his conviction in the Oberholtzer case. Sadly, I’m afraid that even multiple convictions against 45, won’t phase his followers. They firmly believe that he’s being railroaded. It’s not much fun living in a post fact world.

  12. Vernon @ 8:33; I have watched Cassidy Hutchinson several times and your term “impressive young woman, a confessed true patriot, but still a “moderate” Republican.” reminds me of women (myself included) who are in an abusive relationship and keep believing the abuse will end.

  13. I want to say that it is all about sex, that the right has its mind in the gutter, if not the pizza shop basement, and projects it all onto others. But, that’s not it. IT is about using this gambit to appeal to their ignorant, brazenly proud and ignorant right -wing mindless constituents, the bigots and their ilk!
    Hey Todd, I happen to think otherwise about the drag queen readings, expect that the kids see it as fun, plain and simple.
    Intellectuals in the Republican Party? Oxymoron! Even that clown with the British accent, who used to take center stage while bloviating, had it all wrong: William F. Buckley.
    A search for Republican intellectuals took me to a Newsman site, that named, among others,
    Buckley, Milton Friedman, whose economic blathering have caused so much trouble, and, to my great surprise, Whittaker Chambers. This latter bright light was the guy who was all about tapes hidden in pumpkins back in the days of Eugene McCarthy and Tricky Dick Nixon. He was known by the people familiar with him as a serial, compulsive liar!

  14. JoAnn,

    I hope she does. Read her book. Her early childhood is certainly no walk in the park. I think that’s when that “syndrome” begins.

  15. Peggy, I just finished “A Fever in the Heartland” and found it a fascinating and absolutely terrifying read. I highly recommend it to all. Had no idea how aligned our state was to the KKK and how close we were to losing everything.

    As to the book ban idiots– hello? Have they heard of the bounty of porn and whatnot available to their precious children with a few clicks on the internet?

  16. Mitch, I am pro-choice, pro-environment, anti-gun and the elected Precinct Committee chair of Marion County Washington precinct 21-01 in the GOP. I try my best to be an intellectual, but still have a problem distinguishing Manet and Monet (& it’s not simply that second vowel).

  17. I recently connected with a former Scout on facebook. I think he’s in his mid-20s now. He is an Eagle Scout and he came to my notice when he was in charge of organizing a fund raising tri-cycle race for Pride week back in June. The race happened just a block from where I live. A few weeks later I saw posts where he was competing in “Miss Gay Indiana”. He is a great guy and I believe that it has taken him years to get to a spot where he feels like he fits in. I am proud and happy to see him happy, and stepping up to volunteer for something he thinks is going to make the world better. I knew the leadership side of his personality when he was a Scout, but I had never seen this other side.

    The more people realize that people are all different in different kinds of ways, the more they will be accepting. I also suspect that there are a lot of kids out there that are deeply unhappy because they think they are the only one like themselves and have no idea why. Library books are one way to explore the world outside of the people you know. Seeing other people that are different from what everyone has told you is “normal” is the whole point of Drag Queen story hour. It might seem a little in your face and that makes it an easy target for homophobes, but seeing people in drag is not going to make you change who you are any more than seeing cows is going to make you a cow.

    My sister is the director of the Morgan County Public Library, and they have had to deal with fair number of Mom’s for Liberty wanna bees. Luckily they have clear policies and a library board that has not been infected with anti-woke politics. I say wanna bees, because if the MFL people were serious, they would have attacked the Library board like they did in FIshers.

  18. Libraries and librarians pre-dated Jesus, whose life as a philosopher is claimed to be the basis for the culture warriors’ war today, Thus Alexander the Great (who conquered the then known world and died at age 33 – some say 32), having no new worlds to conquer, and having been mentored by Aristotle, built one of The Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, The Great Library of Alexandria. I’m guessing without knowing that this namesake library was built at the behest of Aristotle with his influence on this young Macedonian general, and I’m also guessing without knowing that Alexander would have summarily dealt with culture warriors of that day who attempted to interfere with the operations of his library.

    It appears that we may have to add security protection to libraries as well as schools and other institutions under attack by culture warriors and their political leaders who are using “parental rights” and other democratic-sounding phrases to cover the latter’s intent to supplant democracy with fascism by the eerily similar methodology of the Nazis in the Thirties. Culture warriors have added libraries to the press, liberals, electoral thieves, gummint, blacks, Jews, teachers and others in a long list of bad guys intent on destruction of Norman Rockwell America – an America that never existed.

    So how do we enjoy the fruits of the Enlightenment as citizens who have inalienable rights per the Constitution, rights so personal that they cannot be undone? Trouble is, they can be undone by destruction of the underlying institutions that support such a Florentine gift. I have always held that we should be guided by history but not bound by it because history is linear. Thus as applied to today’s culture warriors (most of whom probably do not understand that they are themselves captives of a within fascist minority who if successful will take their rights as well as the rights of the bad guys away a la the Nazis of the Thirties).

    Perhaps it’s time to station Alexanders at the doors of libraries, schools, churches, polls, school board meetings etc. to repel the attacks of the culture warriors misled or not on institutions that undergird our democracy, since as I often write, our democracy is the most precious asset we hold in common, and one of the last few things left worth dying for.

  19. In a recent stand-up comedy routine, Wanda Sykes said something like this. Until a drag queen goes into an elementary school and starts beating children to death with a copy of To Kill A Mockingbird, y’all are focusing on the wrong things.
    Lies, guns and irrational fears are all dangerous. When combined, they are lethal.

  20. Vernon; watching Nicole Wallace’s lengthy interview with Cassidy yesterday, her continued concern for and about Mark Meadows was telling and her general demeanor was not stated as strongly as her responses during the hearing. Whatever level of Republican she is; she will vote for whoever they nominate, hoping that continued support will somehow return the GOP to the once viable party she continues to support. She didn’t do the Trump “walk back” but her assurance of his and his cohorts, including Meadows’, wrongdoings and criminal acts were not as strongly stated. Only she can sever her connection to the Republicans; and she can only sever her personal connection, they will continue their wrongdoing and their criminal acts without her once staunch support and her aid. My early and late childhood was no “walk in the park” and her “syndrome” as victim of the MAGAs will only end when she ends it; she is so young yet and I hope her strength and former tenacity will will carry her through what lies ahead in the “battle for the soul of America”. She has shown valor in the battle; can she last through the war?

    It may not appear so but I do support her; had I shown her level of strength when I was her age my life would have taken a different direction but it was a different era entirely. I want her to succeed in extracting herself completely from those she put her trust in and was so sorely used by all of those she served so faithfully. She is still clinging to the hope that they will come forward as she has to tell truths she didn’t want to believe about those she trusted and honored and faithfully served.

  21. Sheila – thank you for getting to the bottom of this. In a word, it’s all about control.

    Whether it’s about reproductive freedom, sexual orientation, what we can read, and to be other than caucasian and be legally equal, safe, employed, and healthy, it’s all about control. The control freaks want to control EVERYONE’S rights, not just their own. At base level, you’re so right that it’s anti-democratic and a real threat to democracies here and abroad.

    The irony is that so many of these controllers wrap themselves in propriety and Christian nationalism but don’t believe in the golden rule. They refuse to treat others as they wish to be treated. That says it all.

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