by Tess Joseph
Book-banning, like book-burning, should be a relic of the dark ages. However, as evidenced by the American Library Association’s 2020 report on banned and challenged books, book-banning is very much a part of our present. As recently as August 2021, a Texas school district announced that it would remove or suspend nine books from its secondary school book club readings list. Among the excuses why books were banned or challenged: they contained LGBTQIA+ characters, sexual references, were thought to promote anti-police views… The list continues. Why ban books? Well, motivated by fear and ignorance, people ban books to keep us from learning about history, relationships and families, sexual health and pleasure, and racism.
Book-banning eliminates our choice of and access to information. Such censorship, unfortunately, is not restricted to book-banning. Recent attempts to promote censorship on the Internet, like the efforts to erode Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act (the “Internet’s First Amendment”), similarly threaten to control what we get to read, watch, and hear online.
Books—fiction, nonfiction, and otherwise—provide us critical information about history, ourselves, our communities, and the world we live in. So does the Internet. We have a right to choose what information we consume, and that right is inextricable from our right to access information, free of censorship. Limiting such information through book-banning or pro-censorship legislation restricts our personal autonomy and is a violation of our fundamental human rights.
Photo credit: Matt Kryger