Every story about the conservative book-banning movement is the same. It’s all the same crap every time because the dynamics of the movement are the same everywhere you go. The agenda is no different from what it was when the current crop of book-banners were freaking out about desegregation, or complaining about fictional television character Murphy Brown, or the time brickheaded Tennessee lawmakers saw a janitor’s mop sink in a closet and convinced themselves it had been installed for Secret Muslim Rituals.
The Washington Post gives us a new version of the story from Llano, Texas, and it hits all the usual notes: One or more hyper-conservative zealots with free time on their hands and a lifetime of carefully nurtured ignorance offers up a list of supposedly “pornographic” books. An assemblage of like-minded community paranoids leaps at the opportunity to prove that they, too, live to be Outraged About Things, and so the town’s farthest-right and most eager-to-provoke clan uses their outrage to wound or destroy previously quiet local institutions.
But none of the people who rode the outrage trolley to newfound positions of power know a single damn thing about anything, and by God nobody’s going to make them learn because everybody knows expertise is communism, and so whatever the actual supposed “agenda” was supposed to be when those first flyers were sketched out immediately devolves into whatever personal agendas the self-appointed conservative heroes have most on their minds.
And that is how, yet again, you get a local religious zealot and a small-time political figure launching a war against “pornography” that Lo And Behold just happens to focus nearly exclusively on purging books about Black Americans, books by Black Americans, and anything that even hints at sex education but especially any material that might convince teens struggling with their own sexual identity to consider accepting themselves as a valid alternative to suicide.
How did Ta-Nehisi Coates’ Between the World and Me end up on the initial list of “pornographic filth” that needed to be moved to the “Adult” section of the local library? Because it is about racism, and it is on every conservative list of books to be objected to. Our heroine has no doubt never so much as laid eyes on a copy. How is it that Caste: The Origins of Our Discontents, a book about systemic racism, disappeared from library shelves during the conservatives’ review of library shelves? Because it is also about racism, and the current conservative movement—liberated from pretense now that even Fox News is thumping white supremacist themes loudly and often—has declared that merely mentioning past racism is a conspiracy against white people.
The books being most consistently targeted consist of those (1) by non-white authors, (2) with non-white characters, or (3) that mention homosexuality or bisexuality in any format. Once again Republicanism has managed to coincidentally choose as their enemies the precise enemies that Nazi Germany declared to be undesirables. How very odd, says nobody who actually reads books from their local library as opposed to just thumbing through them looking for swear words.
Because the American conservative movement is also obsessed with restricting knowledge in general, however, the movement also has as its target any book that describes human sexual biology in any manner at all. We are now in the rather remarkable place where Tucker Carlson is devoting airtime to—and this is true—explaining why conservative men should be irradiating their testicles to boost their testosterone levels, but if a panicking adolescent girl wants to know why blood is trickling out of her vagina, no adult is allowed to explain it to her or provide a book that would.
Conservatism! Jesus! And so on.
Incidentally, and this is truly off topic, but if conservative male Carlson fans want to follow his advice and irradiate their own reproductive organs? By all means. You’ll get better results the more you do it. There may be very small microwave ovens that could speed things along, and I cannot emphasize enough how much Carlson fans, in particular, ought to be irradiating their reproductive parts as often and for as long as possible.
That aside, the rest of the Post‘s story is as rote as can be. We’ve got the small-time Texas judge ordering the local library to stop new book purchases and pull any books “with photos of naked or sexual conduct regardless if they are animated or actual photos,” which means somebody now needs to explain to him, probably in writing, why very few books tend to have ‘animated’ pictures and he probably meant to say something else. We’ve got that same judge ominously writing that the county “is not mandated by law to provide a public library” at all, if it comes down to it, which we can presume is the Plan B if too much of the community starts objecting too loudly.
We’ve got conservative county commissioners purging the local library board, booting out all the longtime volunteers who acted with knowledge of and devotion to their county’s libraries, and a new board filled with, you guessed it, the loudest advocates for removing books.
Lest you think any expertise was lost in the transition, fear not. The new conservative library board receives regular advice from God Almighty Himself, reports the Post:
“Panel members often stop to pray over questions brought up in meetings, and until the Lord answers, they can’t resolve them, according to county officials who spoke on the condition of anonymity because they feared repercussions.”
Uncanny! Remarkable! Not only does the Lord Himself personally act as adviser and parliamentarian and secretary during the new library board’s meetings, it turns out that He is ragingly racist, giving the secret nod to purging the exact lists of books that the conservative appointees themselves previously wrote out in their lists! And can you witness this miracle of God and government, down in Llano County, Texas? No. No you absolutely cannot.
Because one of the first things the new board did was close their meetings to the public after a few members of the public were spotted taking notes during a meeting. Ah, yes, and now we’ve stumbled into the usual conservative movement demand that government be made less accountable and in fact need not justify its decisions at all, so long as conservatives are in charge of them. Again, uncanny.
So to sum up: A single angry conservative of the sort who believes they have a direct line to God, who shares all their own gut instincts on everything, popped up with a list of books to be disputed that she had not read herself but had simply cribbed from some other conservative group milking the same cow. They convinced a local judge to march into the library to seize books about The Pornographies. The growing movement convinced the county commission to purge local libraries of anyone with experience or who argued against one-party censorship, got themselves put into those now-empty positions of minor power, got freaked out when other members of their local community started taking notes about what they themselves we doing—after they had literally shouted and bullied the previous appointees out of their positions, which was according to them just fine because when Jesus is behind you you’re allowed to be as cruel and tell as many lies as you want—and are now holed up in secret non-public meetings where they hold seances with Jesus to make decisions about rote library management that they can’t figure out how to handle themselves. Because they got here by being loud, outraged no-nothing theocratic bullshit-shrieking paranoid bullies and don’t have any other skillset that would apply here.
Yeah, sounds about right. Do it in Florida and movement suck-up Gov. Ron DeSantis will launch himself in your direction for a photo-op faster than you can say Maurice Sendak.
Oh, you might notice that the same movement removing books about menstrual cycles while obsessively watching Carlson shows devoted to becoming more of a man through the power of testicular irradiation was not long ago up in absolute nation-shaking arms because the family of Dr. Seuss removed, from sale, a few books that had:
… and conservatives flocked to local libraries and Amazon and elsewhere to demand that their children be allowed to see the racist drawings and that anyone trying to keep their children from being able to enjoy the racist drawings was A Communist.
It took Llano, Texas, not much time at all to go from those heady days to producing lists of books by Black authors that needed to be locked away. And it is all because God, we are told, and nobody is allowed to question that because suggesting that a group of bullshitting local theocrats is faking their connection to God in order to justify their own personal racism and hypersexual perversion (don’t miss the Post detail that the main instigator of this local anti-library effort responded to a Beatrix Potter-themed library fundraiser and petting zoo by hosting an “adults only” video about pedophilia next door, which is definitely normal behavior and certainly not evidence of Q-laced paranoias that run so deep that somebody should maybe taking a quick look in this person’s basement!). Because that would make them feel bad.
And you’re literally not allowed to make white racist conservatives feel bad. That’s the whole point of the book purges. If there’s a book about racism in the library or a book that suggests that LGBT human beings exist despite conservatives demanding they not exist, it will make the shouting angry bullshitters feel bad. Which is oppression, and is in fact the only sort of oppression you are allowed to acknowledge as existing.
Well, there you go. The same story as always, with the same beats, the same list of “unacceptable” books shoveled full of Black American authors but somehow declared to be indecent. And really, I cannot emphasize enough how much all of these people should be irradiating their own private parts as often as possible using whatever tools Carlson wants to help sell them. Please. There may be no act that perfectly encapsulates the state of modern America fascism more than that one does.
Refusing to be vaccinated during a worldwide pandemic because you think it might turn you magnetic? That comes close. But this is better.
This content was originally published here.