Why Ban Books?
The United States is going through an out of control wave of booking banning. The top reasons books end up challenged or banned are:
- Unsuited to age (this usually means that a book has foul language or sex in it – this includes legit sexual education books)
- Religious viewpoint (translated: “anti-Christian” or pro-something-other-than-Christian)
- LGBTQ+ content
- Racism – I really don’t think this word means what a lot of people think it means because this includes works by authors of colour who are telling counternarratives to the Eurocentric white history taught in schools. We can’t have white kids feeling bad, but it’s totally okay for Asian kids or black kids or anyone but white kids to be uncomfortable during history class
- Political viewpoint
I find myself wondering why nearly every piece of romance or erotica isn’t being challenged or banned. I have to say ‘nearly’ because there are books marketed as ‘clean’ romance. Even those are problematic from a certain view. I was discussing this with a romance writer I met on Instagram. She had some very good points that I had not considered, that make perfect sense. It also relates in many ways to the research I have done on conspiracy theories.
I have actually done two undergraduate papers on conspiracy theories. The first was on Shakespeare and QAnon. That paper earned me honors from the English department and got me into grad school. The second was a semester long project for the American Studies class I took. In short, the same people who are banning books are the same fundamental protestant evangelical Christians who believe conspiracy theories. These are science deniers, and racists. These are the same people who oppose anything other than teaching abstinence only sex education in schools. (Sexual education has to be taught by law in public schools. There is just nothing saying it has to be taught accurately.)
Here’s the thing, only 37% of Republicans have continued their education past high school. That means more than half of them have only a high school education or did not finish high school. They are also more likely to be highly religious (everything is the ‘will of God’. For example, it was God’s will that an auto accident happened, not the drunk driver’s fault.) They are also more likely to believe in conspiracy theories.
From a psychological standpoint people believe in conspiracy theories because of flawed thinking. They lack critical thinking skills. What does all this have to do with book banning? I’m getting there. Literacy isn’t just about being able to read and write, it’s also about reading comprehension and the critical thinking. You ca not comprehend what you read if you can not think critically.
Critical thinking is a sign of education and education is elitist. It is something for the privileged. The tools of these elite are books and information. Naturally those who do not have these critical thinking skills have the mindset of ‘them against us’. Books and knowledge are the tools of the educated ‘elite’. What better way to assert power and put everyone on the same playing field than to take away those books? Remove education (prior to the 70’s college was free or low cost) and the tools of knowledge (books) and it is easier to control people.
This is why people want to ban books. They want to keep information out of the hands of those who want and needed it. They want to impose their view onto others as the “right” view in order to feel powerful. This isn’t about “age appropriateness” or anything else. This is about not wanting people to think differently and have opposing view points. This is about people not wanting their children to surpass them. It is about not feeling stupid and being lorded over (in their mind) by someone smarter. This is some Orwellian level stuff here, I know. It’s probably why 1984 is on that banned book list