A humble little blog about books, information, and other things that are good to know.

Posts tagged ‘censorship’

Banned Books with Gay Content

It’s been hectic lately – getting ready to move, plus job-seeking, plus celebrating a milestone birthday with one of my best friends! – but I’ll get back to more regular writing some time soon. In the meantime, check out this list of banned and challenged books (old and new, fiction and non-fiction, written for all age levels) from Huffington Post – all books deemed objectionable by some because they deal with LGBT themes.

In Honour of Bradbury

Author Ray Bradbury, photographed with a black cat.

Image via The Alien Next Door.

The news has just traveled into my corner of the blogosphere: Ray Bradbury has died. I have to admit, I wasn’t entirely sure before this whether he was still living. But it hardly matters, because his writing is undying.

Ray Bradbury believed that whether we burned books didn’t matter; if we failed to read and share them, we might as well be burning them. In tribute to him, science-fiction fans all over the Internet are making plans to return to his short fiction, essays, novels, and poetry as a fitting farewell tribute. That’s not a bad idea. After all, the man himself would have wanted to see his words outlive him, encouraging people to think.

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The Family Shield: Grocery Store “Protects” Children from Seeing – Gasp! – Gay Dads

Magazine cover featuring Elton John's family censored by grocery store.

Image via Ear Sucker.

Full disclosure: I’ve loved Elton John forever. And when I learned he and his partner were welcoming a new addition to their family, I felt the same strange combination of envy and warm welcoming I usually feeling on hearing about another little child coming into the world. (I love babies.) It’s my genuine wish that, as Elton John once suggested in a favourite song of mine, little baby Zachary will be blessed.

But the poor little guy has gotten off to a bit of a rocky start in the United States.

It seems that a grocery store in Arkansas, prompted by a customer complaint, hid the US Weekly cover featuring the new family beneath a plastic “Family Shield”. This is not an implement designed to shield families; rather, it’s meant to conceal racy cover images on the kinds of magazines they usually kept hidden behind the counter in more innocent times. The kind of magazines that, once purchased, get stored under the mattress.

US weekly cover featuring Elton John and family.

Image via Too Fab.

Perplexed, I checked out the cover image as it appears under the shield, wondering what they possibly could’ve come up with that would cause such scandal. And sure enough, there was no scandal to be found. Just a couple of relatively ordinary guys smiling for the camera, posing with an adorable-but-ordinary baby. No nudity, no suggestive poses, no sex tips. Nothing to see here, folks. The same sort of thing you see every time a celebrity couple has a child, whether biological or adoptive.

Oh, right. Except Zachary’s got two daddies.

And in fact, it seems that was exactly what the customer complaint was about. That’s why Harps brought out the Family Shield. To shield sensitive young eyes from Zachary’s family.

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Denying History

“Where everyone’s opinion is equal to everyone else’s opinion, no one’s opinion matters.”

Denying History by Michael Shermer & Alex Grobman

Image via Skeptic Magazine.

Title: Denying History: Who Says the Holocaust Never Happened and Why Do They Say It?

Author: Michael Shermer & Alex Grobman

Year of Publication: 2000

Genre Keywords: censorship, evidence, free speech, history, Holocaust, Holocaust denial, ideology, logic, Nazism, neo-Nazism, scholarship, skepticism.

Summary: A smart and readable book about the phenomenon of modern Holocaust denial, written by two authors committed to the accurate understanding and portrayal of history. They begin by warning against silencing the people who deny that the Holocaust took place – instead, they argue persuasively, it’s best to place the beliefs of Holocaust deniers under a microscope, to seek flaws in logic and ideological motivations. There is a factual truth in history, and only by exposing the truth can we defeat the lies and misrepresentations of deniers.

Shermer and Grobman then go on to discuss the Holocaust denial movement’s ideological underpinnings – who says the Holocaust never happened and why they say it. (They also go into how Holocaust deniers use logical fallacies and twist the evidence to suit their purposes by outlining the deniers’ main arguments.) Then they go into the historical evidence to examine the major tenets of Holocaust denial: the ideas that concentration camps were not used for extermination, that the extermination of Jews was not a part of Hitler’s plan, and that the number exterminated was less than six million or even one million. As most of us would probably expect, they find that the majority of evidence disproves the deniers’ claims.

Who’ll Love It: Any readers concerned with the Holocaust have probably already decided they want to read this book. But more broadly, those interested in truth and misinformation – and how people with an agenda can manipulate the truth to spread bad information – should definitely look at this.

A Question for Librarians: The issue of free speech in this case is complicated enough that Shermer & Grobman could have written the entire book on just that question alone. It’s an issue that arises in library studies as well. Most of us agree with the authors’ persuasive point that misinformation is best defeated by an honest, careful study of the evidence, not by censoring deniers’ views. After all, censorship gives their ideas a power they don’t deserve. But on the other hand, would you put Holocaust deniers’ books on the shelves of your library? Would you give them a platform? And if they argued that your refusal to make their ideas accessible amounted to a form of passive censorship, what would you say?

Too Much Information: When Veterans Tell the Truth

Charles Whittington, Iraq veteran.

Image via The Towerlight.

It is not like I have a switch I can just turn off. To this day, I still feel the addictions running through my blood and throughout my body, but now I know how to keep myself composed and keep order in myself, my mind.

These are the words of Iraq veteran Charles Whittington. And he’s not talking about the addictions you might think about when you hear the word – drugs, drink, even sex or gambling. He’s talking about an addiction to killing, an addiction to violence that he brought back from his tour of duty.

You can read his entire essay, originally written for a college course, at the Baltimore Sun’s website. The instructor who graded it urged him to seek publication because she found it so compelling. But he won’t be writing any more such essays for his course at the Community College of Baltimore County, because Charles Whittington’s words got him kicked out of school.

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Scary Library: Banned Books from Hell

There are plenty of reasons for books to get censored, many of them political (it espouses an opinion considered objectionable by the powers that be) or moral (it advocates some sort of action or behaviour believed to be wrong, very often sexual). But since Hallowe’en is just around the corner, I figured it’s a good time to create a booklist of books that have been banned, challenged, or censored because they contain content that’s scary, violent, macabre, and horrifying. In other words, if they were made into movies, they’d probably get a pretty restrictive rating.

Ghoulish reader

Image via All Yearbooks Blog.

Interestingly, it’s actually better for the sensitive soul to read a scary book than to watch a scary movie. The reason? When you’re reading, you conjure the images in your mind. It’s still possible to get scared while you’re reading something spooky, but at least you control how frightening the projected images will be. If you don’t want to see anything too graphic, you can tone down your mental imagery and make it a gentler experience just by tweaking what’s in your brain. But in a movie, the images appear onscreen as-is, with no possibility for changing or toning down. However much blood and gore the killer splashes around, however  many corners and closets he jumps out from behind, and however terrifying the demon-possessed child looks during that exorcism, you’re going to see it in all its exquisitely terrifying detail.

With that in mind, you might decide you’re interested to read some of the stories I’m offering here. But keep in mind, too, that not all of them are as terrifying as their censored-book status might lead you to believe. After all, terror is in the mind of the beholder . . .

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The Right Not To Know

Yesterday morning I heard a fascinating case on CBC Radio One’s The Current – the question of whether an anti-abortion group at Carleton University should have been allowed to hold a public demonstration on the university’s central quad. You can view a video of the protesters being arrested after being informed that they were in fact trespassing, and would be taken into custody if they persisted.

Pro-life students arrested for trespassing when they tried to share their point of view with the student body: it sounds like a pretty cut-and-dried case of egregious censorship against unpopular points of view. But as in many cases, the full story has a lot more complexity, and a lot depends on how it’s told. It’s not as simple as it might seem at first glance.

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