Library Sued Over Book

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Friday, 19 June 2009

(09:14:22 CDT)

Library Sued Over Book

One of the key juggling acts that libraries participate in is the balance between the ALA Code of Ethics item 2—"We uphold the principles of intellectual freedom and resist all efforts to censor library resources"—and the general desires of its public. Back when Sarah Palin first came into her public spotlight, there was an outcry against her asking about how to remove some books. Some of her defenders held up that she was not actually trying to get the books removed, she was just curious since some people had asked her about it. Nevertheless, someone in Wasilla wanted books taken from the shelf. The line of thinking, I presume, goes something like this: I am a taxpayer, which means I practically own the library, which means I should get to dictate what the library carries, which means no fag-loving curse-wording hell-sending trash for my children!!! I may have elaborated that last one a little. Or did I?

For instance, West Bend, Wisconsin, is going through a much more vocal version of the infamous "What if? in Wasilla". A group of older men are actually suing the library and the city for damages related to seeing a young-adult book, and the right to burn said young-adult book, respectively. I will quote the first three paragraphs from the article:

In a scene which appears to have been lifted straight out of Ray Bradbury's Fahrenheit 451, a group of Christians in Wisconsin has launched a legal claim demanding the right to publicly burn a copy of a book for teenagers which they deem to be "explicitly vulgar, racial [sic], and anti-Christian".

The offending book is Francesca Lia Block's Baby Be-Bop, a young adult novel in which a boy, struggling with his homosexuality, is beaten up by a homophobic gang. The complaint, which according to the American Library Association also demands $120,000 (£72,000) in compensatory damages for being exposed to the book in a display at West Bend Community Memorial Library, was lodged by four men from the Christian Civil Liberties Union.

Their suit says that "the plaintiffs, all of whom are elderly, claim their mental and emotional well-being was damaged by this book at the library," and that it contains derogatory language that could "put one's life in possible jeopardy, adults and children alike."

In a claim notably similar to those who have had Maya Angelou and Toni Morrison books removed from schools and libraries because of the use of the word "nigger" to describe violence against blacks (in what some people have claimed is a nation-wide tendency to white wash history and to downlplay racism in a pretence that it no longer exists, while others muse that maybe racists are using this claim to remove strongly themed speaking out against racism), this lawsuit claims that the book-in-question contains the word "faggot", which is "very derogatory and slanderous to all males", and so therefore constitutes a hate crime. The use of the term is undoubtedly contained in the attack against the protagonist, which is probably why they chose it as a source of attack (a book saying it is a bad thing to attack homosexuals is likely a bad thing to these men). Sure, some snark is right on the tip of the tongue. The lawsuit, by that nature, is a hate crime. Articles talking about the lawsuit, by that nature, are hate crimes.

As an aside, I wonder about that subset of a population who have the mental inability, feigned or real, to distinguish between containing something and promoting something—those, for instance, who used to attack Dungeons & Dragons because it "contained evil monsters" and therefore was practically begging the players to be evil monsters—and why they never take said criticism back upon, say, The Bible or their numerous anecdotes about stomping out evils in society? I mean, they believe the The Bible contains God's own first hand accounts of Satan, himself. If a book containing the word "faggot" is a hate crime, than surely the Lord of the Flies, the Father of Iniquity, The Great Deceiver is in some other realm all together.

The article concludes that the men don't really mean it, per se, and are just trying to get some publicity. I do not know. I mean, yes, they have to know that their claim that a young adult book somehow scarred them (note they did not say "scarred their grand-/children") is going to be taken as ludicrous, that no way is the threat of the somewhat random sounding sum of $120,000 going to cause the library or the ALA to back down, and that they could have burned the book ala Harry Potter and the Flammable Material of Fire with no problem. This is, and successfully to some degree, a publicity stunt. A clarion call to like minded individuals to take up similar stances in similar areas until the public has overthrown the dire threat of library books. Except, who's to say these men did not think they really had some sort of claim? Just because a claim sounds stupid does not mean it is fake. In fact, if they admit it was fake, they would have a chance of being in legal trouble. Legally they have to say that they do mean this book harmed them, personally. Publicity stunt or no, they have recorded it otherwise.

A dude. Sued. A dry cleaners. Over. A missing. Pair. Of pants. For thousands of thousands of dollars. Never assume that these loud mouths don't really mean it.

Speaking of publicity, why don't we reverse that a little. Here is the url for West Bend Community Memorial Library: Why don't you drop them a line through e-mail or snail mail, send a gift of cookies or something, something to show support. Public librarians are rarely paid enough to put up with this crap.

Si Vales, Valeo


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