You Thought I Forgot, Didn’t You?

Just in case you thought I forgot about Banned Books Week, I didn’t.

Je reste Charlie

January 7, 2015 | Paris, France | 11:30 Local Time

Saïd and Chérif Kouachi force their way into the offices of satiricalweekly newspaper Charlie Hebdo, murdering in cold blood Stephane Charbonnier, Jean Cabut, Bernard Verlhac, Georges Wolinski, Bernard Maris, Philippe Honore, Michel Renaud, Elsa Cayat, Ahmed Merabet, Frédéric Boisseau, Franck Brinsolaro, & Mustapha Ourrad for no other reason than Charlie Hebdo’s publication of images of Muhammad.

Charlie Hebdo Victims

photo courtesy ITVNews & itv.com

Yes, it is true these images were considered irreverent.

Irrelevant, as Islam prohibits all visual representation of the prophet.

Je suis Charlie

As the world learned of the attacks, the world rallied around Paris.

Americans exclaimed “Je suis Charlie!,”

proclaimed their devotion to the freedom of speech,

and changed their Facebook profile photos . . .

. . . until something else came along.

January 7, 2016 | 5:30 Local Time | 11:30 Paris Time

The date and time are no accident, because I have not forgotten. For the past 365 days I and others like me have made a conscientious effort to protect and promote not just freedom of speech, but all First Amendment rights.

One need only look at the State of the First Amendment to realize we have failed – a full 19% of those surveyed say the First Amendment goes too far.

Let’s get more specific, shall we?

The First Amendment Under Fire

Tweet cafeteria and f451

Unsurprisingly, colleges and university made headlines

Some students demanded “safe spaces” from ideas and opinions they find uncomfortable, while others needed “trigger warnings” so they could shut their ears from the possibility of bad memories.

Professors were criticized for thinking critically about those “needs”, as well as gender, Halloween costumes, and cafeteria food.

Speakers were invited – or uninvited – based on the approval of the mob.

I’m going to call Mizzou out by name, where demonstrators against racism and bigotry attempted to restrict freedom of the press by only allowing access to those reporters 100% sympathetic to their cause.

Breaking News

Students are in school to learn how to deal with the real world.

The time for tantrums ended long ago.

From brick-and-mortar to server-and-cloud, we turn to the internet.

While proposals to proposals to the Internet to groups like ISIS might find widespread support, such discussions inevitably turn to banning all forms of “hate speech”, ambiguous a term if ever there was one.

Restricting access to beheading videos is one thing, but Google’s Eric Schmidt has more ambitious ideas.

[Schmidt voiced] the idea of an algorithm that would relentlessly prowl the corridors of the Web searching and eliminating hateful speech — an Orwellian concept of censorship-by-technology that went even further than “1984” author George Orwell imagined. *

And, lest we forget the Presidential candidates:

Donald Trump. Need I say more?

However, other Republican and Democratic candidates have voiced support for a so-called “Silicon Valley Solution”.

And then there’s Bernie Sanders, the Vermont socialist-cum-democrat who’s been most vociferous calling for an increased American democracy. Senator, America is a Democratic Republic, and democracy ends in mob rule. Based on your own logic, should you be elected President Facebook will be the new House, Twitter the new Senate, and BuzzFeed the Supreme Court. In which case, God help us all.

Nevertheless, better the devil you know than the devil you don’t.

American society in general fared no better.

Supporters of the Confederate Flag found themselves more ostracized than usual after Dylan Roof murdered nine people in Charleston, SC.

Colleges, cities, and even the state of South Carolina removed the flag (or versions thereof) from certain premises, and several online retailers took the perfectly acceptable action of discontinuing products featuring the flag.

However others would have the Federal Government restrict the right of American citizens to display the flag in any context.

If surveys are to be believed, 35% of Americans support a Federal statute banning the Confederate flag on license plates. No word on how many support a similar ban on Planned Parenthood tags.

At least President Obama didn’t issue an executive order declaring the flag illegal.

Other cities – like New Orleans – have begun to sanitize history by removing Confederate statues and memorials.

Since we’re on the topic of unpleasant history, here’s Rod Serling:

All the Dachaus must remain standing. The Dachaus, the Belsens, the Buchenwalds, the Auschwitzes – all of them. They must remain standing because they are a monument to a moment in time when some men decided to turn the Earth into a graveyard. Into it they shoveled all of their reason, their logic, their knowledge, but worst of all, their conscience. And the moment we forget this, the moment we cease to be haunted by its remembrance, then we become the gravediggers. Something to dwell on and to remember, not only in the Twilight Zone but wherever men walk God’s Earth.

Deaths-Head Revisited [emphasis mine]

Oh, and since I’ve mentioned God, let’s talk religion . . .

Opponents of same-sex marriage are *officially* on the naughty list for daring to take a stand against society-determined morality. I mean, if it’s the choice between religion and government, you should always go with the government, right? right?

Remember: it’s possible to dislike an action while still loving the person performing the action. Stop conflating tolerance with acceptance.

Anti-Abortion advocates found themselves censored when a temporary restraining order was issued against the Center for Medical Progress, the group responsible for leaking videotapes alleged to show PP profiting from the sale of aborted fetuses.

Note: While the linked article calls the videotapes “heavily edited to cast Planned Parenthood in an unflattering light”, the full videos were also available, and they didn’t improve PP’s image at all.

And, since many suffer from the delusion that religion and science are incompatible, let’s not forget there are still advocates for the arrest of climate-change deniers based on the awful decision of the Italian courts to convict six seismologists of manslaughter for failing to predict an earthquake.

Oh wait, it was really about the defendants giving “‘inexact, incomplete and contradictory information’ about whether small tremors prior to the April 6 quake should have constituted grounds for a warning”?

How is that different from predicting an earthquake?

All right, I know these articles are from 2014, but the trend is toward charging climate-change deniers with crimes against humanity.

Speaking of intellectual freedom, here’s a friendly reminder that governments in America still try to ban, restrict, and censor books.

Remember:

I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it. – Evelyn Beatrice Hall [attr. to Voltaire]

The Real Danger to the First Amendment

The real danger to the First Amendment are those willing to suppress First Amendment freedoms in the name of public safety, namely Millennials.

There’s just one problem with that – the first amendment proffers no right to feel safe, no right to not be offended, and certainly no provision to punish people who make unpopular speech . . . In plain language, the first amendment does not give you the right not to be offended or not to be mocked, and the fact that these people are using the first amendment to, in essence, advocate censorship, is one of those perfect ironies that seldom comes along in this life.

– Daniel P. Malito

Moving Forward

It’s obvious there’s more work to be done.

The right to express one’s political, religious, and even literary ideas are under constant attack, and we must remain ever vigilant in our defense of those rights.

Others may have forgotten, but I will not.

Je suis Charlie

Je reste Charlie

[I remain Charlie]

7 January 2015 Charlie Hebdo


Have a suggestion for a poem, photograph, or future post?

Drop a note in the prompt box!

Don’t forget to follow me on:

Facebook – where I share news stories, articles from other blogs, and various and sundry miscellany that happens to catch my eye. It’s stuff you won’t see here! Well, mostly.

Instagram – where I show you my Life in Motion and share quotes and such. The widget only shows my last three photographs – don’t you want to see them all?

Twitter – where you can see my thoughts in 140 characters or less. Also, funny retweets.

Virtual Read-Out 2015

BBW_VirtualReadout_logo3_LGLast week I promised you a video for Banned Books Week.

Well, I’m happy to report that I’ve finished them!

Yes, them – as in plural. Well, not really plural. I filmed a much longer segment and then edited it down to qualify for the ALA’s Banned Book Week Virtual Read-Out playlist on YouTube. Seriously, you should check these other videos out; some of them are quite good.

Here are mine:

The Long Version

The Short Version

Monday Morning Grievance: Censorship

It’s Monday and I haven’t had my coffee.

Monday Morning Grievances Logo 1

This week book lovers across the United States observe Banned Books Week. In case you haven’t been able to tell, I strongly support the freedom of speech [and, by extension, the press]. Yes, I have strong opinions, but as one of Voltaire’s biographers summarized his philosophy:

I may not agree with what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.

It seems as if intolerance has grown the last several years, with people of every political, social, and cultural stripe seeking to silence those politics, values, and practices differ from their own. And while I believe in moral absolutes, I also know no belief is worth defending which seeks to silence its critics. Healthy, honest, and open debate is a sign of thriving civilization.

I could give examples, but they’re all to clear. No one side or party or people is blameless.

I just wish people could realize that disagreement is neither hate, nor intolerance, nor bigotry, nor ignorance. Society has placed acceptance on a pedestal and adopted the mantra of “Agree of Perish”.

Ignore society.

Speak Out

Be Heard

You Are Entitled To Your Opinion

Reject the Censors

IMG_4106


 

What annoys you?

 


 

Have a suggestion for a poem, photograph, or future post?

Drop a note in the prompt box!

 

Don’t forget to follow me on:

Facebook – where I share news stories, articles from other blogs, and various and sundry miscellany that happens to catch my eye. It’s stuff you won’t see here! Well, mostly.

Instagram – where I show you my Life in Motion and share quotes and such. The widget only shows my last three photographs – don’t you want to see them all?

Twitter – where you can see my thoughts in 140 characters or less. Also, funny retweets.

Banned Books Week Proclamation 2015

banned books coasterI painted this Banned Books Week coaster two years ago.

 

Banned Books Week Proclamation

 

WHEREAS, the freedom to read is essential to our democracy, and reading is among our greatest freedoms; and

 

WHEREAS, privacy is essential to the exercise of that freedom, and the right to privacy is the right to open inquiry without having the subject of one’s interest examined or scrutinized by others; and

 

WHEREAS, the freedom to read is protected by our Constitution; and

 

WHEREAS some individuals, groups, and public authorities work to remove or limit access to reading materials, to censor content in schools, to label “controversial” views, to distribute lists of “objectionable” books or authors, and to purge libraries of materials reflecting the diversity of society; and

 

WHEREAS, both governmental intimidation and the fear of censorship cause authors who seek to avoid controversy to practice self-censorship, thus limiting our access to new ideas; and

 

WHEREAS, every silencing of a heresy, every enforcement of an orthodoxy, diminishes the toughness and resilience of American society and leaves it less able to deal with controversy and difference; and

 

WHEREAS, Americans still favor free enterprise in ideas and expression, and can be trusted to exercise critical judgment, to recognize propaganda and misinformation, and to make their own decisions about what they read and believe, and to exercise the responsibilities that accompany this freedom; and

 

WHEREAS, intellectual freedom is essential to the preservation of a free society and a creative culture; and

 

WHEREAS, conformity limits the range and variety of inquiry and expression on which our democracy and our culture depend; and

 

WHEREAS, the American Library Association’s Banned Books Week: Celebrating the Freedom to Read is observed during the last week of September each year as a reminder to Americans not to take their precious freedom for granted; and

 

WHEREAS, Banned Books Week celebrates the freedom to choose or the freedom to express one’s opinion even if that opinion might be considered unorthodox or unpopular and stresses the importance of ensuring the availability of those unorthodox or unpopular viewpoints to all who wish to read them; now, therefore, be it

 

RESOLVED, that I celebrate the American Library Association’s Banned Books Week, 27 September – 3 October 2015, and be it further

 

RESOLVED, that I encourage all libraries and bookstores to acquire and make available materials representative of all the people in our society; and be it further

 

RESOLVED, that I encourage free people to read freely, now and forever.

 

Adopted by Me this 27th Day of September, 2015

Child of Fear – Father of Ignorance

Censorship is the child of fear and the father of ignorance.

– Laurie Halse Anderson

LeatherBooksFor years I’ve told my students, “If you don’t like to read, it’s only because you haven’t found something you like to read.” No one really hates reading; they hate being told what to read and when to read it. Then, because this mandate usually comes from a “mean teacher,” they project that hatred onto the act itself. I recall one student who – on the first day of school – declared she hated reading and would rather solve long division (she hated math, too) than read a single page of another book. By the end of the year she loved reading; all it took was a little coaching to find what she actually wanted to read.

BBWPoster2013But what happens when a book you want to read has been censored or banned? I remember looking through my school’s library in Middle School and finding all the “bad words” marked out in black sharpie (which then bled through onto the next page, effectively ruining three pages of text). What good does that do? Did they really think we couldn’t figure out what was being said? If anything, it encouraged us to find non-vandalized copies and figure out what they were hiding from us.

Those that would censor books for religious, moral, or political reasons have entirely missed the point. Now, I agree that parents should have ultimate control over what their children read, but that’s where their power ends. No one should be able to dictate what someone else reads. Doing so kills creativity, stifles healthy debate, and creates citizens incapable of rational thought. It’s not enough to say “I don’t like it because my parents don’t;” that excuse stops working around the ninth grade.

Carl Sagan Open MindI never tell my students to read with an open mind; I tell them to read with a discerning mind. An open mind blindly accepts information; a discerning mind filters information. The problem is that censors view books the way others view television: as a babysitter. Books entertain and teach, and require a guide. Just because you want to shirk that responsibility doesn’t give you the right to violate the First Amendment.

By happy coincidence, Banned Books Week coincides with my Bill of Rights section of American Government. I have no idea how my students will react – I suspect less than half of them read voluntarily. We’ll just have to see how it goes.

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