Bozell on the Palin Book-Burning Myth

Brent Bozell's latest culture column explored how liberal nitpickers landed in Alaska and quickly jumped to conclusions that any right-wing, Jesus-loving politician must be a book-burner. But Brent wonders if many librarians and "civil libertarians" aren't a lot like the liberal media elite, wanting to insure a serious bias in "acceptable information" without any troublesome conservative activism:

As part of the microscopic scrutiny applied to Sarah Palin’s record, the public has been told that as the incoming Mayor of Wasilla, Alaska in 1996, Palin dared to ask the town librarian what would happen if anyone objected to an inappropriate book. She merely inquired, but "anti-censorship" activists, perpetually filled with visions of a trash can full of burning books, exploded. At the time, the Anchorage Daily News captured the librarian, one Mary Ellen Emmons, putting up her First Amendment dukes. “I told her clearly, I will fight anyone who tries to dictate what books can go on the library shelves,” she said. “And I told her it would not be just me. This was a constitutional question, and the American Civil Liberties Union would get involved, too.”Not one book was jostled. June Pinell-Stephens, a long-time chairwoman of the Alaska Library Association's Intellectual Freedom Committee, had no evidence of banning or any record of any phone conversations with Emmons about the issue back then. Emmons was president of the Alaska Library Association at the time.As is so often the case, the horrified reactions were almost the only voices heard in the recounting of this old tale. The Governor laughed it off, as well she could, as it became clear that faked lists of Wasilla’s banned books were just baseless Internet babble. But it’s worth underlining the Emmons call to arms: "I will fight anyone who tries to dictate what books can go on the library shelves." In public libraries across America – public institutions funded wholly or in large part by taxpayer money – the librarians have appointed themselves the Czars of Acceptable Information. Any citizen daring to question their unfathomably deep taste and literary judgment are mysteriously designated as the bullies and the authoritarians. Does this sound like democracy in action, the free exchange of ideas? It sounds more like the librarian glaring at the taxpayers and gesturing at them to pipe down, rowdy children, pipe down.In reality, they are the authoritarians; the bullies are often the lawyers from the ACLU.Take the case of Nampa, Idaho, where the Nampa Public Library Board made the decision by a vote of 3 to 2 in June to respond to a parent’s complaint and move the graphically illustrated books "The Joy of Sex" and "The Joy of Gay Sex" to the library director’s office, where only those who specifically requested the tomes could see them. The parent activist, Randy Jackson, was stunned to hear in 2005 that these books were lying around on the library tables for any child to page through. "The Joy of Gay Sex" has a chapter in it entitled “Daddy/Son Fantasies.” Other chapter titles include "Exhibitionism and Voyeurism," "Fisting," and "Sex with Animals."Immediately, one wonders: Who were the two who felt it appropriate to display this garbage in a public library, in front of children?No matter. That split decision was quickly overturned. The American Civil Liberties Union of Idaho sent a threatening letter to the library on August 25 demanding that the books be put back on display since any restriction on graphic sex books "violates the constitutional rights of library visitors." The library board unanimously caved to the demand, since the city attorney warned that it could cost hundreds of thousands of dollars to fight the deep-pocketed "anti-censorship" bullies.

Read the whole thing.

Tim Graham
Tim Graham
Tim Graham is Executive Editor of NewsBusters and is the Media Research Center’s Director of Media Analysis