Op-Ed: FL State Senator Voted to Censor Conservatives But Against Censoring Explicit School Books
Ahead of this year’s midterm elections, NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist polling data released Friday showed that parents of children under 18 are more likely to vote for a Republican in their district by a staggering 60 percent.
If it wasn’t abundantly clear by now, the parental rights campaign is proving quite profitable for the GOP as families across the country lash out at a school system they view as increasingly radical and lacking in transparency.
A key source of contention regarding this movement has been the targeting of school library material for sexually explicit or otherwise morally objectionable content. The American Library Association reported in early April that 2021 saw an “unprecedented” increase in challenged or banned books, mostly having to do with LGBT or racial justice issues.
Coverage of these institutional battles has been full of the kind of outright gaslighting that Americans have learned to expect from left-wing media.
“Gender Queer: A Memoir” by Maia Kobabe, a coming-of-age graphic novel about gender confusion with explicit sexual content involving minor characters, was the most banned book of 2021. But Slate would have you believe that the book “isn’t particularly explicit.” A simple glance at its contents proves otherwise (warning: viewer discretion advised).
Additionally, a Washington Post opinion column, seemingly determined to help dig a political grave for the leftist establishment, went so far as to insult millions of parents with the headline, “This GOP-targeted book is not the problem. Ignorance and fear are.”
Many on the left who are willing to acknowledge the explicit nature of “Gender Queer” and other works made available in K-12 schools still seek to invalidate parents’ demands by citing the First Amendment. If we as a nation truly believe in free expression, they say, why should we be OK with banning books, either through pressuring school boards or passing legislation?
All of a sudden, progressives are worried about “censorship” on this one issue.
The clearest example of this bizarre angle is the so-called National Coalition Against Censorship, an activism network dedicated to protecting “the right to free expression, including the right to access ideas, information, art and science,” its website explains. “We uphold the right to free expression no matter how controversial or objectionable to many the expression may be.”
In keeping with its mission, the NCAC has advocated for some of the most controversial books to remain in schools across grade levels, whether they contain explicit material or radical messaging.
The NCAC is so “pro-freedom” in this area that it even opposes obscenity laws. The group began in 1973 when its liberal founders disagreed with the Supreme Court’s Miller v. California decision restricting pornography under the First Amendment. Today, it defends the distribution of what could be considered obscene material to minors as part of its “Kids’ Right to Read Project.”
Despite this seeming absolutism, the NCAC doesn’t voice any “free expression” concerns about Big Tech censorship, arguably the most substantial threat to free speech rights in the country. The organization contends that social media companies are “private actors” that are “allowed to choose what does and what doesn’t go on their platforms.”
Plenty of left-wing politicians operate on a similar framework, including Lauren Book, a Democratic state senator in Florida. In March, as Republicans pushed a curriculum transparency bill (House Bill 1467) granting more parental oversight of library and classroom material, she expressed her opposition.
“In the age of the internet, where endless information is quite literally one keystroke, one click away,” she said to her colleagues as the bill was debated, “do we really want to join the likes of dictators across the world and allow the banning and possibly burning of books?”
This was less than a year after Book voted against a now-passed bill (Senate Bill 7072) intended to protect social media users from political censorship. Nevertheless, she continued to lecture about the suppression of “free thought” after the curriculum bill passed, comparing Florida under conservative leadership to “places like Russia and China.” Notably, almost every Democrat in the Florida Legislature imitated her vote pattern on both HB 1467 and SB 7072.
The pattern is repeated in the media sphere. Outlets like CNN romanticize authors who resist the banning of their “inclusive” books while describing the arbitrary silencing of a seated elected official on Twitter as “the right call.”
Mainstream leftists clearly aren’t concerned with defending free thought. Otherwise, they would object to adults being treated like children by paternalistic entities that scold them for “misinformation.” Instead, they have it backwards, treating children like autonomous adults who deserve freedom from their parents.
These and other disingenuous arguments fail to address the basic conservative position, which is that public schools should conform to the values of the respective communities that sustain them and should be held accountable to them. Parental authority extends within their walls, the right argues, including in libraries.
Likewise, what parent doesn’t have the right to “censor” that which they consider harmful to their children? That aspect of parenting is a fact of life.
But like every other element of traditional society, Democratic leaders seek to label it as evil and oppressive, using as much loaded language as possible, and then fight it tooth and nail. We’ll see how that works out for them at the polls.
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