Discover more from The Common Man
The Case for Burning Books
(Mostly just the evil ones.)
For some reason, I own a bookmark that says, “All My Favorite People Are Fictional.” I don’t know where I got it, or when, or why. I use it all the time, though, because it’s hilarious.
You know exactly the kind of person would buy a thing like that. They’re mostly women in their early teens to mid-thirties. Being “a reader” is all or most of their personality. (Other pillars may include cats, witchcraft, swearing, and wacky socks.) But here’s the crucial thing: they only read trash.
You’ll never find a bookmark like that tucked into a The Canterbury Tales or Fathers and Sons. No: such things make their home in Harry Potter, or Fifty Shades of Gray, or something by Jodi Picoult. Once in a while, it might be seen in a copy Pride and Prejudice—but only because its owner is obsessed with Colin Firth’s Mr. Darcy. (These people are the reason why my copy of Persuasion has a corset on the cover.)
The more one identifies as a “reader,” the worse one’s taste in books. This is a law of nature, like gravity. Also like gravity, it’s perfectly obvious and yet completely inexplicable.
Here’s another such law: the more one fetishizes books, the fewer one has read.
Take the current debate over “banning books.” For anyone who live under a rock (God bless you), progressive teachers and librararians are quietly introducing new books into schools—ones that contain graphic sexual content, lewd images, and/or radical gender ideology. Many parents have demanded these books be removed; a handful of school districts have complied. Hence, “banned books.”
Of course, the books aren’t actually banned. You won’t go to jail for owning a copy. But it sounds cool. So, our progressive friends just fudge the facts a little.
In 2021, two Virginia Republicans called for these books to be burned. Of course, the media went nuts. Vanity Fair announced that “conservatives are just openly endorsing book burning now.” References to Nazi Germany and Fahrenheit 451 abounded.
But why do we assume that the very act of burning a book is evil? Again, I think that’s because we read so few of them. Strange and unfamiliar things often carry a certain mystique.
I read a fair number of books—and, afterwards, I burn some of them. Just last month, I threw away one called English History: Strange But True. Why? Because it was bad. Mostly it was about people getting diarrhea from eating too many eels. I didn’t want to keep it, and I couldn’t give it to Goodwill because I’d dropped it in a bowl of spagettii. So, I chucked it in the recycling. But if I’d thought to, I would have used it for kindling, and gladly.
See? Book burning is easy, cost-effective, and fun for the whole family.
Now, a progressive might claim that I’m deliberately missing the point. I know very well that it’s not about the book as such. It’s about the symbolism. Nazi book-burnings were really an attack on the ideas contained within those books.
That’s all true. But there’s nothing wrong with burning a book because you hate the ideas it contains, either. The problem with the Nazis is that they hated the wrong things.
Put it this way. I recently made friends with a couple who, about two years ago, were received into the Catholic Church. Before they found Christ, they’d been deeply involved in the far-right. Then, last spring, they decided to burn their old racialist tomes. Would anyone at Vanity Fair jump into the bonfire to save a copy of Mein Kampf or Revolt Against the Modern World? Of course not.
Nobody really believes that it’s intrinsically immoral to burn books. The question is, rather, which books deserve to be burned—or, at the very least, which books are acceptable to burn.
There’s no reason to say otherwise… except a desire to play play the victim—to pretend you’re some brave, compassionate, free-spirited intellectual staring down a new generation of knuckle-dragging jackboots. Which, of course, exactly what the Left are doing.
The late Charles Krauthammer one said that, “To understand the workings of American politics, you have to understand this fundamental law: Conservatives think liberals are stupid. Liberals think conservatives are evil.”
Of course, I would never call our progressive friends stupid. Matthew 5:22 and all that. But I do try to assume that progressives are acting in good faith. I try to engage substantively with their arguments. (Yes, I like patting myself on the back, too.) Just call me Mr. Irenic.
However, this is one issue on which progressives are definitely not acting in good faith. Every time they open their mouths about this these “bannings,” they let loose a torrent of lies. And it’s not just their misuse of the word ban, or their ridiculous moral panic about book burning.
Earlier this year, NPR ran an essay on the controversy surrounding a graphic novel called Gender Queer. The essay was written by the book’s author, Maia Kobabe. It’s about how much the trans youth love the book, and how evil conservatives are for trying to “ban” it. (Yes, she uses the B-word). What’s interesting is that Ms. Kobabe forgot to mention that his book contains full-color drawnings of children having sex. And that, as you might intuit, is the reason why Gender Queer is so controversial in the first place.
Or take another example: Jamelle Bouie’s latest column for The New York Times. It’s about these “banned” books. Republicans claim that they simply wish to give parents more control over what their children read in school. But according to Mr. Boulie, that’s just a smokescreen:
The reality of the “parents’ rights” movement is that it is meant to empower a conservative and reactionary minority of parents to dictate education and curriculums to the rest of the community. It is, in essence, an institutionalization of the heckler’s veto, in which a single parent—or any individual, really—can remove hundreds of books or shut down lessons on the basis of the political discomfort they feel. “Parents’ rights,” in other words, is when some parents have the right to dominate all the others.
This is a bad argument. According to Rasmussen, sixty-nine percent of voters believe that sexually explicit books should be kept out of public schools. For better or worse, officials who “ban” these books are executing the will of the voters. It’s actually a progressive and radical minority of bureaucrats who are dictating education and curriculums to the rest of the community.
Now, is Mr. Bouie is deliberately misleading his readers? Not necessarily. He might simply have assumed that most parents agree with him and didn’t bother to fact-check himself. That’s pretty embarassing, but it’s not a crime.
Let’s assume Mr. Bouie isn’t lying, then. If someone showed him the Rasmussen poll, do you think he’d reverse his position? Would he suddenly become an advocate for “banning” Gender Queer?
Maybe. Yet, somehow, I doubt it. Rather, I think he’d defend the exact same policy using the exact opposite argument. He would complain about how the Culture War has infected education. “The value of literature cannot be subject to the popular vote!” he would cry. “Decisions about the curriuculum should be made by professionals, not partisan mobs! Hitler was elected, too, you know!” (One way or the other, we’ll always be Nazis.)
Mr. Bouie thinks public schools should have kiddie porn in their libraries. That’s his objective, and he’ll use any argument he can to make it happen. If the public is with him, he’ll be a democrat. If the public is against him, he’ll be an elitist. In other words, he doesn’t actually care what parents think. He’s only pretending to care so that you’ll agree with him. And that’s just another kind of lying.
Honestly, I enjoy nothing more than being “nonpartisan.” But in this debate, at least, one side has a monopoly on truth—and it’s not the Left.
Frankly, supporters of the “ban” have no reason to lie, because their demands are quite modest: they just don’t want their children reading these new books that have been popping up in the school library. They’re certainly not demanding that Gender Queer be outlawed, or that liberal parents go to jail for letting their children read it. They’re not trying to fundamentally transform American society.
Opponents of the “bans” most definitely are, though. And the way they’re realizing their vision is nearly as frightening as the vision itself.
Think about it. Trans rights weren’t a mainstream liberal talking-point until 2016 or so. Nobody was really talking about the “T” in LGBT. Then, suddenly, progressive elites decided that we should talk about nothing else. Now they’re reordering the whole education system towards inculcating gender thoery into America’s children. Kindergardeners must be taught about gender fluidity. First-graders must be fluent in neopronouns. By age 12, they should be looking at pictures of adolescent boys wearing dresses and performing sex acts on other adolescent boys.
From now on, every American must spend at least twelve of their first eighteen years saturated in this filth. There can be no dissent. You may not opt out. Your child must look at the gender-bending kiddie porn. And if you don’t like it, you’re a transphobe. You’re a Nazi. You hate democracy. You want children to kill themselves.
I won’t lie to you, dear reader. I am fully in favor of burning these evil books. And nothing makes me want to burn them more than the cocoon of lies that their defenders weave around them. Progressives are advancing a very evil end by very evil means. There’s nothing for it but the flames.