‘Read the book before you try and ban it’

In reply to Elizabeth Ivie Szalai’s opinion on book bans/removal of books from our public school libraries, I am opposed because I believe it violates our constitutional rights and limits students exposure to great literature. However, I wouldn’t object if she challenged a book based on a legitimate concern involving her own children, she followed the district’s protocol for challenging school library materials, and she actually read the material.

However, that is not what happened here. I filed a challenge with the school district because my investigation showed Szalai’s effort to remove almost 100 books from our schools’ libraries was coordinated with far-right groups; she even published she was the “point of contact” in a statewide effort to remove school library books. Subsequently, these group’s members bombarded the district with emails threatening criminal prosecution of officials and employees they accused of distributing pornography.

The public record establishes Szalai is involved with at least two groups associated with this effort. One, the Beaufort chapter of SCGOP; another, “Moms for Liberty,” a Florida organization notorious for promoting book bans. In fact, Szalai admitted using “booklooks.org,” a Moms for Liberty proxy, as her resource. Szalai later claimed to be unaware of this connection, saying:

And as to the website www.booklooks.org that I used for guidance, I did not know it was linked to Moms for Liberty. I simply agreed with the ratings of the website.

That’s ironic, given Szalai claimed she spent hours and hours on “research,” yet seemingly remained ignorant these entities were intertwined. It’s also curious her “research” didn’t involve her actually reading any of the books. According to her Facebook page, she replied as follows when advised she should “read the book, before you try to ban it.”:

“I’ve read all of the excerpts and that alone is enough to tell me it’s not appropriate.”

To be clear, this is not about spontaneous parental concern. Book banning is driven by social media, conservative websites, and well funded, right-wing political organizations that direct followers to target specific books, and they provide scripts for their activists. That’s why their disciples are clueless about the content of the very books they seek to ban because they don’t read them.

As a reminder, those who accused our school district of being “porn peddlers” for not protecting “the children” from award-winning books carefully written for young people, are the very ones asserting these same “children” can handle guns and have babies.

In 1964, the esteemed Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart famously stated, when asked to describe his test for obscenity: “I know it when I see it.”

But rather than rely on the wisdom of a Potter Stewart, we’re expected to take direction from reading-averse bullies? I think not.

– Mare Deckard, Port Royal

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