Putting Librarians In Prison... A GOP Thing
If there is one state I would never want to live in, it would probably be North Dakota. What a cesspool of backwardness and ignorance! It voted for heavily for Trump than any Confederate state— 65.1%. Only Wyoming (69.9%), West Virginia (68.6%) and Oklahoma (65.4%) were stupider in their vote. 68% of Americans are fully vaccinated (34% with a booster). Only 57% of North Dakotans are (27% with a booster). Four of their counties are less than 25% vaccinated:
Slope Co.- 11%
Billings Co.- 22%
McKenzie Co.- 23%
Grant Co.- 24%
I think Slope is the least vaccinated county in America. It was also the Trumpiest county in North Dakota. Only 44 people voted for Biden (just 10.3% of the vote). All statewide offices are held by Republicans are the legislature is a real nightmare fro anyone who cares about America. The state Senate has 43 Republicans and 4 Democrats. The state House has 11 Democrats— and 83 Republicans. And now the legislature wants to ban “dirty books,” i.e., ‘50s style censorship.
Google tipped off the North Dakota Bureau of Criminal Investigation that a Ramsey County deputy sheriff, Michael Hull, had uploaded child pornography (249 pictures). I don’t know if he’s a Republican but a sheriff’s deputy in Ramsey County, which voted 66.6% for Trump? What do you think? Does he look like a MAGA guy?
This is from the America Sociological Association: “Recent studies have found that state-level religious and political conservatism is positively associated with various aggregate indicators of interest in pornography… [E]vangelicals who live in more politically conservative states report the highest rates of pornography consumption. These findings thus provide more nuanced support for previous research linking religious and political conservatism with greater pornography consumption.”
Back in 2019, Jane Coaston reported that conservatives were ready to launch a new national war on pornography. It’s been nearly 50 years since the Nixon administration’s ‘War on Porn’ and more than two decades since the signing of the Communications Decency Act, the first major federal effort to regulate online pornography. But pornography continues to be a target of Republicans at the state level; in addition, the 2016 Republican Party platform stated that ‘pornography, with its harmful effects, especially on children, has become a public health crisis that is destroying the lives of millions.’ This fall, Republican members of Congress asked the Department of Justice to ‘declare prosecution of obscene pornography a criminal justice priority.’ Conservative commentators also argue that government power can— and should— put a stop to pornography for the benefit of the ‘common good.’ By doing so, social conservatives argue that they can alter American culture itself.”
Libertarians don’t go for this kind of thing at all. “They argue,” wrote Coaston, “that efforts to ban or otherwise tighten regulations on pornography is the kind of overreach they have long stood against. As Reason Magazine editor-in-chief Katherine Mangu-Ward told me, ‘What you’re seeing now is this rise of a much more authoritarian and state-oriented variant of conservatism and it just says, You know what? Actually, never mind. Let’s take away the bad choices. Let’s make some bad choices illegal. This has long been a characteristic of the American left.’ The fight over pornography [whatever that is] is emblematic of a larger fissure within movement conservatism, one centered on crucial questions over how the powers of the state should be used or what the point of conservatism even is. Should conservatism focus on advancing individual freedoms— even the freedom to make bad decisions— or on advancing the ‘common good’ and family values?”
And that brings us back to North Dakota and its reactionary legislature which is talking about imprisoning librarians. The Associated Press reported that “Books containing ‘sexually explicit’ content— including depictions of sexual or gender identity— would be banned from North Dakota public libraries under legislation that state lawmakers began considering Tuesday. The GOP-dominated state House Judiciary Committee heard arguments but did not take a vote on the measure, which applies to visual depictions of ‘sexually explicit’ content and proposes up to 30 days imprisonment for librarians who refuse to remove the offending books. The proposal comes amid a national wave of Republican-backed laws to ban books that feature LGBTQ subject matter— though usually those bills have been limited to school libraries, not public ones.”
Supporters of the bill said it would preserve children’s innocence and reduce their exposure to pornography.
But critics said the measure is “steeped in discrimination” and would allow government censorship of material that is not actually obscene.
House Majority Leader Mike Lefor, of Dickinson, [pictured on the right and very, very, very likely a perverted child molester] introduced the bill and said public libraries currently contain books that have “disturbing and disgusting” content, including ones that describe virginity as a silly label and assert that gender is fluid.
Lefor argued that a child’s exposure to such content has been associated with addiction, poor self esteem, devalued intimacy, increasing divorce rates, unprotected sex among young people and poor well-being— though did he did not offer any evidence to support such claims.
Stark County resident Autumn Richard also spoke in favor of the bill, giving examples of explicit content in the graphic novel Let’s Talk About It: The Teen’s Guide to Sex, Relationships, and Being a Human and the kids’ comic book Sex Is a Funny Word— both available in public libraries.
Richard argued the books might have beneficial knowledge about contraceptives, body image and abusive relationships, but many sections provide information that she said was harmful for minors.
Though supporters of North Dakota’s bill repeatedly called the sexual content “obscene,” opponents said the material in question is not actually considered legally obscene.
“Nearly 50 years ago, the (U.S.) Supreme Court set the high constitutional bar that defines obscenity,” said Cody Schuler, an advocacy manager at the American Civil Liberties Union of North Dakota, who testified against the bill.
Obscenity is a narrow, well-defined category of unprotected speech that excludes any work with serious literary, artistic, political or scientific value, Schuler said. Few, if any, books have been deemed obscene, and the standard for restraining a library’s ability to distribute a book are even more stringent, Schuler added.
The definition of pornography is also subjective, opponents of the bill said.
Library Director Christine Kujawa at Bismarck Veterans Memorial Public Library said the library has a book with two little hamsters on the cover. At the end of the book, the hamsters get married, and they are both male.
“It’s a cute book,” Kujawa said— but it would be considered pornography under the bill because the book includes gender identity.
Facing criminal charges for keeping books on shelves is “something I never thought I would have to consider during my career as a librarian,” Kujawa added.
In addition to banning depictions of “sexual identity” and “gender identity,” the measure specifies 10 other things that library books cannot visually depict, including “sexual intercourse,” “sexual preference” and “sexual perversion,”— though it does not define any of those terms. The proposal does not apply to books that have “serious artistic significance” or “materials used in science courses,” among other exceptions.
The bill would allow prosecutors to charge any person who displays these materials at places that children visit with a class B misdemeanor. The maximum penalty is 30 days of imprisonment and a $1,500 fine.
The wave of attempted book banning and restrictions continues to intensify across the country, the American Library Association reported in September. Numbers for 2022 approached the previous year’s totals, which were the highest in decades. Bills to restrict mature content in school libraries became laws last year in Tennessee, Utah, Missouri, Florida and Oklahoma.
The most targeted books have included Maia Kobabe’s graphic memoir about sexual identity, Gender Queer, and Jonathan Evison’s Lawn Boy, a coming-of-age novel narrated by a young gay man, according to an April report.
Books that helped me figure out I was gay... but that would absolutely be banned in North Dakota:
Thief’s Journal, Querelle of Brest and Our Lady of The Flowers by Jean Genet
City of Night by and Numbers by John Rechy
Giovanni’s Room and Another Country by James Baldwin
Last Exit to Brooklyn by Hubert Selby
The City And The Pillar by Gore Vidal (which I found at my grandparents house)
Naked Lunch by William Burroughs (also from my grandparents’ collection)
A Boy’s Own Story by Edmund White
Death in Venice by Thomas Mann, which was assigned reading in high school
The Persian Boy by Mary Renault
I think I also found Another Country at my grandparents' home. I never thought finding these book there before. As far as I can remember, my parents didn't have any books in the homes I grew up in-- pornographic or otherwise. My grandparents had tons of books. There was a room with nothing but books. That's where I used to hang out with my grandfather while my grandmother was cooking dinner. I loved going to visit them, for my grandmother's cooking and my grandfather's conversation. Whenever I "ran away" from home, that's always where I went.
No Story Hour with Rep. Kitara Ravache (R-NY) allowed in the Bismarck Public Library on N. 5th Street? You guys are no fun at all!