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Harmful books?

me
Again, thanks to rms10 :

"Ten Most Harmful Books of the 19th and 20th Centuries" (according to conservatives)

Well, gee, Kinsey is obviously harmful for studying behavior nobody else wanted to study, thus increasing our understanding of ourselves. Can't imagine why he ever would have done a crazy thing like that.

On Dewey's Democracy and Education, they didn't like because it "encouraged the teaching of thinking 'skills'". Man, the worst they can say about it actually makes it sound *good* to me!

And we can't forget that evil Friedan woman because she "disparaged traditional stay-at-home motherhood". This never would've been a problem if we hadn't given them the right to vote.

And let's not gloss over their Honorable Mentions such as The Population Bomb (the problem goes away if we just refuse to acknowledge it, right?), and On the Origin of Species, which I shouldn't even have to comment on.

But seriously, help me understand something here. The driving force behind conservative politics is supposedly small government, less regulation, because pure capitalism is the answer to everything, right? (Gross oversimplification, of course, but not an uncommon one.) So why is it they're not huge ALA supporters? Why aren't they fighting censorship, instead of making convenient lists of books they feel should be avoided? I really don't get this, and this extends into many other areas of conservative politics, but I'll limit this to the topic of books for now, anyway.

Comments

( 27 comments — Leave a comment )
eirias
Jun. 1st, 2005 04:08 pm (UTC)
I just want to say I found a copy of Sexual Behavior in the Human Male in perfect condition at a flea market for $9. Score!

I haven't read it yet. It's quite a thick tome.

tygerdsebat
Jun. 1st, 2005 04:50 pm (UTC)
If you ever happen to come across a copy of "The Young Man's Guide to Sex" I'd buy it off of you ;)
(Deleted comment)
trygve
Jun. 1st, 2005 04:13 pm (UTC)
Yeah, I think that's covered in their commentary on Democracy and Education (#5). Clearly you think too much for your own good ... or perhaps too much for their own good. =)
chilimuffin
Jun. 1st, 2005 04:18 pm (UTC)
less regulation as long as the existing regulation is the kind they want, not that liberal clinton-style hedonistic regulation. After all, religious right equality is better than liberal equality.
eldan
Jun. 1st, 2005 04:27 pm (UTC)
I think there's a difference between saying "this book is bad" and "let's ban this book", but that aside I feel like there's a huge gap between small-government conservatives and social conservatives. The latter are the ones who disturb me with the extent of their grip on power right now, while the former are a political grouping I sympathise with quite a lot.
trygve
Jun. 1st, 2005 04:39 pm (UTC)
Yes, there is of course a difference between "these books are harmful" and "these books should be banned", but it's a detail that's lost on too many people who look to lists like these. I mean, especially for people who's "thinking 'skills'" aren't the strongest, it's too easy to come to the conclusion of "if it's so bad, why don't we ban it?"
eldan
Jun. 1st, 2005 05:04 pm (UTC)
sadly, I think you're probably right.
rms10
Jun. 1st, 2005 05:48 pm (UTC)
Well, you know, you have to PROTECT THE CHILDREN from DANGEROUS IDEAS.

Gah.
trygve
Jun. 1st, 2005 05:52 pm (UTC)
Yeah, we'd never want to actually teach them how to identify dangerous ideas themselves ...
rms10
Jun. 1st, 2005 05:54 pm (UTC)
I think that's teaching thinking "skills", isn't' it?
thekat03
Jun. 1st, 2005 06:11 pm (UTC)
like the wizard of oz or rahl dahl's witches? those wicked witches are dangerous, ya know... might encourage our kids to be pagans *gasp!*
trygve
Jun. 1st, 2005 08:32 pm (UTC)
Mmmm, I should reread some Dahl books one of these days.
thekat03
Jun. 1st, 2005 08:35 pm (UTC)
me too, though right now i'd really like to reread flowers for algernon (on my wishlist, and one of the top 100 challenged books). that was required reading back in high school, and it was really enthralling and intelligent.
e_notimpl
Jun. 1st, 2005 06:17 pm (UTC)
Old conservatism is all about small government, new conservatism requires big government to foist religious fundamentalism on its constituents.

The only thing new conservatism kept from old conservatism was low taxes. Which they haven't yet realised is incompatible with the big government goal.

Old conservatism is now known as "libertarianism" (not to be confused with libertarian socialism).
evil_fizz
Jun. 1st, 2005 06:37 pm (UTC)
on the subject of small government "seven programs make up 75 percent of federal spending: Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, military pensions, civil service pensions, defense and interest on the debt" [if interest on the debt can properly be called a program]
trygve
Jun. 1st, 2005 08:35 pm (UTC)
Wow, excellent point.
evil_fizz
Jun. 1st, 2005 06:34 pm (UTC)
so Kinsey is responsible for legitimizing promuscuity and deviance, Keynes is responsible for the deficit, and Dewey created the "Clinton generation" (although I have no clue what that might be.) Nice to know we've established who's at fault here.

The fundamental problem with a list like this is that it is just a call to maintain the status quo, and that there is no value to be gained from challeging the dominant paradigm. Therefore, books that COULD (emphasis on COULD. I read The Communist Manifesto and remain a capitalist) lead you to conclude that communism might be good, sexuality should be open, or that there is no God are inherently harmful. The fact of the matter is that they're only harmful to a particular way of thinking which seems too baffled to respond. There are tons of flaws in the Communist Manifesto, the Kinsey Report, and the Feminine Mystique.** They exist to be criticized! If you're so persuaded that these books have changed the world for the ill, work on changing in back. Offer data and a logical argument and see where it gets you.

Also, if I were to make a list of harmful books, the Koran and the Bible would both be on it. Horrible things are perpetrated in the name of religion all the time (apologies for the hyperbole). These books aren't independently harmful. It's what's done in the name of such books that's harmful, be it inquisitions, stoning adulterers, or trying to implement communism.

okay, moralizing concluded.

**a small side note on the Feminine Mystique. Friedan only seems to catch flack about disparaging housewives, but she has some stunning (and not in a good way) things to say about homosexuality. it'd be nice for someone to read the whole damn book.
thekat03
Jun. 1st, 2005 07:09 pm (UTC)
but neither the koran nor the bible were written in the past two centuries, so they don't qualify for the most harmful books of the 19th and 20th centuries list d:
evil_fizz
Jun. 1st, 2005 07:18 pm (UTC)
well, the New International Version of the Bible came out in 1973, so we could count that. =) interestingly enough, in the past 20 years or so, there have been at least 4 or 5 new translations of the complete Bible, generally aimed at making it "more accessible". I would LOVE to see if there's any kind of statistical correlation between all the new versions of the Bible, the rates at which they sell, and professed religiosity among Americans.
cynic51
Jun. 1st, 2005 10:37 pm (UTC)
Of course - all of a sudden the bible is *too* acceptable, and look where we are now!
vja2
Jun. 1st, 2005 08:51 pm (UTC)
conservative book banning
Small government/laissez-faire capitalist conservatives are more opposed to regulation by federal (and often state governments) than they are by regulation by local communities.

So, when a national organization like the ALA says "bookbanning is bad! it's a violation of the 1st ammendment" they're likely to respond, "why do you care? stay out of my community."

The group of people I think you're thinking of want to live in their small communities, and regulate their own lives. If they feel that they (and their families) don't want to read a certain book, why should we argue?

Furthermore, since their community uses that library, shouldn't they have a say as to what goes in it?
trygve
Jun. 1st, 2005 08:55 pm (UTC)
Re: conservative book banning
Wow, that actually makes a lot of sense now. I still don't agree with it or think it's a good idea, but I now feel like I can at least see their viewpoint on the issue, which is more than I could say before.

You're good at that kind of stuff. =)
sherris17
Jun. 1st, 2005 09:55 pm (UTC)
Don't support Friedan unless you've read her. What I got from reading (parts of) her groundbreaking book for a high school paper was essentially: it's women't turn to become the in-charge "majority." Not equality, but female superiority since we'd been stuck with a male "majority" for so long.

And that is total bullshit. Luckily some of the more recent authors promoting feminism are more about the equality.
thekat03
Jun. 1st, 2005 10:16 pm (UTC)
i don't think this is a matter of supporting or not supporting, so much as it's a matter of what makes these books harmful. kinsey's research is far from perfect, but i still think it did a lot more good than harm, because it made people think and talk about something that people weren't used to thinking and talking about. a lot of the old fem-lit like the feminine mystique and second sex clash with modern feminism, but they were powerful because they broke ground and challenged people's minds and beliefs.
trygve
Jun. 1st, 2005 10:24 pm (UTC)
I'm not supporting her so much as expressing disagreement with their reasons for disapproving of her work. I actually have no idea what she actually tries to argue.
sherris17
Jun. 1st, 2005 11:01 pm (UTC)
Sorry. Yea, it would be wrong to ban them, I totally agree about that (if you couldn't guess).
bleakenigma
Jun. 2nd, 2005 02:58 pm (UTC)
This is why I am no longer a conservative. I have no more room in my life for hypocrisy.
( 27 comments — Leave a comment )

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