Friday, October 1, 2010


Up to this point, we've looked at challenges to and banning of books that are of undisputed value to many readers.

The absence of value, or negative value of other books seems clearer. Or is it? We're not talking tolerance here, but questioning whether our ability to allow for freedom of expression extends to writers whose ideas and actions are unambiguously loathsome.

In this Christian Science Monitor article, the writer asks whether our ability to tolerate offensive ideas and individuals extends to Hitler's Mein Kampf or Osama bin Laden's Messages to the World. They're available on Amazon. Should they be?

Less glaring but nonetheless troubling (for many) is The Global Bell Curve by psychologist Richard Lynn, in which the author argues that intelligence is racially inherited, and places East Asians at the top and sub-Saharan Africans at the bottom of a global IQ spectrum.

Many librarians argue that banning anything, or even placing filters on the Internet in public library, where many children are present, constitutes a "slippery slope" from which freedom of expression can never recover. Others (many fewer) regard that kind of all-or-nothing approach as a willfully naive failure to exercise critical thinking, especially in light of just the nature of much of the material streaming across the Internet, and the burgeoning popularity of books like Mein Kampf among white-supremacist and neo-Nazi groups in this country.

There are no easy answers.

No comments: