Banish Alan Moore, Banish All The World!

James Johnson of the Inquisitor tells us that Greenville Public Library Considers Censorship of Alan Moore’s ‘Neonomicon’. and gives us some basic facts to work with. The shape of the article begins as  library trustees vs anti-censorship advocacy group, then almost instantly becomes one of pissed off parent vs. library trustees.

Then there’s this paragraph:

A patron objected to the book after their teenage daughter checked it out of the library’s adult section. The teenage girl however was given an adult library card which ultimately allowed her to check out adult themed books.

Some pertinent facts that readers of Johnson’s article may not be aware of include these: most (but not all) public libraries have children’s sections. Most (but not all) of the libraries with such sections sharply limit borrowing privileges for children. Teens generally (but not always) are given adult cards which lets them borrow from all sections. There may be public libraries with a third class of card for teens that would limit them to only borrowing from the Children’s or YA sections, but I haven’t encountered any with that level of specialization. At any rate, the Greenville Public Library apparently does not have that three-tiered access protocol.

It doesn’t help matters that the writer chose the phrase adult to describe the material in question. In the literary parlance of modern day America, adult often (but not always) means pornography. In the world of comic publishing, however, things like murder, sex, drugs, violence, and so on is often called Mature, and gets a little icon with a black and while M in the lower right hand corner of the book cover. It’s a general purpose rating system, designed to help parents know what their kids are reading, and that’s generally a good thing.

A book by Alan Moore is likely to cover all those things. The Watchmen, for example, begins with a brutal murder. The sex is a significant part of the story but the sex scenes are almost incidental. The violence permeates every page in that book, but it’s not grisly, gruesome, or gross. It doesn’t need to be. Alan Moore knows how to tell a story without being grotesque. Not all authors choose to take that route, however. Hence the rating system.

In the case of the Greenville public library sex seems to be the problem. So far the solution is a bit of backbone on behalf of the trustees:

In a statement regarding the possible removal of the book a letter sent to the Library Board of Trustees reads:

“Removing the book because of sexual content not only fails to consider the indisputable value of the book as a whole, but also ignores the library’s obligation to serve all readers, without regards to individual tastes and sensibilities.

And, the writer notes, “The groups opposing the challenge warn that the books removal could lead to First Amendment implications.” Well, of course. Any challenge to a published work involves First Amendment implications. That’s the nature of the beast.
Why are the teen’s parents not simply insisting that she have her adult borrowing privileges revoked and perhaps her child’s borrowing status reinstated? It’d be easier than trying to threaten the comic book publisher or the library board of trustees. And there’s certain logic behind that possibility, which is to say that if one’s teen-aged daughter is too immature to handle knowledge of sexual situations, then she is essentially a child, and therefore only entitled to a child’s borrowing privileges. But her parents don’t seem to have considered that option, or, if they have, have dismissed it.
The reason is simple: that’s not what this challenge is about. It’s not about one parent’s concern for one child’s access to topics that parent finds questionable. It is about one parent who wishes to dictate to every other parent and by definition every other child in Greenville, South Carolina what can be read.
It is about censorship. More broadly (read: “in the non-literary sense”), it’s known as banishment, which means “to send away,” or “to rid oneself of.” It’s a way of avoiding unpleasantness . . . the uncomfortable but necessary need of explaining the facts of life to one’s kids, in this case. Or, more generally, the unpleasantness of realizing that there are points of view other than your own, that the world is vaster than one’s imagination can comfortably grasp, and that we really are not in control of very much of it at any one time. It’s about making life neat and clean and antiseptic, so that one can cruise through it without making choices and dealing with the consequences. What this parent wants is a life free of parenting.
Having raised two kids, I can only say: tough shit.
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