December 15, 2004

Protect Alabama. Bury Alice Walker.

There are several reasons I’m not a Republican, but the biggest one, the top of the list, is the fact that the Religious Right is a faction in good standing.

Although I’m an atheist/agnostic, I really don’t care that the Religious Right is religious. Nor do I care that the Religious Right is right (so to speak). What I just can’t abide is the reactionary authoritarian impulse that lurks at the heart of it.

From a Guardian story last week:
What should we do with US classics like Cat on a Hot Tin Roof or The Color Purple? "Dig a hole," Gerald Allen recommends, "and dump them in it."
Who is Gerald Allen? Some nut on the fringe that doesn’t deserve my attention? Don’t I wish.
Earlier this week, Allen got a call from Washington. He will be meeting with President Bush on Monday. I asked him if this was his first invitation to the White House. "Oh no," he laughs. "It's my fifth meeting with Mr Bush."

Bush is interested in Allen's opinions because Allen is an elected Republican representative in the Alabama state legislature. He is Bush's base. Last week, Bush's base introduced a bill that would ban the use of state funds to purchase any books or other materials that "promote homosexuality". Allen does not want taxpayers' money to support "positive depictions of homosexuality as an alternative lifestyle". That's why Tennessee Williams and Alice Walker have got to go.

I’ve tried to understand the opposition to gay marriage. I’ve listened to the arguments, at least the sane ones. And I’m convinced that opposition to gay marriage is not evidence of bigotry. For one thing, there are just too many people who oppose gay marriage but do support civil unions. Bigotry can’t explain the difference between my opinion and theirs – at least not in all (or even most?) cases.

But burying Alice Walker in a hole in the ground goes way beyond mere bigotry and slouches toward something far worse.

"Traditional family values are under attack," Allen informs me. They've been under attack "for the last 40 years". The enemy, this time, is not al-Qaida. The axis of evil is "Hollywood, the music industry". We have an obligation to "save society from moral destruction". We have to prevent liberal libarians and trendy teachers from "re-engineering society's fabric in the minds of our children". We have to "protect Alabamians".
I don’t know if Mr. Allen actually referred to Hollywood and the music industry as part of an “Axis of Evil” or if the writer inserted it for effect. This is the Guardian we’re talking about here, so I wouldn’t be surprised either way. But there’s more.
Would Allen's bill cut off state funding for Shakespeare? "Well," he begins, after a pause, "the current draft of the bill does not address how that is going to be handled. I expect details like that to be worked out at the committee stage. Literature like Shakespeare and Hammet [sic] could be left alone." Could be. Not "would be". In any case, he says, "you could tone it down"
I hardly even know what to say. This guy (who unsurprisingly can’t pronounce Hamlet correctly) isn’t even able to defend William Shakespeare. We rubes “could” end up being allowed to check out the bard's books if the committee feels like it. Then again, maybe not! Shakespeare might end up being declared a “liberal” or a “fag” who somehow threatens “the children.”

When conservatives rail against “nanny state” liberalism they get my attention. Just once I’d like to see prominent conservatives other than Andrew Sullivan call out the right-wing nanny-state jerks in their own party. Any takers? Or are only liberals and centrists going to keep an eye on this crowd?

Posted by Michael J. Totten at December 15, 2004 09:02 PM
Comments

I disagree. This is sort of like one of those Jerry Springer shows where he trots out a couple KKK people from a trailer park. The attention given to these people is way out of proportion to their impact on society (and the election).

Europeans eat this stuff up. Rather than look into how the dems got a half million overnight for the washington recount they're chasing a deranged old man to make Bush look silly.

I think only around half of the gay community is in favor of gay marriage. Also, the impact it will have on struggling minority communities is shrugged off by the elites. Speaking for myself, I'll see at least 3 Utah Jazz games this year, and in my own way I'll be supporting the WNBA (which is more or less lesbian erotica). In addition to that, I'm in favor of civil unions.

Posted by: Raymond at December 15, 2004 09:43 PM

Just ignore it, Michael -- he's a whacko politician from Alabama. And just because he's boasting to the Guardian of all places that he wants to burn books or bury them, doesn't means he has the balls to talk about it in front of the President. It's not like the President reads blogs much, so he may not even know about the scarier aspects of this guy. As he noted recently, people shut up about a lot of things in his presence. So they probably plotted election year strategy when they were together, which did not include, you can bet, makings lists of books that were safe to burn after the election and boasting about your ideas to smarmy British left wing publications that are already convinced Bushism represents the mob of barbarians at the gates shooting to get in.

Posted by: alcibiades at December 15, 2004 09:46 PM

It looks more and more like Alabama is doing its best to make rightwing batshit insanity a way of life.

Posted by: Michael Farris at December 15, 2004 09:50 PM

I'm not sure if I count as a conservative, I'm more of a libertarian, but I have no problem denouncing the drivel that dripped from Mr. Allen's lips onto the Guardian's pages. He's an idiot and an authoritarian asshole who might be very suprised by the (possibly violent) reaction of his own constituents if his doltish notions ever became law.

The really religious conservatives I know mostly want the government to leave them alone, and that's a very different thing.

The ironic part is people of Allen's kind have been around from the founding of our nation. They and their fellow-travellers used to run our country, but year after year from the founding of our republic they have lost power and influence.

Even with Bush in the White House, these retrograde reprobates will get exactly nowhere with their core concerns. The R's tolerate the idiocy of the reactionary right because the reactionary right delivers votes. That doesn't mean the R's will actually implement the demands of the reactionaries. After all, where are the reactionaries going to go? To the Greens?

The same logic applies to the D's. They tolerate the reactionary racialists, socialists, and redistributionists because those groups vote for D's. That doesn't mean Al Sharpton and Michael Moore are the face of Democratic governance.

This kind of story from the likes of the Guardian is of the same utility as a piece by WorldNetDaily decrying the Democrats' solicitude towards their own reactionaries. It's a lot of noise, and very little signal.

Posted by: Kieran Lyons at December 15, 2004 10:03 PM

Rule of thumb: if it makes you mad, it should make you suspicious -- of the source. The whole point of such articles is to make you indignant. So wait around for more information, or, if you are really curious, do some research and report back to us ;)

The Guardian, snort. Their image of America makes a comic book look sophisticated. I suspect their image of everything else is equally ridiculous.

Posted by: chuck at December 15, 2004 10:52 PM

Some Questions:
1. Is President Bush meeting with Gerald Allen to form a national drive to bury all the works of Alice Walker and Tennessee Williams?
2. Has President Bush or the GOP acted to follow Gerald Allen's preferences?
3. How much of a friend of President Bush is the reporting newspaper?

On the other hand, I feel exactly the same way you do about religious nutbars who worship environmentalism in the Democratic party. Tell me that the environmental left is not more violently intolerant than the religious right. Abortion clinics versus burned SUV dealerships, spiked trees, and animal lab bombings. When we make excuses for violent lunatics, everybody loses.

Posted by: Patrick Lasswell at December 15, 2004 11:05 PM

Chuck: Their image of America makes a comic book look sophisticated.

Kinda like Gerald Allen's view of Shakespeare and gays.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at December 15, 2004 11:07 PM

Patrick Lasswell: When we make excuses for violent lunatics, everybody loses.

That's exactly what I don't do here on this blog.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at December 15, 2004 11:26 PM

I agree, this guy is Uncool.

However - did you notice the Guardian's lead-in graf? "President Bush wants to ban drama with gay characters ..."

Guilt by association never tasted so good!

So, yes, the conservative evangelical I know the best (aka "my better half") is majorly creeped out by this twerp. I should hope that even in Alabama this guy is fringe. Think of him as the Cynthia McKinney of the right ...

Posted by: Knemon at December 15, 2004 11:35 PM

Gerald Allen...

In a nutshell, reason 6,432,819 that Rudolph Giuliani will never capture the Republican nomination. Sad but true.

Posted by: Grant McEntire at December 16, 2004 12:57 AM

Michael, I'd denounce the jerks (I do, in fact) but I'm not a Republican, for the same reasons you aren't I imagine. And this stuff isn't a joke or limited to one nut -- remember, Alabama is not just home to Judge Moore, the infamous "Ten Commandments" judge, but the home of the vibrator ban that was upheld all the way up! These jerks are getting elected by someone, and there's not a lot of public outcry, so it's not just one lunatic -- this man has a base.

Maybe Pres. Bush doesn't want to ban Shakespeare, but he is the president whose Secret Service thugs oust t-shirt-wearing teachers from rallies and who makes people sign loyalty pledges before they can see him in person. And if he meets with and supports this guy and doesn't denounce this kind of crap, then he gets tarred with the same brush and rightly so. We all whined about John Kerry refusing to denounce the Bush/Hitler MoveOn ad...and what's good for the goose...

Posted by: Jennifer at December 16, 2004 01:20 AM

Michael, Andrew Sullivan isn't a Republican but I am, and I'll continue denouncing these kinds of fascist rantings as long as I draw breath.

However, I tend to agree with the first few commenters that this is, well, a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury and signifying nothing.

The Guardian can be counted on to play up the stereotype of ignorant, redneck Americans, most particularly when those rednecks can be linked to Bush. Bush will meet with Gerald Allen? Bush meets with a lot of people. (He met with Omar and Mohammed Fadhil just last week ... did the Guardian cover that?) The assertion that Allen represents Bush's "base" is the G's own, unsubstantiated opinion. Allen represents a portion of Bush's constituency; this may or may not be Bush's "base", and I rather think it is not.

I'll be interested to see if the Log Cabin site picks this up. Haven't decided yet if I'm going to post a response on my own blog, but I do appreciate your bringing it up. (BTW, I'm a HUGE Alice Walker fan.)

Posted by: Asher Abrams - Dreams Into Lightning at December 16, 2004 01:38 AM

Anyway, I'm kinda curious to see if Gerald Allen will persuade the President to ban this.

Posted by: Asher Abrams - Dreams Into Lightning at December 16, 2004 01:43 AM

Update.

I think this addresses many of the issues that were raised here.

Posted by: Asher Abrams - Dreams Into Lightning at December 16, 2004 01:57 AM

Hey, Michael:

Maybe he was referring to Dashiell Hammett, instead of "unsurprisingly" not being able to "pronounce Hamlet correctly" . . . ?

Posted by: anson at December 16, 2004 02:42 AM

“Bush will meet with Gerald Allen? Bush meets with a lot of people. (He met with Omar and Mohammed Fadhil just last week ... did the Guardian cover that?) The assertion that Allen represents Bush's "base" is the G's own, unsubstantiated opinion. Allen represents a portion of Bush's constituency; this may or may not be Bush's "base", and I rather think it is not.”

I could not say it any better. This dude represents the fringe of the Republican Party. I doubt very much if President Bush encourages this sort of behavior. John Kerry did far worse. His folks literally did try to ban the Swift Boat boat. Gerald Allen is all talk and little action---Kerry is an actual book burner. Why isn't Michael Totten criticizing Andrew Sullivan, Mickey Kaus, Daniel Drezner and others who supported the Massachusetts senator? Their disgraceful silence while John Kerry violated the First Amendment is morally disgusting. Anyone voting for Kerry tactily gave their approval to book burning.

“That doesn't mean Al Sharpton and Michael Moore are the face of Democratic governance.”

They may not be the face of Democratic governance, but they truly do represent the wing of the party which decides who will be its presidential nominee. It is very fair to especially describe Michael Moore as the mainstream face of the national Democrat Party's headquarters.

Posted by: David Thomson at December 16, 2004 02:57 AM

Book burning? Violating the First Amendment?

It's hard to tell whether you're joking or actually that effing insane. You wanna give this chap a troll warning anytime soon, Michael?

Posted by: Grant McEntire at December 16, 2004 03:08 AM

I found the following article on the Internet:

“The stations which chose to run these ads about Kerry have received threats of lawsuits from lawyers hired by the Democratic Party. Why? What happened to freedom of speech? What happened to those who served earning their right to speak out?”

http://www.renewamerica.us/columns/hagin/040828

The evidence is beyond dispute. John Kerry is a book burner---and people like Andrew Sullivan and Daniel Drezner should hold their head down in utter shame.

Posted by: David Thomson at December 16, 2004 03:38 AM

It's called a libel suit.

See, should you run for, say, school board and your local newpaper writes:

"David Thompson is a crazed right-wing nutcase with a drug problem, his favorite book is Mein Kampf and rumour has it that he likes to eat small children for breakfast."

you could sue them for libel too, without in any way violating the spirit of the 1st amendment.

Posted by: novakant at December 16, 2004 04:16 AM

“you could sue them for libel too, without in any way violating the spirit of the 1st amendment.”

Nonsense. Kerry’s people used the phony libel excuse as a means to intimidate book publishers and media outlets. The mere threat of a lawsuit can frighten the hell out of a small radio station that barely has enough money too keep its doors open. The use of frivolous lawsuits by the wealthy against the less powerful is effectively the same as censorship.

It is intellectual dishonest to describe John Kerry as anything than a book burner. If we were to compel publishers to nitpick every book for any possible errors---book publishing would come to a virtual halt. No, I have every moral and logical right to severely take Andrew Sullivan and his ilk to task. They cooperated fully with John Kerry’s shenanigans. This scandal was downplayed, if not even ignored, by the MSM. But we should not forget how Sullivan and the other Kerry supporters disgraced themselves by their silence.

Posted by: David Thomson at December 16, 2004 04:36 AM

"It is intellectual dishonest to describe John Kerry as anything than a book burner."

So the guy threatens a lawsuit and he's therefore a book burner.

Is posting dumb comments like this your anger management strategy? If so, I guess it's better than taking your shotgun out of your pickup and hunting down your neighbors in the trailer park. But really, do you honestly expect anyone to take you seriously?

Posted by: VinoVeritas at December 16, 2004 04:54 AM

“So the guy threatens a lawsuit and he's therefore a book burner.”

Yup, when a wealthy group threatens the less powerful with a lawsuit in order to silence them---they have effectively become book burners.

Posted by: David Thomson at December 16, 2004 05:22 AM

The key difference between Kerry's threat of a libel lawsuit and Allen's threat to ban certain materials is this:

Kerry's only recourse in this situation is to a higher legal authority. He must, in other words, petition the government to hear his case and then prove his case before anything happens. Kerry couldn't achieve anything unless someone in authority decided that he was right. All citizens, being equal before the law, have this recourse, and Kerry in such a lawsuit would have the same legal standing as anyone else.

Allen, on the other hand, is a member of a legislature and as such can work to make his ban the law of the land. He has a say in the workings of the apparatus of the state, and can use the power of the state to ban books and control the behavior of people.

Posted by: Blogtheist at December 16, 2004 05:30 AM

Why did an intelligent, thoughtful post by Michael turn into this sort of troll fest? Ah well such is life...

Posted by: Matt at December 16, 2004 05:32 AM

I'm a Republican. I'm the proud possessor of a Nixon re-election campaign poster, so I'm not new at it, either. I'll volunteer my thoughts.

I don't agree with the guy. If you don't like something, don't watch it. But don't take it away from other people.

But if the people of Alabama go along with denying state funds to purchase books they find objectionable, I believe the people of Alabama have that right. It's their tax money, and denying state funds to purchase is not censorship.

Posted by: Ron at December 16, 2004 05:34 AM

Michael,

I think this fellow from Alamba falls into a category most moderate/economic conservatives I know (at least up here in Canada) consider the people we want to keep voting for us, but whom we really don't want to support category. We like their numbers and are generally okay with a few of their positions such as getting tough on crime but begin to feel decidedly uncomfortable when they start quoting scripture chapter and verse and slide into a moral interventionist stance. It tends to be about as offensive as the extremism on the other side of the ideological fence. Occasionally I can understand - if some religious parents want to complain about five year olds being indocrinated in kindergarden or grade 1 or 2 with a pro gay message perhaps they have a complaint to be made that educate shouldn't be political. On the other hand when you can't definatively come out and say Shakespeare . the Illiad (after all it contained gay characters) etc are obviously aimed at students at a point where they can think critically for themselves. Furthermore, their classical literature and sensorship of such is getting into the anti-intellectual impulses of the populist far right which are utterly distasteful and vaguely fascist.

But as a rule I think most conservatives shake their head, sigh and resolve to attempt to mitigate the damage the fringe can do while offer them the smallest olive branch possible to keep them voting...

Posted by: Chris at December 16, 2004 05:38 AM

OK.So this guy is an un-nuanced doofus.Or not,depending on how 'accurate'the Al-Guardian story may be.Why are you surprised ?
I don't read history or historical cycles as being the smooth progression from point 'A'to point 'B'.I see it as much more of a pendulum where first one group of idiots prooves that extremism is a very bad thing,thus giving credence to another group of idiots who then proceed to demonstrate that the opposite extremism is also a very bad thing.The technological context changes which masks the reality but the fundamentals don't.
Given enough time,freedom from all 'objective constraints'invariably leads to license ,thus engendering a cultural shift.I am not defending sentiments which appear to want to ban Shakespeare,so please don't start down that road,but IMHO,a society which is unwilling or unable to establish and/or maintain some level of normative 'cultural' values is doomed to fail.Conversely a society which insists on regulating every facet of 'cultural'life will merely non-progress into stagnancy and decay,not to mention mind-numbing 'outward'conformity.
The trick is to find the happy medium and maintain it(sort of like searching for the Holy Grail),but the current state of Western life is not it.'Rights'without responsibility can never lead to a good result,and since the sixties,that is seemingly the destination of choice.
Not Gonna Work ,so expect more of these conflicts generated not only by the 'extremists',but by those who just are very uncomfortable with the 'moral monsters'we seem to indulge if not actively encourage.

Posted by: dougf at December 16, 2004 05:42 AM

“Kerry's only recourse in this situation is to a higher legal authority. He must, in other words, petition the government to hear his case and then prove his case before anything happens. Kerry couldn't achieve anything unless someone in authority decided that he was right. All citizens, being equal before the law, have this recourse, and Kerry in such a lawsuit would have the same legal standing as anyone else.”

This is utterly ridiculous in the real world. Merely responding to a lawsuit can be devastating to a small media outlet. John Kerry’s people were the super wealthy who could easily afford the cost. The people they were threatening could literally be bankrupted. This is why so many cases are settled out of court. You can be innocent of the charges---but that won’t prevent you from being financially destroyed. Kerry's people were cynical manipulators of the law. They deserve to be condemned for their dispicable behavior.

Posted by: David Thomson at December 16, 2004 05:51 AM

Kerry's censorship efforts against the Swifties is worse than Allen's desire:
Allen does not want taxpayers' money to support "positive depictions of homosexuality as an alternative lifestyle"
Allen was elected by folks who do NOT want to be taxed in order for their tax dollars support positive gay images. They don't pro-gay morals "forced down their throats", and are especially angry when it's done with their own money.

Ending gov't funding is not the same as banning. For many years the pro-life folk have been homeschooling -- let the pro-gays start home schooling. Replace lowest common denominator gov't schools with private schools full of passionately opinionated teachers who want their students to learn.

All kids should be getting gov't vouchers of the same amount so they can ALL go to private schools of their own choice. Until then, the more restrictions on spending/wasting gov't tax dollars, the better. Bush is already spending far too much (though Kerry never suggested spending less, except on defense).

The big issue for a Tolerant Liberal society is to find the limits of tolerance for those who are intolerant. I love Tom Lehrer's line There are people who do not love their fellow man, and I hate those kind of people! (National Brotherhood Week). For many decades, Dems have controlled the gov't purse -- and spent/wasted tax money on their "culture of death" progressive ideas.

The Right, in a healthy pendulum swing back, is now beginning to get a taste for spending blue state money on red state values. The two main responses are: 1) no, keep spending the gov't cash on pro-promiscuity ideas, or 2) no, stop the system of spending gov't cash on one kind of idea or another, let folks support what they want. (Clearly the Lib response).

As long gov't cash is used, there will be a culture war clash over how it is used: pro-life or pro-abortion.
The pro-choice position is to get rid of gov't control over the system, but letting parents of the children spend the cash on the private school of their choice. Individual, parent choice.

The pro-gays don't like this because so many parents are anti-gay.

Posted by: Tom Grey - Liberty Dad at December 16, 2004 06:21 AM

I don't see how some of you can say to "just ignore it". While I am in my heart a committed christian, I have an equal lack of affection for both the reactionary religious right, and the radical secular left. These people are ideolgues and if left unchecked by eachother's oppostion they will drag public policy, along with us, into their dimentia.

Burying literary works isn't that far off from burning them. When ever we seek to limit the flow of ideas on the basis that we object to them, we then cross a very significant line in American Society. I for one will not only reject, but will seek to sabotage any attempt to put forth policies in this country that all to closely resemble some of those put forth in places like Tehran, and Pyongyang.

And briefly to touch on Gay Marriage, I personally have a difficult time limiting the rights of other decent American citizens. While I personnally find homosexual acts disgusting, I'm sure that I and many others here have engaged in sexual acts that won't meet the approval of Jerry Falwell, so those who live in glass houses... While preserving of the definition of marriage has its merits, why can't we give monogamous homosexual partners all the same rights of monogamous heterosexual partners, and give the religous right their word?

(sorry for the length, I have a lot to say and not many people so say it to :)

Posted by: Mike at December 16, 2004 06:40 AM

Maybe he meant Dashiell Hammett. After all, Shakespeare is an author, not a play.

I'm pretty much kidding, but I'm serious that I don't trust the Guardian to convey nuance accurately. I wouldn't read much into pronunciation by an Alabaman as reported by the Guardian.

I don't agree with this guy's ideas, but I agree with Tom Grey that spending taxpayer money is different from banning. Of course, the more that you liberals (insert smiley face icon) allow the government to take over and fund everything, the less of a distinction that becomes.

Posted by: Patterico at December 16, 2004 06:43 AM

Sorry, I hadn't seen that someone else had already made the Dashiell Hammett reference.

Posted by: Patterico at December 16, 2004 07:27 AM

MJT wrote: "What I just can’t abide is the reactionary authoritarian impulse that lurks at the heart of it."

Just read the piece, and aside from oh-no-not-this-crap-again revulsion at the paleo-thuggish viewpoint of Mr. Allen, what strikes me is that it was and is the authoritarian impulse that lurks at the heart of progressives, of the Secular Left, that made an ex-liberal of me.

There is an Eric Hofferian True Believer corps in both extremes that I find, how shall I say, offputting? Now that W is in the White House again and the Congress and most states are Red, it is indeed a very good question as to why we do not hear sane rightist voices condemning this kind of drivel. Up til Nov 3 it may, may, have been sorta OK to close ranks, but now there's no excuse. Except pandering of course...and this is politics, so...oh well, as Emily Litella used to say, "Never mind".

Posted by: EssEm at December 16, 2004 07:35 AM

Libertarians denounce this sort of thing all the time, and they are neither Liberals nor Centrists.

Now, as a Libertarian leaning sort, I would respectfully suggest that the kind of legislation proposed by Mr. Allen (banning of public funding of what he deems to be objectionable subjects in literature) is to be fully expected when you make something public by involving the government.

With the availability of inexpensively priced books at Amazon and the some-day-soon availability of books on that search engine that begins with G*, is it really worth it to get all upset if the State of Alabama bans the public funding of certain subjects and certain books? Just one more reason to skip that State on my tour of America as far as I'm concerned.

One source for you if you want to read anti-nanny state writing and opinion is:

www.reason.com/hitandrun

There is no shortage of anti-statist opinion over there.

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Posted by: too many steves at December 16, 2004 07:44 AM

Alabama is especially backwards. I'm about twenty miles from the border and have friends that work in the schools there. I hope that doesn't make me a bigot but it is a messed up state. I can't remember, it might have been Mississippi, but I'm pretty sure they cut funding to teach fractions in schools as well. Fractions.

Posted by: John Totten at December 16, 2004 07:45 AM

I take it that a private school whose curriculum consisted of "The Protocols of the Elders of Zion", "The Turner Diaries" and "The Bell Curve" would be just fine with our libertarian friends here, as long as no tax money is spent.

Posted by: novakant at December 16, 2004 07:49 AM

Michael, I walked away from (or perhaps was walked away from by) the Democrats over Gore--9/11 sealing the deal--and I've finally decided to register as a Republican for much the same reason you've chosen not to. The thing (in my view) is not to abandon the field to the Gerald Allens of the party, and to help safeguard against the Republican propensity to become the Stupid Party when not facing effective oppoisition.

The Democrats having kicked all the grownups to the curb, pretty much, cannot provide that at the present time. As an aside, that's also why I'm not trying to resurrect the Scoop Jackson wing of the Democratic Party instead of bolstering the Goldwater wing of the Republican. It's too big a job for me; in addition, I think Al Sharpton has done far more harm to the body politic than Gerald Allen could ever hope to manage, and I won't be a party to a party that welcomes him.

Posted by: Ken Hall at December 16, 2004 08:06 AM

Actually, novakant, I wouldn't send my kids there, but so long as no tax dollars are spent nor any laws broken, I'd have no objection.

I would happily say "that curriculum probably isn't gonna prepare your students for the real world, and is stooopid besides, and you ought to rethink it."

Your straw man is telling, though. How about a private school whose curriculum consists solely of Leonard Jefferies, Che Guevara, and "Nickel and Dimed?"

Posted by: Ken Hall at December 16, 2004 08:12 AM

So David- John Kerry is a "book burner" (even though he hasn't, you know, actually burned any books), and is somehow a greater villain than Gerald Allen, who actually does want to bury books?

Posted by: Steve at December 16, 2004 08:12 AM

I think the problem with Allen is two-fold.

First, ending state funding for the purchasing of these books is going to limit the public's access to the books in public libraries and, worse, in public schools. Students grow into real thinkers when exposed to a diversity of information, viewpoints, philosophies, ideas, etc.

Second, more ominous, is that a person holding political power has not only expressed his dislike for or opposition to certain ideas, he has expressed his desire to essentially destroy those ideas by limiting the free access to those ideas - i.e., his fantasy of burying books under the ground so that other people cannot read those books and learn of these ideas. He has also stated his intent of using his political power, at least not to bury the books, but at least begin to limit the access that people have to those ideas.

Whenever someone says "this idea is so dangerous that I must prevent other people from learning this idea, for their own good", it can usually be translated as "this idea is so dangerous to my interests that I must prevent other people from learning this idea for my own good".

Posted by: Blogtheist at December 16, 2004 08:19 AM

The Christian Fundamentalists DO have the desire to have laws enacted that reduce the freedom of all people to "sin" -- and most other people do not feel the enforcement power of the police should be used to punish many of these sins as "crimes". Like keeping the Sabbath holy (which has changed from Sat. to Sun.)

The Secular Fundamentalists have the same desire to enact laws, like funding gov't schools which promote homosexuality, that reduce the freedom of Christians to live in their preferred society.

Lies like the "Protocols" are not "just fine" -- but neither is sodomy to Christians. The question should be -- will a school teaching lies be made illegal? To this question, Libertarians would say "no" -- and both Secular and Christian Fundamentalists would say "yes", while disagreeing on which lies should be made illegal.

Right and wrong, truth and untruth and lie, legal and illegal. Politics is mostly about legal and illegal -- when should gov't use its monopoly of force.

Posted by: Tom Grey - Liberty Dad at December 16, 2004 08:20 AM

In the late ‘90’s, it seemed that liberal democracy and genuine progressive values had won. That silly book, ‘The End of History’ was published. Even the religious right toned down its rhetoric. But I think a lot of people were scared by progress and change. 9/11 was seen as an attack against liberal democracy and enlightenment values. The attacks were a shock, but the fact that supposedly enlightened Westerners on the right and the left sympathized with the hijackers and their ‘values.’ was a bigger shock. Somehow, bin Laden gave all anti-progress reactionaries the freedom and the inspiration to speak their minds.

We often compare the war against Islamist fascism to the Axis in WWII, but I think we have to look a little further back. With their support of political Islam, the Left can’t be trusted to fight for enlightenment values, and the religious right never did. They’re both more interested in fighting liberal democracy than anything else. This war seems to be enlightenment values vs. reactionary anti-enlightenment troglodytes. Liberalism really is revolutionary again.

Posted by: mary at December 16, 2004 08:25 AM

In Britain they’re trying to pass new anti-blasphemy laws – and the Guardian’s lefties are supporting this.

Harry’s Place has been covering this new pro-censorship effort by the Left.

Posted by: mary at December 16, 2004 08:27 AM

This is the main reason that I am glad that Lieberman turned down the DSH post. I'm in favor of some moderate Democrats in the Cabinet. But if Lieberman took the post, a Republican governor in Connecticut would appoint a Republican to take his spot in the Senate, and, the powers of government are unbalanced enough already. The Senate and, in particular, the filibuster are the only things that really stand in the way of any Republican efforts at cramdown, nanny-state legislation.

Posted by: Todd Pearson at December 16, 2004 08:43 AM

Hey did anyone consider that he wasn't misstating the play Hamlet, but was referencing Dashiell Hammett, perhaps the most important 20th-century American crime author? Although I personally would like to see this particular politician arrested for 'possession of a caveman-like ideology,' I am not so afraid of his visits with Bush. Absolutely right that he represents a chunk of Bush's base - whether Bush loves him, reviles him, will follow or ignore him, Bush can invite him to the White House six times and maintain Alabama's support while doing nothing of substance for it.

Posted by: Nate at December 16, 2004 08:47 AM

My personal view is that the Federal government shouldn't have money to spend on fictional books. The Federal Government is tasked with Interstate Commerce, National Defense and protecting constitutional rights. Anything else is simply Big Government and needs to go away.

The founding fathers were very smart. They realized early on, that Virginians were not like New Yorkers and New Yorkers were not like people in the Carolinas. It is very difficult for everyone in England to agree, its very difficult for everyone in Germany to agree, its very difficult for everyone in any European country to agree, thats why they have multiple political parties. Our Nation covers a much larger geographical area, with a much wider range of constituants and a Constitution that is requires more freedom than many of the European nations.

If people in Alabama want to bury books, praise the Lord, handle snakes and base their medical system off of old home remedies, I say let them. They'll continue to devolve and eventually will be a state of ignorant dogmatic people. Perhaps, if they realize that the rest of the country has left them behind, they'll change and become more tolerant. Perhaps not. People like David Thomson can freely move there, relieving the rest of us of his sanctimonious claptrap and providing him an environment where his bias and dogma can flourish. Meanwhile, in New York, citizens can vote for State funds to buy books that provide multiple opinions. Hopefully, they would include pro-gay, pro-christian and pro-mind your own business books. But, if they chose to provide only pro-gay, let them. If, (and I doubt this...) it turns all of their kids gay, well, they will run out of citizens eventually and take care of their own problem.

The federal government was designed to have as little impact on the daily life of citizens as possible, because we aare far too diverse for laws in California to meet the approval of citizens in Alabama, or laws in Mississippi fitting the needs of citizens in Ohio.

As Thomas Jefferson once said: "But it does me no injury for my neighbor to say there are twenty gods or no God. It neither picks my pocket nor breaks my leg."

That same thing is true if your neighbor says that there are gay genes, that abortions are ok or that marijuana is an OK drug. It doesn't pick your pocket, it doesn't break your leg, its none of your business. You get the freedom to choose not to smoke pot, get an abortion or be gay. Your neighbor gets the freedom to toke on a 'j', while sodomizing his partner who works at an abortion clinic. Thats what America is about.

I think that State funding should be up to the citizens of the State, if Allen's constituants want State funding only for Bibles and Tammy Baker pamphlets, then that is just fine.

Ratatosk

Posted by: Ratatosk at December 16, 2004 09:04 AM

Mary - In Britain they’re trying to pass new anti-blasphemy laws – and the Guardian’s lefties are supporting this.

And British leftists like Tony Blair are supporting this as well.

Posted by: double-plus-ungood at December 16, 2004 09:13 AM

I have to wonder if this entire blog post by Michael just imploded because there was no misprunciation of Hamlet, and it instead referred to a different author. Upsetting the media-sterotype of dumb southerners would remove a lot of the impetus for the story.

Mike, you need to re-state your position now that these new facts are known.

Posted by: Sydney Carton at December 16, 2004 09:14 AM

Sydney,

I think its currently just supposition that he may have been talking about Hammet. Considering that the entire conversation at that point was about Shakespeare, "Romeo and Juliet" and "As You Like It", makes it quite possible that he meant Hamlet. I think its rather silly to [sic] a spelling error like that though. This was probably an email conversation and an m/l fat-finger is very common.

Tosk

Posted by: Ratatosk at December 16, 2004 09:27 AM

If it was an email interview (which I have done before), then it's quite possible a lot of context was dropped, especially since the Guardian would have an ideological motive to make this guy look stupid.

Posted by: Sydney Carton at December 16, 2004 09:33 AM

Sydney,

Very true, which is why it's wise to question everything you read... Left, Right, Center or Moonbat.

Tosk

Posted by: Ratatosk at December 16, 2004 09:36 AM

Was Dashiell Hammett gay? I don't know, but I do know he doesn't belong in an answer to a question about Shakespeare.

I am not going to ban David Thomson for calling John Kerry a "book burner." I'll put up with a lot more stupid abuse toward people like Bush and Kerry than I will toward myself or other individuals who post here.

But still, David Thomson, you post more over-the-top batshit opinions in here than anyone else. If you can't moderate your tone, please moderate your frequency of posting.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at December 16, 2004 09:42 AM

But still, David Thomson, you post more over-the-top batshit opinions in here than anyone else--MJT

Could we have a running scorecard for this dubious honour as the top 10 must be a fairly close horse race,and I'm sure we all have our personal favourites? --
:-)

Posted by: dougf at December 16, 2004 10:44 AM

David Thomson,

Kerry's people were cynical manipulators of the law. They deserve to be condemned for their dispicable behavior.

What do you suggest then, if someone tries to publish lies about you? What would you do, dear David, if someone published a book wherein they claimed to have had a homosexual affair with you 15 years ago. Would you assume they had a right to free speech and say nothing? Or would you try to stop the defamation of your name?

Is it because Kerry is rich that he's wrong for suing against libel? Or, is it possibly because you personally don't like him and are willing to go to great lengths to slander him?

Are you really a Christian? I mean, do you actually read the bible, or do you just listen to some pastor then run off and implement some distorted version of Jesus' message in your head? I was a very religious christian for over 20 years, I read the Bible through, completely 4 times in those years and I must say that your attitudes and comments here are completely out of line with the Christian ideals espoused in the Bible. You might as well advocate sodomy and prostitution, for those are on par with hate, intolerance and slander.

Posted by: Ratatosk at December 16, 2004 11:02 AM

Pulling Hammett out of four-century-apart left field or saying Shakespeare and Hamlet. Either way, the guy's a goof.

That said, while I agree with the caveat mentioned above regarding considering The Guardian a reliable source, if Mr. Allen did say it, then I'm glad he did. Not because I agree with him (I most emphatically don't) but because, to paraphrase Dennis Miller, 'now I know where he is.' That sort of agenda may be born under a rock, but I'd much rather have it out in the daylight where it can be seen and appropriately stomped upon.

btw, what's so objectionable to the RR about Hamlet? Unless there's something about Rosencrantz and Guildenstern that I don't know?

Posted by: Achillea at December 16, 2004 11:04 AM

Nothing printed in the Guardian which can make Americans or Bush look stupid would surprise me. At one point they pretty much just came out and said they wanted him assassinated. And yet Laura Bush reads W.G. Sebald and Ian McEwen, so it's just barely possible she discusses these books with her husband, but -- wow, that sure doesn't fit the picture some want to purvey, does it?

Posted by: miklos rosza at December 16, 2004 11:42 AM

Kooks on the left. Kooks on the right.
They froth at the mouth and they want to bite.
The media love them and they make the news.
I got me a case of the Wingnut Blues.

Posted by: Notary at December 16, 2004 11:43 AM

We've always had them. We always will.
Their words are many. Their sense is nil.
They never enlighten. They never amuse.
They gimme a case of the Wingnut Blues.

Posted by: Notary at December 16, 2004 12:03 PM

I got those Wingnut, Wingnut, Wingnut, blues.
They never explain the logic they use,
They hate anyone who's not in line with their views
They give me those Wingnut, Wingnut, Wingnut Blues

Posted by: Ratatosk at December 16, 2004 12:20 PM

I see, Michael Moore can write a book declaring Jesusland Americans are stupid white people eating babies for breakfast, gay-hating Nazi-lovers(funny, I heard Hilter was bi and a cultist?), have it published while managing to convince world opinion his truth and ends up earning millions without ever facing a single ban much less a lawsuit, yet hundreds of men, who served along with John Kerry in Vietnam, have been questioning Kerry's service record ever since Kerry lied before a Congressional hearing some thirty years ago while facing an American culture "socially-engineered" to believe all American soldiers were mass murderers and baby killers (sound familiar?) are automatically liars before evidence is shown to the contrary.

Same scenario applies to the Fahrenheit 9/11 and Stolen Honor.

From my perspective, the "Alabama" base has nothing on Michael Moore's influence from his self-declared 10 million base.

On that note, I no longer consider The Guardian relevant to anything reasonable.

Posted by: syn at December 16, 2004 12:43 PM

But still, David Thomson, you post more over-the-top batshit opinions in here than anyone else.

Damn, I guess I need to stop taking chlorpromazine if I ever want to have a chance at the title.

Posted by: double-plus-ungood at December 16, 2004 12:49 PM

DPU,

You won't get the title. Give it up, man.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at December 16, 2004 12:52 PM

Incidentally, "The Color Purple" is probably the most offensively racist book I was ever assigned in school.

Posted by: someone at December 16, 2004 01:06 PM

Hmmm, I'd tend to agree with the representative about Alice Walker's tripe. There is an awful lot of crappy literature foisted off on the young these days, and The Color Purple is a prime example.

Posted by: Brainster at December 16, 2004 01:12 PM

First of all, Dashell Hammet was notoriously communist. This is a well-established fact. Do some research on the guy and see what you come up with. I see nothing wrong with burying his collective works.

I can envision all sorts of scenarios in my head where this “journalist” from the incredibly despicable, incredibly biased Guardian willfully manipulated the facts to try and make Allen seem like a lunatic.

In reality, what Allen is proposing is perfectly rational. As Tom Grey said, taxpayers deserve to have a say in what their tax dollars go to fund. Think of it this way: I believe The Nation is a publication that’s worthless and obnoxious, and sometimes even dangerous. Do I think they have the right to publish their magazine? Of course I do! But would I want one cent of my hard earned money to go towards funding this trash? Absolutely not. Many people would feel the same way, as I’m sure you would too.

Shakespeare had homosexual, incestial, and anti-semitic leanings in his writings. I certainly want to have a say in whether or not my children should be forced to learn this rubbish in schools. Forcing these perversions onto the public via the public school system and public libraries for the past few decades has not had the most “enlightening” effect on our children, has it? Maybe it’s time for a different approach.

Posted by: Kay Hoog at December 16, 2004 01:20 PM

Kay Hoog: I see nothing wrong with burying his collective works.

Bury your own goddamn copies and keep your hands off everyone else's.

You told me before that you're tired of my insults, but I'm sick to death of the constant right-wing whackjobbery you post on my Web site. So I guess we're even then.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at December 16, 2004 01:46 PM

George Washington and Thomas Jefferson owned slaves. Keep their asses OUT of the school curriculum!

Woo-hoo, it's a batshit party! I'm bucking for the title here, MJT!

Posted by: Jim at December 16, 2004 01:55 PM

Kay, they've been teaching Shakespeare in the schools for a lot longer than a few decades. You mention content to which you object, but there's a considerable difference between content and agitprop.

The problem with the public schools is not Shakespeare, I guarantee you. There are many problems--and underfunding isn't one of them, in the vast majority of cases--but Stratford Will isn't one of them.

Posted by: Ken Hall at December 16, 2004 02:05 PM

And British leftists like Tony Blair are supporting this as well.

British leftists like Tony Blair also believe that defending oneself from criminal agression should be outlawed. In Britain, victims of crime are advised to "adopt a state of active passivity".

Passive responses seem to be required by the British state lately.

Posted by: mary at December 16, 2004 02:45 PM

Totten,

So it’s whackjobbery now, eh? When you malign me like that you malign countless others who, believe it or not, make up the majority of Americans. If you want to read the works of a communist stooge like Hammet why don’t you pay for it out of your own damn pocket and leave the rest of us tax payers out of it!

Keep it up with the insults. You’re only reinforcing the most negative stereotypes of liberals, who on odd days you claim to be one of. I’ve read enough of your writings to have a good idea where you really stand politically, but anyone else who comes on this site and sees you spitting these childish insults at me is just going to jump to conclusions and lump you in with the wingnut faction of the Left.

Hall,

Yes they’ve been teaching Shakespeare for a long time. He’s great, the problem is that many so-called "educators" are perverting his works. They choose to focus on only the most negative aspects of his writings. When my son was in college, I remember looking through his course catalog and all the literature courses focused on “queer” or “feminist” aspects of literature. Nobody teaches the basics anymore! This is one of the many problems I and many Americans have with the education system in this country.

Posted by: Kay Hoog at December 16, 2004 03:37 PM

Kay Hoog: When you malign me like that you malign countless others who, believe it or not, make up the majority of Americans

The majority of Americans don't want to bury books in a hole in the ground. Sorry. They just don't. (Actually, I'm not sorry. I'm glad.)

lump you in with the wingnut faction of the Left

If opposition to book-burning and book-burying ever puts me on the left-wing fringe then America really can kiss my ass.

Shakespeare had homosexual, incestial, and anti-semitic leanings in his writings. I certainly want to have a say in whether or not my children should be forced to learn this rubbish in schools.

It amazes me, truly, that you write this kind of thing on my Web site and have the audacity to claim I'm the nut and that you're in touch with the mainstream of America. Let's see how many others in here jump on your "keep Shakespeare out of schools" bandwagon.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at December 16, 2004 04:02 PM

Hmmm, Kay, I'd be inclined to agree with you if your beef with Hammett was pro-communist plotlines in his books, but having read them I can say that you'll have a hard time finding anything objectionable between the covers--they're mostly hardboiled detective novels.

Posted by: Brainster at December 16, 2004 04:34 PM

Kay Hoog: Shakespeare had homosexual, incestial, and anti-semitic leanings in his writings. I certainly want to have a say in whether or not my children should be forced to learn this rubbish in schools.

Kay Hoog: Yes they’ve been teaching Shakespeare for a long time. He’s great.

You're so angry at lefty nutjobs that you can't think straight. You'd even ban their books, a move which, if you took a year or so to calm down and rethink, you'd almost certainly eschew. Put the staunch conservatism down and back slowly away. Nobody who hasn't a steady hand and clear eye has any business holding it.

Posted by: Jim at December 16, 2004 04:38 PM

Let me just get something out of the way before this discussion continues.

I'm a writer who graduated from a university English department. If you are an enemy of books, an enemy of the written word, then you are an enemy of me and will be treated with all "due respect."

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at December 16, 2004 05:05 PM

Totten,

History will ultimately prove you wrong. Please lets take a survey. Lets see how many parents want homosexuality taught to their children at school. Now who's out of touch?

Jim,

Read between the lines. It's no contradiction to like Shakespeare and hate the homosexual, incestial, and anti-semitic rubbish that so-called "educators" tend to focus on in his wriitngs. It's no contradiction to think that tax payers should have a say in what is taught in THEIR school and a say in what THEIR tax-dollars should be spent on. It's called democracy.

Posted by: Kay Hoog at December 16, 2004 05:11 PM

Totten,

Am I an enemy of books if I think children shouldn't read pornography? Does that make me an enemy of books?? Don't make me laugh.

Posted by: Kay Hoog at December 16, 2004 05:12 PM

Totten: [I] graduated from a university English department.

My son did too, so lets drop this "enemy of books" nonsense right now.

Posted by: Kay Hoog at December 16, 2004 05:15 PM

“I am not going to ban David Thomson for calling John Kerry a "book burner." I'll put up with a lot more stupid abuse toward people like Bush and Kerry than I will toward myself or other individuals who post here.”

John Kerry is indeed a book burner. The evidence is completely on my side. Can you poke any holes in my line of argumentation? Are you aware of what I’m talking about? Have you even given the incident a moment of your time?

Posted by: David Thomson at December 16, 2004 05:18 PM

Thanks.

Please also ask Sam Brownback & pals to stop inviting this woman to testify before Congressional hearings about "erototoxins":

Reisman also endorses a book called “The Pink Swastika,” which challenges the “myths” that gays were victimized in Nazi Germany. The Nazi Party and the Holocaust itself, she writes, were largely the creation of “the German homosexual movement.” Thanks to Alfred Kinsey, she warns, the American homosexual movement is poised to repeat those crimes. “Idealistic ‘gay youth’ groups are being formed and staffed in classrooms nationwide by recruiters too similar to those who formed the original ‘Hitler youth.’”

(That's from the New Yorker.)

Please also ask Dr. Bill Frist to publicly clear up any confusion about whether HIV can be transmitted through sweat and tears.

Please also make sure they really stop funding sex education programs that say that it does, that 50% of gay teenagers have AIDS, that touching someone's genitals can lead to pregnancy, etc. etc.

Posted by: Katherine at December 16, 2004 05:21 PM

Kay,

I have never seen any of your comments before, and I admit that I am leaping to a conclusion here -- but I don't think that someone who calls Shakespeare "rubbish" should be taken seriously.

And I think the rest of you are wasting your time arguing with such a person.

With all "due respect."

Posted by: Patterico at December 16, 2004 05:32 PM

Geez, go away for a week, and look what happens.

Obviously, Ms. Hog has never seen or read a Shakespearean play.

Me thinks the lady doth protest too much.

Posted by: Eric Blair at December 16, 2004 05:57 PM

we can put aside the fact that michael's post links to the guardian since this story was widely reported elsewhere and this fellow was making the rounds of television and radio interviews. unfortunately, his near inability to verbalize makes him a poor interview subject. however, whether or not the fellow was referring to 'hamlet' with his 'hammett' commment, we can be safely assume that he was not making reference to dashiell. when asked about how his proposed legislation would affect various titles from classic literature he would assume a deer-in-headlights facial expression that made it clear that he had never heard of them. the one book he refers to is 'heather has two mommies' although he would have no problem throwing whatever other book you might mention into the same pit with it. this fellow has never read, nor ever will read, any book or play that you might mention so, for him, it would be no great loss to be rid of them.
it's comforting, perhaps, to write him off as some kind of know-nothing kook but we should keep in mind that he is an elected government official (with the ear of the president!) and, therefore, speaks for more than himself. in the current climate of trashing darwin and kinsey, etc. it is not such a great leap to imagine outright book-banning becoming the latest craze, especially under the guise of preventing tax dollars being spent on 'gay propoganda' in the schools.

Posted by: el polacko at December 16, 2004 07:04 PM

Ms. Hoog - I'm a parent, and I have no problem with letting my kids learn about homosexuality in school, in church (their pastor was a lesbian) and on TV. Homosexuality is a part of life, like sex, death, and taxes and there is nothing wrong with knowing more about life in general, even if we don't like everything we learn.

I know very few book lovers who will use the word "incestial" in a sentence. Books and reading are like chicken soup. They don't always help, but they can't hurt.

Posted by: mary at December 16, 2004 07:10 PM

Late to the party, as usual.

To answer the post question, yes. There are some of us on the right that are very concerned about the religious aspects of our own party. I cringed when I read about Robertson, Falwell and their ilk making their sweeping statements in the last few weeks following the reelection of GWB. When I see their extremist attitudes present in GWB's presidential actions, he will lose my support. That being said, I didn't see anyone (except the far, far right) screaming bloody murder when Bill Clinton associated with those from the far left of his party. Courting your base and letting them run the show are two different things and I suggest that the left is far closer to folding to their base (Jimmy Carter and Michael Moore sharing a popcorn bucket at the Democrat convention) than the right.

That being said, I would rather address the issue of Ms. Alice Walker and her place in the school system of Alabama. The descriptions of sex in Color Purple who earn a R rating were they depicted on the silver screen. As I recall, they would probably earn much closer to an X rating.

Homosexuality aside, I have a problem with kids who - by law - would not be allowed to see such actions in movie theaters being forced to read much more descriptive passages from a book assigned to them from their public school. The Color Purple is a mature book, with mature themes, and more correctly would suit a college classroom. When this reactionary Republican from Alabama tries to limit the access of colleges to Alice Walker, I'll get upset. Until then his actions strike me as age appropriate.

Had Alice Walker left out the section of her book describing being the main character being "impaled" in a sexual manner, I would have no problem with high schoolers reading about the homosexual themes in relation to the larger story. But when sections of that book so closely resemble porn, I have to wonder where the outrage over the exclusion of The Story of O from the 10th grade syllabus is. After all, I seem to recall depictions of lesbian sex in that particular gem of literature. Just because they happened every other page instead of once or twice, why are they taboo in one form but a cause for alarm when they are excluded in another form?

The Color Purple is the only book listed that I have read, but if the depictions of sex are as graphic in the other books as they are in TCP I can certainly understand why some conservatives would have a problem with forcing high school aged students to read them.

Perhaps a reread of The Color Purple is in order for anyone who feels it is age appropriate for 16 year olds. Perhaps a reread, outloud, in the living room during the prime time family hour with the whole family gathered. If that concept makes you uncomfortable, it shouldn't be included in a public high school.

Posted by: Roark at December 16, 2004 07:34 PM

Seems I am not the only person that sees it this way.

http://mtsu32.mtsu.edu:11005/english_2330--women_in_literature.htm

"READING CONTENT NOTICE: Some of the required reading contains material that could be offensive to some students. Explicit sex and profanities would most likely get a "R" rating at the movies. In no way is this material pornographic, but if you suspect that the reading will offend you, you should drop the course immediately."

This is for a college level class.

Time to tilt at another windmill Michael.

Posted by: Roark at December 16, 2004 07:47 PM

"John Kerry is indeed a book burner. The evidence is completely on my side. Can you poke any holes in my line of argumentation?"

David Thomson: Please name the book or books that Kerry burned, or advocated burning. No tangential rants, just answer the question.

Posted by: VinoVeritas at December 16, 2004 07:50 PM

roark -- the legislator from alabama's mission has nothing to do with age-appropriate content in high schools. mr. allen did not mention the color purple. he had never heard of the color purple. the interviewer used the color purple as an example and mr. allen simply replied that whatever examples were presented should be thrown into his hole in the ground.
you may, however, have to prepare yourself to be upset since, in one of his television interviews, he was asked if he would have a problem with a college performing a tennessee williams play and he said that any college that received tax money should not be allowed to produce any play that 'promoted homosexuality.' he did not indicate if he had any idea who tennessee williams was or what plays he had written. his aim is simple: you come up with a book or play that you think somehow 'promotes homosexuality' and he'll bulldoze it.

Posted by: el polacko at December 16, 2004 08:44 PM

el polacko: you come up with a book or play that you think somehow 'promotes homosexuality' and he'll bulldoze it.

Pretty much, yeah.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at December 16, 2004 10:16 PM

Ahem...

To reference something at least 2 or 3 of you have said: Since when is Tony Blair a leftist?! I've never heard anyone with half a brain ever accuse Blair of being a leftist before. He's a liberal, sure, and a damn good one at that, but give me a break.

Posted by: Grant McEntire at December 17, 2004 01:00 AM

No leftist?! Even worse!

He's a, omg, sit tight, hide the wife and children, here it comes:

socialist.

Posted by: novakant at December 17, 2004 02:48 AM

"you may, however, have to prepare yourself to be upset since, in one of his television interviews, he was asked if he would have a problem with a college performing a tennessee williams play and he said that any college that received tax money should not be allowed to produce any play that 'promoted homosexuality.'"

In that case, he will not get my support for his actions. Once students reach the college level, they should be challenged by controversial ideas, both conservative and liberal, packaged in almost any form imaginable.

See how easy that was?

Perhaps you should have tried it with the concept of teenagers reading explicit depictions of rape courtesy of Alice Walker, The Color Purple and "inclusivness". Think its not happening? Think again.

"http://mbhs.bergtraum.k12.ny.us/user/j6173/revbr1.htm"

"Bubbles" Johnson has an excellent review of The Color Purple. She does not know how to spell "rapist" yet, but she sure didn't seem to like reading about them.

Posted by: Roark at December 17, 2004 05:50 AM

There __is intelligent life on Earth, but I leave for Texas on Monday.
Payday Loans http://www.paylesspaydayloans.com

Posted by: Payday Loans at December 17, 2004 06:12 AM

Hoog,

At which university English department did the faculty and staff:

1). Teach "incestial" as proper construction;

2). Fail to teach proper capitalization in standard English usage (e.g., anti-Semitic);

3). Fail to teach proper use of "lets"/let's".

If you're going to brandish your credentials, expect to have them inspected--the more so as you are a singularly ill-mannered individual, for which gender offers no refuge (the rock said, "no hiding place"). One hopes you raised your children to a higher standard than that to which you adhere.

That said, I share a number of your concerns about the present state of the educational system. However, I must ask: Is Shakespeare great, or is Shakespeare rubbish? You've said both now.

Posted by: Ken Hall at December 17, 2004 07:04 AM

As an avid reader, who blew through Shakespeare, Williams and ugh Alice Walker before the end of 8th grade, I believe that a very wide variety of books should be available to any student. All of my reading was voluntary. Our required reading was milksop like The Outsiders, Call of The Wild and other harmless, non-challenging pieces of literature. That stuff never sated my thirst for reading. It was like walking into a resturant with fantastic smells, only to find that the portions are about the right size for an immature hummingbird.

I chose to read books that challenged me and I strongly think that it is a very positive thing to have challenging materiel available in schools.

Since this fellow is so concerned about State money (as is the right of a state rep and his constituants), I wonder if he will try to cut funding to public libraries if they spend money on "Heather Has Two Mommys", Shakespeare, or Douglas Adams?

As I said before, Alabama has the right to spend or not spend money on whatever it sees fit. However, this sort of attitude will surely turn the young bright minds of Alabama children into dark, empty halls, abandoned for lack of thought.

Ms. Hoog, if you did graduate from an English department, I'm sure that your professors would very much like to take back that little piece of paper. You may have passed an exam about English Lit., but here, in this forum, you have failed the test of what it means to truly understand the role of Literature in society. For such closed-minded bigotry, I would gladly rip away your degree and diploma.

Books are key to where we are today. Good books, bad books, exciting, boring, contraversial, conservative, gay, straight, scary, funny books, all had a hand in pulling our faltering race from the bowels of hellish nightmare in the Middle Ages. Books helped break the stranglehold of the Church, books spread democratic thinking, books spread knowledge, destroyed ignorance and questioned what was considered sacred.

Without books, all books, from the ones you like, to the ones you don't, we would still be Serfs, believing that the world was flat, that the king came directly from God and that our role in God's plan was to plow fields and let our women get raped by the local thugs.

You want that life Kay? I know of a couple countries that still run things that way. I'm sure we could find you a hijab and chador.

Posted by: Ratatosk at December 17, 2004 07:17 AM

It is well-established that John Kerry bought up copies of his 1971 book "The New Soldier" for the purpose of having them destroyed, because he didn't want the American people to see what he was saying back then. His attorneys threatened the publisher of "Unfit for Command" and urged that the books be pulped.

As for the central question here, I think that banning certain books from high school curricula is appropriate based on sexual content and/or adult themes. My 15-year-old niece was reading Ragtime over the summer as part of required reading for her school. When I pointed to the (hilarious) scene where Mother's Younger Brother watches two women make love while masturbating, my sister was appalled (the scene is brief, but quite graphic). Some Shakespeare is age appropriate for high schoolers, but some is not. I remember in Othello, somebody wanted to know what "the beast with two backs" was, and our teacher said "Nobody knows," rather quickly (of course it's a couple having sex).

I don't think anybody here is really saying burn the books, they're just saying that they're not appropriate for high school.

Posted by: Brainster at December 17, 2004 08:31 AM

Brainster,

I think that banning certain books from high school curricula is appropriate based on sexual content and/or adult themes.

Perhaps.

If the majority of parents in a school system do not want teachers using a particular book for 'required reading', then the teacher (and the school district) should respect the parents wishes. However, those books should be available in the school library. No one should be forced to read something that would offend them, but no one should be banned from reading any book in our schools.

If by ban, you meant 'removed from required reading", then I'll agree. If by banned, you meant "make unavailable" then I'm afraid I don't share your dogmatic, authoritarian view.

Posted by: Ratatosk at December 17, 2004 09:32 AM

Michael,

In principle, I am with you. Nevertheless, a couple of thoughts occurred to me. First, I know I have taking DVD's and books that some called classics and tossed them. After all, sometimes these things are rather bad. It seems to me that you are taking his private opinion and pretending that he is advocating it as a policy.

Second, you do not seem te be aware of a tension that matters. As a general rule, I think it is wrong to use public money to support opinions that are disapprove of by significant numbers of people -- especially in public school. Do you think it is O.K. for a public school to teach that certain minorities are inferior? On the other hand, if we take this principle to its logical conclusion, then our schools will be virtually unable to teach lit or critical thinking for that matter. Surely, in our hyper sensitive society, any story will offend some group whether it is on the right or left. For example, Mark Twain's, Huckleberry Finn has been called insensitive because it uses the n-word. Of course, this book is a powerful argument against racism, but don't let the facts get in the way of your cherished emotions... The thin drivel that students are permitted to read in school these days ought to embarrass everyone. The reason for this deplorable state of affairs is both political correctness on the left and religious correctness on the right.

My point is that there is a legitimate discussion to be had. Inserting beliefs in the minds of young people below the radar screen is a very effective way to suppress debate. Thus, freedom of speech can make freedom of thought illusory. You appear to think that bringing up this issue makes one wrong ipso facto.

Posted by: JBP at December 17, 2004 09:54 AM

JBP,

There is a large gulf between an individual expressing his opinion of what should be taught in school and burying books.

One is a thoughtful discussion, the other is authoritarian hogwash, unfit to leave the lips of an American... especially an American holding an elected office.

Posted by: Ratatosk at December 17, 2004 10:17 AM

Hall: "If you're going to brandish your credentials,"

What credentials? Did you even read what I wrote? What do those minor mistakes have to do with my SON'S degree? I sure hope you’re not implying that because it was my son that earned the degree that that somehow makes me a hater of books. I was actively involved. I spent a lot of money and hard work putting that boy through college. Why would I support my son like that if I were against him?

But if that's not what you're getting at then I sure hope it’s not that you’re misreading what I wrote, and think I was claiming that degree for myself. That’d make you quite the hypocrite for being such a nitpicking nanny.

Something tells me you’d let small spelling errors and typos slide anytime you agree with what the author wrote. I also suspect that a lot of you who refer to me as “Ms. Hoog” know very well that I’m not a woman, and keep harping upon my supposed gender to get a rise out of me. How utterly immature.

And no, I never had the luxury of a college education. But you know what? I’ve never let that stand in my way. I’ve worked hard and struggled and in the end I put two kids through college – a first in my family. So if you want to use this as fuel for your petty insults, go right ahead. I know I did the best I could for my family and myself. My pride is impenetrable.

Posted by: Kay Hoog at December 17, 2004 10:28 AM

I see where the confusion arose. People didn't realize I was quoting Totten with that "[I] graduated from a university English department." Unfortunately, I was in such a hurry that I left the quotation marks out and I have no idea how to go back and edit my posts. I didn’t know this would cause so much confusion and I apologize to Hall and the others who misread what I wrote.

Posted by: Kay Hoog at December 17, 2004 10:39 AM

Kay,

Well, no harm in mistakes, we all make them... it's what makes blogs (and email etc) such a touchy communication channel.

Hopefully, your son will be able to help you correct the other mistakes in the content of your post.

Ratatosk

Posted by: Ratatosk at December 17, 2004 10:51 AM

1) It's the Guardian. Grain of salt. 3) It doesn't even say why this guy is meeting with Bush - the writer just extrapolates. 3) Bush's base also includes "Orgies are Liberating" Antonin Scalia. And pro-choice, pro-gay marriage Rudy Giuliani. One nutjob in Alabama does not a base make. 4) A heavy Southern accent will make "Hamlet" sound like "Hammet."

Posted by: Greg at December 17, 2004 05:52 PM

Well, I just undercut my points by using "3" twice. My mistake.

Posted by: Greg at December 17, 2004 05:57 PM

I find it surprising that people are assuming that this supposed law has no chance of passage. Let's not forget that contract rights for gay couples were just stripped from them this past year. Would book burning really surprise anyone?

I think people are completely underestimating the hatred against gay people in the United States. I see that several of them have already posted to this board.

Because that's what Christianity is all about, right? It's about hate. At least that's how they make it out to be. It's almost easy to forget that Jesus walked with the unwanted and despised.

I'm agnostic now too. No loving God could be so brutal to gay people, like fundamentalist Christians are towards them today.

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Ratosk,

There is a large gulf between an individual expressing his opinion of what should be taught in school and burying books.

One is a thoughtful discussion, the other is authoritarian hogwash, unfit to leave the lips of an American... especially an American holding an elected office.

Wasn't this my point? I see commentators confusing the two all the time. In fact, your statement seems to have confused a person's opinion on the proper treatment of certain books with "authoritarian hogwash." Totten has not given me any reason to believe that the bury comment was anything other than an a private opinion. Someone who is an elected official says, "These are terrible books -- no one ought to read them." And they get branded a censer. To be a censor requires one to use force to get rid of the books. Merely being an elected official does not transform Mr. Allen's opinion into law or policy.

The fact is that some books ought to be buried. Do you really think Mien Kampf ought to be read? We will both agree that the state ought not to order one to bury a book. But that does not mean that a person is wrong to say, "My advice to you is to bury these books."

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Paul Berman, The American Prospect

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