Charlie Sykes used to produce solid conservative/libertarian content, and does here:
Apparently, we have to remind people about this again:
If all printers were determined not to print anything till they were sure it would offend nobody, there would be very little printed.
― Benjamin Franklin
There is more than one way to burn a book. And the world is full of people running about with lit matches.
― Ray Bradbury
We’ve devoted a great deal of time lately to discussing illiberalism and authoritarianism, and justifiably so. But we have to recognize that liberalism and free expression face a two-front assault — from the intolerant Left as well as the troglodyte Right.
ICYMI: The other day, the American Booksellers Association donned the sackcloth of wokeness and issued this statement of performative groveling:American Booksellers Association @ABAbook
The “serious, violent incident” here was sending out copies of this book:
The author of the offending book, Abigail Shrier, writes for the Wall Street Journal, and is a graduate of Columbia College, Oxford University, and Yale Law School. Her book is obviously controversial, but it was named one of the best books of the year by The Economistand one of the best of 2021 by The Times of London.
Reviewing the book in Commentary Magazine, Naomi Schaefer Riley wrote:
“If you want to understand why suddenly it seems that (mostly) young girls from (mostly) white middle- or upper-class backgrounds (many of whom are in the same friend groups) have decided to start dressing like boys, cutting their hair short, changing their name to a masculine one, and even taking hormones, using chest compressors, and getting themselves surgically altered, you must read Abigail K. Shrier’s urgent new book, Irreversible Damage.”
But not surprisingly, this sort of thing triggered opponents, who demanded that it be suppressed.
After receiving two Twitter complaints, Target stopped selling the book (a decision they later reversed… and then reversed again). Hundreds of Amazon employees signed a petition demanding the company stop selling the book.
Even the ACLU seemed to break bad on the idea that the book should be available in the marketplace of ideas. Chase Strangio, the American Civil Liberties Union’s deputy director for transgender justice, tweeted: “Abigail Shrier’s book is a dangerous polemic with a goal of making people not trans…. We have to fight these ideas which are leading to the criminalization of trans life again.”
He declared: “Stopping the circulation of this book and these ideas is 100% a hill I will die on.”
Shrier commented: “You read that right: Some in today’s ACLU favor book banning. Grace Lavery, a professor of English at the University of California, Berkeley, went further, tweeting: ‘I DO encourage followers to steal Abigail Shrier’s book and burn it on a pyre.’
“This,” Shrier wrote, ”is where leftist extremism, encouraged by cowardly corporations, leads.”
Under normal circumstances, the American Booksellers Association is very much into free expression and opposed to censorship. They are the sort of people who wear buttons declaring “WE READ BANNED BOOKS.”
Its website still includes this declaration:
But it turns out there are limits to free expression, not just for the ABA, but for many of the nation’s booksellers. This month ABA sent a mailing to 750 bookstores, which included a copy of the heretical book. Blowback was fierce.
Among booksellers… there was little disagreement about the content of the book. “As longtime @ABAbook members with beloved staff across the gender spectrum, we’re extremely disappointed and angered to see the ABA promoting dangerous, widely discredited anti-trans propaganda, and we’re calling for accountability,” the Harvard Book Store wrote on Twitter.
Within hours, it issued the fulsome apology. Shrier’s reaction:
If there were a Hall of Fame for capitulations to Woke bullies, the American Booksellers Association is hereby inducted. The “serious, violent incident” they perpetrated? Including my book in a large box of new book samples sent out to independent booksellers.
Despite the tone of the apology, the wokest of the booksellers were not satisfied. The outraged booksellers, “said the statement fell short, calling out the organization’s use of the passive voice in the opening sentence.” ReportedPublishers Weekly:
“They also demanded greater transparency about how the decision to include the book was initially made, and called for demonstrable steps to restore trust with trans book workers and authors. Some called on the ABA to offer promotions for trans authors’ books at no cost.”
But elsewhere, the reaction to the ABA’s statement was blistering, with much of it focusing on the irony of an organization devoted to selling books apologizing for selling a book.Rich Horton @PurePopPub
Joanne Mason @JoanneMason11
If mailing a book to members of your professional booksellers group is a “serious, violent incident” then words have no meaning, and we can no longer call ourselves a serious people. I’m not saying this is how you get a president Trump, but this is how you get a president Trump.
Brian Schubert @SchubertBrianHoward Wall
July 15th 2021Annie Kenney @lennyspersonJon Hider @jonhider
@ABAbook Interesting statement…”mailing to members…serious, violent incident”. Is FedEx, UPS, or the USPS an accessory to this violent act? Are they liable for any injuries? Beyond dumb world we live in these days__hodl__running #btc☂️🟩 @__hodl__Francis Wheen @FrancisWheenGeoffrey Miller @primalpoly
@ABAbook Thanks for making it clear that American booksellers have become witless, gutless cowards who will censor any book that offends woke online mobs. If you can’t distinguish between words and ‘violence’ you have no business doing business in a country founded on free speech.Marianne_Mandoe
@ABAbook Did you run around smacking people over the head with said book? Did you tape people’s eyes open and force them to read? Did you tie people down and read quotations aloud to them? If No, then it’s not violence. It’s a BOOK!! And people can choose to read it or not.
This is not a debate over Transgenderism, but rather a question of whether we can even have a debate at all. It is an objectively ominous moment when the folks who sell books think there are some ideas too dangerous to print… or read.
Take note: if you are offended by a book, (1) don’t buy it, (2) don’t read it, or (3) make an effort to correct or refute it.
Don’t burn it.
Sykes and other anti-Trump conservatives tend to dismiss other conservatives’ claiming a culture war is taking place in this country. It’s hard to argue that we’re not in a cultural cold war when you cannot even discuss a controversial issue.