Fiction novels and journalism are two sides of the same informational coin; each simply chooses a different method of interpretation and dissemination. While the press, through journalism, chooses to—or at least is supposed to—push the news to the masses in non-fiction truth, novelists choose to disguise their version in fiction.
Make no mistake about it; just about every book you pick up reports on the issues and atrocities facing the world around the author. Not every author does this consciously; that’s true. However, you’ll glean the issues they find relevant in the subtext of their books. Literary Theory classes have been pushing this idea for years with good reason. While reading is an enjoyable experience and sometimes meant to be an escape from reality, writers are able to push empathy and the power of perspective upon their audience in a way that is sometimes easier to manifest than through the news cycle. This is why book banning is dangerous.
Who Book Banning Affects the Most
Children rarely watch the news. Understandable, really, given the way it’s reported; it’s not fun, and it’s not attention-grabbing for them. To be frank, few really understand the significance of what’s being reported. With books, however, they are able to take in the issues affecting the world they will become an active participant. Books begin to build their awareness of situations and intolerances that should be stamped out of human behavior. What better way to push an agenda than by banning books that focus on information that contradicts those in power?
Indoctrination begins in childhood. The mind of a child is easily molded to fit the agenda of those who hold sway over them, starting with their parents, family, friends, and as equally important, their educational institution. Social, political, economic, and religious ideals are a learned acceptance. After all, a child born in the US bible belt would have a far different outlook on those ideals had they been born in Mumbai or Tehran.
It is the exposure of opposing ideals that are represented in books that have conservative religious zealots in the US government cracking down on information suppression through book banning. Having a free-thinking citizenry in the latest adult generation that questions the status quo is forcing the rally of conservatives to uphold their ideals on the masses.
Books Create Empathy the Press Can Seldom Replicate
It’s one thing to hear about mass genocide and ethnic cleansing from a reporter/journalist through the cold recitation of their teleprompter; it is a far different experience to understand the emotional and physical toll it takes on someone experiencing it. These atrocities can and will be committed again in the future with just as much ease as it was before if there were no books in the hands of the newer generation teaching them, warning them of what such an event means to millions. Hiding behind an idea like “understanding both sides” is a disgusting way of pushing a nefarious agenda.
How can those with an unearned privilege understand the difficulties facing others without the ease of genetics smoothing the way for them if there are no books available that attempt to explain that experience? The news, magazines, and polls all try to explain the drastic differences between racial and gender gaps, but sometimes statistics, no matter their validity, just don’t seem to sink in.
Want to understand the Black experience in the 1930s-1940s? I urge you to pick up The Collected Poems of Langston Hughes. “Theme for English B” is a beautifully eye-opening work that describes the experience of a singular young Black college student amid White peers and Instructors. This experience isn’t wholly limited to the time of publication, race is still a factor polarizing our society.
A book that has been banned repeatedly since its publication in 2017, The Hate U Give is a powerfully honest tale of economic and racial disparity highlighting the contemporary Black experience of urban life. The controversial topic causing this ban? Police violence, victim blaming, and racial profiling and stereotyping.
Americans cling to the Second Amendment no matter the prices thousands of children and adults pay every year. That price isn’t only paid with their mortal lives, but the trauma that is suffered as they attempt to move on with their lives. That Night by Amy Giles attempts to explore the grief, guilt, and healing process after a mass shooting. Make no mistake that books like this will be advocated for banning by groups like the NRA. If more people read this, or others like it, the chance of those people joining movements to enact stricter gun laws and outlaw certain caliber guns is a risk they’re unwilling to take.
Freedom of the Press Should Also Be A Freedom to Read
At this point in history, we have seen a dramatic lack of truth in news journalism, all in the name of capitalism. Ratings are what dictate the distribution of honest, factual journalism that informs the public. What is supposed to be a pillar upholding social justice and the forerunner outcrying against government overreach has become a cesspool of greed. The press has not only been suppressed by politicians but the corporations that line their pockets due to laws passed by those very politicians.
So how are we to obtain the knowledge we need to arm ourselves if the fundamental institution that is supposed to do so doesn’t do its job? Books.
Suppression of books and the press is a fundamental indication of intolerance, fascism, and ideological supremacy. Book banning removes the necessary materials to establish an educated and empathetic mind. If all that is available to read does not include materials that directly contradict those in power or the ideas of those in power, then they have created a citizenry incapable of defending themselves or anyone else. Intolerance is the epitome of ignorance, and book banning and press suppression are the tools thrust upon the masses to perpetuate the problem.
You can find a list of banned books here. I encourage you to run, not walk, to your local library or bookseller and read them. They’re banned for a reason, and you should absolutely pick them up and find out what the government doesn’t want you to know.
For more, check out the World Press Freedom Day article here!