World Press Freedom Day is about the maintenance of democratic liberties which hold governments accountable to their people. The press’s foundational job is to investigate and report on the facts of government movements, which is why it’s been hailed as the Fourth Pillar of Democracy. These reports are critical in shaping the opinions and actions of those who have the power to remove government officials, vote on important issues, and rise against unjust regimes.
Journalism and Book Publication – Two Sides of the Same Coin
At this point, you might ask yourself, what do journalism and the press have to do with books? Often, books represent the issues of the contemporary era in which they are written. Yes, even fantasy and sci-fi. The Hunger Games trilogy was written by Suzanne Collins as a warning to the overindulgence of reality TV and how it can be weaponized to desensitize the masses. Langston Hughes’s poetry was a powerful beacon of hope and a call to action to recognize American Black people’s unjust forced inequalities, which helped launch the Civil Rights Movement.
Given the current political climate of the United States bi-partison polarity, the mass institution of bills being written into law that directly affect the freedoms of many of its citizens, Freedom of the Press is a much-needed institution. Infringement of that freedom has begun in earnest over the course of the last few years. The number of books—non-fiction and fiction alike—that have been banned is far too high.
“Before mass leaders seize the power to fit reality to their lies, their propaganda is marked by its extreme contempt for facts as such, for in their opinion fact depends entirely on the power of man who can fabricate it.”—Hannah Arendt, The Origins of Totalitarianism
The Loss of Press Freedom Leads to Historical Suppression
However, it’s not just book banning that is worrisome; it’s information and truth suppression that comes at a cost. The cost: wiping out the history of oppression, genocide, and civil liberty infringement that cost many their lives, rendering their suffering null and void. Don’t believe me? Several school districts throughout the country, Texas Carroll Independent School District as a prime example, refuse to teach about the Holocaust. Their reasoning: there isn’t any material that represents “opposing views” to the atrocity. Looks Like Texas wants a sympathetic ear for the Nazi regime that wiped out six million Jews and five million POWs.
Republican lawmakers in Florida have veered so far into the Fascist mindset of disinformation, textbooks are being altered to accommodate recently passed legislation. One example is the alteration of Rosa Park’s story. No longer is she the Black woman, tired after a long day of work, who refused to give up her seat for a White passenger in Segregated Alabama. She is now simply a passenger asked to switch seats who refused. All context to Civil Rights, unjust racial discrimination, and the change that her defiance brought about are obliterated.
“Fifty-one percent of a nation can establish a totalitarian regime, suppress minorities, and still remain democratic.”—Erik von Kuehnelt-Leddihn
Book Banning and Press Suppression Are Signs of Political Intolerance
The US is under attack by a Fascist movement within the government. What is the easiest way to implement this change? Suppression of the press and book banning. Pushing aside any written materials that directly contradict their agenda. Don’t believe me? Emperor Qin Shi Huang ordered books that told of any other nation or history to be burned in 213 BC. During the Inquisitions, Popes ordered any non-Christian ideology to be burned; people were then thrown into those fires. Nazi Germany started burning books on May 10, 1933; the Holocaust ensued in earnest. The list is endless; pick up Matt Fishburn’s Burning Books to fully understand the implications of book burning and journalism suppression.
Fiction is rife with subtext that alludes to the world’s social, religious, political, cultural, and economic injustices. They’re not safe from the “cleansing fires” if those in power believe those books threaten their ideologies. A well-read person is a danger to a system of control and intolerance. Causing the newest generations to become ignorant of the iniquities of the past and present by removing truth from their hands is a foolproof way to see the decline of democracy and the rise of authoritarian hate.
Pick up your books and raise your voice on this World Press Freedom Day.
“A fascist is one whose lust for money or power is combined with such an intensity of intolerance toward those of other races, parties, classes, religions, cultures, regions or nations as to make him ruthless in his use of deceit or violence to attain his ends.”— Henry Wallace
Read more about Book Banning here.