The Republican book burning project is right out of the 'authoritarian' playbook: former DHS official

The Republican book burning project is right out of the 'authoritarian' playbook: former DHS official

All around the United States, far-right MAGA Republicans have been pushing bills designed to bully and intimidate schoolteachers and/or librarians. One of their goals is to purge public K-12 schools and libraries of any subject matter that makes them uncomfortable, whether it pertains to gay rights, feminism or racism. Books that have been targeted range from Alice Walker’s “The Color Purple” to Margaret Atwood’s “The Handmaid’s Tale.”

In an article published by the conservative website The Bulwark on April 7, Paul Rosenzweig — a former official for the U.S. Department of Homeland Security — warns that this movement is right out of the authoritarian playbook.

“In 1787, the Framers of the Constitution saw important values inherent in the principle of freedom of inquiry: the search for truth, scientific progress, cultural development, increased virtue among citizens, holding governmental officials to account, strengthening the community, and serving as a check on politicians,” Rosenzweig explains. “Today, as we rush to ban books and limit the freedom of inquiry, we are tossing aside those values. In doing so, we risk becoming that which our forebears rebelled against. Instead of exalting the liberty of free inquiry, some now seek to restrict thought and channel it into ‘accepted’ ideas.

Rosenzweig goes on to describe some “troubling indicators.”

“In a handful locations around the country,” the former DHS official observes, “individuals have filed criminal complaints against librarians or educators — as if by bringing criminal charges, one could limit disagreements. One such proposed charge was sought against a public library in Wyoming; another was advanced in a school district in Florida. To date, law enforcement and prosecutors have, thankfully, declined to pursue any charges, yet the push continues.”

Rosenzweig continues, “Meanwhile, a group called Moms for Liberty in Williamson County, Tennessee, objected to a number of children’s books in the local elementary school, including a picture book about seahorses that they alleged to be ‘social conditioning’ because it explains that male seahorses ‘are the only male fish to get ‘pregnant’…. growing their young inside their own bodies’ — as if banning the books would change the science. While it is easy to dismiss these efforts as those of a vocal minority — and they really are a minority of Americans — the truth is that the impulse to censor increasingly finds purchase among elected officials.”

Many of the books being targeted, Rosenzweig notes, are “about people who are different, whether because of their sexuality or their race or for some other reason.”

“Books have great power,” Rosenzweig stresses. “That is why authoritarians restrict them. And that is why, soon after the government was formed in 1789 under the new Constitution, Congress and the states moved quickly to protect the freedom of speech and expression via what became the First Amendment…. When Americans today look to limit the freedom of inquiry, they reject an important lesson of our Founders: that free inquiry is the engine of liberty.”

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