Comics-industry commentators are burning up the wires over a story out of San Bernardino County, California, in which an art-history book concerning manga (Japanese comics) has been ordered removed from all county libraries after a parent complained.
This situation brings forth a goulash of various contentious issues: the sex versus violence debate; the differences in Western versus Japanese attitudes towards depictions of sexuality; the political influence of cultural conservatives versus cultural libertarians; how to (or whether to) screen sensitive material from minors while allowing adults access to the same material; and whether publicly-owned libraries ought to be shielded against the desires of the public, if such can be accurately determined, which owns the libraries.
The First Amendment and free-speech notions are raised most often, but I don’t see this as particularly relevant. The book is not being banned from privately-owned bookstores, nor from the mails. Nobody is being arrested and having his live and liberty jeopardized. This is a case of county supervisors, acting as the board of directors for a publicly-owned institution, overriding the decisions of its administrative employees.
It would be as if the local manager of a Barnes & Noble chain store stocked a book which provoked complaints to the home office, and the home office ordered the manager to remove the book.
Personally, I think the county supervisors are grandstanding and otherwise acting like asses, but I don’t live in San Bernardino County. But if I did, I would say that the root of the problem is the fact that we have government-owned monopoly libraries. If, on the other hand, our libraries were generally supported via philanthropy and volunteer labor, there would be a great deal less controversy over such matters.