Art history book banned

18. April 2006

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.

Not wishing to repeat the details here, I direct readers to stories here and commentary here and here.

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.

Kategorie comics, Free speech, Posts | 2 Kommentare »

2 Kommentare zu diesem Beitrag

  Jim Davidson schrieb @ April 25th, 2006 at 6:57 pm

Dear Scott,

I agree with the thrust of your comments. I would say that if lending libraries open to the public were of any credible economic value they would be operated for profit. Perhaps that would be the case where public libraries don’t exist. I’ve seen such lending for profit libraries in small towns, especially where romance novels are concerned.

Earlier, I posted the comment below to a manga blog you had linked.



The valid issue is freedom of speech and of the press and of the people to peaceably assemble. Everything else about this matter is hogwash.

So a sixteen year old saw some depictions of a sexually explicit nature in a book. So what? By the time I was sixteen my buddies and I had fished explicit porn out of dumpsters near student housing at the University of Kansas, and seen far more than a graphic of a fairy humping a squirrel. I cannot think of a single sixteen year old in my high school who hadn’t figured out some way to see Playboy or Penthouse or Hustler magazines. Naturally we all grew up twisted, indecent, and disgusting. But I’m the only one who openly uses terms like “humping” on a public blog.

Now, the issue of a public library having art appreciation books has utterly nothing to do with freedom of speech. It has to do with whether taxpayers should be funding libraries at all. The alarm at having a library bureau-rat meeting with a politician to learn what the kommissars have decided should be policy and then, gosh, implementing that policy, is all very amusing.

If you want books, go to a bookstore. If you want really odd books, drive into LA to buy books at some of the really odd stores there. Any book, including numerous manga and hentai books can be bought on the Internet from various sources.

But if you want my sympathy because your socialist paradise of taxpayer financed libraries and taxpayer financed schools has resulted in a rigid morality being imposed by brainless bureau-rats and idiotic politicians, excuse me while I don’t cry you a river. It isn’t your library that is being censored, it is the government’s library. Any illusion you have that the socialist system gives you freedom within the government’s buildings or with resources paid for with your tax dollars should be shattered. You ought not to live like a child thinking that the government is a plaything you can manipulate.

And when you consider that the feral government wants to be able to track your library borrowing activities and otherwise monitor your every waking moment, maybe you’ll come to the conclusion that what you really want is quite a bit less from government at all levels.

  Frank schrieb @ April 29th, 2006 at 8:20 pm

This is a test of the bot-check code.

Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.