Viewpoint: Dr. Larry Burriss, Banned Book Week

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Banned Book Week
09/21/2020

We’re coming up on Banned Book Week, September 27 through October 3, and in his classic novel “Fahrenheit 451,” Ray Bradbury explains how books became illegal, and book-burning became an accepted part of the culture.

It started not with censorship laws but with anyone with a victim mentality cutting a paragraph here or ripping out an offensive page there, “until the day came when the books were empty and the minds shut and the libraries closed forever.”

What’s particularly interesting is both liberals and conservatives, the right and the left, Republicans and Democrats, decry censorship, while at the same time censoring books they say are inappropriate.
Both sides, it seems, aren’t interested in open debate. They’re interested in winning their own particular point of view, and making sure the opposition loses.

For example, conservatives ban books they say are undercutting the family in general, and right of parents to determine what their children read in school.
On the liberal side of the spectrum, there seems to be a pervasive fear of offending any group or person, and a fear of promoting any idea that could possibly be misconstrued and result in litigation. We have no way to measure the damage this insidious kind of censorship might be doing to children’s literature.
For example, how many children’s books are censored at their source – either by a wary author or by editors and publishers who have to market to educators living in fear anything they say, do or teach might be used against them?
One of the most wonderful and yet frightening things about living in a free society is that there are many choices. Of course, not all of them are the right choices for all people.
But Banned Books Week celebrates our freedom to read and the fact we have choices. It’s also a reminder that because they are so easily lost, we must not take them for granted.

I’m Larry Burriss

Larry Burriss, a professor in Middle Tennessee State University’s College of Mass Communication and president of the Tennessee Journalism Hall of Fame, welcomes the crowd before the induction ceremonies at the Tennessee Association of Broadcasters conference in Murfreesboro for the Tennessee Journalism Hall of Fame. (MTSU photo by Andrew Oppmann)