Posted by: Ele Quigan | July 30, 2011

Why banning books is ridiculous

I’ve never understand the want to ban books – the ‘somebody think of the children‘ ethos is beyond me. After looking for books at my parents house many (many many many) years ago, I came across a veritable treasure trove of Stephen King novels. (I think I was about 10/11 at the time, I can’t remember) and adored them.

Some of the content of course went over my head, particularly the sexual stuff was well beyond me at that age, and I still don’t quite understand why it’s seen as a bad thing to have a young person in reading anything at all.

I read Kurt Vonnegut’s’Slaughter House 5’ a few months back and while some of the content is disturbing, its not glorifying horror in any way except in a sense to be brutally honest about it.

The reasoning of banning the novel (too many curse words) is ridiculous. Kids will hear more swearing in a week from their peers than the content in this book. I barely even noticed it myself, and while I have an inherent love of emphasising a sentence with the ‘f’ word in certain situations, I’m certain I don’t swear as much as a teenager might amongst friends…

Why oh why do we default to someone think of the children – children are mini adults, teenagers are adults before their time, and my god I cannot even imagine what it must be like to be a young person these days. While I sound like a bit of an old hag, there were no phones when I was a kid (therefore no ‘sexting’, no social media profiles to bitch about other people on, the concept of bullying was straight to your face (and of course the girl-like backstabbing, oh how cruel young women with a sense of emotional power can be) somehow this doesn’t seem as insidious as what goes on online these days can be. If you don’t believe me, check out the suicide of Megan Meier ) and you know,I don’t even think I really came across drugs until my early 20’s.

So if this pressure and stress on growing up in a new world is now the case (and I do genuinely believe that it’s much more difficult to make ‘good’ choices as a youth these days), what is the harm of a few curse words in a book, that essentially is about preserving the preciousness of life, and to never ever again do the harm to the world that was inflicted in WWII?

Is stopping a few curse words in a novel really going to affect a teenagers mind?

While some commenters have mentioned the infamous Streisand Effect which will send teenagers running out to get a copy of this banned book – I just don’t think that’s the case. While Gen Y isn’t as apathetic as those of us in the mid-Gen crossover, I just don’t think teenagers will care enough within their own stressful and emotional lives, to seek out a novel for the sake of a few extra ‘f’ words.

If I lived in this town, I’d buy a hundred copies, and leave them strategically placed, in bus stops, in cafes, in the school library, with the words ‘I’m Banned’ and a pass along subtext in the front cover. But would it really make any difference?

Banning books does nothing but remove another title from a shelf. Books are nothing but words, pulled together in a strategic way – to attempt to influence the reader in some way, to provoke an emotional response – to have a sense of enjoyment, anger, frustration, to love and support and even hate the characters therein, but what is their influence beyond that? There is of course the Mark David Chapman example, and the young men I’ve met citing ‘A Catcher in the Rye’ changed their life – but is that from an overriding theme? or a few more ‘f’ words than usual dotted through the text?

So this leads me to my next investigation – what other books are banned? While this isn’t an exhaustive list, it shows at least which books have been banned country-wide, a few I’ve read, a few I haven’t, but still interesting nonetheless.

I just hope in the media outrage outside of this ‘town of the banning books’ – that even just a single young person, realises the underlying ethos to this ridiculous banning, and either makes the decision to GTFO, or decides to seek them out, read them, and enjoy them, on purpose…


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