Saturday, September 6, 2008

Palin and book banning: Kill the rumor

(Updated below.)

An email is making the rounds, purporting to containing a list of about a hundred books--from Huckleberry Finn to Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone to Death of a Salesman to Webster's Ninth New Collegiate Dictionary--that Sarah Palin was interested in banning at her local library while mayor of Wasilla.

If someone emails this story to you, kill it, don't spread it. The story is apocryphal. (And since doesn't have this yet, send a link to this post back to whoever forwarded it to you!)

(Update: has debunked this rumor now.)

More precisely, it is indeed a list of books that have, at one time or another, been the target of fundamentally un-American calls for book-banning somewhere in the US--but the specific list has no connection to Palin. The original source of this version appears to be this list compiled by Alder & Robin Books, which never had any connection to Palin.

(Source for the claim that the Palin connection is apocryphal is here. See the original post, plus comments, especially #11 and #28.)

(Want to know how books like these get targeted in the first place? Check out this site by the American Library Association.)

According to Time, Palin as mayor did approach the local library about the procedure for banning books (the librarian was "aghast" at the very question), but there's no evidence any books were banned as a result. The Christian Science Monitor extends the story a little here.

Now it wouldn't surprise me if the thought of banning everything this list (or just of banning books in general) warms Palin's heart. One gets the feeling that book-learning is among the characteristics she dislikes about "elites." But it never happened. (We may never know how the story got started, but a safe guess would be that someone, perhaps commenter #11 above, simply picked the list up, added the plausible-sounding attribution to Palin, and recirculated it.)

One more time: Banning books is fundamentally un-American--it's evidence of an unwholesome fear of naked ideas.

Nevertheless, I hope we can kill this story dead quickly. Circulating apocryphal or outright false stories via the email samizdat (among other off-the-"elites'"-radar media) is a popular tool on the grassroots right, because misinformation is so difficult to correct once it's "out there." But it doesn't become the left.

(Oh, and while you're at it, go read a banned book. It's an easy way to really irritate a conservative.)

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