Southern Mississippi library system bans Jon Stewart's best-selling book

The Associated Press Reports Library officials in two southern Mississippi counties have banned Jon Stewart's best-selling "America (The Book)."

Officials say they banned the satirical textbook in eight public libraries last month because they objected to an image of the faces of the U.S. Supreme Court justices superimposed on nine naked bodies.

"I've been a librarian for 40 years and this is the only book I've objected to so strongly that I wouldn't allow it to circulate," said Robert Willits, director of the Jackson-George Regional Library System.

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No Downs Award for Director at JG

Jackson-George has long been a fine library system. However, paternalistic censorship will change that profile. The director, a graduate of the University of Illinois, might review his alma mater's commitment to intellectual freedon as exemplified by the Downs award.

"Given annually, the Robert B. Downs Intellectual Freedom Award acknowledges individuals or groups who have furthered the cause of intellectual freedom, particularly as it impacts libraries and information centers and the dissemination of ideas. Granted to those who have resisted censorship or efforts to abridge the freedom of individuals to read or view materials of their choice, the award may be in recognition of a particular action or long-term interest in, and dedication to, the cause of intellectual freedom.

The award was established in 1969 by the GSLIS faculty to honor Robert Downs, a champion of intellectual freedom, on his 25th anniversary as director of the School."
http://www.lis.uiuc.edu/gslis/school/downs-award.h tml

Re:No Downs Award for Director at JG

Really? Where's the award for integrity? For doing what you think is right regardless of what your peers think? And what's intellectually free about slapping heads on naked bodies? Stewart's free to do it but it doesn't make him an intellectual and libraries aren't required to buy it.

From the article:"Former English teacher Tara Skelton of Ocean Springs said the libraries shouldn't decide what is in poor taste."

Apparently we just sit around and fill out order cards based on bestseller lists.

Re:No Downs Award for Director at JG

As you wrote: "A profession that deals with the sum total of human knowledge should not be limited by mere politics."Probably safe to say you'd disagree with the majority of decisions made by the majority of librarians if they just "did what they thought was right," donchya think?

Re:No Downs Award for Director at JG

Apparently we just sit around and fill out order cards based on bestseller lists.

Hey, its the reason that hatchet job Unfit for Command made it into our library...

Judge Not Lest Ye Be Judged!

Actually, if the issue really is the naked bodies, do what other libraries do, and paint little diapers over the offending parts. I believe someone did that to copies of the "In Night Kitchen" some years ago, when it first came out. And if nakedness is the issue, then textual references of nakedness should also be hunted down and weeded.

Next, cut out the offending picture, or paste over it with a comment that this is nasty and shouldn't be viewed. Obviously, all good people would refuse to look under the pasted cover. and they wouldn't be offended, since they would never know what was under there. Which of course, is what clothes do.

Brother Dave Gardner was once asked if naked people were moral. He replied that if we were moral, we could all be naked. The people of Mississippi must be very immoral, if they need government employees to prevent them from seeing such things. There must be a large demand for these images, that needs to be fought against by moral librarians and the moral police!

All nude images should be removed from all libraries if one is removed. And that's the naked truth! Thus, all art books showing paintings with naked angels should be covered over as well. In many Middle Eastern countries where censorship is an accepted government function, they routinely cover over with magic markers all offensive images, whether it is a crucifix on the wall over a photo of a patient in a hospital, a nude breast of a woman leading the charge during the French Revolution, or any woman who's face wasn't properly and modestly veiled. Indeed, perhaps the unemployment rate could be reduced in Mississippi, as it is in Saudi Arabia, by hiring unemployed library patrons to wander through the books and to take out anything offensive, whether sexual, political or religously objectionable.

Men only, of course. We don't want our women to be offended by immoral photographs in the library, even if they are censors doing their job in keeping other women from being offended. The women might learn something new, or think new thoughts, or otherwise ask new questions. And we can't have that in a library, can we? The moral order of the nation would be turned upside down if women began asking questions, especially in Mississippi!

Nude judges? That certainly is offensive to all right thinking people. And if you are not a right thinking person, then you must be one of those (insert appropriate politically incorrect slur here), and thus your opinion just isn't important. Just pay your taxes, and shut up. What, you think this is a free country?

Finally, I also think that Jon Stewart should invite the librarians who approve of this censorship to appear on his show, and confront the Daily Show cast on national TV. That show should be a fun show to watch. But it will never happen. The librarians don't have the courage of their hypocrisy, to risk ridicule when their prudery is explored. After all, their ideas would be naked to the world, and they would be embarassed to be exposed!

Re:No Downs Award for Director at JG

Very true. But the idea of 'intellectual freedom' gets thrown around a bit much doesn't it?

Nice to know I made your quote file.

Re:Judge Not Lest Ye Be Judged!

" Finally, I also think that Jon Stewart should invite the librarians who approve of this censorship to appear on his show, and confront the Daily Show cast on national TV. That show should be a fun show to watch. But it will never happen. The librarians don't have the courage of their hypocrisy, to risk ridicule when their prudery is explored."

The key word is 'ridicule' which is all Stewart does. That's his job, he's not interested in debate and whenchallenged to a debate his response is he's only a comedian. I'll happily debate anyone anytime on anything, regardless of venue, but if you're just going to sit there and make funny faces at the audience in response then what's the point?

I suppose I should add that I'm mostly ambivalent about the book, its hardly the worst thing out there. But if a library chooses not to spend their money on it that's their right. If the Director felt he had to make a point to the staff about not purchasing such a book by pulling it then that's his job.

Re:Throwing Around 'intellectual freedom'

I guess I always thought 'intellectual freedom' had less to do with the "intellectualness" of things, and more with the freedom of access to those things, whether or not I (or anyone) thought it was indeed 'intellectual'.My guess is we'd differ in our definition of whether or not many books are 'intellectual', though this is probably not one of them.

Re:No Downs Award for Director at JG

I purchase library materials based upon my patrons needs and wants, not in order to win any awards. I bought the book because patrons asked for it before it was published. I don't particularly like Jon Stewart, and I wouldn't have purchased it for myself. I put aside my personal opinions and bought what my patrons wanted. Is that not what we are supposed to do as professionals?


I wonder why none of the independent Cuban librarians has won the Robert B. Downs Intellectual Freedom Award. It seems to me they certainly exhibit all the qualities required insofar as they are imprisioned for giving books to people. That sure beats telling the FBI to get stuffed or fighting to keep sex books on the shelves.


I guess there are different definitions of freedom.

Re:Throwing Around 'intellectual freedom'

I've heard good things about the book, I've heard bad things about the book. I've picked it up at the bookstore and thumbed through it and found some funny stuff. Eh.

The decision was based on the picture of the Supreme Court and only that picture. Someone can argue that's free speech but where's the line? If it had been a picture of an orgy with their heads attached would that have been okay? Curmudgeon brought up Unfit For Command, if it had been Kerry's face on a naked body would that have been okay?

I'm thinking there is a definite line here somewhere. I may not be defining it and some may be trying to avoid it altogether but there is a line here for what is acceptable and what is not.

I think this is an interesting example. I'd compare it to the book that came out before the election describing someone's desire to kill the President. The line between satire and simply a desire to offend.

The power of the patron

I hope that every single resident that lives in those counties calls up their public libraries and asks them if they are going to buy the book, and if not, why not? It would be interesting to see if the librarians became flooded with requests to purchase the book, if they would still insist on banning the book from the shelves.

As for Greg's question of where do we draw the line? If we must, due to limited space and money, draw a line, we draw the line book by book. This one is clearly satire. I am glad that I don't live in either of those counties, and that I am not dependent upon those particular librarians to make choices that reflect MY sense of humor and MY sense of satire.

Re:The power of the patron

"I am glad that I don't live in either of those counties, and that I am not dependent upon those particular librarians to make choices that reflect MY sense of humor and MY sense of satire."

No one should be dependent on their librarian for choices that reflect their own individual sense of humor or satire, otherwise all those people who enjoy the cartoons in Penthouse are going to be out of luck. The decisions a library makes should be in the best interest of the community it serves.

Jon Stewart Book

There was an item earlier on Yahoo. The library boards met, and decided to carry the book

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