Two generally GOP-dominated states (Florida and Texas) and a third (Pennsylvania) where Republicans sometimes prevail lead the pack nationally in terms of individual states with the most books banned in schools, and right-wing efforts to clamp down on free expression are continuing. The Lincoln Project spotlighted the dangerous, potentially destructive trend in a new video.
In the new video, a narrator soberingly observes as follows:
‘The freedom to learn — the freedom to explore. The freedom to challenge yourself and your beliefs. As authoritarian radicals tear books off the shelves in schools and local libraries, those freedoms are under attack right now across America. Schoolchildren told they can’t read about Martin Luther King, about slavery, about the Holocaust. They aren’t the first to pull books off shelves and shovel them onto fires. Oppressive nations like China, Saudi Arabia, Russia, and North Korea decide what you can read. This is where it starts every time. It’s up to us how it ends.’
Check out the production below:
The freedom to learn and grow is under attack. How will this story end? pic.twitter.com/r7ENmcLYWv
— The Lincoln Project (@ProjectLincoln) May 10, 2022
A high-profile example of right-wing pushes for free expression to be restricted is the so-called “Don’t Say Gay” bill that Florida Republican Governor Ron DeSantis recently signed. The legislation, as its name suggests, sharply restricts in-school discussions of sexual orientation and gender identity, although these are simply fundamental facets of the human experience — and obviously, there’s a lot more to these sides of humanity than what might be covered by sex education. But the recently enacted legislation apparently states that school districts “may not encourage classroom discussion about sexual orientation or gender identity in primary grade levels or in a manner that is not age-appropriate or developmentally appropriate for students.” DeSantis — who was singled out in The Lincoln Project’s new video — is up for re-election this year after originally winning his currently unfolding first term by less than half of one percent.
Floridians deserve so much better than Ron DeSantis.
— Nikki Fried (@NikkiFried) May 7, 2022
Examples of creeping Republican authoritarianism continue from there. In Tennessee, during debate in the state House over a bill that The Washington Post says would demand librarians “submit to a state-run commission a list of book titles in their collections for approval,” a Republican legislator expressed support for burning books that are rejected. In a report on efforts across 2021 to restrict the reach of certain titles, the American Library Association remarked that the interests behind the pushes “sought to pull books from school and public library shelves that share the stories of people who are gay, trans, Black, Indigenous, people of color, immigrants, and refugees” — so just to be clear, it’s not simply a generalized threat to freedom. Those responsible for the pushes are specifically targeting marginalized communities. Clearly, all the talk spread by Republicans about how much they supposedly stand for freedom is — among some — just nonsense.
We must turn Governors Abbott and DeSantis into former Governors Abbott and DeSantis.
— Aaron Parnas (@AaronParnas) May 10, 2022