Right Wing Group Demands Censorship Action From Attorney General: This Week’s Book Censorship News, January 14, 2022

Kelly Jensen


Kelly is a former librarian and a long-time blogger at STACKED. She's the editor/author of (DON'T) CALL ME CRAZY: 33 VOICES START THE CONVERSATION ABOUT MENTAL HEALTH and the editor/author of HERE WE ARE: FEMINISM FOR THE REAL WORLD. Her next book, BODY TALK, will publish in Fall 2020. Follow her on Instagram @heykellyjensen.

If the infiltration of state legislatures by right wing, pro-censorship agendas weren’t enough, at least one major group dedicated to the removal of books they deem “pornographic” (LGBTQ+) and “woke”/”revisionist” (by or about Black, Brown, Indigenous, and other people of color) is demanding action from U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland. The group, No Left Turn, wants Garland to demand an investigation across the country of materials in schools.

Linking to these sorts of things of course drives traffic, but you can access a .pdf of the full letter here via Google Drive. It’s not an enjoyable read, but it’s essential in understanding the playbook for censorship.

You’ll see the cherry-picked passages from books, the use of language that suggests teachers and librarians are “using” these books (as opposed to making available), and they utilize specific language to make their case (obscenity and pornography are the most common, both of which are applied to queer books). There’s also almost always an invocation of some legal precedent, applied to the offensive materials in question.

What is always conveniently left out is the First Amendment and rights granted therein. Students have these rights, as has been reaffirmed by the Supreme Court on more than one occasion, including Brown v. Entertainment in 2011. This particular case is interesting in concert with the current push for book removals, as the decision ruled against a California law which restricted the freedom of minors to purchase or rent violent video games.

It’s important to know the ways in which these groups are targeting these books and the language they use to reach those in government, be it school boards, state houses, or, in this case, the U.S. Attorney General. Being aware allows for understanding the why of the movement — it could be a sincere belief, but if you follow the money of these groups, you’ll soon see how many of them are connected to products being sold, including specific homeschool ideologies that seek to destroy public education more broadly. The more these groups can wear down educators, the more holes they create in the educational structure and the easier it becomes to make a case that the system is broken and doesn’t deserve taxpayer money. You can trace a line from the founder of No Left Turn to The Heritage Foundation, which advocates against the public education system and offers a wealth of resources for homeschooling with a conservative, “classical” model. The Foundation’s president is friends with and championed the service of former Education Secretary Betsy DeVos.

This is white supremacy at work.

There will be more in the coming weeks on the links between these book challenges and the determination of right-wing groups to destroy the public education system from the inside. Utah and Iowa are two states, among many, where this is and will continue to play out in the coming months.

As always, before diving into this week’s roundup of censorship news, here’s a reminder that you can take action. Use this toolkit for how to fight book bans and challenges, as well as this guide to identifying fake news.

Book Censorship News: January 14, 2022

Further Reading