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Censorship Bills On the Table in Nearly Half of U.S. States: This Week’s Book Censorship News, January 7, 2022

In 2022, don’t anticipate that book challenges and wide-ranging censorship of books will slow down across the U.S. They’ll be amplifying, thanks to right-wing and extremist white supremacist groups like No Left Turn, Moms for Liberty, and dozens of state-based organizations, as well as dark money.

State governments are packed with representatives who are being supported by these groups, as well as dark money, and by listening to these constituencies, many politicians are sponsoring bills with an anti–critical race theory (CRT) agenda. They’re also targeting school curriculum, demanding transparency over books purchased for libraries and those purchased for individual classrooms either as supplemental or required reading. Much of the discourse feels like the satanic panic but with the dark reality that by leading the efforts on censorship, these politicians feel they have a platform for which to seek reelection and support. We can look to Virginia as a bellwether for things to come, following the election of Glenn Youngkin.

A number of states have already enacted so-called anti-CRT bills, while other states are following those leads and either copying the playbook or are attempting to go one further with even more draconian bills meant as educational gag orders. Politico reported earlier this week the ways in which the GOP sees these bills as their “in” to building a “red wave.”

States with bills in place or under discussion include Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Iowa, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, and Texas. Wisconsin is also floating around potential legislation that would put a similar chokehold in public facilities of higher education. Much has been made about Oklahoma’s bill in particular, which would put a bounty on teachers and librarians who carry books a parent deems inappropriate (where that money would come from in a state that ranks 47th in public education, which factors into the equation that determines state funding, remains a mystery).

If you’re in one of the above-mentioned states, it’s time to reach out to your representatives and demand they act to ensure these laws don’t pass, and/or you stay on top of your representatives with your dissatisfaction, reminding them they work for you. If you’re not in one of the above-mentioned states, the same assignment applies, but this time, write in support of intellectual freedom and the rights of students and educators to as wide a range of materials as possible.

As always, this toolkit for how to fight book bans and challenges will help you do the work, whether you’ve got five minutes or five hours. This primer on evaluating news sites will be helpful, too, particularly when it comes to the information you’re being presented about book challenges and state-focused censorship legislation.

Before diving into this week’s roundup of book censorship news — I’ve limited to news from January and a couple of bigger stories at the end of December — I’d love to know if there’s an angle to censorship, book challenges, or intellectual freedom you’d like to learn more about each week in this roundup. Feel free to drop me a line on social media or via email (it’s my first name at riotnewmedia.com).

Book Challenges and Censorship News This Week: January 7, 2022

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