In 1985 the PMRC- (Parents music resource center) headed by Tipper Gore (wife of what’s his name?) with Susan Baker, wife of Treasury Secretary James Baker; Pam Howar, wife of Washington realtor Raymond Howar; and Sally Nevius, wife of Washington City Council Chairman John Nevius was formed. Their mission was to increase parental control over the access of children to music deemed to be violent or sexually suggestive. It basically got started because Tipper and her daughter freaked out over the lyrics in Prince’s song “Darling Nikki.” When asked about some of the other rock videos she had seen, Gore said: “The images frightened my children, they frightened me! I am frightened! Way frightened! The graphic sex and the violence were too much for us to handle.”
Gore also attributed rock music to the “decay of the american nuclear family” stating that families are “haven[s] of moral stability” which protect children from outside influence, and that without the family structure rock music was “infecting the youth of the world with messages they cannot handle.” She went on to blame rappers Ice-T and Ice cube for the increase in police shootings and just generally being angry and black. (Okay I made that part up.)
All of this lead to a senate hearing that I can still remember where Dee Snider of Twisted Sister and Frank Zappa took the “Washington wives” to task. (Although in a very inconvenient truth Al Gore testified for the PMRC.) It also lead to the music industry bowing to the pressure and “voluntarily” putting warning stickers on music that was deemed to be violent and sexually offensive. (By the way me and my friends quickly ran out to our local record store and bought all the records with stickers regardless of if we liked the band or not!) Rock music and magazines were taken off the shelves at stores like Wall Mart, JC Penny’s and Sears.
Oh, but that was so long ago nothing like that could ever happen again, right?
Fast forward to 2010 where there is a concerted effort to ban and limit free speech in America. Books, always a soft target in the war against words have taken their share of hits lately. Read here for all the latest and saddest book banning and attempted banning news, including her own book in this wonderful blog by author Sarah Ockler: http://sarahockler.com/2010/09/19/on-book-banning-zealots-ostriches/
As usual the rallying cry has gone up and our faithful brethren in the book world have responded. Blogging and tweeting and writing (because that’s what writers do.) Trying to draw attention to the ever-increasing amount of censorship that has crept its way back into this country. (But did it ever go away?)
It is easy to write off (no pun intended) a guy like Dr. Wesely Scroggins, the latest pariah in this anti-intellectual war against books. Firing his hate based missiles at Laurie Halse Anderson‘s brilliant novel “Speak.” (As well as Sarah Ockler’s “Twenty Boy Summer.”) (I won’t even dignify his ignorant words with quotes but I will give you the links at the end of my blog if you’d like to read them.) It would be easy, except for the fact that people listen. You can call him crazy, or a lunatic or fundamentalist gone wild (those commercials come on REALLY late at night) but that won’t change the fact that his words, sadly, reach ears that can and do keep important books out of the hands of our children. (Yes, they are all our children.) It would be easy to dismiss him if not for the fact that Scroggins is not the only one. This is a trend, a crime of opportunity for a segment of our society to impose their twisted values on others.
Scroggins goes so far as to not so subtly call out the Republic, MO school board on their Christianity. If you don’t take this book off the shelves then how can you call yourself a Christian? To paraphrase. Really Wesely? Is that what being a Christian is? You not only are teaching OUR children to censor but you’re poisoning and perverting the name of an entire faith in the process.
It seems another book on Scroggins radar “Slaughterhouse Five” by a little known writer named KURT VONNEGUT has been removed. Just a side-bar Vonnegut changed the way I looked at words and most definitely changed the way I was to write them. To put it more succinctly he blew my mind the minute I read him and is widely regarded as one of the greatest writers who ever laid pen to paper. Very sad, that those in power in this school district would bow to such ignorance and overt bullying.
But again what’s important here is that no matter what our feelings may be about the good Dr.(See I had to write that to calm myself down) we have to keep our eye on the prize and see the bigger picture. One banning, leads to another leads to an author being dis-invited to a conference, leads to another and another and then . . .
Its 1985 all over again, perhaps sometime soon, or maybe a few years down the road. A different set of “Washington Wives” or so-called “doctors” who have just the right prescription for what ails our youth. At first it all sounds so crazy, just some more background noise in our increasingly noisy society. But then, people begin to listen, and take notice. Pressure is given, and felt. Decisions are made. Books quietly begin disappearing from shelves . . . Stickers begin appearing on books . . . Author’s begin to think twice about what they write . . . Good books stop being published . . .
Links to stop the madness:
Laurie’s wonderful take on this, with some more disturbing background on Scroggins: http://madwomanintheforest.com/this-guy-thinks-speak-is-pornography/
Read & write a reply to Scroggin’s letter here: http://www.news-leader.com/article/20100918/OPINIONS02/9180307/Scroggins-Filthy-books-demeaning-to-Republic-education
Write to the Republic schools administration here: http://www.republicschools.org/pages/centraloffice/adstaff.htm