Banning Maus

A schoolboard in Tennessee has decided to ban the usage Art Spiegelman’s award winning graphic novel Maus while teaching about the Holocaust. Maus is of course, a graphic novel based on the true experiences of Art Spiegelman’s family as told by his father.

The McMinn County School Board voted 10-0 to ban the book in a Jan. 10 meeting, citing concerns over “rough” language and a nude drawing of a woman, according to meeting minutes posted to the district website. The book was part of its eighth-grade English language arts curriculum.

Maus was serialized in 1986 – 1991, and won a Pulitzer Prize  in 1992 (the special award in letter), and is so far the only graphic novel to have won any Pulitzer prize. When arguing whether graphic novels can be literature, Maus is held up as the number one exhibit in favor.

When I was a Danish school kid, back in the Eighties, we would be told stories about the holocaust and the German occupation by people who experienced it. This was incredible impactful. As the people who experienced the Holocaust are dying out, works like Maus becomes more and more important. They tell the stories that otherwise would be lost, allowing us to remember the atrocities, and pushes us to ensure that they never happen again. The US Holocaust Museum states it well:

As news spread about the school board’s decision, the U.S. Holocaust Museum said, “Maus has played a vital role in educating students about the Holocaust through sharing detailed and personal experiences of victims and survivors.”

“On the eve of International #HolocaustRemembranceDay, it is more important than ever for students to learn this history,” the museum said Wednesday on Twitter without mentioning the district. “Teaching about the Holocaust using books like Maus can inspire students to think critically about the past and their own roles and responsibilities today.”

Of course, the ban on Maus is just part of a larger culture war, as Art Spiegelman himself points out:

While it’s not the first time “Maus” has been the subject of controversy, Spiegelman said he is alarmed by school boards nationwide banning books amid tense debates over the teaching of race, slavery and oppression.

“This is not about left versus right,” Spiegelman told The Tennessean, part of the USA TODAY Network. “This is about a culture war that’s gotten totally out of control.”

When start to ban books, especially books like Maus, the rest of us should take note, and speak out. This is the first step towards a very dark path.

Welcome to OnlySky Media

A new blogging network opened up this month –, which bills itself as the “first explicitly secular multimedia platform” (quote from Adam Lee’s blogpost about the new platform). I think the choice of the word “multimedia” is intentional, since both Freethought Blogs and the Orbit are secular blogging networks, and the same could probably be said of ScienceBlogs. So far, I haven’t seen any other media context, so I find it a bit premature to make that claim (also, Freethough Blogs make the occational pod-/vlogcast, so in a sense, this network can be called multimedia as well).

OnlySky is an exodus of atheist blogs from Patheos, due to new restrictions made to secular bloggers at Patheos. It is a long time since I have visited any blog at Patheos, due to the incredible invasive ads and the horrible layout, so I applaud the move, which will allow me to read some of the many great bloggers there. It might also mean that links to blogposts on social media, will make it clearer which blog it links to, making it easier to avoid giving click to bloggers that you don’t want to support.

Anyway, aside from the quibble about the claim about being the first network, I am entirely happy to see a new atheist network. My only worry is the attempt of defining the network as a movement

Help support independent secular storytelling and journalism.

OnlySky covers the human experience from an explicitly secular point of view. Support from our readers safeguards our essential editorial independence, emboldening us to find and publish stories that others won’t. We seek to secure an influential place for secular values in our culture, and change the cultural narrative regarding the nonreligious.

From the Support OnlySky page.

Having had too many bad experiences with atheist movements, which often provide cover for the worst kind of racism and misogynism, I have absolutely no intention of supporting anything claiming to be a movement. Also, isn’t it a bit arrogant to try to cast your own commercial venture into a movement? Hopefully, they will realize that they are heading down the wrong path with this language.

One area of worry, is the fact that OnlySky media has a science section, but as far as I can see, the ranks of contributors don’t really contain any scientists – hopefully this will change over time.

Quitting Spotify Premium

The Neil Young ultimatum to Spotify about the Joe Rogan podcast, and the afterwards removal of Young’s music from the platform has gotten me to do something which I had considered several times before – cancelling my Spotify Premium account.

I am not a fan of neither Neil Young as a person nor of his music, but he is right that Spotify helps spread dangerous misinformation, and we need to show them that it is unacceptable.

I have been using Spotify, either the free version or the Premium version, since I was on a project in Sweden in 2008 or so. Back then, Spotify was only available in Sweden, and they checked your location when you signed in, so I could only use it when at work. Later the service became available in the rest of the world.

In the past, I have considered cancelling Spotify due to their fairly low pay to the artists (of the big streaming services, YouTube is the only one that’s worse), but one of the reasons I’ve stuck around has been the lack of alternative, and the lack of a definitive push. Well, promoting Joe Rogan is definitely a definitive push, so I guess I will be looking for a new streaming platform to hear music on.  I have heard good stuff about Tidal so I will be checking that streaming platform out.

If you want a good explanation why Joe Rogan is so problematic, I highly recommend listening to the Joe Rogan episode of the Decoding the Gurus podcast.