I have never read a book by Nora Roberts, and what I’ve heard about them does not appeal at all. If you enjoy them, great — she’s an immensely popular author, so a lot of people do enjoy her books. Unfortunately, a censorious few do not, and have decided that no one should read them. She’s being banned. For this?
What’s more, the objection to Roberts’s books appears extremely flimsy. Four of those books, which make up “The Bride Quartet,” are about friends seeking love as they build their wedding-planning business.
The books have some sex scenes, but the language is often vague enough that a child would have little idea what was happening. (“He touched, he tasted, he lingered until her quivers became trembles.”) And — spoiler alert — each book ends with a marriage proposal.
Roberts allowed that the books contain “sex” but noted that it is “monogamous” and “consensual.” Speaking of the censors, Roberts told us: “I’m surprised that they wouldn’t want teenagers to read about healthy relationships that are monogamous, consensual, healthy and end up in marriage.”
It’s conventionally heteronormative! But one person, literally one person, squeaked an objection, and chickenshit school administrators in Martin county immediately pulled every Roberts book off the shelves. That’s all it takes, one prude from the fascist group “Moms for Liberty” complains, and administrators instantly surrender.
There’s a reason for that. “Moms for Liberty” is a right-wing terrorist organization.
The group’s methods, however, belie the wholesome vision it tries to project. VICE News has spoken to students, administrators, parents, superintendents, school board members, and teachers who have faced vicious attacks by Moms for Liberty. Their stories paint a picture of a group that conducts orchestrated harassment campaigns against individuals, that’s resulted in many fearing for their safety and, in some cases, their lives.
“The greatest impact that Moms for Liberty is having is imparting fear, within the teachers and the educators and in the parents,” Laura Leigh-Abby, co-founder of Defense of Democracy, a nonprofit group advocating for inclusive education, told VICE News. “The true impact they’re having is really not calculable, because I’m seeing teachers who are afraid to speak out because they don’t want to be targeted.”
It’s their tactics. They harass and threaten to get their way, and all too often people let them have it.
In Pennsylvania, the leader of a local Moms for Liberty chapter allegedly hijacked a dead woman’s Facebook page to harass her enemies, including using the N-word and saying they should hang from a noose. In Arkansas, the head of communications of the Lonoke County chapter said that librarians should be “plowed down with a freaking gun.” In Chattanooga, Tennessee, a member of a local Moms for Liberty chapter harassed an opposing group, threatened to report them for child abuse, and called them “pedophile sympathizers.” In Milwaukee County, Wisconsin, police had to be called to a school board meeting after members of Moms for Liberty accused attendees of being “groomers” and wanting to show explicit pictures to children. In Charleston, South Carolina, a Moms for Liberty-affiliated member of the local school board publicly stated he would show up at his son’s teacher’s doorstep with a gun if the teacher came out as transgender.
They’re actually a tiny minority, a widely scattered few, whose only strength lies in their unscrupulous fanaticism. They are our brownshirts. You dare to put a book they don’t like in a library, and they show up at your door with a gun and have a parade of shrieking right-wing assholes marching by your house. The most harmless, mild exhibition of tolerance and open-mindedness will trigger a shit-flinging hateful response.
They don’t even like Judy Blume.
“We thought the '80s, that might be as bad as it would get. We're America, right? We're supposed to have intellectual freedom. And now it's back and it's worse…. We have to fight it. Speak out. Yell.” @judyblume on #bannedbooks. pic.twitter.com/yH4F2Jh4h3
— PEN America (@PENamerica) April 30, 2023
She’s right. Fight back. Except it’s hard — the executors of the repressive policies are usually bland, faceless, cowardly bureaucrats, middle-aged white men sitting on school boards and city councils, masters of being tepid and boring and making excuses to avoid riling up the seething masses of idiots. They will always defend action and inaction by calling upon pitiful pleas to avoid trouble, claiming to be trying to obey the will of the people…where “the people” refers to just those who have bullhorns and guns.
We have to fight back anyway.
That reminds me of another fundie xian/right wingnut group called One Million Moms. Which turns out to be something like three people in a basement.
Or Donohue’s Catholic league, which turns out to be him, a few staffers, and all they do is issue press releases and raise money for his high salary.
“Feb 14, 2022 — An NBC News report found that the Catholic League’s Bill Donohue makes over $1,000,000 a year.”
The local right wingnuts have been challenging books at our large, funded by bond levy, and very popular public library. Attacking libraries are an in thing right now in oogedy boogedy xian circles.
The library like many, has a formal procedure for challenging books. It is sort of like a trial where a complaint is filed and reviewed by an independent board of some sort. AFAIK, it rarely works.
What the fundie xians usually do is just steal the books they don’t like. The library has self checkout so it isn’t hard. They had 6 copies of Dawkins’s The God Delusion, usually checked out. When they got down to 1 copy, it is now behind a counter and you have to ask. Not because it is questionable but because they got tired of all their copies getting stolen.
It is worse than PZ noted in the OP.
Libraries have been getting bombing and shooting threats…”including the forced temporary closure of five public library systems.”
Most or all libraries have security plans in place by now.
Well, if any want to show up protesting at my door with a gun, I’ll thank the idiot for the gun and the hogs at the farm down the road will thank the idiot for the meal.
I used to work in counterterrorism. What that basically means is, I’m a better terrorist than they are.
In this case, it’s easy. Get a few hundred taxpayers to agree to place their school and property taxes in escrow until their voices are heard as the majority. Because, those administrators like one thing more than peace and quiet – their paychecks.
And the one thing governments fear the most is a budgetary shortfall.
For the gun bunnies, well, I’ve easily countered them by simply posting my zero targets in the window. For some odd reason, they don’t want to threaten someone whose shot groupings are under 1 cm at 25 meters and 100 meters.
When confronting the unreasonable, one must needs be even more unreasonable, in ways that leave the unreasonable dreading another confrontation. That’s the first rule of dealing with such creatures. The second is as critical, remember, violence is the first refuge of the incompetent.
So, leave them doing that which they’re unaccustomed to doing, thinking. “What if that bastard…”
Point out that the loon group is tiny and venal.
And wow to remove any bureaucrats who back down from threats. They have a duty to serve the people. If they lack the spine to do their jobs they should step down.
If they are yellow, make it absolutely clear you can be as much trouble as the fascist group.
There’s a quote from the Lord of War movie that I like a lot
I suppose that Moms for Liberty would almost qualify if they were associated with an insurgent group
Paul K says
I’m a middle-aged white guy on my local school board, in a small, rural, Wisconsin town. My wife is a public librarian.
Fuck these people. Reading this post, my main thought was along the lines of, ‘Try me, you scum.’ I should say, too, that others on my board would feel the same, though maybe none of them would say it quite as clearly as I just did, at least not in the open. We had anti-maskers try to take over a Board meeting. We’ve had some questions about certain books in our school libraries. We were quiet about it, but we stood up to this. These folks love to get a rise out of us, so we stay ‘polite’, but we also keep doing what’s right. And we have not had death threats, so there’s that.
We did have an election a year ago where two excellent members were defeated in an election by protest candidates. But both of those candidates found out, in their very first meeting after the election, that all the things they’d been told about what we were doing were just false. We are non-partisan. We don’t have a lot of leeway in much of what we do, being bound by state and federal guidelines. We follow our own policies, and re-write them when needed, to meet our goals to make us as helpful to kids’ futures as we can. These new members have actually been fine when it comes to doing what’s actually necessary to make the district the best we can. And, in last month’s election, one of the defeated candidates was re-elected by running for an ‘at large’ seat, and another excellent one took the place of a retiring member who was the most ‘conservative’ person we had (I’m being ‘polite’). The one protest candidate this time lost convincingly.
I’m actually feeling pretty positive about the direction things seem to be going, at least for now. Like maybe the Overton Window has come up against a wall of reality. Enough people are seeing just how nuts the right has become that the power they wield could be on the way out. At least here; at least for now. I can hope.
Matt G says
A coworker hates James Bond movies because of the multiple sex partners. Time to put the franchise on the chopping block? Relabel as X-rated?
I assume the reason they hate that book is there’s implied premarital sex?
Roberts allowed that the books contain “sex” but noted that it is “monogamous” and “consensual.”
I’m guessing it’s the “consensual” part that set them off.
These Moms are for “liberty” in the same way that the former East Germany and North Korea were “Democratic or the “Moral Majority” was either. Or the “Holy Roman Empire” was actually any of those things…
Marcus Ranum says
Makes me want to complain about every history book that isn’t Howard Zinn, and every economic text that’s not socialist.
@9. christoph : Maybe also implied interracial rel’ships? Dunno haven’t read them but wouldn’t surprise me.
Quite understandably, she doesn’t like them either – for much better reasons and she speaks out nicely here – PBS Newshour interview too. (8 mins long -total key quote at the 5 min 23 secs markonwards approx.)
Marcus Ranum says
A coworker hates James Bond movies because of the multiple sex partners.
Oh that’s all implied. Bond is actually impotent. It’s very frustrating for him and nobody talks about it to spare his feelings.
Your coworker is a sick pervert, assuming there is sex going on. Eew, what the heck is wrong with people?!
@ Marcus Ranum : “Your coworker is a sick pervert, assuming there is sex going on. Eew, what the heck is wrong with people?!”
Where do I start? ;-)
Also define “pervert” here.. Also “assuming” what they didn’t check very carefully and make sure like with photographic, even video evidence?
The Young Turks on one book banner here – 15 min long. (Rounded up by ten seconds.)
Oh and FWIW the
viewnews reports from Japan’s NHK news service here – 12 & a half mins long.
Also alternative link with transcript for Judy Blume’s PBS Newshour interview here :
PS. Oh and also by TYT their expose on the self-wrongly proclaimed Moms for (lolsob – not!) “liberty”, err, make that book banning and hate clip here – 15 minutes long.
“In Charleston, South Carolina, a Moms for Liberty-affiliated member of the local school board publicly stated he would show up at his son’s teacher’s doorstep with a gun if the teacher came out as transgender.”
Well the Rescumlicans want to arm teachers so the teacher could always shoot the fascist first and thank the politicians later.
chigau (違う) says
“The Bible” has plenty of ban-worthy narratives.
Pierce R. Butler says
… whose only strength lies in their unscrupulous fanaticism.
And an effective top-down national organization.
And lots of money.
IOW, the 21st-century collectiveDark Trifecta.
What can you say about a society that is more comfortable with violence than it is with sex?
Well…it’s messed up, man. Maybe even fundamentally insane.
Rich Woods says
“chickenshit school administrators in Marin county immediately pulled every Roberts book off the shelves.”
PZ, I think the story you are referring to is of Martin County, Florida banning Nora Roberts books, not Marin County, California.
@17. chigau (違う) : “The Bible” has plenty of ban-worthy narratives.”
Yes, yes, it does.
Right wingnuts like that actually learned a lesson from Saul Alinsky and they protest with the methods the left used to use.
No, euphemistically “terrorizing schools” is not actually terrorism. But using propaganda like that does seem like textbook counterinsurgency – hearts and minds and all that.
feralboy12 @ #19
“What can you say about a society that is more comfortable with violence than it is with sex?
Well…it’s messed up, man. Maybe even fundamentally insane.”
You made me think about the philosophy that my husband and I came up with for media consumption our kids when they were growing up. We told them that movies or books about sex were OK, since we hoped that they would someday experience this. We just asked that they ask us about any questions.
Remember “The Clan of the Cave Bear” books? My oldest daughter was an early and voracious reader. After seeing all of the adults around her excitedly reading it, she chose it as her travel book for a long car trip. She was 10 at the time. The book has some very adult themes. We didn’t object, but my husband and I asked that the three of us have a discussion about it when we stopped for the night. Her questions and insights surprised us. She read the entire series as we did!
She is now a very competent neuroscience PHD.
When it came to the movies that were just constant unnecessary violence, those were not welcome in our house. We told the kids that we hoped that they would never experience such violence, and would not choose to be exposed to it in any way.
<sarcasm> I suspect that for the Moms, it truly is a pleasure to burn.†
Shakespeare is a goner if “Moms for Liberty” actually reads it. R & J involves teenaged sex, unauthorized marriage (and, thus, premarital sex), a suicide pact, disrespect for parental wishes… and, as originally produced, an all-male cast. Next on the menu: Coriolanus. And the frolics involved in A Midsummer Night’s Dream are definitely too much. The worst, of course, would be Othello, with its multiple dimensions of miscegenation. And actual respect being shown a Moor. (Shhhh… don’t tell them that he’s not just African, but Muslim.)
†Discerning readers will recognize that riff on an opening line. Less-discerning readers, like my school board just short of half a century ago, won’t — nor will they recognize the irony of trying to have that particular book removed from school libraries because it purportedly encourages disrespect for authority.
“America’s Best Christian”, Mrs. Betty Bowers, posted “Still laughing here as somebody called Moms for America “Klanned Karenhood”
My children’s book, HACHIKO: THE TRUE STORY OF A LOYAL DOG, was banned for at least a year in Duval County. Last I heard it had still not been put back on the shelves. The Florida Freedom to Read Project has compiled the details on my book and the other 175 banned titles. https://www.fftrp.org/the_past_year_in_duval_county
After learning more about Florida’s “Anti-Woke” bill, which makes it a felony to have “pornography” in the classroom (the definition includes “nudity”), I realized that my new book, HOW TO BUILD A HUMAN: IN SEVEN EVOLUTIONARY STEPS could get someone arrested under the statute, because there are anatomical drawings that include female nipples. I am afraid that in many places HUMAN is going to get soft-banned (not ordered, or quietly taken off shelves) because some librarians will want to avoid controversy.