This week is Banned Books Week, the American Library Association’s celebration of the First Amendment. I had always presumed banned books in good ol’ America were primarily terrorist how-to’s and sexually explicit novels that people didn’t want in elementary school libraries (but totally cool online). However in my perusing of the ALA’s Banned Books of 2010 available at http://www.ala.org, I was very much surprised (and occasionally amused). 2010 winners include Anne Frank (Virginia condemns its “sexual material and homosexual themes”) and Mastering Multiple Position Sex (Ohioites were offended anyone would presume they were less than masters).
More shocking was the Pentagon’s actions last Monday to destroy the first edition of Anthony Shaffer’s spy memoir “Operation Dark Heart: Spycraft and Special Ops on the Frontlines of Afghanistan — and the Path to Victory.” Shaffer was a lieutenant colonel in the army reserve and former Defense Intelligence Agency Officer. In resistance to my passionately progressive and flaming liberal ideals, I had to consider the question: is censorship ever acceptable?
The Pentagon claimed the memoirs included various facts that continue to threaten US security, which could be true. However, could their efforts have resounded more with an inclination to cover up rather embarrassing actions of certain leaders at a dark time? Possibly. The 2nd Edition will be available early on next week, with giant sections black-lined out. There’s a 1st Edition going for $10,000 on Ebay.
Half of me wants to conclude by encouraging a thorough discussion about censorship in the United States, especially in a community of peers who cherish open dialogue and open-mindedness (circa 1984 talks during 10th grade English). But the other half is trying to figure out how to get a book banned so it will go for $10,000 on Ebay.