Spreading the Evil by Banning the Evil

Banning books is harmful. Often, books that are challenged are the very ones most needed by young readers looking for a safe way to explore uncomfortable issues in their lives.

But that’s not why banning books is stupid.

Banning books is selfish and presumptuous. Book banners somehow feel their parental rights are being violated unless they are given exclusive rights to pick and choose which books other people’s children shouldn’t be exposed to.

But that’s not why banning books is stupid.

Banning books is unpatriotic. It opposes the democratic principles of free speech and free press enshrined in the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, while embracing the thought-policing tactics of history’s most repressive regimes.

But that’s not why banning books is stupid.

Banning books is ignorant. The most gung-ho book banners always seem to be the ones who don’t even bother to read the object of their scorn, relying instead on inaccurate book descriptions or reviews from biased sources.

But that’s not why banning books is stupid.

Banning books does the exact opposite of what the book banners intend. Every attempt to ban a book from a library or school only draws attention to that book, especially among curious young readers. Every book-burning rally requires the purchase of the offending title from booksellers who will restock the title and publishers who will reprint more copies. Every attempt to suppress a book provides free publicity and curiosity that increases that book’s sales.

That’s why banning books is stupid.

Which is why I was so saddened this week when otherwise intelligent people inadvertently drew attention to, increased curiosity about, and increased sales for one of the most vile and offensive publications imaginable. I won’t name it or link to it, because it doesn’t deserve any more fame or notoriety, but it’s a self-published ebook apparently meant to instruct child molesters in how to harm children more effectively while avoiding detection and capture.

This was the last book on Earth that should have received a massive Twitter-, Facebook-, and blog-based campaign driving traffic to a web page where the tile could be purchased. The book’s author is the last person alive who should have received prominent stories from all the major news outlets and a PR-boosting interview on a nationally-broadcast TV network. The fact that an ensuing surge of purchases rocketed the book, briefly, onto the Amazon bestseller list should sicken and mortify everyone.

The threatened boycott that took the book out of Amazon’s Kindle marketplace was a Pyrrhic victory at best. I suspect this ebook is still available through other outlets, including the virtual back alleys its intended readership might actually prefer for transactions that don’t leave a paper trail. I’m sure the book will be in especially high demand, now that it’s been successfully marketed to every pervert on the planet. And, as far as I’ve read, Amazon has not changed its policy about accepting books of this kind for sale–its decision to pull this one book does not extend to any others.

The book banners in this case were well-intended but short-sighted in a way that book banners always are. Book banners operate from a belief that a certain book crosses a line and threatens children with imminent harm unless somebody takes immediate action to remove it.

The knee-jerk reaction in this instance was no different from those seen by the would-be banners of Speak, Slaughterhouse Five, or any of the challenged books listed during Banned Book Week. The difference is that books on that list tend to be well-written, popular, and foster a helpful dialogue about difficult issues. I’m happy to see those kinds of books brought to the attention of booksellers, librarians, and readers as a result of ignorant and ineffective challenges, while I’m sickened by the idea of a handbook for evil getting a similar level of attention and publicity.

Challenging this previously unknown but now suddenly famous self-published ebook will do far more harm than good.

—Greg, as-yet unchallenged.

Greg R. Fishbone

Greg R. Fishbone

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3 responses to “Spreading the Evil by Banning the Evil

  1. Brilliant. You voiced what I was thinking brilliantly.

    I’ve read somewhere that this book did in fact go against Amazon’s own policies, but giving the author airtime on national news, giving so much attention to such an undeserved tome…the whole thing was just much ado about nastiness.

  2. Couldn’t agree more, and watched sadly as people stepped enthusiastically right into the snare. Our capacity for outrage — which is also behind so much of our ranting media these days — really is smacking us on our collective head a lot lately.

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