‘Burn those crazy books:’ Alabama libraries under fire from witch hunters

This is an opinion cartoon.

My colleague, AL.com journalist Williesha Morris, has done an impeccable job of straightforward, factual reporting on the Alabama book ban issue. Read the extensive overview of her work in the latest story:

A look inside the thrilling battle for Alabama’s libraries: ‘Burn the freaking books’ – al.com

Unfortunately, as an opinion cartoonist and half-hearted columnist, I do not have to adhere to the same code of conduct as my polite professional colleague, Ms. Morris.

Libraries in Alabama are under attack from a bunch of fanatical right-wing modern witch-burners. No surprise. It’s another example of Alabama politics at its worst. Political fear mongering, paranoia and ignorance are fueling this firestorm.

The villains in this cartoon are (L-R): Clean Up Alabama, Moms for Liberty, Eagle Forum, Governor Kay Ivey and Senator Chris Elliott. (You’re welcome, everyone.) Others, like Alabama GOP Party Chairman/Alabama Public Library Service Board Member John Wahl, 1819 Newsman Bryan Dawson and Alabama AG Steve Marshall crouch behind the burning pyre.

Here are a few excerpts from Morris’ story:

“After opening in prayer at a church about 15 miles northwest of the state capital, panelists talked about pornography in libraries and called members of the library board cowardly for not doing their jobs.

“Then the leader of a political website made a comment about book challenges in Alabama’s public libraries.

“Burn those crazy books,” said Bryan Dawson, the president of 1819 News, a website that publishes articles and conservative political commentary. “Burn them. I don’t care.”

What books are being challenged in Alabama’s libraries? See the list.

“The group behind many of the state’s recent book challenges is Clean Up Alabama, a nonprofit organization first founded in Prattville, a city northwest of Montgomery. The group organized one last fall forum titled “Fighting to End the Sexualization of Children in Libraries,” true Dawson suggested burning books that are on Clean Up Alabama’s list of inappropriate books, according to a recording of the event.

Gov. Kay Ivey threatened to cut funding to libraries that expose children to “inappropriate” materials. Months later, Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall confirmed that the state library is serving financing may involve from local libraries.”

“Some librarians moved young adult books to the adult section, a move that library advocacy groups say qualifies as censorship. One library in north Alabama even flagged a book for removal because the author’s last name is Gay.”

LeVar Burton Addresses Book Flagged by Alabama Library Because Author’s Last Name is ‘Gay’ – al.com

“Read Me a Story, Stella,” the children’s book by Canadian author Marie-Louise Gay, ended up on that list because of the author’s last name, leading to national headlines And jokes on late night talk shows. Months later, LeVar Burton, the longtime host of Reading Rainbow, reported the negative “Forbidden Book Rainbow,” a parody sketch on Jimmy Kimmel Live.”

“When 55 books were challenged in Fairhope, the community full of public gatherings in protest.

“This is a form of censorship,” said Anne Johnson, the library’s board president, during a busy city council meeting in September. “There are young people in our community who may be struggling with their identity, with the teenage years, who may not have a support system at home, at school or at their church, who may be bullied or even suicidal. And maybe we have books in the library that can help them through a difficult time. No person or group has the right to dictate what books and information others have access to.”

“I guess what Alabama cleanup what they’ve done is they’ve made people afraid of something that’s not even happening,” said Prattville resident Angie Hayden, who helped found the group. Read Free Alabama to combat book challenges.”

“Library critics have even suggested, without evidence, that librarians hand out sex toys and pornographic magazines to children. At Clean Up Alabama’s “sexualization of children” forum, Dawson said yes prefer Playboy magazines above the current library offering. Dawson did not respond to requests for comment from AL.com.”

“The debate about library books has become so sensitive Gov. Ivey has spoken out and threatened to cut state funding if changes were not made to ensure local libraries do not expose children to inappropriate material.”

Read Williesha Morris’s entire report here.

More stories about censorship and libraries in Alabama

Amish romance books, Rush Limbaugh under review after complaints to Alabama library agency – al.com

Alabama library adjusts book policy after challenges: ‘No one takes care of children’ – al.com

Alabama’s inappropriate book list may not help local staff make decisions: Librarian – al.com

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JD Crowe is the cartoonist for Alabama Media Group and AL.com. He won the RFK Human Rights Award for Editorial Cartoons in 2020. In 2018, he received the Rex Babin Memorial Award for Local and National Cartooning from the Association of American Editorial Cartoonists. Follow JD further FacebookTweet @Crowejam And Instagram @JDCrowepix. Drop him a line @jdcrowe@al.com.

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