Sunday, September 24, 2006

It's BANNED BOOKS WEEK!

For us here at AS IF!, Banned Books Week is a little like Easter for the Easter Bunny. Except that rather than painting eggs and running around hiding chocolate bunnies, we try to call attention to ongoing efforts to censor or restrict access to books and ideas.

But that's looking at the glass half empty.

Banned Books Week also celebrates the FREEDOM TO READ, the fundamental, and fundamentally American, idea that the best person to decide which book or idea is right for you is...you. There are a lot of people who want to take that freedom of choice away, for a lot of different reasons--almost all of them bad or misguided.

This whole debate is very simple. It's all about the freedom of speech: the freedom to express yourself, to be yourself, and to tolerate others excercising that exact same freedom without interference.

And just so there's so misunderstanding: Banned Books Week is also about the freedom to criticize, even hate a book. You think a book is offensive or just plain badly written? That it's not appropriate for your children? As long as you don't want to restrict others' access to that book, even that opinion is also part of the freedom we're talking about! (Even if--gasp!--that book was written by an AS IF! member!)

The American Library Association's Intellection Freedom Manual puts it like this:

“Intellectual freedom can exist only where two essential conditions are met: first, that all individuals have the right to hold any belief on any subject and to convey their ideas in any form they deem appropriate; and second, that society makes an equal commitment to the right of unrestricted access to information and ideas regardless of the communication medium used, the content of the work, and the viewpoints of both the author and receiver of information. Freedom to express oneself through a chosen mode of communication, including the Internet, becomes virtually meaningless if access to that information is not protected. Intellectual freedom implies a circle, and that circle is broken if either freedom of expression or access to ideas is stifled.”

We here at AS IF! stand together with those authors who have been challenged or banned, those readers who have not had access to certain books or ideas, and, well, anyone who feels that their rights of expression have been suppressed or curtailed.

Happy Banned Books Week! So...read a banned book! Speak out against intellectual suppression and intimidation!

Oh, and please pass the chocolate bunnies.