Target Flirts with Censorship, Free Speech Groups Yawn
Retail giant temporarily pulls 'problematic' books while media, advocates look away
The phrase “book burning” evokes dictators demanding certain thoughts be expunged from society.
Literal book burnings date back centuries, but the invention of the printing press made the practice more commonplace in the modern era.
The Nazis embraced the concept in the 1930s, incinerating roughly 25,000 “un-German” books” in 1933 alone.
As part of an effort to align German arts and culture with Nazi ideas (Gleichschaltung), university students in college towns across Germany burned thousands of books they considered to be “un-German,” heralding an era of state censorship and cultural control.
The threat didn’t die off with the Third Reich’s demise, though.
Ray Bradbury wrote the definitive book on the subject in 1953. HBO’s version of “Fahrenheit 451,” starring Michael B. Jordan and Michael Shannon, reminded a new generation of its insidious threat.
Time Magazine stated the obvious about book burning in 2018, connecting it to the mindset of mid-20th century culture:
Book-burning by then had become a sort of shorthand: if you are on the side of book-burners, you’ve already lost the argument.
How things change in two short years.
Now, major retail giants have little issue yanking books from their cyber shelves deemed “problematic” to the Far Left. Others cheer on literal book burning on social media sans apology.
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In the past few days Target.com removed, and then quietly restored, two books under assault by progressives. Author Abigail Shrier’s “Irreversible Damage: The Transgender Craze Seducing Our Daughters,” a book questioning extreme views on sexual fluidity, vanished from the store’s cyber shelves.
Why? A single social media user demanded Target stop selling the book. Here’s part of “Irreversible Damage’s” official Amazon description:
Abigail Shrier, a writer for the Wall Street Journal, has dug deep into the trans epidemic, talking to the girls, their agonized parents, and the counselors and doctors who enable gender transitions, as well as to “detransitioners”—young women who bitterly regret what they have done to themselves.
Target eventually returned the book to its digital site after a conservative-backed outcry. Shrier described similar pressure to erase her book prior to Target’s actions, a movement she connected to Silicon Valley.
Target wasn’t done dampening free speech, though. The retail chain quickly struck again, removing author Debra Soh’s book, “The End of Gender,” from its online stores.
Hey @Target @AskTarget Where did my book go? pic.twitter.com/Y0B41NCW3t
— Dr. Debra Soh – THE END OF GENDER is anti-woke (@DrDebraSoh) November 14, 2020
Consider Amazon’s official description of Soh’s tome:
The End of Gender is a conversation-starting work that will challenge what you thought you knew about gender, identity, and everything in between. Timely, informative, and provocative, it will arm you with the facts you need to come to your own conclusions about gender identity and its place in the world today.
Soh’s book also got restored by Target in speedy fashion.
The news doesn’t end here, though.
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When Target removed Shrier’s book this reporter reached out to organizations dedicated to free expression for comment.
The latter group famously went to bat for director Michael Moore after YouTube removed his film, “Planet of the Humans,” under dubious circumstances. Neither PEN America nor NCAC have responded to requests for comment.
Freedom House almost immediately did, though. Here’s the spokesperson’s response:
While we are generally free speech advocates, we don’t know enough about this specific situation to comment.
Full disclosure: This reporter didn’t bother contacting the ACLU. The group that once defended the right for Nazis to speak ignored previous queries on free speech concerns. Plus, an ACLU lawyer recently cheered on cyber book burning. So did a California professor who’d rather incinerate Shrier’s book than engage its arguments.
The itch to burn books, either digitally or with fire, isn’t relegated to Shrier and Soh. In September, former J.K. Rowling fans shared videos of people burning “Harry Potter” books. The author’s refusal to embrace every aspect of the far-left’s platform on trans issues made her a target.
Photo by Kyle Cleveland on Unsplash