Don’t Ivy League professors understand the power of ideas implicitly?
Brown sociology professor Hilary LevyFriedman presents us with an interesting philosophical and sociological question:
Like, seriously: “Not a single kid has died in a mass reading, yet they’re banning books instead of guns.”
As far as I can tell, the quoted text is an uncited retweet of BlackKnight10k, whose deep insight has had a healthy run around Twitter. Of course, the accuracy of that depth is subject to challenge. Guns are all but banned from schools, and one could argue that the removal of a particular book from a particular school is not quite “banning” so much as prudential judgment in some cases. (Note that neither LevyFriedman nor BlackKnight gives us any specifics to go by.)
However, taking the sentiment as intended would probably require translating it as something like, “Those other people for whom I have contempt are afraid of knowledge, while good people like me genuinely want to protect children, and those other people are clearly incapable and undeserving of an equal say in our governance.”
Asked to defend the fairness of my translation, I’d raise the probable overlap between people who agree with the “mass reading” quip and people who agree that Joe Rogan should be removed from Spotify. Observe that BlackKnight’s name on Twitter at the moment is “I Smoked $4B Worth Of Spotify Stock.” Ah, well of course that’s different. The “misinformation” one might hear on Joe Rogan really could result in death, while the books that the good people defend could not.
So, the “not a single kid” talk turns out to be a sort of hyperbole in service of the good people’s inherited moral superiority. They reserve the right to be contemptuous on the grounds of categorical principles like free speech and the sanctity of books while adhering to a more practical politics that makes banning books they dislike obvious, even obligatory. Doubting my fairness again? How many public schools do you think have copies of — much less prominently display — the highly successful Word on Fire study Bible?
Certainly, this is not a new debate, and plucking hypocrisy from the Twitterverse is cheap sport, but its casual promotion by an Ivy League sociology professor who is working on a law degree seems so obviously out of character for that role as to expose deep cultural problems that we’d best resolve soon.
Featured image by Luca Signorelli.
You ask a lot from the brainwashed brainwashers.