Censorship

Judy Blume Bashes Trigger Warnings: 'A Lot' of Censorship on the Left These Days

"In any book there could be something to bother somebody."

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Judy Blume
Bay Area Books Festival

Famed children's book author Judy Blume is no fan of trigger warnings. In an interview during the Bay Area Book Festival earlier in June, Blume lamented that many on the left are now pushing censorship with the same zeal as the 1980s religious right.

"From the 1980s, from the extreme religious right where it all started, we've come to a lot of book-challenging from the left, also," she said.

She singled out trigger warnings for special criticism.

"All books, then, need trigger warnings, because in any book there could be something to bother somebody," she said.

Trying to add trigger warnings to Blume novels might be a fun exercise. Should Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret warn easily-disturbed readers that God does not make an appearance? Should Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing spoil its ending by including a trigger warning pertaining to human-on-turtle violence?

Earlier in the interview, Blume mentioned The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, a popular young adult novel by Sherman Alexie that has been purged from some school library shelves in Missouri, Washington, Wyoming, and Idaho. The book features occasional violence and profanity; I gather that it has drawn the ire of censorship-inclined administrators on both the right and the left, proving once again that the desire to ban offensive content is a different sort of ideological predisposition.

Related trigger-warning bashing, from earlier today: Reason's Nick Gillespie writes that today's kids are "constrained by ideological and emotional bubble wrap."

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  1. Are You There, God? It’s Me, Margaret

    http://xkcd.com/

    Fucking brilliant

  2. VAPORS ALERT:

    She does know she’s likely about to be attacked from the left, no?

    1. No, she knows the real threat is from Zombie Reagan and Zombie Falwell coming after her rational, atheistic, feminist brainzzzz

    2. Probably. She’s not stupid.

      1. Unlike you.

        BOOM. Walked right into that.

        1. Are you there, Satan? It’s me, Episiarch. I have a favor to ask you regarding FoE’s nutsack.

    3. Yes, thus confirming her whole point.

      1. The leftists aren’t smart enough to realize that though. Their response to Seinfeld criticizing them was to do literally everything Seinfeld just accused them off with a total lack of anything resembling self-awareness.

      1. I was expecting “Turning Japanese”.

        1. Side B of that Album is excellent. Really good stuff.

    4. Of course she has no idea. She likely fashions herself as a voice of reason and a moderating influence. She believes the left is and has been pure and sensible and only recently has it deviated from its history of acceptance and tolerance. The right is the intolerant hateful side, she says so, since the 1980’s it seems. For Blume to believe that this current turn of events, the tyranny of trigger warnings and micro-aggressions, is an endemic characteristic of leftist philosophy, policy and tactics would be for Blume to acknowledge that the political faction from which she derives her own personal identity is a corrupt fraud. Could she un-tether herself from the company she keeps? Could she renounce friends, could she renounce her own past self?

      Much easier, at least it must so appear, is to address this new and slight deviation purity with the gentle touch of soft remonstration. Surely the left, if only reasoned with, will be nudged back on its path of righteousness. Blume intends to provide the motherly voice of sensibility by speaking openly to the left, in stern tones if need be, so as to correct this slight deviation from the path of righteousness. She is one of their own, and they will surely listen as the left is reasonable, sensible and tolerant.

      She will be crucified.

  3. Life should come with a ‘Trigger Warning’ because we all sometimes hear, see, or read things that we don’t like. But that’s the cost of living in a free society, and mature adults understand that.

    1. mature adults

      Assumption not supported by available evidence.

      1. Those who shriek and wail about seeing things they don’t like are NOT mature adults. That’s what I was alluding too. I suppose I should have been clearer…

  4. There should be a trigger warning every time Obama speaks publicly:

    “Warning: Massive Derp Incoming.”

  5. I used to think H.P. Lovecraft’s concept of ‘beings/things so unbelievable or weird that you are driven completely mad by even looking at or knowing about them’ was ridiculous. But then I saw how people go completely nuts over utterly mundane or slightly uncomfortable things and realized he’s probably got a point.

    Save us Cthulhu!

    1. I wonder if rereading Lovecraft where all the “things indescribable” were things like telephones, refrigerators, and luggage with wheels. Might just make it more entertaining.

      1. “The creature stood completely still, a solid monolith of white material almost blinding. Its front opened up to reveal a space unfit for this reality. The milk that had gone missing, and should have rotted away days ago, was there, unchanged, as if time itself were stopped in the unholy box. I felt a chill, a chill that echoed in from the edge of space, a sinister cold that crept into my very soul.”

        \Really bad at mimicking Lovecraft.

        1. Here’s Lovecraft describing a huge penguin, which is pretty much exactly what you’re talking about:

          “When we had followed the thing into the archway and turned both our torches on the
          indifferent and unheeding group of three, we saw that they were all eyeless albinos of
          the same unknown and gigantic species. Their size reminded us of some of the archaic
          penguins depicted in the Old Ones’ sculptures, and it did not take us long to conclude
          that they were descended from the same stock-undoubtedly surviving through a retreat
          to some warmer inner region whose perpetual blackness had destroyed their
          pigmentation and atrophied their eyes to mere useless slits. That their present habitat
          was the vast abyss we sought, was not for a moment to be doubted; and this evidence of
          the gulf’s continued warmth and habitability filled us with the most curious and subtly
          perturbing fancies. ”

          Giant. Blind. Albino. Penguins.

          1. Have you played Age of Wonders 3? Dire Penguins will wreck your shit.

          2. At the Mountains of Madness is a great story. I’m still pissed del Toro failed to get it produced and had to give it up.

          3. Made a believer out of me anyway.

      2. Given that something the terrifying, monstrous quasi-humanoids he saw were, like, black people and asians, I think you’re probably reading it in the original spirit there.

        1. *sometimes

    2. I find your comment triggering. I was raped by a multi-tentacled, fictional god-beast.

      1. You’re a Japanese school girl?

  6. Earlier in the interview, Blume mentioned The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, a popular young adult novel by Sherman Alexie that has been purged from some school library shelves in Missouri, Washington, Wyoming, and Idaho. The book features occasional violence and profanity; I gather that it has drawn the ire of censorship-inclined administrators on both the right and the left, proving once again that the desire to ban offensive content is a different sort of ideological predisposition.

    Reading CBLDF this seems to be a regular occurrence for schools, districts and sometimes public libraries for many books. Someone somewhere always finds something offensive and their solution is to ban it for the children. Back in 2009 a parent’s complaint caused the Dragon Ball manga to be banned from school libraries of the entire Wicomico County, MD district including high school. I can understand issues with elementary and middle school parents may have for various books, but it is the later part in highschool, where the vast majority of controversy occurs, that is especially sad. They’re treating young adults, who are supposed to be prepared for college, like toddlers.

    1. Well, they’re also treating college kids like toddlers.

  7. Good for Judy.

    I remember reading one of her books in 6th grade or so where she talked about boners and spying on the hot chick next door.

    … although if more books had trigger warnings back then, it would have been easier for me to find the good stuff.

    1. … although if more books had trigger warnings back then, it would have been easier for me to find the good stuff.

      …and my mother to figure out what 11-year-old me was reading. boohiss

      1. As I recall from my 1970s childhood Go Ask Alice was far more popular with ‘tween girls than anything by Judy Blume.

        1. Oh, I did forget to say this. My mother was a 4th grade teacher. She would not let me read Judy Blume, so I never have.

          Now, 1000-page bodice rippers, gore-fest horror novels, and bloody Civil War epics with lots of sexx0ring (interracial even!), that was a different matter altogether.

          1. Your mother sounds like a sensible woman.

            1. She’s actually quite awesome.

          2. My mom let me read every Stephen King paperback after she was done with it. This started when I was around 8.

            1. I burnt myself out on Stephen King in my mid-teens after a years-long glom (I have since learned not to glom authors), but especially one of his stories (“The Mist”) has stuck with me and influenced me in odd and wonderful ways.

              My husband binge-reads King. I get hardbacks for him every gift-giving occasion and am now into the $600-$1200 collectors’ editions because I’ve bought everything I can find that’s printed and bound.

            2. Did you read Flowers in the Attic? That seemed like a rite of passage for tween/teen girls at the time (we were passing it around like crazy), but I recently found out it still is.

              1. I read my older sister’s copy.

            3. I did a 7th grade composition class paper on Rainbow Six by Tom Clancy. That summer I read “It” by Stephen King for summer reading credit. I don’t think my parents or the teacher knew the kinds of things that happened in those books.

              1. I don’t think my parents or the teacher knew the kinds of things that happened in those books.

                Sure didn’t.

                I was happy to keep them in the dark.

  8. From the 1980s, from the extreme religious right where it all started…

    Tipper Gore was on the extreme religious right in the 1980s?

    1. She’s probably referring to the countless attempts fundies have made to actually ban books in schools. I would add to that the continued, concerted effort to teach falsehoods in science classes.

      The trigger warnings that we’re talking about today are largely opposed by the professors, from what I gather. Maybe if students didn’t have to pay tens of thousands of dollars for their educations they wouldn’t feel so entitled to make such demands. Which, to be clear, are not demands that any works be banned (as the Christians like to do).

      1. That’s right, Progressives NEVER want to ban anything! How can you say that with a straight face after all the insanity that took place last week?

      2. She’s probably referring to the countless attempts fundies have made to actually ban books in schools.

        “Actually ban books in schools” mostly means “parents complaining that a book chosen to read in English is not (age, usually) appropriate.” Which is annoying, but I’m not sure that I’d call banning always. There are certainly a few cases of the “remove from the school library” version, but most of what’s called “banning” is objecting to a book being part of the curriculum

        I would add to that the continued, concerted effort to teach falsehoods in science classes.

        That effort is usually “pass laws like in Louisiana that allow teachers to use supplementary works in science classes,” knowing that some small percentage will use it for creationism. Since you oppose that law, you’re by your own lights “actually ban[ning] books in schools.” Of course they’re crazy, factually false books that I don’t want taught either. But surely you should appreciate that your desire to avoid teaching using material you don’t like isn’t all that different from attempts to avoid teaching using material other people don’t like in English class.

        Laws that generically give teachers the right to select their own textbooks and books to teach without being fired will, by definition, lead to some small percentage being able and willing to teach creationism in science class.

        1. But Progressives only want to ban the ‘bad’ books while Conservatives oppose the ‘good’ books. See the difference?

          1. Right. That’s the real position of ~90% of people, including Tony. Almost no one actually is against “banning” in general. It’s only “banning” when it’s books that they like; when it’s books that they don’t, the obvious wrongness of the books outweighs everything and makes it only sensible to prevent teachers from teaching bad thoughts.

            1. This is why I vehemently oppose censorship; because I don’t trust anyone on Earth (not even me!) to make the decision of what is ‘good’ and what is ‘bad.’ Allow everything and let people make up their own minds.

        2. Thacker gets to the point. “Challenging” a book in the curriculum or on a reading list is not the same as demanding a book be removed from the school library.

      3. Tony, you support banning teachers teaching with books or articles you don’t like or think are false (and I agree about most of them), and support teachers teaching with unapproved books or supplemental information that you do like. Just like most people.

        Very, very few people stand steadfast for the ability of teachers to use whatever teaching material that they’d like, without considering the contents first. There’s not a large constituency for a proud absolutist anti “banning” position. There is a constituency for a “teachers in all subjects must use exactly the books that the superintendent / state standards / PTA” recommend platform, though.

    2. I love the way Frank Zappa went after Tipper in his book.

      1. I saw Frank Zappa when he testified before Congress in opposition to mandatory record labeling. He came across as intelligent and professional while those dopes in Congress behaved like a bunch of imbeciles (even more than they usually do). Of course it was all for show. They’d already made up their minds and nothing he said was ever going to change that. But I applaud his effort.

          1. Yes! That’s the one. I saw it live. Because I’m old.

  9. This article needs a trigger warning. I have a hard time dealing with censorship.

  10. Good article Robbo, matter of fact a few you have on today are.

  11. I’ve perused some lists of frequently banned books. Which team wants to ban Huck Finn or To Kill a Mockingbird? I couldn’t tell you. Can we suppose it’s Christians that want to ban Harry Potter? Some lefty neighbors of mine wanted to ban the Narnia books because they were Christian allegory. I wasn’t Christian as a kid and all that stuff went right over my head. I thought it was just sword and sorcery.

    1. Never understood the whole banning thing. I’ve read some terrible (and offensive, IMHO) books. I’ll express my negative opinion about them, but everyone should have the right to read them and make up their own mind. I suspect those who wish to ban things are actually insecure about their own beliefs and just want to quash any dissenting ideas. Or maybe I’m giving them too much credit and it’s just an emotional response without thought or reasoning.

  12. I remember when Judy Blume’s Forever was banned from our school system’s library.

    1. I remember girls in my junior high school bringing in a copy from home and passing it around. Just among the girls, that is…

  13. This woman has been recruited into the Devil’s army. I heard Bernstein got his inside scoop from the Queen of the Cooties herself!

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