During the first week of October, the American Library Association (ALA) “celebrates” an exercise in self-delusion called “Banned Books Week.”
“For more than 40 years,” the ALA insists, “the annual event has brought together the entire book community – librarians, teachers, booksellers, publishers, writers, journalists, and readers of all types – in shared support of the freedom to seek and to express ideas, even those some consider unorthodox or unpopular.”
Dr. Joseph Mercola said, “Synthetic meat is the epitome of ultraprocessed food, and it seems naïve to think it won’t have health effects similar to other ultraprocessed junk foods.” For All-American REAL beef raised in pastures, sous vide, then freeze-dried for long-term storage, visit Whole Cows and use promo code “no junk” at checkout.
In my experience, libraries are notoriously hostile to “unorthodox or unpopular” ideas when those ideas come from the right. Fueling that hostility are insecure, left-leaning women, the “Karens” of our sidewalk encounters and sleepless nights.
I had my suspicions confirmed last week when the board of the Darwin Barker Public Library in Fredonia, New York, chose to “disinvite” me from a speaking engagement arranged by a brave part-time librarian.
The subject was my new book, “Untenable: The True Story of White Ethnic Flight from America’s Cities.”
As I recounted in last week’s column, library director Graham Tedesco-Blair blithely emailed me, “Recent developments have led us to re-evaluate the suitability of your views and opinions for our diverse audience as well as the potential impact they might have on the inclusive and welcoming atmosphere we strive to foster within our library community.”
Last week I speculated, “By ‘recent developments’ – I’m guessing here – he means an ideological Karen or two called in to complain that the library was hosting someone with whom they were likely to disagree.”
In the week since, my speculation has been confirmed. The president of the library board emailed my wife, “So, very soon after our website posting which announced Jack’s appearance at the Barker we began to receive numerous correspondence ranging from general disbelief to adverse protestations from with in the local community.”
He then added, as though this detail were necessary, “Oddly, all of this response came from women.” I should clarify here. All Karens may be women, but not all women are Karens.
Upon hearing of my disinvite, one women, whose actual name is “Karen,” invited me to speak at the Chautauqua County TEA – Totally Engaged Americans – Party at their upcoming meeting. “And,” she added wryly, “you will not be disinvited.”
Once the word got out other local women emailed their sentiments – ranging from general disbelief to adverse protestations – letting Mr. Tedesco-Blair know what they thought of the library’s decision.
Unlike the Karens, these women knew exactly what they were protesting, namely a publicly funded betrayal of the library’s core mission by its director and board of trustees.
“I am absolutely appalled at your decision to cancel Jack’s book presentation,” wrote Virginia. “Your job as library director is to provide open, unbiased access to information and viewpoints from many different sources regardless of who might or might not be offended.”
“You have made me ashamed of being a resident of Chautauqua County,” said Beth in an email. “I have just become aware that you ‘disinvited’ a nationally known author due to your concerns about ‘diversity.’
“You only care about diversity when it lines up with your little cause,” Beth continued. “Such a small, small man you must be. You can’t even stand up to a few Karens who couldn’t bear the thought of letting someone with whom they disagree speak to people who wanted to hear him.”
Some women were more delicate in their approach. “Just wanted to let you know I emailed the director,” Kathy emailed me, “and very politely told him he sucks for canceling your speaking appearance.”
On Aug. 15, the brouhaha made the local newspapers. Although awkwardly titled – “Author Critical Of Library After Talk Canceled” – the article was more than fair.
Reporter John D’Agostino added this helpful clarification: “According to one slang dictionary, Karen is a pejorative term for an obnoxious, angry, entitled, and often racist middle-aged white woman who uses her privilege to get her way or police other people’s behaviors.”
The slang dictionary is harder on Karens than I would be. Those Karens I know tend to be more anxious than angry. Lacking confidence in their own beliefs, they are as wary of dissent as Dracula is of dawn. Unfortunately, they are destroying America, one local library at a time.
Fortunately, though, not all librarians are as feckless as Mr. Tedesco-Blair, an honorary Karen and the newly named “New York State Librarian.”
The librarian who extended the original invitation defies the norm. “Your cancellation by the library is a hot topic,” she said in an email to me. When I expressed my regret at her predicament, she consoled me, “I am not sorry I was involved.”
There is hope for this country yet.
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Jack Cashill’s new book, “Untenable: The True Story of White Ethnic Flight from America’s Cities,” is available in all formats.
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