Book Banning Isn’t About Books–It’s Part of Larger Right-Wing Agenda

Many may have been assigned in high school the legendary science fiction author Ray Bradbury’s inimitable 1953 dystopic novel Fahrenheit 451.

If not, briefly, it’s a story about a future America in which books are banned, and firemen (not firefighters), instead of fighting fires, are charged with the responsibility of burning books.

The protagonist, fireman Guy Montag, becomes disillusioned with this role, and quits his job to become an activist against the totalitarian regime for which he previous worked.

One of science fiction’s most prominent characteristics is its ability to provide allegories for what is and warning for what could be.

One can also see in this work the backdrop of the dark red-scare “McCarthyism” of this period in America, when high-profile politicians, like the titular Minn. Sen. Joseph McCarthy terrorized people’s first-amendment rights in an attempt to “root out Communists.”

Ray Bradbury stated in a 2010 interview that he wrote the story in part in response to the rise in television and radio entertainment threatening the need for the printed word.

One of the most disturbing aspects of some of the finest examples of sci-fi literature is their ability to predict potential futures so accurately.

Just read George Orwell’s 1984, Margaret Atwood’s Handmaid’s Tale, Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World, Frank Herbert’s Dune, and one will no doubt see parallels between the fiction of then and the fact of now.

The list goes on, and Bradbury’s Fahrenheit is perpetually at the top.

Well, here we are, 2022, a wealthy, powerful, sophisticated major nation, having serious conversations about banning and even burning books.

How did we get here?

Here’s a clue: it isn’t actually about books, and it definitely isn’t about so-called “Critical Race Theory” (CRT).

This whole hysteria about our poor American students being indoctrinated into a “woke” LGBTQ+, African American empowerment propaganda campaign is just another piece of a decades-long right-wing sabotage of public institutions.

After the Brown v. Board of Education Supreme Court decision ending legal racial segregation in public schools in 1954, we started seeing the rise of “Christian academies.”

From this we started hearing more about “charter schools”–private schools paid for with taxpayer money supposed to be reserved entirely for funding public education.

The effect of this, of course, is that public schools that educate all students–African American, white, Asian, heterosexual, homosexual, disabled–perpetually receive less than they need to function efficiently.

Moreover, since school taxes are linked to property taxes, more affluent (i.e., white) districts receive more funding, leaving urban (i.e., minority) populations chronically underfunded.

Progressive talk show host on Sirius XM satellite radio’s Progress channel and author, Thom Hartmann, explained in a recent piece titled, “How the ‘critical race theory’ moral panic morphed into book-banning frenzy“:

“The charter school industry evolved out of this with [former president Ronald] Reagan’s encouragement, and in some parts of America now dominates the education scene. And a moral panic about CRT is made to order to take down what’s left of our taxpayer-funded unionized-teacher-run public schools. 

“This is now big business. In Washington, D.C., for example, there are now as many charter schools making profits for their investors as there are public schools. The continuing existence of free public education represents a lost profit opportunity.”

Former Trump administration Education Secretary Betsy DeVos recently wrote for Fox so-called “news”:

“Because wokeness is the left’s religion, ‘banning’ critical race theory or the 1619 Project won’t fix the problem. The liberal education establishment will simply rename, rebrand, or repackage these insidious ideas to get around so-called bans.”

Teachers have not been teaching anything different.

There is no “woke agenda” or plot to “make kids feel guilty” about being Americans.

Many of the “parents” showing up at school board meetings threatening teachers, board members, and administrators are just shills for dark-money organizations with seemingly admirable names like, “Moms for Liberty,” “Parents Defending Education,” and “Independent Women’s Forum.”

Armed with righteous terms like “school choice,” “parental rights,” and, naturally, “freedom,” they are being exploited to promote an agenda that will ultimately harm them and their children as much as others’.

Wealthy dark-money groups have always duped people into doing the groups’ bidding and then walking away with the spoils when the system has been taken down another peg.

They were behind the attempted coup last January 6, and they have been behind most of the “smaller government” rhetoric since the passage of civil rights laws protecting minorities.

It’s no longer Jim Crow; it’s now, as activist Joe Madison says, “James Crow, Esquire“.

It’s a con job steeped in white supremacy and exemplifies the cancer of money in politics.

Image credit: Maxim Lugina via Unsplash

Ted Millar is writer and teacher. His work has been featured in myriad literary journals, including Better Than Starbucks, The Broke Bohemian, Straight Forward Poetry, Caesura, Circle Show, Cactus Heart, Third Wednesday, and The Voices Project. He is also a contributor to The Left Place blog on Substack, and Medium.