Comics: James Bacon on ‘De-selection’ and the smiling face of censorship

Published On January 11, 2013 | By James Bacon | Comics

The smiling face of censorship – known as de-selection by Library Director Ms Beverly James

Greenville is a mid sized southern American city in South Carolina. There isn’t much distinctive about the city. In December the world noted that Neonomicon had been censored, removed by a government official, from the Greenville Library system. Many comic blogs, The Comic Book Legal Defence Fund and The Guardian commented on it, although The Greenville news only reported it in January.

What is questionable is that the employee committee tasked with approving books was overruled by the library director, Beverly James, following a complaint by a parent, after their child took the adult book out with an adult card.

The Greenville news has now published some footage of Ms James and she seems to smile through an interview explaining the vacuous reasons why books would be removed, as if that is some sort of defence against the accusation that she is enacting censorship. (Greenville Online article)

One can only find the irony in her Orwellian approach, as she is quoted in saying ‘I call it de-selection‘.

I was taken by Lynda E. Rucker’s email that was sent to Ms. James a month ago now, and which she has now posted on her blog.

Dear Ms. James,

As a Southern writer of speculative fiction (one who lived in Greenville as a child and loved the library there), a fan of the work of Alan Moore, and above all, a passionate defender of the rights of authors and of readers, I was deeply disappointed to read this article about your decision to ban a work of literary merit from the adult section of your library:

Alan Moore is an internationally respected writer and considered by most to be the finest writer of graphic novels in the world. Sometimes, literature addresses difficult and upsetting topics. This is the nature of art; I am sure that on your shelves you could find any number of books that contain rape, violence and other controversial material and deal with it all in a much less mature and examined way than Moore, who always grapples with these issues with the seriousness they deserve.

I think of libraries as a bastion against ignorance and fear of the written word. Librarians are generally on the forefront of promoting the right to get controversial ideas out there and to highlight the awful repercussions of banning books. Your committee did their job in agreeing to retain the book in the collection; I’m afraid that by my measure, you have utterly failed in this regard. I’d really like to urge you to reconsider your decision.

If my words are not sufficient to sway your decision at all, I’d ask you to consider the words of the great American writer Kurt Vonnegut, on learning that 32 copies of his book Slaughterhouse-Five had been burned in a school furnace in North Dakota in 1973, “I Am Very Real”:

Lynda Rucker.

Rucker, like the National Coalition against Censorship, has had no reply from Ms. James who is seemingly a power unto herself in the name of the government.

Here where I am, in West London, the borough of Hillingdon stocks the comic in Uxbridge Library.

(James with Alan Moore)

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About The Author

James Bacon

James Bacon is a train Driver working in London but originally from Dublin. He also loves comics, theatre, history and books, runs conventions, writes about these activities and has edited a Hugo-winning Fanzine.

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