Dealing with the issue of censorship and self-anointed saviors.

In case you missed the show this week, the Brookings School Board met and had an hour or so of public comment largely roasting the efforts of those who who have a list of 200 or books they want to be the gatekeeper on, including the Diary of Anne Frank, and To Kill a Mockingbird.

There were comments from the school board early on in the meeting on how they have received no parental requests keeping reading material from their kids, according to the existing processes. Interesting that this has Additionally, you also see the public comment which begins at about 1:07:00 in the meeting.

In case you want to listen what the community had to say:

The censors appearing at the Brookings School Board meeting found themselves getting resounding pushback from the community. As they should when they come to the school board with a censorship list.

The whole controversy reminds me about previous efforts at censorship by other self-appointed overlords of public morality, and how that’s gone for them.

Way back during the time of our parents and grandparents, we had Dr. Fredric Wertham in 1954 claiming that comic books were a serious cause of juvenile delinquency with it’s negative influences.  Aside from the horror comics of the time, the efforts at censorship extended to fairly benign super hero comics.

The Superman type of comic books tends to force and super-force. Dr. Paul A. Witty, professor of education at Northwestern University, has well described these comics when he said that they “present our world in a kind of Fascist setting of violence and hate and destruction. I think it is bad for children,” he goes on, “to get that kind of recurring diet … [they] place too much emphasis on a Fascist society. Therefore the democratic ideals that we should seek are likely to be overlooked.”


The Batman type of story may stimulate children to homosexual fantasies, of the nature of which they may be unconscious.


The Lesbian counterpart of Batman may be found in the stories of Wonder Woman and Black Cat. The homosexual connotation of the Wonder Woman type of story is psychologically unmistakable.

Unfortunately, you can read that here.

Nevermind the fact that Wertham did his study with juvenile delinquents exclusively, and not children as a whole. In the mind of Wertham, Superman was an anti-democratic fascist, and Batman & Wonder Woman were subconsciously turning children into homosexuals.  And yes, they had Congressional hearings on it.

As the country got whipped up on the topic, what came from those hearings were publishers agreeing to create a code of self-censorship which required:

  • “No comics shall explicitly present the unique details and methods of a crime.”
  • “Policemen, judges, Government officials and respected institutions shall never be presented in such a way as to create disrespect for established authority.”
  • “All scenes of horror, excessive bloodshed, gory or gruesome crimes, depravity, lust, sadism, masochism shall not be permitted.”
  • “All characters shall be depicted in dress reasonably acceptable to society.”

Because our youth would have been irretrievably corrupted if someone “created disrespect for established authority.”  By the turn of the century, 45-50 years later nobody cared anymore, and the “comics code authority” became defunct.

In my younger days, our country were under siege by Al Gore’s wife, Tipper Gore, railing on TV about music with naughty lyrics, as she challenged Ozzy Osbourne and Twisted Sister. And we soon had hearings that Congress held in 1985 regarding the content on pop music. Unfortunately for Congress, they got it with both barrels by that promoter of smutty music, John Denver:

I am here to address the issue of a possible rating system in the Recording Industry, labeling records where excesses of explicit sex or graphic violence have occurred and, furthermore, references to drugs and alcohol or the occult are included in the lyrics. These hearings have been called to determine whether or not the Government should intervene to enforce this practice.

Mr. Chairman, this would approach censorship. May I be very clear that I am strongly opposed to censorship of any kind in our society, or anywhere else in the world.


Discipline and self-restraint, when practiced by an individual, a family, or a company is an effective way to deal with this issue. The same thing when forced on a people by their government or, worse, by a self-appointed watchdog of public morals, is suppression and will not be tolerated in a democratic society.

Mr. Chairman, the suppression of the people of a society begins, in my mind, with the censorship of the written or spoken word. It was so in Nazi Germany. It is so in many places today where those in power are afraid of the consequences of an informed and educated people.

Read his testimony to Congress here.

What resulted from that was more self-regulation which brought warning labels on records, which is up to the labels themselves whether or not to include.

The point in all of this is that every so often, our country has a bit of a history where “saviors” are concerned as they seek publicity under the guise that they are out there to save our youth, and they can only do so by censoring material as they try to whip up public sentiment for government to do something.  Which leaves a person to ask whether we want government or the self-anointed in the business of deciding what we can read or listen to?

Because it rarely works out. And we end up with appeasement from the industry, just to tamp down the controversy for the time being. Which leaves me with the sentiment that we can do so much better.

If anyone is to decide what is or is not appropriate for our kids, it should be the parents of those same children getting involved, and being the arbiter of what mass media their kids should and should not consume. Period.

Not government. Not politicians. And not groups who claim they’re going to save us all.

A little less government and a lot more parenting would do all of us a world of good.

28 thoughts on “Dealing with the issue of censorship and self-anointed saviors.”

  1. I’m just old enough to remember when the word came down in the neighborhood that comics were going to be censored. We were outraged. It was all news to me, I was about 8 or 9, but my brother was older and with his friends was an avid comic collector. We liked violence and bloodshed, grotesque bad guys, cowboys with whips (Lash LaRue), Indians that buried cowboys up to their eyebrows, outrageous heroes who were deeply conflicted (Plastic Man, Batman, even Superman in his most vulnerable moments. ).

    When the Comics Code came out, we launched a long search to collect from attics and basements Pre Code Comics. Then Mad Magazine came along and blew our minds. Then Elvis and Rock and Roll. The Congress fulminated and foamed at the mouth. We couldn’t figure out why these things we cherished were any of those old men’s business. We decided it was a cruel and arbitrary world, and wanted no part of it.

  2. C.S. Lewis’s quote on tyrants calls to mind when thinking of these pearl-clutchers that want to supplant parental authority,

    “ Of all tyrannies, a tyranny exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive. It may be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies. The robber baron’s cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity may at some point be satiated; but those who torment us for our own good will torment us without end for they do so with the approval of their own conscience. They may be more likely to go to Heaven yet at the same time likelier to make a Hell of earth. Their very kindness stings with intolerable insult. To be ‘cured’ against one’s will and cured of states which we may not regard as disease is to be put on a level of those who have not yet reached the age of reason or those who never will; to be classed with infants, imbeciles, and domestic animals.”

  3. I started getting flooded with thoughts and ideas on this issue and my fingers couldn’t keep up so I recorded a particularly controversial segment to clarify what my position is with respect to young people being under the influence of this material. I hope it also helps to focus the group on the goal of not burning books while mitigating the dangers for young people growing-up.

    As always thanks for considering my thoughts and opinions. Of course, I always appreciate feedback that addresses the quality of my logic (cogency, validity, soundness).

            1. Like anything would change if you knew everyone’s name. Hi, I’m John, and I also feel you are not being coherent.

  4. Perhaps the best action of the people of that time would have been to reallocate government revenue to families to empower parents with the time to police this themselves.

    Instead – the economic data supports this – the cost of living was manipulated up while incomes became stagnant, especially for families who have special considerations for their jobs.

  5. John Dale-pull your head above water….you’re drowning in your own irrelevance. . Mr. Dale.. At a certain age for males, Parade Magazine and Better Homes and Gardens are “masturbatory”, hetrosexually or I suppose, homosexually., or any sexuality in betweenor outside the bounds. At that age, adolescent males are so overbrimming with hormones, it’s “any port in a storm.”

  6. I would say the school board should have no problem with parents reading some excerpts of the books in the meeting.

  7. Pat, you picked the most extreme witness to argue against the comic book code, but the compromise self-regulations that resulted were good. The same was true of the label on the music. The same may turn out to be true about the books in the school libraries, but that certainly would not happen if parents did not question the school officials, including the school boards.

  8. Thanks again Kristi Noem for bringing these FreeDumb seekers to South Dakota! We are one of the top states in the nation for Brain Drain and a dumping ground for intellectually lazy conspiracy enthusiasts that are voter repellant in other states.

  9. I was exposed to harmful books as a child which I think should not be allowed.
    Fairy tales.
    Girls are taught that love can turn a beast or a toad into a wonderful princely husband.
    This is wrong.
    I also don’t like the teaching that after marriage, everybody lives happily ever after, and that stepmothers are horrible evil people, just because they are stepmothers.
    Can we get this crap off the shelves?

  10. what a yawner. where did they dig up this comic book “expert?” superman and batman are both what they are at face value – two orphans from broken families, being endowed with special ways to be a help to people beyond what anyone else can do (superior abilities for superman, money tech and peak physical training for batman). bruce wayne taking dick grayson under his wing (pun intended) was to help a fellow orphan tap into a similar desire to serve mankind.
    wonder woman is a problematic figure, but the expert is wrong about WHY. there is vast documentation about the bondage fetish of that hero’s creator and how it drove the story lines, so wrong deviancy there I guess, doc.
    why do these things have to be reinterpreted through a cloudy lens of homophobia where no homoerotic intent exists? if history has taught us anything, through people like j edgar hoover and roy cohn, the anti-gay crusaders themselves tend to have their own personal issues.

    1. after watching the second half of the video with the public testimony against censorship – i am reminded of the courage shown by traditional us citizens who know danger and band together to oppose it. i am reminded of history’s various crusades for social betterment and the ruin that often was found in their wake. i see out-of-power political splinters smell blood in the water and strike while the opportunity arises for them. i remember bible passages where the devil is cast down to earth, and works furiously because he knows his time is short.

    2. The ‘comic book expert’ actually caused a national poop-storm on the issue back in the 1950’s, so much so where everyone was clutching their pearls on the issue for the better part of 2-3 decades.

      1. yeah, i realized after my post which historic era you got him from – the post-war-of-the-worlds, reefer-madness mccarthy-witch-hunt era.

  11. I just came up with a new idea, I think self sufficiency books (survival, etc.) encourage kids to think they can live on their own and not have to listen to adults. Because I have been able to come up with this idea, I think we should ban the book The Hatchet, and many others. By banning this book, we will save families, and confirm my ideas are superior to everyone else. Only I can create good ideas, and this must be respected by my community.

  12. Powers Public High School (and Middle School) has decided to offer students one glass of wine or one 12 ounce beer at lunch. Students can opt out if they please. We all know that the vast majority of students will experiment with alcohol at some point, so why not have them try it in a safe environment?

    “What a minute”, says many parents of these children! Our public schools should not be providing such things as alcohol to our kids at taxpayers’ expense.

    I’m sure Pat Powers will describe those concerned parents as “self-appointed nannies”, and yammer on about how as parents, we can decide what our kids will drink, not all those self-appointed nannies or guvmint trying to censor our kids’ diets!

    Pat Powers completely misses the point with parents objecting to taxpayer funded porn in public schools. Its about not having taxpayers fund PORN IN PUBLIC SCHOOLS! 100% pure conservatism. There’s no censorship–If Pat wants to pay for porn for his kids, he can pay for it. That’s the conservative ideal.

    1. The problem is that petty tyrants such as yourself find To Kill a Mockingbird and Maus to be objectionable and ban-able. And with your ilk if an inch is given you will take a mile. Your argument is absurd and completely misses the mark, but you’d know that if you read Plato or Aristotle, or some other philosopher you’d just as soon ban or burn.

    2. thanks for a delusional fantasy about our host advocating childhood alcoholism. apples and oranges really are different aren’t they. i and most others can remember the christian backlash against the harry potter books. they were said to “normalize” sorcery and witchcraft, so that kids could more easily be taught to worship satan, yada yada yada. i missed where the big outbreak of witchcraft happened, but i do know generations of kids and adults who enjoyed the books were treated to a well-crafted fictional world exploring themes of bravery and friendship, loss and grief, and sacrificing everything to make a stand against tyranny and oppression. can we trust kids again to think for themselves? i believe we can.

      1. having said that we should also remember the judge in the porn local standards case who said “i know it when i see it.” there are clear guidelines and precedents established for defining and limiting actual porn. maybe a few more clear standards related to age-appropriateness are called for. a slam fest with two sides calling each other nazis in a public forum is not helpful.

    3. “Government is not the solution to our problem, government is the problem.” – Ronald Reagan.

      “It takes a village to raise a child.” – Hillary Clinton.

      When self-appointed nannies demand that school boards HAVE TO protect these children from harmful words instead of parents being allowed to be parents and making the choice for themselves, which example do you think you are closer to following?

      1. good thoughts. i feel porn is appropriately referenced in this debate though, because i well remember how teenage boys operate. if you bring in material with any kind of sexualized content, a percentage of kids exposed to it will have their sexual responses triggered. so I think the well-worn term “prurient interest” is a thing you have to weigh in decisions as well. not that they would create a future cohort of deviants, but that they feed a person’s base reactions in the moment, with no redeeming social value in the short and long term. kind of like being a trump supporter.

  13. I think it was Supreme Court Justice Harlan, a Kentucky Republican, who said “I can’t define pornography, but I know it when I see it.” I don’t think we’re asking School Boards to define pornography and ban books meeting that definition. If the Supreme Court can’t define it, how can the School Board?? The Supreme Court speaks about “Community Standards”. Perhaps the School Board can reach a consensus on the “Community Standard” in Brookings. I hope “The Hatchet” is not banned. It is a favorite of Middle School kids across the State.

  14. There are always gate keepers, in this case who ever is making book selection for the public and school libraries. Since these are public libraries concerned persons should have their say and vote as to what is in these libraries.

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