June 21, 2021

ABIGAIL SHRIER: The Books Are Already Burning. The question is only: How long will decent people stand by quietly and watch it happen?

Let that sink in: a book review by a respected physician was bullied out of existence in America.

Public figures who have watched the success of such campaigns — and they are now weekly if not daily — now know they risk their livelihoods by engaging heterodox views. Jordan Peterson, for example, chose to demonetize the interview we did on his YouTube channel to, in his words, “avoid attracting counterproductive attention by jackals who weaponize demonetization.”

It’s not only corporations facing this type of activist pressure. Public libraries now do, too.

Halifax Pride, the annual LGBTQ festival, announced late last month that it would cut ties with the city’s library system over its insistence on carrying Irreversible Damage, calling it “transphobic,” and claiming that it “jeopardizes the safety of trans youth” and “debates the existence of trans people.”

So far, the Halifax Public Libraries have resisted. Their position is straightforward and apolitical: libraries exist to expose the public to the widest array of views, “including those which may be regarded as unorthodox or unpopular with the majority.”

The Halifax Public Libraries tried to compromise with the activists by pasting a note inside the book’s cover, directing readers to a list of “trans-affirming” resources. But the activists were unappeased. No ties with the libraries were restored. They want the book gone from the library and scrubbed from existence. Two copies in a library of nearly 1.2 million volumes are two too many.

Not even the Nova Scotia Library Association or the Canadian Library Association has come to the library’s defense, though their standing orders explicitly require member libraries “to guarantee and facilitate access to all expressions of knowledge and intellectual activity, including those which some elements of society may consider to be unconventional, unpopular or unacceptable.”

Silent supporters stand alongside the Halifax Libraries. They sign up to borrow the book, now nearly 150 of them, and post supportive messages on Twitter usually under pseudonyms.They know that the activists waging this battle — over who gets to determine what we can read, what ideas adults are allowed to explore, will, at some point, come for ideas they favor, or causes they support.

But like too many individuals and institutions who try to hold fast to liberal values in the face of an intolerant and illiberal onslaught, the Halifax Libraries stand alone in the public square.

I know how they feel.

As Ray Bradbury wrote in the introduction to the 50th anniversary edition of Fahrenheit 451, “There is more than one way to burn a book. And the world is full of people running around with lit matches.”

Speaking of which, flashback: Antifa Forces Portland Book Store to Stop Selling Andy Ngo’s Book About Antifa.

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