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Cancel culture

It’s not just the left that’s banning books

Art Spiegelman’s Maus: banned by conservatives. Leon Neal/Getty

Republicans always howl about intolerant left-wing “snowflakes” and “cancel culture”, says Dana Milbank in The Washington Post. But the right is also guilty of censoring free speech. Last week, McMinn County in Tennessee banned Maus, Art Spiegelman’s Pulitzer Prize-winning graphic novel about the Holocaust, from its classrooms. The book, which portrays Jews as mice and Nazis as cats, contains swear words, nudity and vivid depictions of violence – all of which offended the conservative local school board.

Maus is by no means the first book to be cancelled by the right. According to the American Library Association, the number of texts “challenged” by school boards has more than quadrupled since 2019 – most of them with protagonists who are black, LGBTQ, or anti-police. These include The Bluest Eye, Nobel laureate Toni Morrison’s debut novel (banned in a city in Missouri last month) and Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale (targeted in Kansas in November). Nor is the right’s “thought police problem” limited to books – speech is also under threat. Since January last year, 12 gagging laws have been introduced in Republican states restricting what teachers can say on the topics of race and gender – and more than 70 similar bills were proposed last month alone. Politics doesn’t get much “more snowflakey than that”.

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