Whose Prose Is More Dangerous, Adolf Hitler's Or Homer Simpson's?

Adolf Hitler's Mein Kampf and Ku Klux Klan literature have inspired some of the worse atrocities the world has seen. Yet, the Texas prison system allows both while it bans Where's Waldo? Santa Spectacular, Homer Simpson's Little Book of Laziness and Monty Python's Big Red Book. Homer Simpson may be a scoundrel and confound everyone in Springfield, but a cartoon character and a band of English satirists are hardly as dangerous as racist propaganda. Determining what passes muster and what doesn't is a slippery slope. Authoritarian regimes have burned books. Local school districts have banned classic literature such as The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee, The Call of the Wild, and Gone With the Wind. State education officials in Texas become the laughing stock of the nation each time they try to rewrite Texas textbooks in ways that distort history. Prison officials say they ban books that could be used to hide contraband, and also block reading materials about explosives, graphic sexual depictions, weapons, drugs and anything that would encourage prisoners to disrupt the prison environment. Their approach, however, has produced more than its share of collateral damage: over 10,000 books are on the forbidden reading list. Alice Walker's The Color Purple, a winner of the Pulitzer Prize and National Book Award for fiction, is not allowed, presumably for its racial themes, violence, and other explicit content. Freakonomics, which counter-intuitively examined life through economic theory is forbidden. And pop-up books, such as Harry Potter Film Wizardry and The Amazing Spider-Man, are on the banned list along with Hello Kitty, which prison officials say have places for prisoners to hide contraband. But if Texas prison officials are so concerned about maintaining control and rejecting ugly themes, why are they so blind to the real-world dangers of hate-filled material in a prison? Why do they question entertaining and enlightening materials that children and young adults enjoy? The Texas prison system is enough of a cauldron of racial strife without allowing manifestos for racial hate to fill the shelves.  Continue reading...

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