NLB: Censorship and Intellectual Freedom

“And Tango Makes Three” is a children’s picture book which features the true story of two male penguins that raised a baby chick in a New York zoo.

Here is my short commentary on the Singapore National Library Board’s (NLB) recent actions to destroy three books (including the aforementioned title) that were deemed unsuitable for young children, because of “non-traditional” family themes.

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penguin-book-ban

Image by Nam Y. Huh/AP

I would like to take this opportunity to direct NLB to the American Library Association’s (ALA) page on censorship and freedom of information.

In a Q&A on these subjects, the ALA states:

“Intellectual Freedom is the right of every individual to both seek and receive information from all points of view without restriction. It provides for free access to all expressions of ideas through which any and all sides of a question, cause or movement may be explored. Intellectual freedom encompasses the freedom to hold, receive and disseminate ideas.”

U.S. Supreme Court Justice William O. Douglas considered the “restriction of free thought and free speech” to be “the most dangerous of all subversions.”

It does not take great imagination to understand why.

We need look no further than the comments of Young Artist Award recipient, Cyril Wong, who said:

“As a queer writer, I think I have reached a limit of some sort, in the light or dark of recent events. I don’t know why I’m bothering anymore. By sometime next year, I’m just going to stop; yes, stop publishing, stop working with governmental organisations, even stop writing.”

Justifying the removal of books because they “do not reflect existing social norms” provides me with some questions to ponder.

Is a person less of a human being because of their sexual orientation?

Does a perpetually bitter, jealous married wife promote more “family values” than a single mother who dedicates all of her time and energy towards providing the best for her family?

How is a public library serving the needs of the public if members of the public are only allowed to peruse publications that reflect the social norms of only one group or community, at the exclusion of all others?

When people are not allowed to think for themselves or express their views, their voices are effectively silenced. Their self-identity is compromised along with the likelihood of having an authentic dialogue with other human beings.

And it’s too late for society once people don’t have a voice, or are prevented from being heard if they do.

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More Information:

(Singapore Media)

Author Justin Richardson responds to NLB removing his book (The Online Citizen)
Author Jeanie Okimoto responds to NLB removing her book (The Online Citizen)
NLB CEO saddened by protests against gay book pulping (Everything Also Complain)
Ink Spilled on NLB Book Banning (Extensive collection of links by Robin Rheaume / Facebook)

(International Media)

Singapore Provokes Outrage by Pulping Kids’ Books (TIME)
“And Tango Makes Three” appears routinely on the ALA’s annual list of most “challenged” books (Wikipedia)
What Does Singapore Have Against Gay Penguins? (The Washington Post)
Love That Dare Not Squeak Its Name (on homosexual behaviour in animals; New York Times)

About Jess C Scott

Author/Artist/Non-Conformist @ www.jessINK.com View all posts by Jess C Scott

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