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The right's book-banning campaign reaches a new level

The right's renewed book-banning campaign appears to be intensifying, even as many conservatives complain about "cancel culture."

It was last fall when local Republicans' efforts to ban books started to look like a national trend. A county in Virginia removed LGBTQIA fiction from school libraries. Around the same time, a Kansas school district started pulling several well-known novels from school libraries, including "The Handmaid's Tale" by Margaret Atwood and a Pulitzer Prize winning play from August Wilson.

It was against this backdrop that a Republican state legislator in Texas put together a list of 850 books he believed might make students feel uncomfortable — and then asked schools which of the titles are available to students.

Nora Pelizzari, a spokesperson for the National Coalition Against Censorship, soon after told The Washington Post, "What has taken us aback this year is the intensity with which school libraries are under attack.... [T]his feels like a more overarching attempt to purge schools of materials that people disagree with. It feels different than what we've seen in recent years."

The campaign clearly isn't fading. NBC News reported overnight:

A Tennessee school board voted to remove "Maus," a Pulitzer Prize-winning graphic novel about the Holocaust, from the district's curriculum after officials objected to eight instances of profanity and an image of a nude woman. The McMinn County Board of Education's Jan. 10 vote to remove the novel, published by cartoonist Art Spiegelman about his Jewish parents' experiences in Nazi concentration camps, was 10-0, according to meeting minutes.

The fact that the unanimous vote to remove the celebrated work about the Holocaust came shortly before Holocaust Remembrance Day made matters just a bit worse.

It'd be easier to overlook stories like these if they were far and few between, but that's simply not the case. Axios reported last week, "School districts from Pennsylvania to Wyoming are bowing to pressure from some conservative groups to review — then purge from public school libraries — books about LGBTQ issues and people of color. "

The article quoted Deborah Caldwell-Stone, director of the American Library Association's Office for Intellectual Freedom, saying, "I've worked for this office for 20 years, and we've never had this volume of challenges come in such a short time."

NBC News reported a week earlier that dozens of Black authors are finding their works "are being pulled from school libraries under the pretext that they're teaching critical race theory.... Most of the books that are targeted for bans don't teach critical race theory but are written by and about people of color."

As we've discussed, these fights are not altogether new. Conservative activists have launched all kinds of related efforts for generations, targeting books they deemed morally and socially unworthy for one reason or another.

But there's evidence that the renewed book-banning campaign is intensifying, even as many on the right complain about "cancel culture."