Hey Idaho Librarians, YOU'RE IN JAIL!
Yr Wonkette likes to say that Idaho may lack the population and political power of a Florida or a Texas, but by golly, when it comes to batshit crazy, we punch above our weight. Consider the latest insanity making its way through the Idaho Legislature, a bill that would amend the state's criminal code so that librarians could potentially be sent to jail if they let minors check out "sexually explicit" materials.
Under Idaho law, "disseminating materials harmful to minors" has been illegal since 1972, but the law provides an exception for "a bona fide school, college, university, museum or public library," or employees of those institutions. The backers of a new censorship bill, Idaho House Bill 666 — we shit you not — would remove that exemption, making it possible for prosecutors to charge librarians and libraries, and presumably schools and teachers too. The penalty is up to a year in prison and/or a fine up to $1000, per offense.
The bill's text also says the revision is in response to an "emergency," so it would go into effect July 1 of this year if it's passed by the Lege and signed by Gov. Brad Little (R), rather than waiting until the new year to start jailing librarians.
What About The Children's Library? Will No One Think Of The Children's Library?
The bill's sponsor, state Rep. Gayann DeMordaunt (whose name frankly sounds like a character from a pretty sketchy vampire romance novel, if you ask us), told the House State Affairs Committee this week that it's high time to stem the side of raunch and filth that children are being exposed to, or at least it's a midterm election year.
For a long time, many years, I have been concerned about the obscene and pornographic material that finds its way into our schools and libraries. [...] While likely this is inadvertent, the increasingly frequent exposure of our children to obscene and pornographic material in places that I as a parent assume are safe and free from these kinds of harmful materials is downright alarming.
If DeMordaunt had any evidence that's actually happening more frequently, she doesn't appear to have shared it.
But it's certainly true that rightwing politicians and media are increasingly turning to Culture War panics to gin up their ever-fearful base and stoke demands to punish the evil liberals. Hell, if the economy and employment numbers keep improving, the Right may run out of things to panic about.
The Little Girl Who Found ALL The LGBTQ Books
For full-on moral panic, it's difficult to top the testimony of Kara Claridge of Coeur d'Alene, an ordinary mom married to a guy who unsuccessfully ran for CDA city council last year. Claridge said she was very upset last summer when her daughter found the picture book Prince and Knight at the library. It's about a prince and a knight, both boys, who go on a quest, slay a dragon, and get married, to the delight of all in the kingdom (except the local chapter of Goodwives For Liberty).
Just to be clear, there is absolutely no "sexually explicit" content in the book, which is aimed at ages four to eight. But maybe it would fall under the broad heading of "Any other material harmful to minors," which really is in the Idaho statute.
Ms. Claridge seems to have become remarkably well-informed about what children are randomly finding in libraries these days, rattling off a list of terrible books that have all made it into rightwing media: "It escalates quickly to Auntie Uncle: Drag Queen Hero, middle-grade queer [books] and Lawn Boy." [...]
Claridge had plenty to say about the pernicious influence of these and other books:
“How did we go from ‘Pollyanna’ to drag queen for the kids? My daughter’s innocence was violated. [...] But what happens when kids start acting on these graphic behaviors put forth in these books?”
“The sad reality is children are being taught to be confused about their gender and even groomed into lifestyles they wouldn’t have chosen otherwise,” Claridge added, saying the children’s library is no longer a safe place to take her children.
Honestly, we have to wonder how the two named picture books "violated" her little daughter's innocence. Or perhaps Claridge's daughter found those, the unnamed middle-grade books, and Lawn Boy on her own?
That might take some work, since they're very definitely aimed at different ages, and wouldn't all be in the same section with Prince and Knight. We checked, and Jonathan Evison's 2018 semi-autobiographical novel Lawn Boy is definitely located where it belongs, in "adult fiction."
Ms. Claridge and her husband JD, the failed City Council candidate, both featured in a recent dust-up over the Coeur d'Alene Library Board's use of Zoom meetings during the pandemic, which it turns out violated Idaho's open meetings law. The couple got involved in that fuck-tussle because they really really needed to complain publicly to the library board about all those filthy drag queen and LGBTQ books their daughter allegedly found all on her own in the children's library.
The Zoom meetings were viewable by the public, as well as via a feed at the library's community room; public comment was also allowed. But apparently it just wasn't the same as accusing the library board face to face of "grooming" children, you know?
So there's one of our concerned parents, from an ordinary North Idaho political family that's been raising a stink about pandemic measures and whose daughter allegedly encountered several LGBTQ-related kids' titles that are in no way explicit, plus maybe the Evison novel.
Ordinary Idaho Parents Shocked By Same Books As Ordinary Parents Nationwide
As Boise State Public Radio notes, Lawn Boy just happened to be the focus of a much ballyhooed censorship fight in Virginia's largest school district last year. Lawn Boy and another book were pulled from libraries in Fairfax County Public Schools following parent complaints, then restored after a review by school officials found them "diverse reading material that students with underrepresented identities could relate to."
Gosh, you are never going to guess what book another Concerned Mom testified about.
Surprise! It was the other book in that Fairfax County censorship battle, Maia Kobabe's graphic memoir Gender Queer, which has become the focus of rightwing outrage all over the country, especially after Fairfax County didn't find it or Lawn Boy dangerous or even obscene.
Kobabe — who identifies as nonbinary and uses gender-neutral pronouns e, em and eir — writes about eir
adolescent confusion as a young adult about gender matters and identity, and the comic does indeed include a scene depicting a "blowjob" — with a strap-on dildo, not a peener (If you want to see what rightwing parents are so upset about, the SHOCKING cartoon dildobeej and other illustrations are reproduced at this moral panic site). [Update/correction: Per the Washington Post, that event happened when Kobabe was a young adult, not an adolescent]
Ironically, the scene underlines how deeply disappointing the experience was for Kobabe, because e discovered that "lesbian" didn't feel right to em. Not that moral scolds care about context.
Gender Queer also includes a scene in which Kobabe recalls eir dawning adolescent recognition that e might be asexual: e didn't care for porn, but constructed "an elaborate fantasy based on Plato's Symposium" (LOL!). Again, you never see wingnuts mention any of that, since the scene also includes a reproduction of an image from ancient Greek pottery showing an older man holding the peener of a boy. That's what's led to accusations that the book promotes "pedophilia," which — GTFO, it's freaking ancient Greek art, in a scene about Kobabe's increasing disinterest in sex.
On the other hand, penis.
Idaho Mom Of The Year
Now, as we say, by pure random chance, one of the other parents at Thursday's hearing was very upset about Gender Queer, and said she'd filed a formal complaint against the West Ada School District, near Boise, over the novel. Boise State Public Radio reports that the woman — who goes unnamed, out of mercy — told legislators
“The school does not need to teach our children how to do oral sex. That’s my job.”
Please be sure to tip your waitresses.
Oh, yes, librarians at the hearing pointed out that the bill doesn't bother trying to directly censor library materials. Instead, HB 666 seems designed to demonize librarians personally, threatening them with jail time if they make the mistake of checking out an adult book to a kid.
You might even get the impression that the goal isn't really to protect kids, so much as it is to remove any library materials, even from the grown-up parts of the library, that might lead to such a mistake.
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Doktor Zoom's real name is Marty Kelley, and he lives in the wilds of Boise, Idaho. He is not a medical doctor, but does have a real PhD in Rhetoric. You should definitely donate some money to this little mommyblog where he has finally found acceptance and cat pictures. He is on maternity leave until 2033. Here is his Twitter, also. His quest to avoid prolixity is not going so great.