Yes, Gavin Newsom’s Tweet about Banning Books is Hypocritical
- Newsom’s list of books aren’t even being challenged, it’s not a representative list of what’s being fought over
- California had a notable dust up over 5 classics in 2020, including banning Harper Lee’s “To Kill a Mockingbird” making his tweet hypocritical
- States aren’t banning, it’s school boards who are often pulling books to investigate their content for appropriateness, for often good reasons
OUR RATING: Sloppy and Error-Filled. Your typical Friday night at Fox News, sloppy work.
Indicted Outlet: Gavin Newsom | Twitter | Link | Archive | 3/31/22
There’s a particular new phrase associated primarily with the political left: ‘virtue signaling.’ If one is virtue signaling, they are broadcasting to the wider public that they are more virtuous than normal, they are more in tune with social mores. 
Politicians on the political left are especially notable at using this tactic because it gives them public praise and affirmation. California Governor Newsom has been especially criticized for this tactic. 
Here in this image, shared on purpose by Newsom’s Twitter feed, he is purportedly criticizing other American states that are banning books.
The whole campaign about ‘banned books’ is filled with hypocritical double standards, but that’s a different issue. The meme is really notable because Governor Newsom is complaining about other states banning, ostensibly, the books he is reading.
But as many commenters and image-sharers point out, California jurisdictions have banned several of the books Newsom has in his image. The one thing in Newsom’s favor is that there’s scant evidence of California book banning beyond Burbank, but that’s probably because few are looking or know where to look.
- Missing Context
- Creating False Connections
THE FIVE BOOKS NEWSOM CLAIMS ARE BEING BANNED
For starters, which books are in the list that Newsom considers as being banned by other states:
- “Beloved” by Toni Morrison 
- “To Kill a Mockingbird” by Harper Lee 
- “1984” by George Orwell 
- “Gender Queer” by Maia Kobabe 
- “Maus” by Art Spiegelman 
ARE THESE BOOKS BEING BANNED?
The standard for what constitutes a ‘banned book’ is a sort of political designation. The American Library Association, “ALA”, has their list of what they consider a ‘banned book’  and some of Newsom’s books are listed in the top 10 banned books nationwide. 
The methodology of the ALA list of banned books is a bit suspect because it relies on information collected from media stories and voluntary reports.
- Beloved: #10 in 2012, #9 in 2006
- To Kill a Mockingbird: #7 in 2020, #7 in 2017, #10 in 2011, #4 in 2009
- 1984: does not appear on any top 10 list of banned books by the ALA.
- Gender Queer: #1 in 2021
- Maus: does not appear on any top 10 list of banned books by the ALA.
So there’s still a basic question of whether these books are being currently banned, and who is banning them. The ALA’s methodology relies on user input and participation, so it’s not the most accurate measure of book bans. Regardless, the ALA is telling the media that the level of banning is ‘unprecedented.’ 
Newsom’s statement is that he is trying ‘to figure out what these states are so afraid of’ and that’s not immediately clear who is properly banning books.
Texas State Rep. Matt Krause has been in the media for proposing a ‘concern list’ of around 850 titles with potentially objectionable content.  Here is the Rep. Krause list.  Rep. Krause simply made a list of what books could be considered objectionable,  but the reaction has been primarily misrepresenting his intent by claiming this was a list of books to be banned, which it most certainly is not.
ARE BOOKS BEING ‘BANNED’?
“Banning” implies a course of action that most school districts are not engaged in. Few are forcefully removing books from the library and expelling them completely from the school.
In cases where they are removed from the classroom, it means a book is removed from the active curriculum meaning that it was previously assigned, and now, under pressure usually from parents, it is no longer assigned as part of the active curriculum.
In other cases where they are removed from the library, it means that a book has been withdrawn from circulation from the on-site school library.
In most cases, it means that a book has been pulled from both the active curriculum and from library shelves ‘pending an investigation‘ by the school authorities.
Of the 1,586 tracked by the PEN America group, 30% were being banned from the classroom, 12.35% were banned from the library, 11.5% were banned from the library and classroom, and 46% were banned pending an investigation. Meaning that most books would still be available in the school library. There doesn’t seem to be any data about the typical conclusion of a school investigation into a book. But many of the books purportedly being ‘banned’ are likely simply being withdrawn pending an investigation into the contents.
So, it is misleading and missing context to say that books are being ‘banned.’
ARE ‘STATES’ BANNING THESE BOOKS?
In reviewing an incomplete list of books banned by a state or by the federal government, few titles are on the list. 
The last book actually banned by a state was banned in 1946, “Memoirs of Hecate County” by Edmund Wilson. 
What is meant by a ‘state’ banning a book is, most often, a political subdivision of a state banning that book from its on-site libraries. Meaning that a school board refusing to carry a particular book at a particular school.
On that basis, numbers vary, but some estimates say there are 1,586 titles banned across 86 school districts in 26 states. 
That number comes from the PEN America group, a group that advocates for writers.  They keep an Index of challenged books, which author and title was challenged, in which school district, and when. 
So the statement or inference that states are themselves banning these books is highly misleading. School districts are banning books from their classroom use and sometimes banning them from library circulation, and sometimes both.
It is inaccurate, misleading and a serious misrepresentation by Newsom to say that ‘states’ are banning these books.
ARE NEWSOM’S BOOKS REPRESENTATIVE OF THOSE UNDER THREAT OF BEING ‘BANNED’?
That PEN America index reveals how many tracked instances of challenge exist at the moment for the five books cited by Newsom:
- Beloved: challenged 3 times
- To Kill a Mockingbird: challenged 2 times
- 1984: does not appear on the list
- Gender Queer: challenged 30 times
- Maus: challenged 2 times
This is how many times these books are currently being challenged. There’s no easy way to determine how representative this sample survey covers the much larger number of districts in the country. Surely it’s fair to say this ‘ban’ list is a significant undercount of what’s being banned nationwide in total. That being said, it is probably a fair reflection of what books are being banned overall. Meaning that the overall numerical count of challenged books is probably low, but the actual titles being challenged are probably roughly accurate.
There are 13,452 school districts in America.  90% of schools have a school library.  The average school has 20 separate books per student. 
Here is what PEN America says are the six most-banned-books in American school districts: 
- Gender Queer: A Memoir by Maia Kobabe (30 districts)
- All Boys Aren’t Blue by George M. Johnson (21 districts)
- Lawn Boy by Jonathan Evison (16 districts)
- Out of Darkness by Ashley Hope Pérez (16 districts)
- The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison (12 districts)
- Beyond Magenta: Transgender Teens Speak Out by Susan Kuklin (11 districts)
Notably none of Governor Newsom’s titles match PEN America’s list of most commonly banned books except for one: Gender Queer: A Memoir.
None of Governor Newsom’s titles match the ALA’s list of most commonly banned books in 2021 except for one: Gender Queer: A Memoir.
Notably whenever discussions are had about banned books, no one even bothers to mention most of the conservative titles that are banned,  such as Christian books.  Instead, it’s always selectively about famous classic titles and obscure left-wing books that most haven’t heard of.
So, are these titles selected by Newsom reflective of the ones being banned? No, that appears to be significantly false. And more to the point, these books appear cherry picked for political diversity rather than an accurate representation of what kind of books are being ‘banned’ by schools since 1984 isn’t currently banned anywhere notable, and the other three are banned either two or three districts at most.
WHAT ARE THE REASONS BOOKS ARE BEING BANNED?
There’s an implied critique that liberal and media critics make when talking about ‘banning books’ and that it’s a throwback meme thinking that closed-minded people are akin to infamous Nazi book burnings where Magnus Hirschfeld’s research and violent experimentation on children related to transgenderism was violently opposed by German student groups. 
A common quote you find when left-leaning people talk about ‘book bans’ is this one from Heinrich Heine, “Where they burn books, they will ultimately burn people also.” 
There’s this enlightenment precept that left-wing people want to marry themselves to: that they love books and they aren’t the bad guys suppressing ideas.
Recent events show that the liberal love for the first amendment was all a charade though.  Left-wing elites have had zero qualms about suppressing conservative speech on almost every media platform.  Banning Presidents,  platforms,  people  and ideas,  even styles of music,  figuratively burning them into ashes, has all been celebrated over the past decade.  Left-wing media even loves to gaslight people into thinking that suppressing their free speech has nothing to do with free speech. 
So the left is indulging these fantastical ideas about what’s motivating these bans, they’re historically trying to connect them to fascist regimes, even though they are by far the most censorious political movement in American history, and yet it’s still unclear as to why books are being banned.
A group at NYU identified these general categories as to why American books are historically banned,  which is very broad. The various types of book bans are categorized as:
- Sexually Explicit
- Political Reasons
And if you look through the PEN America list, you can see that no books are being banned over concerns that they are ‘blasphemous’ or because of political reasons such as supporting violent international Communism. Instead, most books are being banned because they are perceived as racist, they are sexually explicit, and they are indecent. Those are broad categories but they still reveal that the left-wing mindset is incorrect when assuming these books are being banned for religious or politically immature reasons.
When Governor Newsom says ‘what are these states are so afraid of’ he’s mimicking that language and assuming that mindset, a set of assumptions that are objectively false.
These books are not being banned because, as Governor Newsom says, they are ‘afraid of’ something. They are clearly being banned out of concern as to the explicit content being exposed to children. They are not ‘afraid’ of blaspheming their God or ‘afraid’ of Communism, they don’t want to expose children to books espousing self-harm, risky sexual behavior, and suicidal content.
ARE THERE GOOD REASONS TO BAN THESE BOOKS?
Going through the PEN America list for any notable titles, it’s interesting to note a few titles where there might be good faith objections to the book’s inclusion in a classroom or in a school library:
- “The Bell Jar” by Sylvia Plath”  – banned once. This is the last book published by Plath, describing a descent into mental illness, published a month before the author herself committed suicide. One early title of this work prior to publication was “Diary of a Suicide.” Here’s a summation of the book in a 1971 review in the New Yorker: 
“Suicide, a grimly compulsive game of fear and guilt, as addictive as alcohol or drugs, is experimental at first—a little blood here, a bit of choking there, just to see what it will be like. It quickly grows into an overwhelming desire for annihilation. By the time Esther climbs into the crawl space of a cellar and swallows a bottle of sleeping pills—by the time we are faced by the real thing—the event, instead of seeming grotesque, seems like a natural consequence.“
- “A Good Kind of Trouble”  by Lisa Moore Ramee – banned once. A negative review on Goodreads suggests that although the book has arguably positive messages for black children, it comes at the expense of other children and teaches a somewhat neo-segregationist position advocating for black separatism.  Other reviews note that it ‘invokes violence’ and is strongly anti-police and anti-school-administration.
- “Scars”  by Cheryl Rainfield – banned once – The cover to this book depicts what is politely known as ‘self-harm’ but is more well known as ‘cutting’ – a young girl cuts up her arms with knives and razors leaving scars, the name of the book. Here is the description of the book from the publisher:
Kendra hasn’t felt safe since devastating memories of childhood sexual abuse began surfacing, especially because she still can’t remember the most important detail: her abuser’s identity. Kendra knows someone is always watching, following her and leaving menacing messages, and making her fear for her life. Kendra cuts to relieve the pressure; it’s how she copes, along with her brilliant, expressive artwork. Her mother is too self-absorbed to listen, so Kendra finds support elsewhere: from her therapist and her art teacher; from Sandy, a family friend who encourages her painting; and from Meghan, a friend and maybe more.
- “Rainbow Revolutionaries: 50 LGBTQ+ People Who Made History”  by Sarah Prager – banned twice – Here’s one critical review  of Prager’s book for kids ages 8-11:
The role models celebrated in this book include Ellen DeGeneres (Yep, pay no attention to her toxic personality), a brutal genocidal conqueror, and an individual who proclaims that it’s better to die than to have to live without transgender surgery. Furthermore, that even just one year of life after surgery (before death from complications from experimental surgery to attempt to implant a womb) is worth it. That is an incredibly disturbing and psychologically damaging message for children. Also included among the role models, a statutory rapist and others whose membership in the LGBTQ+ community is just an undocumented rumor.
Throughout the book are people who have sex with multiple people, multiple genders, with no regard to
their marital or relationship status. You have to question the motives of someone who feels the need to present that to young children. Many pages also try to draw in the reader, assuming the child reading the book is part of the LGBTQ+ community.
- “Suicide Notes”  by Michael Thomas Ford – banned once – In a critical review on Goodreads, here’s what this Young Adult book aimed at 15 year olds teaches impressionable teens: 
Teen Rape: “In contrast, his times with Rankin border on sexual assault. He is never the one to initiate a situation with Rankin, with the other boy climbing into his bed without permission or leading him into the showers and forcing him to perform oral sex. Jeff seems uncomfortable with all of these situations, and while he acts curious to find out, for example, what a penis looks like up close, he is disconnected when narrating these encounters.”
Attempted Suicide: “Some day in the late 30s, we find out that the reason that Jeff attempted suicide is because he realized he was gay when developing and then acting on a crush on his best friend’s boyfriend.”
Letting Rape Define One’s Sexual Orientation: “He says that since he was unable to have sex with Sadie, it showed that girls were not for him, and that his sexual encounters with Rankin felt “right”, despite the sickly feelings that accompanied them. At this point, I had to put the book down and think about what was happening. Somehow, hardly consensual sexual encounters felt “right”? Regardless of whether or not Jeff was gay, this is not the right message for any book to send.”
Suicide, Sex as more Important than Life: “My final problem with this was how Jeff reacted to Sadie’s suicide at the end of the book. He is momentarily shocked, but then mentions it for another four pages total at best in the last few days of the book. His sexuality somehow overshadowed the fact that his closest friend, in the ward and probably in the world at that point, killed herself out of nowhere. Sadie seemed like she would have remained a part of his life once they had left the ward, and he barely thinks of her once she is gone, a highly unrealistic reaction.”
These books are so horribly offensive and flawed to any rational person that it’s amazing we even have to discuss whether children and teens should be exposed to them.
There are good reasons to ban these books. These books should be nowhere near anyone until they are old enough to handle significantly mature themes.
IS NEWSOM’S HOME STATE OF CALIFORNIA BANNING BOOKS?
In September 2020, the school district in Burbank, California banned these five books, four of which were in the active curriculum and being assigned to students: 
- Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird
- Mark Twain’s The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn
- John Steinbeck’s Of Mice and Men
- Theodore Taylor’s The Cay
- Mildred D. Taylor’s Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry
The reasoning came from “concerns raised by parents over racism.” Which is admittedly a little vague. But the Newsweek article went on to further state, “Four parents, three of whom are Black, challenged the classic novels for alleged potential harm to the district’s roughly 400 Black students.”
The media via the Los Angeles Times gave cover to this censorship by noting incidents where alleged racist incidents came from the presence of these books on the curriculum.  They noted two verbal altercations where a student called a black student a racial epithet, but also dug into substantive reasons to ban these books:
None of the five novels in dispute is openly supportive of segregation or bigotry. All were flagged for words we now find offensive. But the parents’ objections are not merely over language. They also worry about the way these books portray Black history and the lessons they might impart to modern readers.
“The Cay” and “Huckleberry Finn” feature white children learning from the suffering and wisdom of older Black men. “To Kill a Mockingbird” stars Atticus Finch, a white lawyer who defends a Black man accused of raping a white woman. Its white-savior story line reads much differently nearly 60 years after its publication.
The LA Times claimed that Burbank schools had 15,200 enrolled students — who are 47.2% white, 34.5% Latino, 9.2% Asian and 2.6% Black.
By December 2020 the School District decided to ban the books from the classroom, meaning a student could not be required to read them, but that they would be allowed to remain in the school library. 
In 2018, California Democrats sought to make it criminal to sell a book that advocated for what is sometimes called ‘gay therapy’ or ‘conversion therapy’ seeking to change one’s sexual orientation.  The bill was AB2943. This was met a year later by the Amazon bookseller corporation formally banning such titles from its platform for sale.  Even though the California legislature was unsuccessful in criminalizing the sale of such books, they certainly succeeded in effectively eliminating the books from being available.
So, yes, some California schools have been caught banning books for left-wing reasons. Gavin Newsom is certainly hypocritical for posing and virtue signaling that other states are afraid of such topics when he has been silent on the Burbank ban on one of the five books he was promoting. 
That being said, there seems little media reporting on other bans throughout California that have banned books. It’s hard to say whether that is because they have not been banning such books, or because they have simply not been noticed by the media or activist groups tracking these issues.
The whole situation is enough to remind someone of Ray Bradbury’s famous observation at the heart of Fahrenheit 451, that the best way to ban books was to make people not want to read them in the first place.
Indeed his prescience for our current national moment seems prophetic:
For the abandonment of reading he saw in society, and from which he extrapolated in his book, he blamed not the state but the people, an entertaiment-as-opiate-addicted “democratic society whose diverse population turns against books: Whites reject Uncle Tom’s Cabin and blacks disapprove of Little Black Sambo,” leading to widespread censorship and eventually the burning of all reading material.
OUR RATING: Sloppy and Error-Filled. Your typical Friday night at Fox News, sloppy work.
1 ] https://michaelshellenberger.substack.com/p/why-gavin-newsoms-policies-on-covid?utm_source=%2Fprofile%2F2255433-michael-shellenberger&utm_medium=reader2&s=r
2 ] https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/6149.Beloved
3 ] https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/2657.To_Kill_a_Mockingbird
4 ] https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/40961427-1984
5 ] https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/42837514-gender-queer
6 ] https://www.goodreads.com/en/book/show/15195.The_Complete_Maus
7 ] https://www.ala.org/advocacy/bbooks
8 ] https://www.ala.org/advocacy/bbooks/frequentlychallengedbooks/top10
9 ] https://www.newsweek.com/book-ban-requests-unprecedented-libraries-2021-report-1694881
10 ] https://www.npr.org/2021/10/28/1050013664/texas-lawmaker-matt-krause-launches-inquiry-into-850-books
11 ] https://static.texastribune.org/media/files/94fee7ff93eff9609f141433e41f8ae1/krausebooklist.pdf?_ga=2.11573559.2091958781.1635513476-272773625.1635513476
12 ] https://www.nytimes.com/2021/12/10/us/texas-critical-race-theory-ban-books.html
13 ] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_books_banned_by_governments#United_States
14 ] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Memoirs_of_Hecate_County
15 ] https://thehill.com/changing-america/respect/equality/3261964-the-five-states-with-the-most-book-bans/
16 ] https://pen.org/about-us/
17 ] https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/1hTs_PB7KuTMBtNMESFEGuK-0abzhNxVv4tgpI5-iKe8/edit#gid=660619424
18 ] https://www.edweek.org/leadership/education-statistics-facts-about-american-schools/2019/01
19 ] https://nces.ed.gov/fastfacts/display.asp?id=42
20 ] https://nces.ed.gov/programs/digest/d21/tables/dt21_701.10.asp
21 ] https://pen.org/banned-in-the-usa/#authors
22 ] https://www.jns.org/opinion/the-only-ones-banning-books-are-critical-race-theorists/
23 ] https://www.aclu.org/other/statement-bible-public-schools-first-amendment-guide
24 ] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nazi_book_burnings
25 ] https://en.wikiquote.org/wiki/Heinrich_Heine
26 ] https://nypost.com/article/social-media-censorship-conservatives/
27 ] https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-10823295/Twitter-does-not-believe-free-speech-Twitter-engineer-recorded-saying-censor-right.html
28 ] https://www.nbcnews.com/tech/tech-news/twitter-permanently-bans-president-donald-trump-n1253588
29 ] https://news.yahoo.com/conservative-parler-banned-tech-giants-222000130.html
30 ] https://www.technologyreview.com/2019/05/03/135506/facebook-has-banned-a-list-of-dangerous-extremist-celebrities/
31 ] https://www.washingtonpost.com/technology/2021/01/16/misinformation-trump-twitter/
32 ] https://gnet-research.org/2021/09/03/fashwave-extremist-audio-formats-present-complex-challenges/
33 ] https://washingtonmonthly.com/2021/01/17/deplatforming-works-but-the-public-should-have-more-power-over-social-media/
34 ] https://www.vox.com/culture/22230847/deplatforming-free-speech-controversy-trump
35 ] https://counterarchive.hosting.nyu.edu/exhibits/show/banned-and-challenged-books
36 ] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Bell_Jar
37 ] https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/1971/07/10/dying-an-introduction-howard-moss
38 ] https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/38251243-a-good-kind-of-trouble
39 ] https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/4027675501?book_show_action=false&from_review_page=1
40 ] https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/7531478-scars
41 ] https://www.amazon.com/Rainbow-Revolutionaries-Fifty-People-History/dp/0063091062/ref=sr_1_1?keywords=Rainbow+Revolutionaries%3A+Fifty+LGBTQ%2B+People+Who+Made+History&qid=1653344292&sr=8-1
42 ] https://www.amazon.com/product-reviews/0063091062/ref=acr_dp_hist_1?ie=UTF8&filterByStar=one_star&reviewerType=all_reviews#reviews-filter-bar
43 ] https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/3097601-suicide-notes
44 ] https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/1086008515?book_show_action=true
45 ] https://www.newsweek.com/kill-mockingbird-other-books-banned-california-schools-over-racism-concerns-1547241
46 ] https://www.latimes.com/entertainment-arts/books/story/2020-11-12/burbank-unified-challenges-books-including-to-kill-a-mockingbird
47 ] https://ncac.org/news/california-book-challenge-2020
48 ] https://www.dailywire.com/news/california-democrats-seek-ban-books-speech-violate-ben-shapiro
49 ] https://www.forbes.com/sites/dawnstaceyennis/2019/07/21/amazon-stopped-selling-books-promoting-conversion-therapy-and-some-people-are-mad/?sh=75de16ed724c
50 ] https://www.breitbart.com/politics/2022/03/31/california-gov-gavin-newsom-poses-with-to-kill-a-mockingbird-banned-by-district-in-california/
51 ] https://dictionary.cambridge.org/us/dictionary/english/virtue-signalling
52 ] https://www.nytimes.com/2019/03/30/opinion/sunday/virtue-signaling.html
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