If you’re worried your dander hasn’t been got up much of late, take a wander over to The Telegraph – no, not for the usual reasons, but for its piece on a survey of libraries that has revealed some of the specific complaints made by concerned parents about their children’s reading material. Remember that Simpsons episode where Marge starts protesting Itchy & Scratchy after Maggie hits Homer on the head with a mallet? Where she complains about not having realised mice led such interesting lives? Then realises that censorship is too subjective and just generally awful when the army of busybodies she’s raised behind her expect her to protest the visit of Michaelangelo’s David because of all the dirty filthy man parts on display? Yeah, it’s like that, only without the ‘realisation that censorship is awful’ part.
Amongst the complaints raised: Horrible Histories glorifies and trivialises violence; Horrid Henry is a blasphemer for saying ‘oh my God’; and then there’s this glorious sentence, which I reproduce in full, in reference to the bickering characters of David McKee’s Two Monsters:
‘Readers objected to the aggressive language of their insults, which include “stupid peabrain”, “twit”, “dumbo” and “ignoramus”.’
Ignoramus! Aggressive! Man, if I had a pound for every time I’d heard a couple of drunks fighting in the city centre on a Saturday night because one of them had called the other a dumbo… I’d probably be living inside a Preston Sturges film and carrying a bindle.
Without wanting to turn into a frothing at the mouth Telegraph commenter (believe me, they’re doing fine without me – keep a particular eye out for the one raving about Stalinism and and Marxist political correctness that ends with the dire warning ‘Time to revolt, people, because after they have dealt with the books – they will come for YOU’ and has been recommended by 47 people), this is clearly mental.
Happily, though every complaint made to libraries regarding content is investigated, a follow-up piece in The Guardian clarifies that very rarely does this result in books actually being removed from shelves. Worryingly, however, it goes on to point out that the growing presence of community libraries, staffed by volunteers ‘not bound by professional ethics’ rather than trained librarians, could make censorship and withdrawal of titles increasingly common. Now excuse me while I draft an appropriately hyperbolic response to post in the comments.