Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Baby Be-Bop And The Badassed Bigots! Or...What The Elderly Do For Fun In West Bend, WI

Bigotry Just For The Sake Of... Bigotry

When all is said and done, it is an act of coercion and destruction, as well as an attempt to foist values upon a community that does not necessarily share them.

(Author's Note: This post went from reporting about a three-ring circus to a trilogy about book censorship. Why? #1: Having been in publishing and the media for over 25 years, I have a strong respect for free speech and books; #2: I abhor censorship, especially book-burning; #3: I like exposing homophobia, hypocrisy and bigotry - It's fun!)

Chapter 1

Only Christofascists would be stupid enough to sue a library to burn a book.

A book that's been out of print for the last ten years.
A book that is not sexually explicit.
A book that is destined to make West Bend, WI. famous - for all the wrong reasons.

The book is a slim young adult novel titled Baby Be-Bop, by Francesca Lia Block, about a teenager who's beaten up by his classmates because he's gay. A copy of the book sat languishing on the West Bend Community Memorial Library's shelves until a group of individuals and a suspect organization called the Christian Civil Liberties Union (CCLU - not very original) picked it because they had an axe of bigotry to grind.

Not one of the articles I've read so far has stated that any of the plaintiffs have actually read the book.


from American Libraries (magazine of the ALA):

For the immediate future, West Bend officials will be dealing with the CCLU’s legal claim. Describing the YA novel by celebrated author Francesca Lia Block as “explicitly vulgar, racial, and anti-Christian,” the complaint by Braun, Joseph Kogelmann, Rev. Cleveland Eden, and Robert Brough explains that “the plaintiffs, all of whom are elderly, claim their mental and emotional well-being was damaged by this book at the library,” specifically because Baby Be-Bop contains the “n” word and derogatory sexual and political epithets that can incite violence and “put one’s life in possible jeopardy, adults and children alike.”

As one article brought to light: "...Why didn't someone simply check the book out and not return it?" Why not? Probably because someone wanted to make a statement along with a little money on the side ($120,000 for "compensatory damages").

"Mental and emotional well-being?" WTF? Millions of elderly are probably wondering what their comrades in West Bend do for fun - watch grass grow? I've got friends twenty years older than I am who couldn't fathom why someone, anyone, would sit around being distraught over a book they've never read, a book that's gathering dust on the shelves of the local library.

Chapter 2

The real stupidity of the situation lies in the fact that the CCLU garnered enough publicity for the book to promote sales:


As always Francesca Lia Block will see a swell in book sales of her Dangerous Angels series that Baby Be Bop is a part of. It also looks like MTV is going to be bringing the main character, Weetzie Bat, to the big screen after Block finishes her work on writing the screen play for the series.

I haven't been able to document it yet, but my suspicion is that Rev. Cleveland Eden is a minister of the Southern Baptist variety. The CCLU is also suspect: no website, no article in, no information. Nothing. Was it trumped up solely for this case? Is a pastor cruising the local hospital and nursing home to get some notoriety?

Stay tuned...

And just to show that bigotry hasn't changed much in 51 years:

Francis J. Lally, Monsignor - interviewed by Mike Wallace, 1958:

The Church doesn't believe in book-burning, but it believes in restricting the use of dangerous books among those whose minds are unprepared for them... The Church has through the centuries, understood that ideas are really more dangerous than other weapons. Their use should be restricted.
And here's a wonderful video of West Bend's righteous arrogance:


Christopher said...

The stupidity of the people who want to destroy this book just floors me. Honestly, I think all they've really managed to do is make people want to read the book. They certainly made me want to read it, and you know what? I loved it. I thought it was a wonderful book.

People who want to destroy Baby Be-Bop claim they worry about the message it sends. Personally I worry more about the message destroying this book, or just keeping it out of the hands of teenagers for whom it's intended, would send.

Christopher said...

By the way, if the request to have the book destroyed weren't bad enough, I think the plaintiffs who brought the original suit exposed their real intentions by asking for $30,000 each in "damages" for being "exposed" to the book.

They can't prove they were damaged in any way by it, and asking for money just shows them to be not only bigots but greedy as well.