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:

Baby Be-bop And The Badassed Bigots II: A Tale Of Two "Christians" and The Hate Group That Isn't There

The Stupidity Just Keeps Getting Better

"Tis a tale told by an idiot, signifying nothing."
- The Scottish Play - Wm Shakespeare.

Chapter 3

Does the Christian Civil Liberties Union actually exist?

I've spent the better part of three days through search engines, news bureaus, websites, and blogs. I searched: Baby Be-bop, West Bends, Wisc., Francesca lia Block, Christian Civil Liberties Union, American Christian Liberties Union, Reverend Cleveland Eden. I looked abroad at Britain's The Freethinker (one of the best headlines so far: Fundie fools seek damages for being exposed to ‘vulgar, anti-Christian’ novel) Result: The "Milwaukee branch" of the Christian Civil Liberties Union doesn't seem to exist. Probably because the Christian Civil Liberties Union doesn't seem to exist. The closest I could come:

From Manta (listing of small businesses)

Business Information: This company profile is for the private company American Christian Civil Liberties Union , located in Olathe, KS. American Christian Civil Liberties Union's line of business is individual/family services.
Company Name: American Christian Civil Liberties Union

Address: 915 S Parker St, Olathe, KS 66061-4262
Location Type: Single Location Est.
Annual Sales: $51,000
# of Employees: 2 Est.
Empl. at Loc.: 2

Year Started: 2005

Contact's Name: West Yourk
Contact's Title: Director
NAICS: Other Individual and Family Services

Then I came upon an article in Galley Cat:

A West Bend reader writes: "First, the CCLU, may be 'local' from a national perspective, but actually is based in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, and consists of four right-wing, fundamentalist Christians who claim they were personally harmed because a copy of 'Baby Be-Bop' is in the West Bend library, 35 miles northwest of Milwaukee.

"Second, the petitions mentioned in the article involved an entirely separate issue being debated in West Bend that the CCLU used to piggyback their likely frivolous lawsuit to draw attention to themselves.

And I found this bit in the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel:

In an interview yesterday, West Bend Library Director Michael Tyree said that of the four men who have filed the lawsuit, only one of them lives in West Bend - and that man doesn't have a library card on file.

Chapter 4

Right-wing radio leaps into the fray.

The culprits in this hilarious farce are Ginny and Jim Maziarka, two local residents with an axe to grind. Besides being homophobes, they also seem to be bibliophobes. Ginny Maziarka has a blog called WISSUP (Wisconsin Speaks Up). It's full of fun things to do in Milwaukee, but it stops short of listing gay bashing as one of them. If you click on one of the items on her sidebar, you'll note that the Maziarkas have enlisted the aid of Miwaukee's radio premier conservative newstalk jock.

When you listen to the podcast of Mark Belling on his WISN newstalk radio show, Standing Up for Milwaukee, you realize that he's bucking for a Glenn Beck/Rush Limbaugh audience - and while he doesn't name Baby Be-bop specifically, he states that the young adult books of West Bend's library are "very lurid" books and that he couldn't read "this filth" on the show.

According to his bio:
Mark is one of the best known local talk show hosts in America. He has been a guest host on America’s most listened to radio program, The Rush Limbaugh Show.
Chapter 5


From The Advocate:
The plaintiffs want a grand jury to determine whether the book should be declared obscene and whether making it available is a hate crime.
WTF!??! People who would vote against hate crimes legislation want libraries that make available books criticizing Christians to be prosecuted for hate crimes!

A group calling themselves West Bend Citizens for Safe Libraries, associated with a national fundamentalist Christian, anti-gay movement called Safe Libraries, wants books containing sexual references moved from the young adult section to the adult section and labels sexually explicit material. They also want more restrictions on the library's access to the Internet, and a link to a list of gay-themed books removed from the Library's Website.
And, true to form, the backlash spawned another group: West Bend Parents for Free Speech.

So there you have the whole mind-boggling mess (with particularly stupid points in red):
  • Two concerned right-wing parents attempt to ban or relocate gay young-adult novels at their local library.
  • The library refuses to ban or relocate any books.
  • The parents pick out one novel which has been out of print for over ten years.
  • The commotion catches the attention of a nebulous right-wing group called Christian Civil Liberties Union. The CCLU starts a lawsuit against the library. Coincidentally, the CCLU seems to be made up of the plaintiffs in the suit. The suit demands $120,000 for "compensatory damages" focusing on "emotional" and "mental" distress brought about by the mere presence of the book in the library. Only one of the plaintiffs lives in West Bend, WI. And he does NOT have a library card.
  • Local support for the parents and the CCLU is garnered through a right-wing radio talk show host.
  • Further commotion ensues when the CCLU announces that the suit will also specify that the presence of the book constitutes a hate crime.
  • The backlash spawns: a parent's free speech group; support for the library, especially from the American Library Association; notoriety on internet blogs and some mainstream media; the book's award-winning being slated to write the book's screenplay for MTV.
So, the underlying question brought out by all of this:

Just how stupid can Christofascists get?

Just a thought.

Baby Be-bop And The Badassed Bigots, Pt 3: Enter Bette Davis


Library censorship has been alive ever since Christian zealots burned the Great Library of Alexandria in 391 CE.* So its not surprising that a movie was made about library censorship and has some subtle parallels to today's West Bend circus act. The movie was Storm Center. Its star was Bette Davis. The meme at the time (1956) was Communism since it was made at the tail end of the McCarthy era. Davis was remarkable in the role of a librarian who refused to take a book about Communism off the shelves. In the scene below, she gives her favorite youth a bitch-slapping like you wouldn't believe, but one that even James Dobson might approve of ...if he were to be publicly rebuked by an eight-year-old.

*Regarded as one of the greatest disasters to befall knowledge, some 400,000 scrolls were lost - works collected from all of western civilization - because they were housed in a building (the Serapeum) that had been a temple.