Banned books and free speech in Westport


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When a gunman murdered 20 small children and six educators at Sandy Hook Elementary School in 2012, a few miles from Westport, I couldn’t imagine anything worse happening to those grieving families.

Then I heard about Alex Jones.

With a scowl and a sneer, he proclaimed that the massacre never happened. He called mothers and fathers who lost their boys and daughters “crisis actors”. He laughed at their tears, then raised funds for their agony. And – because he is not alone in his sick and desolate world – he encouraged his followers. They trolled families online and tormented them in person. They forced some of these families to move. When they fought back, in a lawsuit to hold Alex Jones responsible for his vile charade, he and his band made these families relive the most horrific days of their lives over and over again – in public.

So I cheered when a Waterbury jury ruled that Jones should pay nearly a billion dollars in damages. I was particularly pleased that the case of the Sandy Hook families was handled by Koskoff Koskoff & Bieder. Westport lawyer – and graduate of Staples High School – Josh Koskoff played a key role in the long saga.

The jury’s decision and the local legal angle reaffirmed my pride in living in Connecticut. While much of the rest of the country is polarized on nearly every major issue and heads to the polls next month with a good chance of electing as senators, representatives, governors and secretaries of state overseeing elections , a mind-numbing collection of conspiracy theorists, religious fanatics and election deniers, my state (I silently applauded) has actually lived up to its nickname: the land of stable habits.

And even though Donald Trump loyalist Leora Levy won the Republican nomination for U.S. senator — in a primary race that drew just 20% of her party’s voters — the national GOP isn’t wasting money. money in this contest. They know Connecticut is still a blue state.

Then came the week of forbidden books.

For 15 years, the Staples High School Library has celebrated the American Library Association’s exhibit of the most contested books of the previous year. The reasons for the protests vary, of course, and they come from both the left and the right.

Last year’s list included three books on LGBTQ issues: ‘Gender Queer’, ‘Lawn Boy’ and ‘This Book is Gay’. All have been at the Staples Library for several years. They apparently haven’t been checked often. Again, most books in school libraries are rarely consulted these days. News flash: Teenagers get most of their information online.

Some or all of these three books are also found in school libraries in neighboring towns and districts similar to Staples elsewhere in Connecticut and Westchester County.

But seven residents used the public portion of a school board meeting to speak out vehemently against LGBTQ books. They called them “pornographic” and “inappropriate for children”. Some of the speakers alleged that Westport educators “groom” and “sexualize” students.

A woman has accused Staples of “indoctrinating” students into Marxism. “Obviously you want to dismantle the nuclear family,” she said.

When the debate spilled over onto social media, the words got even hotter. Some of the phrases and ideas used by those opposing the books echoed talking points from similar battles in other Connecticut cities — and across the country. The land of stable habits is no longer immune to the rhetoric heard in states where anyone who travels to Washington or sits in the state house can be decided by a very small — and highly contested — number of votes.

“Marxism” should not be a word thrown around. But several of the people involved in the “banned books” debate used it, saying they were familiar with the encroaching threat because they grew up in totalitarian countries.

The allegation of “Marxism” does not disappear. Last year, Steve Bannon’s podcast spotlighted Westport. The segment claimed that the city is run by an “unelected Marxist Politburo.” (By this they meant TEAM Westport – the multicultural group appointed by the Board of Selectmen).

On air, Bannon interviewed the editor of CD Media. The initials stand for “Creative Destruction”, which means “reopening newspapers in colonies”.

On November 1, another CD Media personality – chief investigative correspondent and editor Christin Dolan – speaks at Westport. His talk is titled “How Public Policy Puts Our Children at Risk.” Among the subjects addressed by his panel: “Significant increase in the trafficking of human children”; “Exponential increase in youth deaths from fentanyl”; “Alarming increase in youth suicides” and “Decrease in mastery of basic academic skills”.

And where will his conference take place? At Westport Library. You know: a place that doesn’t ban books. Or speakers.

Dan Woog is a writer from Westport, and his “Woog’s World” appears every Friday. He can be contacted at [email protected] His personal blog is danwoog06880.com.

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