Censors and Boycotts: A Twitter Thread
Posting here for archive purposes.
In an email, I was asked, given the rise of book bans in schools/libraries, if it made sense for me/other authors to ask publishers to stop sending our books to affected states until they pulled their heads out – a boycott, basically. So here’s why I think that’s not a good idea.
First, as a strictly practical matter, it wouldn’t work. Anyone can order anything online these days and have it arrive at their home. The people this sort of action would hurt would be small local indie booksellers and libraries, who are, to be clear, not the enemy in this case.
Second, while boycotts are often indiscriminate tools in terms of who they affect, in this case a boycott would work to the short-term advantage of the censors by punishing innocent local booksellers/libraries, ie, the entities the censors want to punish anyway…
… and while inconveniencing readers in these states to motivate them to act against censors is a legit tactic, remember, these readers can get books shipped to their homes, so they're often not *that* inconvenienced. Another tactic to encourage them would be better.
Third, what often does make sense in the case of censorship is to flood the zone: Make the censored material so ubiquitous and available that the censoring is futile, and the censorious look like what they are, ie, shitty tiny-minded bigots. More books are needed, not fewer.
I have never had a book removed from a library or school, but if I did, my inclination would not be to pull all my work from that state, it would be to work with people in the state to get the book into the hands of those to whom is meant to be forbidden. Because fuck censorship.
Fourth, what about boycotts in terms of personal events/appearances? Those might make more sense because in-person events can’t be bought online. But as writer events are usually with local bookstore/libraries, again the question is, who is being punished with this action?
In some cases a creator boycott of states makes sense. In the *specific* case of book bannings/removals, it often makes at least as much sense to show up and make the case for books and reading in the places where they are trying to be removed and discouraged.
In my case, if a book of mine was banned somewhere, I might go out of my way to show up in that place on my next tour, with a couple of boxes of my and other banned books, you know, for the kids (NB: Do not try to get my books banned as a way to get me to visit. That's weird).
Final note: School and library boards who censor do so because they believe “think of the children” is a sufficient shield for whatever bigotry they’re trying to implement. They’re using children as shields, all right, but what they’re revealing is something else entirely…
… namely, that they're aware their ideology *can't compete* with other, better concepts/ideas about society. You don't fight this purge of ideas with another, voluntary purge of ideas that leaves a vacuum the censors will happily fill with crap in the absence of competition.
So, no, I'll not be boycotting in these instances of censorship. I don't think it's the most effective way to protest, or to support local allies on the ground. Your mileage, of course, may vary.
And now, as is tradition, I end this thread with a cat picture. Enjoy.