October 2, 2012

Fifty shades of insanity

"Chastisement will come 
when a very large number of bad books have been spread."
Sister Bertina Bouquillon
aka Nursing Nun of Bellay

As I write this, the American Library Association is celebrating its 50 state salute to banned books week. Tragically, even in our once safe libraries and the once respectable profession of publishing, today's dominant impulse is to promote mankind's prurient descent into decadence.

Consider that there was a time, not too long ago, when:
  • publishers and pornographers considered themselves in distinctly different businesses;
  • family-oriented stores like Walmart and Sam's Club shunned books that celebrate sadistic, sexual violence;
  • public libraries had more stringent standards than big city, back alley peep shows.
Times have changed.

Over the past decade, some major publishers have particularly signaled their determination to hype and promote whatever scandalizes, titillates or outrages. As always, the edge of the slippery slope seemed harmless enough, at first.

Nine years ago, the world witnessed the marketing juggernaut of Dan Brown's "The Da Vinci Code." Though it was widely criticized for its historical and scientific inaccuracies, the novel was marketed as if it contained a factual foundation to its ludicrous claim that the Catholic Church had murderously participated in the greatest religious conspiracy in history. Now approaching 100 million copies sold, the blockbuster helped make anti-Catholic bigotry fashionable. 

Then, just five years ago, a new breed of militant atheists became the celebrated darlings of the publishing world. Their more accurate label, however, would be "antitheist" because they not only choose not to believe in God - an arguable position, at least - but aggressively dismiss and disparage anyone who does. Even though secular liberal journals had written devastating reviews, the carnival barkers of the airwaves managed to make a number of them best sellers. 

Next, the wildly successful trilogy that included "The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo" proved that stories about sadistic sexual violence could produce international best sellers and major motion pictures. 

So, perhaps it is not surprising that a major publisher is now mainstreaming what the Brits affectionately call "mummy porn." 

"Horrible books will be freely available. 
Intellectuals will argue fiercely among themselves. 
Then the war will break out ..."
Abbe Voclin 

The "Fifty Shades" trilogy of erotic novels is Exhibit One for mankind's headlong plunge into an entertainment cesspool of sin  and insanity. The sadistic series was the first to sell over a million copies via Kindle. It has become the fastest selling paperback of all time. In fact, the trilogy  managed the surprising honor of holding the top four positions on Amazon's best sellers list, thanks to sales of each book in addition to the boxed set of the series. So, it is not surprising that movies are in the works. The author of "American Psycho" is hoping to write the scripts.

The grand irony is that the same people who spend millions of dollars on advertising to influence human spending behavior are the first to mock anyone who claims that deviant books and movies can influence criminal sexual behavior.

A very few protests by domestic abuse advocates have denounced the trilogy's message that "domestic violence is sexy." One might wonder why there aren't more protests. But the answer is clear: those who control the cultural commentary in society today mock and marginalize those who advocate for traditional values and standards.

Evil books will be abundant on earth
and the spirits of darkness 
will spread everywhere a universal slackening 
in all that concerns the service of God.
Our Lady of LaSalette

Fortunately, however, libraries in a whopping three states have removed some books from their shelves. But the bigwigs at the American Library Association (ALA) are fighting those kinds of self-policing decency standards every step of the way.

According to the ALA guidelines for Developing a Public Library Internet Use Policy, they discourage any use of internet filtering at libraries. They claim: "Libraries are a major information source in our society for access to the larger world of human expression.... Libraries that raise barriers to access damage their credibility with their users.... Materials in any given library cover the spectrum of human experience and thought, even those that some people may consider false, offensive, or dangerous.... In the millions of Web sites available on the Internet, there are some—often loosely called “pornography”—that parents, or adults generally, do not want children to see. A very small fraction of those sexually explicit materials is actual obscenity or child pornography, which are not constitutionally protected."

So, the American Library Association is actively resisting responsible efforts to filter even “false, offensive, or dangerous” content on library computers. In essence, they argue that the First Amendment requires taxpayers to provide a welcoming environment of air-conditioned comfort to those who seek sexual thrills in our public libraries, even if it jeopardizes the safety of those who work and visit there, particularly women and children. They suggest that treating pedophiles or terrorists, for that matter, otherwise would “damage their credibility with the users.”

This is not a theoretical argument. Recently, at a library where my close friend works, two women were slashed across the face with a box cutter. Though this tragic incident did not include a sexual battery, it prompted me to try a Web search using the keywords “sexual assaults near public libraries.” The search engine Bing delivered 58,600,000 results.

It would be insane to ignore such a crisis. Yet, the American Library Association - largely responsible for the safety of library patrons and workers - can and does. Perhaps they should be more focused on that problem than on celebrating Banned Book Week.