We know how political correctness has "cleansed" various organizations, but the damage it has done to public libraries has largely escaped notice. To illustrate how PC has imposed its censoring dictates on these essential facilities, I will use the Beaufort County Public Library in Beaufort, South Carolina. No doubt, it is well representative of other public libraries.
Recently I recommended that the library add Tom Woods’ book, The Politically Incorrect Guide to American History to its collection. I made this recommendation after receiving interested phone calls from persons who read my letter to a local newspaper touting the book. The Beaufort County Public Library’s recommendation procedure involves filling out a 3 x 5 card at the library, which is then submitted to the Collection Department Manager for evaluation.
Frankly, I don’t expect the library will acquire Tom Woods book. Let me explain. In November 2002, I recommended two other books for addition to the Beaufort County Public Library: The Real Lincoln by Tom DiLorenzo and Multiculturalism and the Politics of Guilt by Paul Gottfried. As I write this in February of 2005, neither book has been added to the library’s collection. My extended parley with the library remains fruitless.
At one point, I received this written response from the Collection Development Manager: "The book The Real Lincoln is on order. It will appear in the catalog as soon as we locate a vendor who can supply it." (When I bought the book, I was able to find a vendor in less than a minute) "The multiculturalism title is one that I’m still searching reviews for. The only ones I have found so far indicate that this title is more an academic title than a general public library title."
I requested and received a copy of the library’s Collection Development Policy. The Policy began with a Purpose of Selection statement containing the following: "The library seeks to maintain a well-balanced collection representing differing points of view." The section captioned "Selection Tools" contains a list of reviews used by the library in deciding on acquisitions. The list includes: Standard Catalog for Public Libraries, Book Review Digest, School Library Journal, Publisher’s Weekly, and New York Times Book Review.
On another occasion, I was informed that the current year’s budget could not cover The Real Lincoln but it would be added in the "next budget year." The Gottfried book had still not been accepted by the Collection Development Manager.
In a discussion with a member of the library’s staff, I was informed that a possible reason the DiLorenzo book had not been acquired "might be" that the library already has so many books about Lincoln that another one was not deemed necessary. Of course, I was well aware of those other Lincoln books; books scripted by Lincoln idolaters, keepers of the Lincoln mythology.
The BCPL’s "budget" excuse was obviously false because over the last two years the library has added numerous new books — often two copies of the same book. The books I requested were rejected because they apparently did not receive favorable reviews in the establishment review sources used by the library. In other words, they contain "differing points of view," points of view that the establishment does not sanction.
In the process of trying to get the books approved, I became aware that recommended books are approved or rejected by one person only — the Collection Department Manager. I had considered donating the books to the library but found that donated books are also subject to the same scrutiny, by the same person. So it is doubtful that the library would approve them.
To understand what the library does approve of, we can look at its current display of a traveling exhibition sponsored by General Electric: "Freedom — A History of the U.S." The exhibition is based on the Public Broadcasting System’s TV series of the same name. Of course we know that whenever PBS reports the history of America, their version usually revolves around a single theme: slavery. This exhibit is no exception. Like PBS, the exhibit also conveys the impression that the two most important men in American history are Abraham Lincoln and Martin Luther King, Jr. All other American historical figures pale by comparison to President Lincoln and Dr. King.
One panel in the exhibit portrays a slave ship and describes the awful hardships confined slaves endured. However, there is no mention of the fact that such ships were operated by New England slave traders and financed by New York entrepreneurs. As the exhibit only discusses slavery in terms of Southern states, a young viewer might think that the major slave ports were Savannah and Jacksonville rather than Boston and Newport.
As we would expect, there are a number of exhibit panels exalting the virtues of Abraham Lincoln. One has various pictures of Lincoln; his wife, his sons, his home and even his dog — appropriately named Fido. Naturally the usual quotations from his Second Inaugural and the Gettysburg Address abound throughout the exhibit. And, like most PC versions of Lincoln, there are none of Lincoln’s numerous comments disparaging blacks; his claim that the two races could never be equal and whites should be given the superior position; his opposition to blacks holding office or even becoming voters or jurors, and his encouragement and support for Recolonization of freed slaves to other continents.
The exhibit states: "In his (first) Inaugural Address, President Lincoln vowed to preserve the United States, a republic governed by popular suffrage, majority rule, and the Constitution." This statement is followed by the exhibit’s only mention of the supposed-political positions of the Confederacy: "By contrast, the new constitution of the Confederacy explicitly sanctioned the unlimited right to hold human beings in bondage."
One panel of the exhibit states: "The Civil War encompassed Lincoln’s entire presidency. To this role Lincoln brought an ability to grasp large military objectives, (and) a politician’s sensitivity to the popular mood…" However, Lincoln’s own party was so disgruntled with his inept pursuit of the War that it formed the Joint Committee on the Conduct of the War to second-guess Lincoln’s decisions. Considering that the North had a population of 22 million compared to the South’s population of 5 million; that Union soldiers outnumbered Confederates by a margin of two and half to one, and that the North’s industrial base could produce arms, munitions and supplies whereas the agricultural South had to rely on imports which were stopped by Union blockades, why did it take four long years to defeat the South? What kind of "military" ability does that illustrate?
Regarding Mr. Lincoln’s "sensitivity to the popular mood," we need only mention the race riots in New York City protesting the Emancipation Proclamation — riots that only ceased when President Lincoln personally dispatched regiments of Union troops who shot hundreds of rioters.
Of the Emancipation Proclamation, the exhibit claims: "Strategically, it undermined the Confederacy" and throughout the South "slaves staged work stoppages and others sought refuge behind enemy lines" — I’ve come across this strange assertion before. But the fact is that after the Proclamation was issued, the Confederacy fought on valiantly for almost two and a half more years. Although slaves certainly wanted their freedom, most took a pragmatic "wait and see" attitude toward the Proclamation and it finally failed to cause the massive slave upheaval Lincoln had hoped for.
The exhibit also praises President Lincoln’s speech made in April 1865 in which he addressed rebuilding the nation. This panel contains this comment: "In the audience that day was John Wilkes Booth, a virulent racist, who vowed to stop the man who provided citizenship for African Americans." As for Lincoln’s assassination, the exhibit states: "For many Americans, the highest price (of the recent conflict) was the loss of the nation’s greatest president. Lincoln’s courageous leadership during the war had preserved the nation and ended slavery."
Those who have no interest in going beyond elementary school versions of American history probably accept the myth that Lincoln freed the slaves. But if you judge Abraham Lincoln by his actions rather than his words — a few very carefully selected words, you will conclude that crediting him for freeing the slaves is quite an exaggeration. Although Lincoln idolaters rank the Emancipation Proclamation with the Magna Carta, it was a toothless document that freed no slaves. It was a war measure attempting to entice rebelling states and localities (scrupulously enumerated in the document) to cease fighting. If the rebelling states complied within a 100 days of the issuance of the decree, Lincoln would allow them to keep their slaves.
Does a document providing a loophole allowing states to keep slaves sound like it was written by a man with a burning desire to abolish slavery?
In fact, during his entire presidency, "Honest Abe" never proposed a single measure that would free the nation’s slaves. It was Congress, who in January 1865, acted strictly on its own initiative to pass the Thirteenth Amendment that would eventually abolish slavery. Proposed amendments to the Constitution do not require presidential approval nor can a president veto such measures. Lincoln signed the proposed amendment but this was only a symbolic gesture, a prophylactic action. When the Amendment was finally ratified, Lincoln had been dead for almost a year.
Finally, the GE exhibit contains a panel about John Brown, who is described as a "militant abolitionist" who "led a group of men in skirmishes and raids." These two words, "skirmishes and raids," are PBS’s way of glossing over the vicious assault and slaughter of men, hacked to pieces with sabers while their horrified wives and children begged for mercy.
Not only does this exhibit contain questionable data and conclusions, it seems to have been constructed to appeal to school children rather than adults. Adults who have any knowledge of American history will reject it. Informed adults also know that historical events are not as simplistic and one-sided as this exhibit implies. It is disappointing that the library’s management doesn’t know that. But the exhibit is a sterling example of political correctness and that is probably why the library was so eager to bring it here.
You can search the Beaufort County Public Library’s catalogs in vain to try to find a book that doesn’t follow the PC line. Its policy statement about "a well-balanced collection representing differing points of view" is pure mendacity. And that is why the Woods, DiLorenzo and Gottfried books will not be made available for patrons. What other important books, reflecting contemporary scholarship, has it censored?
Gail Jarvis [send him mail], a CPA living in Beaufort, SC, is an advocate of the voluntary union of states established by the founders.