Friday, October 2, 2020
This is a rush transcript. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.
It's Friday, October 2nd, 2020. I'm Albert Mohler, and this is The Briefing, a daily analysis of news and events from a Christian worldview.
The Age of the Pseudo-Event—It’s “Banned Books Week” Again
Back in 1962, a professor at the University of Chicago by the name of Daniel Boorstin coined the phrase, "the pseudo-event." It's something that looks like an event, but it's actually not an event. With the rise of news and other forms of both information and entertainment, Boorstin, a keen observer of the United States was very aware of the fact that Americans were confusing real events with put up events or pseudo-events, artificial events. This was the very same historian at the University of Chicago, who perceptively pointed out that at that point in American history, many people were becoming simply famous for being famous, a cult of celebrity and the rise of the pseudo-event. His 1962 book was entitled, The Image: A Guide to Pseudo-Events in America.
His point was this. When you have a population such as those in the United States, or you could say in the Western world, you have a civilization that is increasingly unable to distinguish between the real and the false. And when it came to television, then something very new. It was a big issue. It's arguably a much bigger issue now when you're thinking about the digital revolution and the rise of social media. If Americans were confused in 1962, how much more confused are they now? As you're thinking about the difference between a real event and a pseudo-event, think about the fact that a real event would mean a country goes to war. There is a major political development, a major law is passed, the Supreme Court hands down a big decision, an individual does something that instantly galvanizes national or international attention. Those are usually events, but when it comes to pseudo-events, well, one of the chief examples is this.
Just about every Thanksgiving, not that far from us now on the calendar, there is a White House ceremony. It happens every single year when the president of the United States, regardless of which president that is, whichever president is in office at the time is presented with at least one big turkey. And in a pseudo-event, the president pardons the turkey. It's not going to become the main entree in the White House Thanksgiving meal. It's a pseudo-event. We all know it's not a real event. We know that presidents don't pardon turkeys. We also know that it's basically nothing more than a commercial for the turkey growing industry. But Americans look at it and you have even the national news that we'll report on it every year as if it's something real. It's not real, but there are other pseudo-events that are much more dangerous than a president supposedly pardoning a turkey.
One of those far more dangerous pseudo-events that takes actually the form now of propaganda is the annual event that is sponsored by The American Library Association, known as Banned Books Week. If you've gone to or buy any bookstore, if you've been watching the mainstream media, if you have dared to go close to a school library, not all schools I'm glad to say, but most schools, especially public schools and public libraries, you're likely to see a display or at least posters up about Banned Books Week. But here is the issue. And it reveals the propaganda behind Banned Books Week. None of these books have actually been banned, not in any legitimate sense in which a government has said, "You cannot publish this book. You cannot sell this book. You cannot own this book. You cannot read this book and it is illegal to either possess or sell this book." In that sense none of these books are banned. None of these books have been the subject of government coercion.
Instead, what you're looking at here is, The American Library Association actually pushing a very leftist agenda while suggesting that if in any case a parent or a citizen should complain about any book that might be say in an elementary or middle school or high school library, or might be in a bookstore, yes, more likely would be in a public library sometimes even addressed to children indeed often so then it is suggested by The American Library Association that that is an intended form of coercion that is tantamount to banning the book.
At the website for The American Library Association. I read this quote, "The American library association condemns censorship, and works to ensure free access to information. Every year the office for intellectual freedom compiles a list of the top 10 most challenged books in order to inform the public about censorship in libraries in schools. The lists are based on information from media stories and voluntary reports sent to OIF”—that's the Office for Intellectual Freedom—"from communities across the United States." The news report then goes on to say, "The top 10 lists are only a snapshot of book challenges. Surveys indicate says the ALA that 82% to 97% of book challenges, documented request to remove materials from schools or libraries remain unreported and received no media."
Now here's something I want you to know. None of these numbers are backed up with any kind of evidence other than the kind of voluntary reports the ALA says it has accumulated through its office for intellectual freedom. What is the ALA? Well more than anything else it's a very liberal association of professional librarians. Now, little footnote here, the professionalization of librarians as the professionalization of so many other jobs in the United States means that the librarian say they, and they alone have the knowledge to do their work and they, and they alone can evaluate whether or another library or librarian is doing the right thing. But for the last several years now, indeed many years, the ALA has used this Banned Books Weeks as a pseudo-event, nonetheless in the form of propaganda, to try to express the message that you have all kinds of sensors or would be sensors around the United States.
But what they're really complaining about is that parents want to have some say in the books that their children read, children and teenagers and young people, and you have citizens that want to have some say in the kinds of books that are and are not available or featured and promoted in public libraries. Furthermore, as you see here, any kind of complaint about a book can get that incident listed here by the ALA as if it is an effort to ban a book. This entire effort is on the one hand intellectually dishonest. But on the other hand, it's politically very effective. Even in a lot of say deep south states in cities that are very conservative, you can go into the public library and you can find displays of what the ALA tells us are the 10 most protested books. By the way, in several of these displays, the book covers are actually covered. So you can't tell what the book is. It just says like, number one, number two, number three, number four.
And you have in many of these displays, crime tape or police tape, that infamous yellow plastic tape that is around the display as if this is a crime scene. Again, a pseudo-event, intellectually dishonest political propaganda for the left and very effective. Now here's something else we need to note. And again, this is taken directly from the ALA Banned Books Week section on their website. We are told that the top 10 most challenged books of 2019, that's the last completed year. And again, all we have here as documentation is what the ALA says from its own rather anecdotal reports. But nonetheless, the books it chooses to highlight here tells us just about everything about the agenda at work. For instance, we're told, "The ALA Office for Intellectual Freedom tracked 377 challenges to library school and university materials and services in 2019."
Pause, wait just a minute. There are 50 States. This is supposedly an overwhelming 377 challenges. You can think about that pretty quickly, over the course of a year for libraries that are found as public library, school libraries and university materials, only 377 challenges. That tells you something of just what pseudo means in this case of the pseudo-event. But then we are told, "Of the 566 books that were targeted, here are the most challenged along with the reasons cited for censoring the books." Here's what I want us to note. This list actually tells us more about the ALA and its cultural ambitions then it tells us about any kind of challenges to books. But as you look at this list, and the ALA helpfully gives us that top 10 lists going back years, you can actually see the vast moral change that has taken place in the United States.
Just a few years ago, say 10 or 15 years ago, the big issue were books that were dealing with the gay rights revolution for example. But now we're way past that. It's LGBTQ+, plus, plus plus, but in particular transgender. For example, we're told that the 10 most challenged books of 2019 include, George by Alex Gino. the reasons, "challenged, banned, restricted, and hidden to avoid controversy for LGBTQIA+ content and a transgender character," because schools and libraries should not, "Put books in a child's hand that require discussion for sexual references and for conflicting with a religious viewpoint and traditional family structure." Now here you'll notice the book was never banned, but in this case, we were told that this was the number one book that people tried to ban. But in this case, it was just saying the book's inappropriate for this kind of collection.
Number two, Beyond Magenta: Transgender Teens Speak Out by Susan Kuklin. You see a trend here. Number three, A Day in the Life of Marlon Bundo by Jill Twiss. This was a takeoff. And again, it's got LGBTQIA+ content. That's the term that's used by the ALA. And the book was actually a takeoff on a book for children that had been written about a rabbit owned by Vice President Mike Pence and his wife. The fourth book, Sex is a Funny Word by Cory Silverberg. Fifth, Prince & Knight by Daniel Haack. The background to that controversy is fairly easy to understand the proverbial prince and princess is now replaced with a prince and a knight and a broad-minded king and queen who go on to affirm their prince for having a romantic interest in a knight. And of course, as the story is told, they supposedly lived happily ever after. But in this case, you'll notice it's basically a same-sex romance and a same-sex marriage.
Number six, the book I Am Jazz by Jessica Herthel and Jazz Jennings. Jazz Jennings became rather famous or infamous in the United States as a child at a very young age who began to identify with the gender opposite than that of birth. Number seven is The Handmaid's Tale by Canadian novelist, Margaret Atwood, a dystopian tale with which most Americans are now familiar with the title, if not with the novel. Eight, Drama, written and illustrated by Raina Telgemeier. And we're told here that the book has LGBTQIA content and you had some complaints that it goes against family values and morals. Number nine, Harry Potter the series by J. K. Rowling, and number 10, And Tango Makes Three by Peter Parnell and Justin Richardson.
Again, LGBTQIA content. Just consider all this, it's overwhelming. Again, I said you go back just a few years and the list is different, but then hunting like the same, 10 years ago, the list for 2010 and Tango Makes Three is actually not number 10, but number one. And then there are other books that have to do with sex, sexually explicit content. You have The Hunger Games and you have other books that represent a fairly liberal perspective. It's at least safe to say that. And thus had received some complaints from citizens.
By the way, the American Library Association actually doesn't really believe that anyone, including parents, should stand between a child and a book that serves the purposes that the ALA and its professional staff deemed to be important. And so if a parent dares to intervene or make a complaint or ask for an alternative, well, that ends up being something that the ALA considers just short of a thought crime, if not actually felonious. But we also need to recognize that there is huge support from the mainstream media for these pseudo-events and in particular for Banned Books Week.
Ron Charles wrote an article published just days ago in the Washington Post. The headline is this, for banned books week I read the country's 10 most challenged books. The gay penguins did not corrupt me. Well, let's look at what he says. "Banned Books Week as a curious thing to observe in the United States, after all books are rarely banned in this nation devoted to freedom of expression." That I'll just stop and say is at least a candid admission as he gets into the article. "But certain titles are effectively disappeared when they're removed from public libraries and school shelves at the urging of offended individuals and frightened administrators." Again, you're supposed to be scared by that, but you do have community libraries that are supposed to serve the community.
And beyond that, you also have the reality that we should simply pose a question. If you walk into a public library, if you walk into a college or university library, ask yourself, "Which are you more likely to find? A book that is avidly supportive of the outer fringes of the LGBTQ+ movement, or a book that would represent, say a defense of Orthodox biblical Christianity?"
Let's ask the question. Which book is actually effectively banned? In North Korea, infamously repressive, it is a capital crime to possess a Bible. Now that's really a banned book. That's very different than having a parent complain in Opelika, Alabama about an offensive book that was featured on display. I'm giving this just for purposes of illustration at a public library or in a school library. It's a very different thing, a complaint versus a death sentence. Ron Charles goes on to write "In recent years titles written for young LGBTQ+ people have dominated the list of most challenged books. That's a happy sign," he says, "of a publishing industry, responding to the needs of once ignored readers. But the fact that these insightful helpful and encouraging books are meeting such resistance is a distressing sign of how the culture war has shifted." Now notice, this is supposedly a news story in one of the nation's leading newspapers, but this is very cheerful celebrity language about the claims of Banned Books Week.
We are told that these books serving the LGBTQ revolution are insightful, helpful, and encouraging. Charles goes on to write, "Every September I look over the new list and sigh. How could anyone object to these great looking books? This year, instead of just sighing, I read all the books. The experience introduced me," he said, "to some great new titles and by implication the anxieties of too many sensorial Americans." Again, that is how a moral revolution is simply steamrolled through a society. Now if a newspaper, writing a supposedly genuine news story using this kind of language about what is actually a pseudo-event, not based in reality. That's where we live folks. Ron Charles explains that George by Alex Gino is a life affirming story about a trans child. And you have the similar kind of celebration of the transgender revolution throughout the list. And it's not just that, it's other aspects of the sexual and moral revolution as well.
Just keep all of this in mind as you see the signs and posters and the public service announcements for Banned Books Week. Understand that what you're observing is a pseudo-event, but the reality behind it is actually quite threatening. There are moral revolutionaries who are using this kind of pseudo-event in order to bring about very real change in society.
Threats to Religious Liberty Around the Globe: Secretary Pompeo Challenges Vatican’s Relationship with China as Communist Repression and “Cultural Genocide” Continue
But secondly, I want to change to something very important and very much not a pseudo-event. And this is the genocide and repression that is taking place right now in China, under the leadership of Xi Jinping the leader of The Chinese Communist Party and that very party. To its credit, that same newspaper, the Washington Post in recent days ran an editorial statement with the headline, China's Xi is doubling down on genocide. Now that's morally very important. The fact that a newspaper like the Washington Post, and yes, it's a newspaper of the left, would refer to what's going on in China right now, particularly in the repression and indeed incarceration in concentration camps and worse of the Islamic Uyghur people.
Well, when a newspaper like this uses the word genocide in a headline, we need to pay attention. This is very important. This is the kind of language that many others in the West, and in particular in Western democracies throughout Europe are unwilling to use of China. It is honest language. What is taking place in China is genocide. And the reason for that is that the Chinese Communist Party apparently wants to wipe the Uyghurs entirely off the face of the earth or in particular from the face of China. There are now credible reports of concentration camps, of forced abortions, of forced sterilizations, and simply those who have disappeared.
The post editorial began with these words, "For the past three years China's communist regime has waged a campaign of cultural genocide in the sprawling Western region of Xinjiang. It has confined more than one million ethnic Uyghurs and Kazaks to detention centers and sought to eradicate their allegiance to Islam. Detainees have been forced to eat pork and memorize Chinese songs. Women have been sterilized and children separated from their parents and sent to boarding schools and or Welian system of electronic surveillance has been established to monitor the rest of the population, using technologies such as facial recognition."
Now, the point is here that the word genocide is being used in two ways. One of them about cultural genocide and the other about genocide as ending human lives. But in the case of China, there is apparently a bit of both going on and especially the effort to try to act as if and change history so that it is as if the weaker people never existed, at least in China. But we have also seen in China of course the repression of other religious groups, including Christianity. And then we have an interesting development, which is not a pseudo-event, but a real event.
In just the last several days, even a secretary of state Mike Pompeo was visiting in Rome. The Pope, Pope Francis refused to meet with him. Ostensibly the Vatican said it was because the Pope does not meet with political figures shortly before an election. That would mean the American general election, but the bigger issue here as both insiders of the Vatican and others have acknowledged, is that the American Secretary of State actually challenged the Catholic Pope for the fact that through the diplomacy of the Vatican, he was trying to extend an agreement with the Chinese Communist Party that not only was injurious to religious Liberty for others in China, but even for Catholics in China. The Chinese Communist Party will only allow something like a church to continue if it can control the church, if it can make that message preached by the church basically the message of the Chinese Communist Party.
And that party has acknowledged, even in its recent congress, that what it wants to do is to reformulate Christianity and other religions, so that those are belief systems now compatible with the Chinese Communist Party, which is, let's just remind ourselves officially and ardently atheistic. But when you're looking at the Vatican, you're looking at the fact that in 2018 the Vatican and the Chinese Communist leaders basically came to a truce with the Vatican insisting that it had the authority to appoint bishops in China. But as a part of the deal it struck, it also admitted that it would recognize those bishops that have been named by and on behalf of the Chinese Communist Party. You had outcry within the Catholic church about this, particularly from conservatives. And you had an outcry even from figures such as the Roman Catholic Cardinal Zen now in Hong Kong, who said, "That this was indeed a sellout by the Vatican."
And the Vatican is trying now to basically re-up the plan. The American Secretary of State, who has been exceedingly clear with the state department in defending religious liberty and speaking up about abuses of human rights. He wanted to meet with the Pope, that's customary, as the Vatican is recognized, I think wrongly, but nonetheless, it is recognized as a foreign state, but the Pope declined the meeting. Secretary of State Pompeo, who had written an article in the conservative journal, First Things, which has a majority Catholic readership. The title of it was, China's Catholics and the church's moral witness. In that article, the Secretary of State wrote, "If the Chinese communist party manages to bring the Catholic church and other religious communities to heal, regimes that disdain human rights will be emboldened, and the cost of resisting tyranny will rise for all brave religious believers who honor God above the autocrat of the day." The New York Times reported upon the situation with a headline, "Rebuffed by Vatican, Pompeo Assails China and Aligns With Pope's Critics."
But you'll notice, these are critics within the Roman Catholic church. As the paper reported, "For decades China's communist government operated a Catholic church that it controlled, insisting that Beijing not the Vatican had the power to appoint bishops while persecuting priests and parishioners who answered to the Holy See. Under a 2018 agreement, China recognized some papal authority and the church accepted the legitimacy of bishops chosen by Beijing, a shameful retreat, according to Francis' critics." While the American Secretary of State and others were meeting with representatives of the Vatican other than the Pope, the Wall Street Journal editorial board released a statement in which the editors affirmed the Secretary of State's position saying, "Mr. Pompeo's larger point is that a regime that doesn't respect the right to religious freedom will not respect much else." And the editors went on to say, the secretary of state, "Reminded his audience not to underestimate the power that comes from challenging dictatorships at their weakest point, moral credibility."
It is not a pseudo-event. It is a real event. If you are a Uyghur in China or a Christian in China, suffering from persecution. It's not a pseudo-event, it's a real event when the American Secretary of State speaks to this clearly and does so even in Rome. This real event is about real repression, not the pseudo-event of Banned Books Week.
A Pseudo-Event That’s Fun For All . . . Especially the Bears: It’s Fat Bear Week in Alaska’s Katmai National Park
But as we come to the end of this week's edition of The Briefing, I just want to remind us that sometimes a pseudo-event recognized as a pseudo-event can be healthy for a society. And that reminds us that this week is Fat Bear Week in Alaska. It's Fat Bear Week, particularly in the Katmai National Park, they're in Southern Alaska, where the bears have been feasting on salmon before they go into their winter hibernation. And there are live bear cams with dozens and dozens of the most famous bears identified by name or by number. They're brown bears, which means Grizzlies by the way.
And there are remarkable photographs of just how these bears have been bulking up over the last few weeks. And there are even brackets as in collegiate basketball championship brackets that have to do with which of these bears can actually top the scales in how much weight has been gained by the salmon that have been consumed by these extremely hungry and about to be extremely sleepy bears. Some of these bears can effectively become the world's largest mammalian carnivores by the time you come to the end of the summer and before they go into hibernation. Last year's winner was a giant bear named Holly. And one of the favorites this year is a bear that is named, you'll get the point, 747, "A chunky hopeful generating buzz online." To participate in Fat Bear Week you can go to social media with the hashtag Fat Bear Week.
You can also go to the website you can find easily online, and you can also go to the website of the Katmai National Park and see the live bear cams as the bears are eating before they do their sleeping. As one media report tells us, "Fans can vote online for their favorite bear from September the 30th to October the sixth until one plump Victor emerges." So as the week comes to an end thumbs down on Banned Books Week, but thumbs up on Fat Bear Week.
Thanks for listening to The Briefing.
Remember that next Friday, October 9th at 3:30 PM, we're going to have a special online virtual preview event for Boyce College. Boyce College offers the most outstanding programs and Christian worldview education. I'm just incredibly proud of the college. I'm proud to invite you or a young person you know and love to join us for this preview conference.
Again, it's going to be next Friday, October 9th at 3:30 PM Eastern Daylight Time. And I'm going to be participating in that conference. We have a special invitational Ask Anything event. I'm looking forward to that conversation. I'm looking forward to you learning more about the programs of Christian worldview formation, the undergraduate degrees, the outstanding Christian education at Boyce College. The website is simply boycecollege.com/preview. That's boycecollege.com/preview.
For more information and resources, go to my website at albertmohler.com. You can follow me on Twitter by going to twitter.com/albertmohler. For information on The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, go to spts.edu. For information on Boyce College, just go to boycecollege.com.
I'll meet you again on Monday for The Briefing.