Late Edition: Poor John Rocker

Margaret Sanger, birth mother and patron saint of Planned Parenthood, enjoys an unusually sanitized reputation. The standard biographical references hail her as a courageous champion of women’s rights who overcame the dark forces of religious repression. But the hagiographers conveniently ignore or gloss the dark chapters of the story, especially her reflexive racism, and notorious enthusiasm for eugenics. Her magazine, The Birth Control Review, was a leading vehicle for some of the worst propaganda on these subjects ever published in the United States.

But unless you’re a dogged researcher, your local library won’t enlighten you about any of this. In fact, if you live in Toledo, Ohio, you’ll find that the local library has established itself as censor librorum on Sanger. Politically incorrect opinion (i.e., the truth) about Sanger, is now officially banned.

Such was the recent discovery of Dean and Melanie Witt, who made bold to donate a copy of a critical biography of Sanger to the Toledo-Lucas County Public Library. As reported by Patrick Poole of WorldNet Daily, their gift has been refused because the book is “too political.” A slam-dunk, you would think, for the American Library Association (ALA), which, among other things, annually sponsors something called “Banned Books Week” to demonstrate its ferocious commitment to free inquiry. Witness the ALA’s “Library Bill of Rights,” which declaims, in relevant part:

I. Materials should not be excluded because of the origin, background, or views of those contributing to their creation.

II. Libraries should provide materials and information presenting all points of view on current and historical issues. Materials should not be proscribed or removed because of partisan or doctrinal disapproval.

III. Libraries should challenge censorship in the fulfillment of their responsibility to provide information and enlightenment.

It turns out, however, that these noble Jeffersonian sentiments were not designed to protect the rights of readers but of, well, librarians. When contacted by Poole, the pecksniffs at the ALA rallied ’round the First Amendment by siding with the censors at the Toledo Library: Librarians must be free, they said, to decide what should or should not be included in their collections. Remember that the next time “Banned Books Week” rolls around.

The Toledo School of Constitutional Law, whose doctrines have already infused the speech codes of many colleges and universities, is also making converts in New York City. There, the agency that places ads in subway cars for the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) has rebuffed a pro-life ad sponsored by the American Life League. The ad in question features a picture of an eight-week-old unborn child and the slogan, “Please don’t do it. She’s your baby” This is obviously seditious stuff, clearly designed to rankle the delicate sensibilities of New York straphangers while undermining their confidence in the transit system. Besides, Planned Parenthood’s pro-abortion ads, which have for many years graced New York’s buses and subway cars, have settled the matter once and for all, haven’t they?

The unenlightened among us clearly need a refresher course in the First Amendment. John Rocker, who throws like Dizzy Dean but thinks like Daffy Duck, has been banished from Major League Baseball for uttering foolish opinions of the sort commonly encountered in half the saloons and three-quarters of the bullpens in America. On the other hand, Eminem, the hottest star in rap music, sings—if that is the word for it—in praise of murder, rape, and mayhem and is rewarded for his efforts with multimillion-dollar contracts and adulatory reviews in respectable newspapers and magazines. Pity poor John Rocker. If he’d only had the wit to carry a guitar to interviews, he’d be hailed as a new-wave artiste!

No doubt the folks at the ALA and the New York MTA, attuned as they are to higher learning, will explain all this in due course. Pending their final report, I have a modest proposal: Rather than banning Rocker to Richmond for his sins, let’s give him a recording contract and set him to work stacking books in the Toledo Public Library. In between gigs, he can read all about Sanger’s fight for freedom and, while he’s at it, the history of the American Civil Liberties Union.

Michael M. Uhlmann


Michael Martin Uhlmann (1939-2019) served as professor of government in the department of politics and policy at Claremont Graduate University and Claremont McKenna College. Prior to teaching at Claremont, Dr. Uhlmann was a senior fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center, Vice President for Public Policy Research at the Bradley Foundation in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, and taught at the George Mason University Law School.

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