Well, Banned Books Week will soon be over and we haven’t discussed it at all on Creative Libraries Utah. Luckily, something ruffled my feathers today. Books are being challenged and banned at an alarming rate, check out these graphics to see how your state is doing, but just as important, intellectual freedom is under constant attack. Today, Bill Simmons, a journalist for ESPN and editor-in-chief of Grantland.com, was suspended for calling NFL commissioner, Roger Goodell, a liar for his on-going response to the now infamous Ray Rice domestic violence attack. Simmons used a few choice words to do so on a popular football podcast with a friend, and challenged his supervisors to censor him (Clairvoyant Bill). Bill Simmons has been suspended for three weeks, a week longer than Rice’s original suspension for punching his fiancee in the face.
What Simmons said could not have been taken as anything but an opinion. He stated it strongly, but did not pretend to build a case against Goodell, other than how he felt when he listened to him speak. Simmons is a sports commentator that has been outwardly critical of Roger Goodell and the NFL, a major partner of ESPN, for their handling of Ray Rice’s domestic (felony) assault. Just yesterday, ESPN’s Ombudsman was celebrating ESPN’s no-holds-barred coverage of the Ray Rice case, and today, ESPN suspended Bill Simmons for speaking out against a culture that condones violence against women and the man that is supposedly in charge of it all. Stephen A. Smith, another commentator for ESPN, was only suspended for one week for implying that victims can be complicit in their own assaults. Mixed messages anyone?
Now, what does this have to do with libraries? Well, just a simple reminder that we need to be worried about much more than just books. Yes, books are banned everyday, but what other intellectual freedoms are under attack. Right now there is a big fight over Net Neutrality. Are we going to allow companies to create internet fast lanes or are we going to stand up for a democratic internet. In Salt Lake City, two newspapers are fighting over revenue and the need to guarantee at least two independent voices. Shouldn’t librarians be visibly supporting multiple voices for a community? Journalists are under attack all over the world, possibly less in the United States, but let’s not pretend that it doesn’t happen.
Banned Books are important, but being an Intellectual Freedom Fighter takes fifty-two weeks a year!
By: Dustin Fife, San Juan County Library Director and ULA President-Elect