The Answer to Sarah Palin’s Rhetorical Question: Book Burning
This post is part of “The Sarah Chronicles: A straight poop compendium of questions answers on Sarah Palin.” Today’s installment is on CENSORSHIP.
Sarah Palin’s defense for twice asking the Wasilla City Librarian, Mary Ellen Emmons, about removing ‘certain’ books’ from the library was simply this: “It was just a rhetorical question,” the implication being, ”Sweet Lord, no! I would never ask the librarian to burn books!”
A rhetorical question is a figure of speech in the form of a question posed for its persuasive effect, without the expectation of a reply. — Wikipedia
The rhetorical question defense (RQD) is a handy one, applicable to all sorts of occasions, such as when a psycho husband asks rhetorical questions of a hit man, or when a pedophile rhetorically asks a little girl if she’d like to take her panties down. I beg the readers’ pardon for such graphic comparisons, but Ms. Palin’s RQD is deserving of a strong and unambiguous rebuke, for her effort to sanitize and render harmless her outright attempt to coerce the librarian into banning certain books. While the RQD defense may not be admissable in a court of law, it has sufficed for some 46% of the American voting public, who say, “Oh, hell yeah! I’d vote for Sarh Palin in a heartbeat!” to become president, should McCain keel over dead. These are the same Americans, of course, who would froth at the mouth, were they posed the rhetorical question: Would you like to see America become more like, say, Marxist Russia, where our government bans books they don’t want us to read?”
Sarah Palin would like us to believe that she was merely engaging in philosophical discourse, even as her rhetorical questions were raised not once, but twice, as Palin approached librarian, Emmons two weeks before and two weeks after Palin assumed the duties as Mayor of Wasilla on October 14, 1996. According to Emmons – -who is also the president of the Alaska Library Association – she responded in the negative on October 1, when asked by Palin if she could live with censorship of ‘certain books.’ When asked, again, on October 28, if Emmons would object to censorship, “even if people were circling the library in protest about a book,“ Emmons again refused, adding that the ACLU would step in at that point. According to Emmons’ statements:
“ I told her (Palin) clearly, I will fight anyone who tries to dictate what books can go on the library shelves…. This is different than a normal book-selection procedure or a book-challenge policy,” Emmons stressed. “She was asking me how I would deal with her saying a book can’t be in the library…. She asked me if I would object to censorship, and I replied ‘Yup’. And I told her it would not be just me. This was a constitutional question, and the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) would get involved, too.”
Palin, when asked who might picket the library, said that she, “had no one in mind,” and then re-explained the nature of her rhetorical question. “Again, the issue was discussed in the context of a professional question being asked in regards to library policy.”
Palin subsequently attempted to fire Emmons, stating that it had nothing to do with censorship or the fact that Emmons supported Palin’s opponent in the elections, but that she felt Emmons’ hadn’t given her full support to Palin’s administration. A strong citizen protest erupted — threatening Palin’s position as Mayor – as the group, Concerned Citizens for Wasilla, stormed City Hall to protest Emmons’ firing and demand a recall of Palin’s mayorship. In response, Palin was forced to withdraw her letter of termination against Emmons. Palin saved some face by explaining that she now felt she had Emmons’ support. ”You know in your heart when someone is supportive of you,” she said.
There is much historical precedence for book-burning. One notorious instance was the Nazi book-burning campaign (the above photo shows one such collection burned in Nazi Germany, which included many authors, such as Ernest Hemingway, Helen Keller and Jack London), as Hitler was determined to rid the country of all books he deemed “un-German.” Upon the occasion of one such burning, Goebbels announced, “The soul of the German people can now express itself again. The flames not only illuminate the end of the old era, they also light up the new.” Hitler’s campaign didn’t arrive overnight, just as Democracy doesn’t disappear overnight. It is eroded away, bit by bit, aided & abetted by a willing people.
Naturally, many people are now wondering exactly which books Sarah Palin would have proposed banning. Some people have surmised authors and titles such as: Harry Potter, Judy Blume and The Catcher in the Rye. While these are good guesses, they are just that — guesses. In truth, the specific authors/titles are of no importance. The importance lies in the fact that our rights to freedom of speech, freedom of the press and freedom from government censorship are among the most important and enduring hallmarks of our democracy. This same democracy protects people like Sarah from people like me, were I to abuse some power of authority and demand the burning of each and every copy of her current runaway seller (see below) on the basis that it offends my sensibilities.
So it’s a bit dismaying to see that 46% of American voters find these rights unimportant. This is nothing new. These are the same voters prone to vociferous flag-waving, yet, who will raise nary a word of protest, should the most fundamental rights represented by that flag fall under threat. Take our books! Wiretap our phones and computers! Spy to your heart’s content! Lie to the American people — take our sons and daughters to an illegal war! We won’t protest, Mr. President, we promise. Just don’t take our flag – it’s everything we stand for!
It is only fitting, then, that this same 46% voting bloc would choose a candidate whose political record is pocked with constitutional assaults. It is only fitting that these voters would vociferously defend Sarah Palin’s political record — even as her good record has turned out to be riddled with lies, and her bad record is proving to be staggeringly factual. It is only fitting, then, that her own party should censor Sarah Palin’s voice, until such a time she can be tutored to deliver the correct script. In a country that has come to respect pomp and circumstance over substance, an icon like Sarah Palin may very well be the perfect candidate.
by Mantis Katz, for the canarypapers
For more on this topic:
A Letter From Someone Who Has Known Sarah Palin Since 1992 - Excerpt: “While Sarah was Mayor of Wasilla she tried to fire our highly respected City Librarian because the Librarian refused to consider removing from the library some books that Sarah wanted removed. City residents rallied to the defense of the City Librarian and against Palin’s attempt at out-and-out censorship, so Palin backed down and withdrew her termination letter. People who fought her attempt to oust the Librarian are on her enemies list to this day.”
Anchorage Daily News: Wasilla keeps librarian, but police chief is out (a re-print of the Feb. 1, 1997 article)
Mat-Su Valley Frontiersman (Wasilla, AK): Palin: Library censorship inquiries ‘Rhetorical’ (re-print of a Dec. 18, 1996 article)
Atlantic.com: Andrew Sullivan – The Daily Dish: Another Dubious Firing
LA Times: Sarah Palin — aspiring book banner?
Prescott e-News: Fighting the Fires of Hate: America and the Nazi Book Burnings
Wikipedia: Nazi Book Burnings
ushmm.org: United States Holocaust Memorial Museum: Book Burning