Dr Seuss (Theodor Seuss Geisel, 1904 - 1991) (Photo by Gene Lester/Getty Images)

Cancel culture comes for Dr Seuss

Is the Democratic Party under Joe Biden becoming the party of banning books?

Artillery Row

“You will not, will not find him in a box. You will not, will not listen to him on Fox,” might be a worthy Seussian rhyme for yet another culture war’s recent épopée.

Earlier this month, Dr Theodor Seuss Geisel, the creator of the Cat in the Hat and the whole universe of amusing books that helped teach generations of children to read, disappeared from the annual presidential address marking something called “Read Across America Day.” Since 1998, this quasi-holiday has been sponsored on 2 March, the day of Geisel’s birth, by the major teacher’s union, the National Education Association (NEA), apparently to remind us that American public schools are so woefully (wokefully?) deficient that they need a special day to encourage basic literacy.

Loudon County schoolmarms dutifully marched along and made themselves into a national laughing stock

About 80 years ago, Geisel, which no one else in the commentariat seems to realise is the German word for “scourge,” committed the cardinal offence of drawing mildly racist cartoons of our World War II enemies while we were fighting them in a war that they started in an especially nasty way. He also drew cartoon figures – in books of cartoons – that are allegedly so “hurtful and wrong” that late last year his literary heirs quietly decided to remove six books he published decades ago from future publication. When they announced this on the celebratory day, prices for used copies skyrocketed on eBay, with some vendors seeking to profit from the inevitable appeal of the forbidden by advertising them as “banned”. eBay has been compliantly cracking down on the ads, but they continue to pop up, often earning hundreds of dollars in intense bidding wars.

In these charged circumstances, Dr Seuss can no longer be extolled by the White House and, per NEA mandate, he is to be deemphasised in schools observing Read Across America Day. In Loudon County, Virginia, a remote suburban area of Washington now densely settled by low-end members of our managerial-administrative caste who cannot afford to live closer to the nation’s capital, the school district has issued a “guidance” that its minions “not connect Read Across America Day exclusively with Dr Seuss’ birthday” because “research in recent years has revealed strong racial undertones” in his œuvre. As cited, this recent “research” consists of one poorly written academic article that a social work graduate with no apparent humanities education and her graduate student husband published in an obscure journal edited by the social worker’s cousin. They argued therein that Dr Seuss is “Orientalist”, “anti-black”, and an agent of “white supremacy”, and advocated his removal from Read Across America reading lists and replacement by unspecified “authors of colour”, apparently without regard for whether or not their content is racist.

Who knew? Surely not Cindy Lou Who, but like good Outer Party types who need to prove themselves in hope of climbing the bureaucratic ladder and maybe one day a Metro-convenient house in some other dreary suburb closer to DC, Loudon County schoolmarms dutifully marched along and made themselves into a national laughing stock.

To keep those cancel-culture-killing memes flowing let us ask, ‘Do you like it, Sam-I-am?’

Within 24 hours, memes that may be hurtful, and possibly even wrong, cascaded over social media mocking the affair. Right-wing pundits wrote easy outrage copy, with even pious Never Trumpers straightening their bowties to take a rare stand. Mainstream media hacks have been admonishing them to focus on other problems lest voters who are already losing regard for Biden conclude that the Democratic Party is the party of banning books. The Loudon County school district issued a panicky corrective notice insisting that Dr Seuss has not been “banned”, but merely classified as a racist in a world where being called a racist is tantamount to being banned, frequently results in people losing their jobs, and has caused hapless teenagers to have their university admissions revoked. Not even soft tyranny can withstand ridicule, but to keep those cancel-culture-killing memes flowing let us ask, “Do you like it, Sam-I-am?”

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