Cutting Through the Hysteria about a Tennessee School Board’s “Ban” on a Book about the Holocaust

Feb. 15 2022

“McMinn County Bans Maus, Pulitzer Prize-Winning Holocaust Book,” ran the headline in the TN Holler, a progressive Tennessee-based news website. Soon viral outrage followed, and the story made its way to CNBC and CNN. Arthur Spiegelman, who authored the graphic novel Maus—based on his father’s own experience in the Shoah—declared that the McMinn County school board’s decision had “the breath of autocracy and fascism about it.” But the book was not banned, writes Thomas Balazs, as he attempts to cut through some of the hysteria:

First things first: Maus is not being “banned.” The McMinn County school board simply voted to remove it from the middle-school Holocaust curriculum. That’s not a ban, it’s a routine curriculum change. The Holocaust will continue to be taught, and Maus will be replaced with another text. Even if McMinn County removes Maus from the middle-school library (and it’s not clear they plan to do so), that still wouldn’t constitute a ban. They’re not saying kids can’t read it or that bookstores can’t sell it. They don’t have the power to ban Maus even if they wanted to. It’s freely available on the Internet to those who know where to look and can be found in nearly every library and bookstore in the country.

I’m a writer. I’m an English professor. I’m a comic-book lover. I’m a Jew and a [child of a] Holocaust survivor. I understand perfectly why Maus is great. It was important in my life. It helped me to understand my father, who was a lot like Spiegelman’s. That doesn’t mean I get to insist that every county in the country include the book in its eighth-grade Holocaust program. I don’t know the kids in McMinn County, but I doubt they’ll become Nazis because they didn’t get to read Maus until ninth grade.

Nor will they become degenerates if they read it in seventh grade. But it’s not my call (or yours) unless you live in that county, and it’s certainly not anti-Semitic or book-burning to replace one Holocaust text with another. Even on International Holocaust Day. Even if it’s Maus.

So, why all the weeping and gnashing of teeth? Some elements on the left clearly want to use this issue in order to discredit recent parental efforts to remove inflammatory texts about race or explicit sex-education materials from school curricula. . . . The debates about critical race theory and sexually explicit graphic novels have nothing to do with Jews or the Holocaust, and there’s something cynical and exploitative about political attempts to link these controversies.

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Read more at Quillette

More about: Critical race theory, Education, Holocaust fiction, U.S. Politics

Why Is Iran Acquiring Property in Venezuela?

In June Tehran and Caracas concluded a major twenty-year cooperation treaty. One of its many provisions—kept secret until recently—was the transfer of 4,000 square miles of Venezuelan land to Iranian control. Although the territory is ostensibly for agricultural use, Lawrence Franklin suspects the Islamic Republic might have other plans:

Hizballah already runs paramilitary training centers in restricted sections of Venezuela’s Margarita Island, a tourist area northeast of the country’s mainland. The terrorist group has considerable support from some of Venezuela’s prominent Lebanese clans such as the Nasr al-Din family, who reportedly facilitated Iran’s penetration of Margarita Island. . . . The Maduro regime has apparently been so welcoming to Iranian intelligence agents that some of Hizballah’s long-established Latin American network at the tri-border nexus of Brazil, Argentina, and Paraguay has been overtaken by Hizballah activities on Venezuela’s Margarita Island.

Iran’s alliance with Venezuela most importantly provides Tehran with opportunities to target U.S. interests in Latin America and potentially the southern United States. Iran, along with the Chinese Communist Party, is in the process of strengthening Venezuela’s military against the U.S., for instance by deliveries of military drones, which are also considered a threat by Colombia.

While air and seaborne arms deliveries are high-profile evidence of Iran’s ties with Venezuela, Tehran’s cooperation with Venezuelan intelligence agencies, although less visible, is also intense. The Islamic Republic’s support for Hizballah terrorist operations is pervasive throughout Latin America. Hizballah recruits from Venezuela’s ten-million-strong Lebanese diaspora. Iran and Hizballah cooperate in training of intelligence agents and in developing sources who reside in Venezuela and Colombia, as well as in the tri-border region of Brazil, Paraguay, and Argentina.

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Read more at Gatestone

More about: Iran, Latin America, Venezuela