The Right’s Attacks on Librarian Emily Drabinski Are a Homophobic Assault on Free Speech

In launching red-baiting, homophobic attacks on librarian Emily Drabinski, the Right has shown it cares little about freedom of speech. Liberals and leftists should stand with Drabinski — both because the attacks are absurd and because they won’t stop here.

For a while there, the GOP was trying very hard to rebrand as the pro–free speech party. After spending decades crying “immoral” entertainment in public media and justifying the rollback of civil liberties in the name of fighting terrorism while wagging their fingers at Americans about what they could say, do, post, and enjoy, Republican politicians suddenly were up in arms about college campus protests, cancel culture, and tech censorship (though, strangely, only when it affected the particular speech they care about).

Yet with every passing month of the party’s renewed crusade against LGBTQ people, it seems clearer and clearer that the GOP is resetting to the censorious and often sex-obsessed morality police it was known as for most of the last century. As proof, look no further than what now seems a national campaign by ultraconservative state-level Republicans against the American Library Association (ALA) and its new president.

The opening salvo came two weeks ago, when appointees made to the Montana State Library Commission by Gov. Greg Gianforte — a homophobic tech billionaire who thinks retirement doesn’t make sense because the Bible says Noah was six hundred years old — voted to withdraw the state library from the ALA.

The ostensible reason was a tweet that its current president, City University of New York critical pedagogy librarian Emily Drabinski, sent after winning her election, proclaiming herself “a Marxist lesbian who believes that collective power is possible to build” (while also shouting out her proud mom). The commission claimed, “Our oath of office and resulting duty to the Constitution forbids association with an organization led by a Marxist,” even though neither make any mention of Marx, while the latter does explicitly mention that free speech can’t be curtailed by the government.

Two weeks later, a host of state-level Republican Freedom Caucuses — typically the party’s most militant, ultraconservative factions — have called on their state governments to do the same. As of the time of writing, the count has reached at least nine, ranging from deep red Southern states like South Carolina, Mississippi, and Louisiana, to the more purplish Georgia, Arizona, and Pennsylvania, and even true-blue Illinois. A lawmaker in Texas has also called for his state to follow suit.

Of course, just because a handful of lawmakers call on the state government to do something doesn’t mean it’s actually going to happen. But these mounting calls are part of an escalation of the GOP’s long-running assault on not just free speech and LGBTQ people, but libraries themselves, and are meant to send a signal that there will be political costs if liberal-leaning institutions like the ALA make common cause with the Left.

Read more at Jacobin