Do liberals care if books disappear?

In fact the Seuss cancellations illustrate exactly the problems with censoriousness that liberals normally invoke. First, you have a nonspecific justification attributed to unnamed “experts” and “educators” that sweeps up a range of books and illustrations. The indubitably racist depiction of ape-like Africans in “If I Ran the Zoo,” the canceled Seuss that most deserves it, gets the same treatment as “On Beyond Zebra!,” whose apparent crime is a Seussian picture of an Arab-looking man on a camel-like beast. And a single problematic image seems to be enough to make an entire book disappear: One chopstick-wielding Chinese man in “And to Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street,” apparently, means the first major work of an American master can’t be published anymore.

Second, the vagueness of the new standard offers openings for further disappearances. The anti-racist left is already ready with a critique of Seuss’s larger oeuvre, taking on everything from the alleged minstrel-show element in “The Cat in the Hat” to the complacent colorblindness of “The Sneetches.” And the principle established by this auto-cancellation could have applications well beyond Seuss-land…

The Seuss cancellations also illustrate how a disappearance can happen without a legal “ban” being literally imposed. One day, the Seuss estate decides to self-censor; the next, that decision becomes the justification for eBay to delist used copies of the books. In a cultural landscape dominated by a few big companies with politically uniform management, you don’t need state censorship for books to swiftly vanish.