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Hell in a handcart

We must protect our children from the menace of books

Earlier today I was on the radio talking about the moral panic over kids playing Fortnite, a video game. Ten years ago I was on the radio talking about the moral panic over kids playing Grand Theft Auto 4, a video game. The games are different but the panic is the same: parents are letting too-young kids play for far too long and then blaming the game, the games industry and technology in general for their inattention.

Every new technology has a moral panic attached. As I said on air, we even had a panic over books. I’m not making that up. Rachel Adler in Slate:

By the end of the [19th] century there was growing concern—especially among middle class parents—that these cheap, plentiful books were seducing children into a life of crime and violence. The books were even blamed for a handful of murders and suicides committed by young boys. Perpetrators of crimes whose misdoings were linked to their fondness for penny dreadfuls were often referred to in the newspapers as “victims” of the books. In the United States, “dime novels” (which usually cost a nickel) were given the same treatment.

It’s a wonderful article.