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Trevor Noah Speaks Out Against Banning Books

Screenshot of The Daily Show with Trevor Noah featuring book cover of Ruby Bridges GOes to School and text "Book Bans and Bounties.

Trevor Noah had harsh words for people trying to ban books on last night’s episode of the popular comedy/news program, The Daily Show with Trevor Noah. The comedian focused his disbelief, ire, and cutting humor on those driving the current upswing in book censorship efforts across the United States, questioning and criticizing their intentions and motives.

“You can see how crazy this book banning trend has gotten, right? They’re banning books about race, about gender, about sexuality, about emotions, about history,” Noah said. “Guys, that’s all books. Think about it: You take away those books and what are you going to be left with, huh? A how-to book about making pottery?”

Noah said these censorship efforts aren’t about protecting children from being exposed to “objectionable materials.” Rather, they’re about fracturing an already divided country and further widening cultural differences.

“I guarantee you, the vast majority of schools don’t even have the most outrageous books that are on these [banned books] lists,” Noah said. “What’s happening here is that people are finding the most scary parts of the most scary books, and then they’re making a bad faith argument that kids are being bombarded with all this stuff. So, all the books have to go.... People are using these books as an excuse to go after all the books they don’t like."

Noah continued: “This isn’t about books. This is about keeping the culture war going for political benefits.... And the problem with waging a culture war instead of debating a political issue is that when people are fighting a war, they don’t want to just win an argument. No, they want to punish the enemy.”

Noah highlighted instances in Wyoming, Oklahoma, Texas, and other states where measures have been introduced and considered by state and local legislatures to punish school librarians for stocking particular books. A news clip of a librarian detailing how they received threats to their life because of these efforts was particularly jarring.

Noah summed it up succinctly: “Just think about how insane things have gotten where school librarians feel scared for their safety.”

Watch the full clip below. And stay tuned for a surprise cameo by LeVar Burton at the end!

If your school or library is experiencing a book challenge, contact the American Library Association’s Office for Intellectual Freedom or your state library association for help.

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