Brendan O’Neill Brendan O’Neill

The ridiculousness of the bookshelf police

(Photo: iStock)

 ‘People want to know why Michael Gove owns “racist” and “anti-Semitic” books’, reports the Independent’s website. By ‘people’ it actually means the time-rich Twitterati, who have discovered a new hobby: bookshelf policing. And the latest bookshelf to fail their purity test, to commit the sin of containing books these people disapprove of, is Gove’s.

Yes, not content with policing speech, tweets, jokes and even hairstyles (witness the screams of ‘cultural appropriation’ that greet any celeb who wears her hair in a way her race isn’t meant to), now the offence-taking mob is policing bookshelves. The Shelf Stasi, we might call them, peruse the tomes in people’s private book collections and bark ‘Verboten!’ if they spy something unacceptable.

Sarah Vine the Daily Mail columnist and Gove’s wife, posted a photo of one of their bookshelves on Twitter and almost instantly the literature cops were out in force. As the Independent puts it, people spotted ‘something sinister’. They always do. Everything’s sinister to people who live to take offence.

https://twitter.com/WestminsterWAG/status/1257044387739172865?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw

The sinister thing in this case was a book by David Irving, the historian and Holocaust denier. And a copy of The Bell Curve by Charles Murray and Richard J Herrnstein, which argues that intelligence is shaped by environmental factors and genetic inheritance. Oh, and Atlas Shrugged, by Ayn Rand, which, as the Independent balefully informs us, ‘praises individualism and defends capitalism’. Lock up Vine and Gove instantly!

The meltdown was epic. Owen Jones, who can never resist the thrill of censorious rage, pointed a judgemental finger. It is very iffy, he said, that a Cabinet member owns a book by ‘one of the most notorious Holocaust deniers on earth’. Hicham Yezza, a writer for the Guardian, went further. If this bookshelf had been on Through the Keyhole, he said, ‘I’d have guessed Anders Breivik’.

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