“How did we get here?” is a question commonly asked by people who inadvertently stumble into inter-dimensional portals and by unwitting time travelers. I ask and seek to answer it now in contemplating the reality that the American Booksellers Association’s (ABA’s) free speech arm, American Booksellers For Free Expression) ABFE, is now being subject to having its own speech constricted. While that may be a boon for lovers of mordant irony, it is a less happy development for those of us who bear the conviction that free speech is a compelling and vital process that must operate in accordance with its own core principle of tolerating all First Amendment-protected speech.
I am writing today to explain why I resigned from the ABA Board after four and a half years of service. In September the Board voted to restrict its active support and defense of free expression by changing its Ends Policies regarding free expression to read as follows. “Core members have the resources in support of their right to freedom of expression.” This nebulous statement undermined ABA’s long established role as a defender of free expression in the literary world. Pointedly it constricted ABFE’s scope in representing the voices of ABA members. My objection to this change was a dissenting voice and I speak strictly for myself. So, how did we get here?Continue reading