Project Gutenberg Goes Social Justice—Then Backpedals

A report has surfaced of social justice convergence at Project Gutenberg (PG), the well-known “library of over 60,000 free eBooks.” An important early Internet resource—indeed, “the first provider of free electronic books, or eBooks”—Project Gutenberg was founded by Michael Hart, credited as the man who “invented eBooks in 1971 and his memory continues to inspire the creation of eBooks and related technologies today.”

The importance of Project Gutenberg’s most crucial legacy—making the great books of Christian and Western civilization widely available at zero cost (an unthinkable blessing throughout most of history when books were rare and utterly unaffordable for most) cannot be easily overestimated.

Nevertheless, even such a worthy project is apparently not immune to the insidious disease of Cultural Marxism and its Social Justice narrative. According to a volunteer at Distributed Proofreaders (“the main site providing public domain e-books for Project Gutenberg”), a recent change concerning public domain works submitted for inclusion in PG excited considerable interest—and backlash.

“Today,” wrote the volunteer, “the CEO of Project Gutenberg, Gregory Newby, published a notice in the forums for Distributed Proofreaders,” noting, among other things PG’s intention “to be more explicit about not wanting items that are hate speech or predecessors to hate speech, or items that are pornographic and obscene.”

Christians will no doubt applaud the decision to keep out pornographic materials from Project Gutenberg. But it’s the other category, “hate speech,” that is much more dubious. In particular, one wonders what guidelines Newby had in mind to determine which works constitute “predecessors to hate speech,” given the fact that simple use of such terms as “neoconservative” and “globalist” are now considered hate speech.

Would “predecessors to hate speech” include such works as R. L. Dabney’s A Defence of Virginia and the South, or the boys’ historical adventures written by G. A. Henty, or Recollections and Letters of Robert E. Lee—all of which are currently available on Project Gutenberg?

Dabney has been shrieked at as a “racist!” by even Christian commentators.[1] Lee’s statues have been vandalized and taken down over his complicity in an institution he called “a moral and political evil.” And Henty was discussed on The Rachel Maddow Show, where the liberal host called his books, “spectacularly racist.”

Corporate capitulation to the demands of the Cultural Marxist Social Justice Narrative are nothing new. Indeed, such capitulation is a regular part of our news these days. All such instances are an important part of what has been called “Social Justice Convergence,” alluding to an early definition of social justice by John Stuart Mill:

“…society should treat all equally well who have deserved equally well of it, that is, who have deserved equally well absolutely. This is the highest abstract standard of social and distributive justice; towards which all institutions, and the efforts of all virtuous citizens should be made in the utmost degree to converge.”[2]

It is an important definition to keep in mind, because modern advocates of social justice expend a great deal of effort precisely in forcing “all institutions” to “converge” towards the standards of social justice.

This is where “Critical Theory” and its offspring, “Critical Race Theory” come into play. A creation of the Frankfurt School (the German Marxist intellectuals who developed Cultural Marxism), Critical Theory sets forth “[t]o criticize every traditional institution, starting with the family, brutally and unremittingly, in order to bring them down.”

Only those who acquiesce to being “converged” into the Social Justice narrative will escape being brought down. The consequences for refusal to converge—false accusations, public shaming, de-platforming, doxing, loss of job or position—are well-known; and this puts tremendous pressure on every social institution, including such presumably non-political entities as Project Gutenberg.

In this case, however, there was apparently no pressure to converge, outside of those well-known consequences. Perhaps to forestall a foreseen fate, Newby decided to get ahead of the critical curve with a little unforced virtue signaling.

But it backfired. In this case, the pressure came, not from internal SJWs out for a little witch-hunting sport, but from volunteers at Distributed Proofreaders, who, according to the volunteer who made the report, responded with “a large outcry.” The result of this backlash? “…the CEO of Project Gutenberg was essentially forced to walk back his decision and remove the language banning ‘hate speech’ from the Gutenberg terms & conditions. He’s now pledged to uphold an open collection policy.”

It’s always encouraging to hear about a victory over the vicious Social Justice Warriors, but those of us on the Anti-Social Justice, Pro-Christendom, Pro-Western Civilization side should not just let this incident slide by as an inspirational, feel-good moment.

Instead, we should learn from it.

The key lesson is this: We must institute and enforce a rigorous, zero tolerance policy for Social Justice Warriors and their allies. What does this mean? For those in positions of organizational authority or influence, it means:

Don’t hire SJWs.

Fire SJWs when you become alerted to their presence in your church, company or department.

Remove SJWs immediately from your social media groups, clubs, reading groups, or other organizations.

Remember that the only objective of the SJW is to converge every organization, however large or small, into the Social Justice narrative—or to destroy it. For the sake of your families, your churches, your livelihoods—for the cause of Christian civilization, and for the love of the Truth—do not tolerate this insidious, poisonous, anti-Christian movement in any institution or organization of which you are a part.

[1] I was going to link to two articles by ousted American Vision chief Joel McDurmon here and here. But as you can see by clicking the links, returning president Gary DeMar has wisely removed McDurmon’s Cultural Marxist articles from AV’s website.

[2] John Stuart Mill, Utilitarianism (Coventry House Publishing, 2017), 102.

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