I got this story from Bear, who got it from Ellid at Kos, who linked to the version at Democratic Underground, most likely because she didn’t know how to construct a zero-Googlejuice link to the malign wingnut DU cited in their article.
The wingnut’s piece about Jane begins:
Thanks for the hate mail, folks! Glad to get confirmation that I struck a nerve.Which is pure trollspeak. More on him later.
What actually happened: The staff of detestable Senator Ron Johnson (R-Wisconsin) staged one of those cynical photo-ops where they pose a politician reading to a bunch of photogenic tykes. The reading took place at the Access Community Health Center in Madison, WI, a nonprofit clinic for low-income families. One of the books they used was How Do Dinosaurs Clean Their Rooms? by Jane Yolen and Mark Teague.*
The occasion got written up in one of Shawn Doherty’s “Laptop City Hall” columns: What’s wrong with this picture? Ron Johnson reads to local kids:
Sen. Ron Johnson is reading a book to ten cute kids at a community health clinic on South Park Street. The book is about a dinosaur who cleans his room and never does naughty things like shove his dirty socks to the back of his dresser drawer. As I look around this Thursday afternoon, I count as many grownups taking pictures with clunky cameras as kids. Even the Senator’s aide is snapping photos with his cell phone. …And so forth. When the article went live, the very first comment was posted by Jane. As Shawn Doherty described it in her next “Laptop City Hall” column, Thanks but no thanks, author says after Ron Johnson reads her book to kids:
Johnson’s office contacted the Madison branch suggesting the visit. Apparently it fit nicely into a day in town that included an appearance on Vicki McKenna’s talk show and a stop at a fundraiser for the Dane County Young Republicans at the Madison Museum of Contemporary Art.
But some people found something sour about all these sweet pictures of the senator reading to children in a Madison community health clinic.
“Just this morning I was watching Fox News and the senator was on talking about repealing the health care act, the one hope many of these kids have,” says Robert Kraig of Citizen Action of Wisconsin. “And then he goes off and has a photo opp at a community health center? That posturing is very inconsistent with what he is proposing.”
Like other Republican congressmen including most notably Wisconsin’s Paul Ryan, Johnson has called not only for the repeal of the federal health care reform law but for a drastic reduction of spending on Medicaid programs like Wisconsin’s BadgerCare plans.
“There’s a stark contrast between the warm and fuzzy image of him reading to children and the extreme Draconian cuts he wants to propose that will cut millions of kids like these off health care,” Kraig says.
Well, maybe not all these kids. Turns out many of those listening to Johnson were not actual patients at Access, but children of staffers’ friends who had responded to an appeal for live bodies for what in politics is called a “media opp” or media opportunity. …
The very first reader’s comment on my article, made before the comment thread disintegrated into liberals and conservatives calling each other stupid, was from Jane Yolen, the author of one of those books. … Yolen’s comment makes it clear she is not keen on having her work and young fans used as props by a senator whose policies and politics, she believes, harm children.Minor error there: the photo op was in a public health clinic, rather than the usual schoolroom or library. The point still stands, though; Johnson wants to slash funds for all three.
“I wish he would help kids and not cut those programs that help them, rather than just reading a book chosen for him, and written by a progressive Massachusetts liberal like me,” she sighs in her comment.
Capital Times: I’m delighted that you saw my story and commented on it. May I ask how you found it and what prompted you to respond?Wingnut outrage! Moe Lane, that troll I mentioned earlier wrote a piece called “Jane Yolen doesn’t want your filthy conservative eyes…”, which of course is neither what she said nor meant. He also calls her a hateful bigot, which is (a.) also untrue, and (b.) pure projection on his part. Don’t bother to click through. There’s no real substance to his article. It’s just cheap outrage-mongering based on inaccurate reporting.
Jane Yolen: Google alert. Most of the time it is years out of date, and usually totally uninteresting. But this time, it pointed me to your piece, and I was alternately amused, bemused, and annoyed. Not at the writer of the article, but at the co-opting of my book for a politician’s photo op.
CT: What had you heard about our senator from Wisconsin, Ron Johnson, before you read my piece and what concerns you about the idea of him reading one of your stories to children?
JY: He is a Republican junior senator associated with the Tea Party. And that makes me think that either he is 1. A True Believer in the Tea Party NoNothingness which frightens me or 2. Kowtowing to it for votes which possibly frightens me more. Since the Tea Party (and alas much of the Republican Party these days) are the ones behind the notions of breaking unions, throwing librarians out of their jobs, and defunding education, I think it is more than a tad bit disingenuous for such politicians to be out in libraries reading books to children who will have no libraries to visit if we listen to the Tea Party. …
CT: Perhaps you could come up with a question for the senator you would like to ask him?
JY: Senator, why are you here reading this book? Did you choose it or was it chosen for you? Are you surprised that it was written by someone who finds your political stance anathema? Do you care? …
CT: Have you ever thought of writing a story about politicians or politics?
JY: I have political people in a number of my novels, though they tend to be kings or viziers or the like. For my political bona fides: I was a delegate from Massachusetts pledged to McGovern in the ‘72 Democratic Convention, among other things. I’d like to add — as a non-Christian, I find it appalling that self-proclaimed Christians don’t follow their own religious precepts: Matthew: “And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.”
Moe Lane is upfront about his belief that the more outrage he can generate, the more donations he gets — “You can turn hate into money,” as he puts it — and he sure shakes that tin cup in your face. He cross-posted his piece about Jane to Red State and it got picked up by a bunch of other cheap outrage sites, so he’s happy. The story also got picked up by WTAQ News Talk, which did its own trashy, inaccurate, and insubstantial writeup titled Children’s Book Author Yolen Teague Acts Completely Childish About Ron Johnson. (They amended the title later to say “Jane Yolen” instead of “Yolen Teague”, but you can still find the original version.)
Why all the fuss? I believe it’s because Jane explained what was wrong in clear, straightforward language — a knack that way too many liberal pundits have lost. If exposing children to books and literacy is good, then what Ron Johnson is doing to schools and libraries is bad. If children being cared for in a public health clinic is good, then what Ron Johnson is doing to healthcare funding is bad. Johnson tacitly admits that these things are good, and that the general public sees them as good, by using them as props for his photo session. He wants the benefit of being associated with them. Then, in real life, he does his best to trash them. Simple.
What venues like Moe Lane and WTAQ News Talk are really saying is that Jane Yolen made them feel bad. She got through to them. They can’t really argue with her, so they throw sh*t in her general direction, but still: she got through to them.
Good on her.
Addendum: One more Laptop City Hall column: Tea party tizzy over children’s author Jane Yolen’s remarks. Shawn Doherty says, “After reading through the 110-and-counting comments at the end of my last story on this and dozens of other remarks on conservative blogs across the country, though, it seems to me that conservative critics are the ones who are having a tantrum here.”