Feb 9, 2022 - Politics & Policy

Conservatives push books on right-wing heroes

A display of Heroes of Liberty's books on Ronald Reagan, Thomas Sowell, and Amy Coney Barrett.
Sample titles from Heroes of Liberty. Photo: Courtesy of Heroes of Liberty

A conservative children's book startup has begun publishing a series focused on conservative icons and what it views as childhood role models, including former President Reagan, actor John Wayne and social critic Thomas Sowell.

Why it matters: The publisher of the books, Heroes of Liberty, was created to counter numerous children's books focusing on progressive heroes like Ruth Bader Ginsburg, according to Heroes of Liberty editor Bethany Mandel.

  • The effort to counterprogram those books comes as right-leaning parents — and some on the left — seek to ban books on race and gender amid culture wars seeping into the nation's school districts.

Driving the news: Heroes of Liberty recently released a book on Wayne targeted to children aged 7 to 12. That followed releases for books about Reagan, Sowell and newly installed Supreme Court Justice Amy Coney Barrett.

  • It plans additional releases every month about figures like Douglas MacArthur and former British Prime Ministers Margaret Thatcher and Winston Churchill.
  • The Delaware-based startup is funded by private investors, including Miami businessman Yoni Greenwald and Israeli publisher Rotem Sella. Both sit on the Heroes of Liberty's board.

Mandel, a former writer at the Heritage Foundation, told Axios the publishing house chose to tell Wayne's story to counter the narrative that "masculinity is toxic."

  • Wayne was known for playing rugged cowboys during Hollywood's Golden Age of Westerns, as well as for his wartime roles and anti-communist, conservative politics.
  • "Boys are ... really sort of conditioned to behave more like women. We wanted to give, especially boy readers, a glimpse of a positive male role model (who) doesn't apologize for being manly and masculine."
  • Heroes of Liberty sells books through monthly subscriptions. It's sold tens of thousands of copies since November, Mandel said.

Between the lines: School districts around the country are bowing to pressure from some conservative groups to review — then purge from public school libraries — books about LGBTQ issues or people of color or that are deemed to advance critical race theory.

  • The American Library Association's Office for Intellectual Freedom reports that preliminary data showed book challenges and bans surged in 2021, compared to previous years.
  • Mandel said she hoped her books would sit alongside others promoted by some progressives but agreed that "inappropriate" books should be removed from schools.

Don't forget: Some progressive activists have sought to pull literary staples like Mark Twain's "The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn," and Harper Lee's "To Kill a Mockingbird" from school syllabi.

  • These critics argue that in today's context, they perpetuate racist or sexist constructs.

Flashback: An advertising account linked to Heroes of Liberty was banned temporarily by Facebook last month for violating Meta’s policy on “Low Quality or Disruptive Content.”

  • The account was restored following an outcry on social media.
  • Meta spokesman Andy Stone said the account was locked due to an “error," per the New York Post.
  • "When Facebook shut down our account, we lost all the data that we carefully gathered for the last six months," Mandel tweeted after the incident.
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