Last week, Matt Walsh’s book “Johnny the Walrus,”which tells a story of a boy pretending to be a walrus, became the bestselling children’s book on Amazon. It topped the former bestselling children’s book “You-ology: A Puberty Guide for Every Body,” written by two scholars from the American Academy of Pediatrics.
This is news because of the aggressive pushback against Walsh and his book. Libs of TikTok released videos showing Amazon employees having a meltdown over “Johnny the Walrus.” Not only do they heap all kinds of invective on the book, but they even signal their need to bring it down and hinder its popularity. True to form, Amazon has censored publicity for the book, pulling ads for it as well as changing the way it’s classified.
In addition to this, hordes of leftist activists have posted videos and reviews condemning the book, often breaking into tears. Like the Amazon employees, these critics rage against the book’s anti-transgender message and believe the book and its writer should be destroyed.
There are three ironies about this story that offer some important insights on today’s media culture: (1) attempts at censorship and cancelling content will often backfire, (2) books like “Johnny the Walrus” are not wrong or dangerous, but the opposite, and (3) children’s books have been dominated by blatant left-wing propaganda for some time now.
As Walsh and all his colleagues at The Daily Wire know well, triggering leftists is a great way to sell books and get speaking gigs. When it doesn’t destroy a person, leftist outrage is a powerful publicity tool. It turns books into bestsellers, nobodies into celebrities, and even real estate moguls into presidents.
This is because attempts to suppress or cancel speech only draw attention to that speech and legitimize it. After all, if these ideas were really hateful or wrong, they could easily be disproven and dismissed, not desperately feared and removed. For all the criticism of “Johnny the Walrus,” none of its opponents seems to explain how the book is wrong in its message. They just hate it and want it to go away.
Moreover, besides making the critics look like childish idiots, calls for cancellation and exclusion unite the opposing side. This is how “Johnny the Walrus” goes from being a gag book for Walsh’s fans to being a bestseller appealing to all people who oppose leftist gender ideology.
What Exactly Is Wrong with the Book?
And if one can make it past the crying and howling of the sensitive “Amazonians,” what is their argument against a book like “Johnny the Walrus”? They say it’s “problematic,” but how so? The book’s protagonist does what most children do and plays make-believe. The mother does what today’s parents are told to do and takes this make-believe seriously. Realizing that this is ridiculous and dangerous, Johnny decides he’s not a walrus after all and the mother learns to ignore the bad advice given to parents and affirms Johnny as the healthy, happy boy that he is.
Would it be less problematic if Johnny’s mother took the advice of insane people on the internet and affirmed Johnny’s newfound identity as a walrus by paying for his surgery — the same advice that’s given in “You-ology”? How exactly is it not problematic that children poison and mutilate themselves because they’re pretending to be something they’re not?
Then, of course, there’s the charge that the book is far-right transphobic propaganda. For a book that doesn’t mention the word “transgender” anywhere, this is an odd charge. Walsh’s book rather speaks to a deeper truth about being a human being: you must learn to accept yourself as you are.
True, this runs counter to the popular lie that you can physically be whatever you want so long as you get surgery early enough and everyone around you uses the right language. But actual propaganda eschews this kind of morality and storytelling. As the name suggests, it exists for the sake of propagating a certain idea, usually by normalizing or glamorizing that idea through pictures and narratives. Indeed, there is plenty of this kind of thing in today’s children’s literature, and it’s not “Johnny the Walrus.”
Children’s Publishing Has Become Leftist Propaganda
Much like Disney’s currently doing, most of the big publishers of children’s literature today are intent on pushing far-left propaganda. Any parent who has browsed titles in the children’s section of a Barnes & Noble can attest to this. There are so many books that celebrate Democrat politicians, like Joe Biden, Kamala Harris, and even Stacey Abrams. Last year, there were whole bookshelves devoted to Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Then of course there are books pushing LGBT ideology in both popular children’s and young adult literature.
Although there are adult books with these themes, it’s telling that so many of them cater to children, the audience least likely to question it. Evidently, the hope is that children will take these stories and characters and use them to inform their view of the world and their choice of lifestyle.
This is why all parents of good conscience should be careful what their kids consume. Not only is the internet a minefield, particularly addictive apps like TikTok, but even supposedly wholesome children’s books are rife with subversive content. If parents aren’t vigilant, their children can develop a strong attachment to toxic ideas that gradually turn them into miserable adults.
Fortunately, there are books like “Johnny the Walrus” and “The Handsome Little Cygnet” that are both wholesome and fun. Neither of them are given large colorful displays at the bookstore, let alone available in most public libraries, but parents can look them up and buy them for their children. In doing so, they are not only helping their children become readers, but also planting the seeds of virtue and wisdom that will slowly blossom as their children grow up.