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Protecting Our Democracy's new ad decries efforts to ban controversial books. (Photo: Protecting Our Democracy via YouTube).

Spiller group launches new book ban-focused digital ad

‘What happens when we hide the past?’, Protecting Our Democracy ad asks

By Joey Fox, January 20 2023 10:07 am

Protecting Our Democracy, an issue advocacy organization affiliated with New Jersey Education Association President Sean Spiller, launched a new digital ad this morning decrying educational censorship and calling on viewers to “stand up against book bans.”

The ad, entitled “What Happens,” depicts young people reading a number of controversial books – ranging from The 1619 Project to 1984 to On the Origin of Species – that then disappear from their hands. Protecting Our Democracy said it’s putting “six figures” behind the ad statewide.

Script: (Narrator): “What happens when we hide the past? When we erase viewpoints we don’t agree with? What happens when we ignore science? What happens when we deny reality? When we avoid the truth? What happens then?”

Spiller, who is also the mayor of Montclair, launched Protecting Our Democracy in October 2022, with the NJEA as its founding donor. In a statement released alongside the ad today, he excoriated efforts at banning books, which have largely been concentrated in other states but have made some headway in New Jersey schools.

“Book bans are a symptom of a broader effort by extreme groups to stifle speech, the free exchange of ideas and knowledge itself,” Spiller said in a statement. “We’re seeing a rise in antisemitism, anti-LQBTQ and racist rhetoric across the United States, and right here in New Jersey. Banning books that represent diverse perspectives is very much a part of the process of fomenting hate against our neighbors.”

Spiller is viewed as a potential candidate for governor in 2025, and the formation of Protecting Our Democracy may be the first step towards building out a campaign. A link at the end of today’s ad sends viewers to a webpage containing nothing but a call for signatories on an anti-book ban petition – presumably adding anyone who signs it to Spiller’s email list of potential supporters.

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