'Friday Night Lights' Author Torches ChatGPT-Assisted Iowa Book Ban

H.G. "Buzz" Bissinger said whoever decided to use the software to pull his book from the Mason City school district is a "complete idiot."

The author of “Friday Night Lights” tore into a school district in Iowa that banned his book and 18 others from libraries after officials used ChatGPT to identify books that violated an extreme new state law.

H.G. “Buzz” Bissinger ― whose 1990 classic “Friday Night Lights: A Town, a Team, and a Dream” chronicled high school football in a Texas town and inspired two TV series and a moviespoke with the Mason City Globe Gazette on Wednesday after the newspaper reported last week that the local school district had pulled the book from shelves before the upcoming school year.

The book is being “falsely depicted” as inappropriate for children, he said.

“The tragedy is, this is a great book for kids,” Bissinger told the paper. “It is a great book for teenage males because they don’t like to read anything. But they devour this book, and I know because I’ve had over 30 years of emails telling me that.”

“The idea that this book has been banned is totally against what our society is and should be, freedom of speech and the ability of kids to choose what they want to read,” he continued. “Absolutely tragic. Not just my book, but all the books they cited.”

Other books banned by the district include “The Color Purple” by Alice Walker, “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings” by Maya Angelou and “The Kite Runner” by Khaled Hosseini.

As reported by the Globe Gazette last week, officials in the Mason City district used “AI software” to determine which books to remove under a law signed by Gov. Kim Reynolds in May that bans material with “descriptions or visual depictions of a sex act.”

Bridgette Exman, the district’s assistant superintendent of curriculum and instruction, tried to defend the use of ChatGPT.

“Frankly, we have more important things to do than spend a lot of time trying to figure out how to protect kids from books,” the official wrote in an email to PopSci. “At the same time, we do have a legal and ethical obligation to comply with the law.”

Bissinger said that not only is there “no sex at all” in his book, but that whoever decided to use the software in the first place is “pathetic,” “a danger” and a “complete idiot.”

“Why don’t you read the book first and then make up your mind? Instead, you rely on AI?” he told the Globe Gazette. “This is what happens when you’re actually too lazy to do what you need to do.”

The “Friday Night Lights” ban arrives at a time when book bans are reaching a record high, according to the American Library Association. There were 1,269 attempts to challenge literary material in 2022, a jump of 729 instances from the year before, according to the association. Far-right groups including Moms for Liberty and Republican leaders have been pushing these bans under the banner of “parental rights.”

To Bissinger, this trend is ominous.

“It is similar to the book-burnings in Nazi Germany,” he told the Globe Gazette. “Tell me the difference. Is this the society we want to become?”

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