Should Some Books Be Banned?

Banned Books Week is over for another year. Did you strike a blow for freedom and read a banned book?

I didn’t.

The temptation in any article about book banning is to go all Listverse and lay out the top ten for readers' aghast inspection. Look around the web and that’s about the level of the debate: lists plus maybe a commentary on some obvious idiocies -- a Dr Seuss book banned because it advocates suicide, Black Beauty banned in South Africa during apartheid because the authorities believed it promoted miscegenation.

India’s fondness for banning books is not so much about cults of personality or propping up odious dictatorships; it’s about fear of violence. 

Those two examples are both urban myths, but you’ll find them repeated here and there with the status of Fact. Even if you visit the Amnesty International endorsed BBW website, the analysis about how and why book banning happens is confined to eye rolling horror. Book banning is BAD and it must STOP. We all hold this to be a self evident truth.

But should we? Read on and then decide.


Banning books for political reasons is a practice as old as literacy. The Romans, otherwise liberal, did it. The Nazis turned it into a form of public display, burning 25,000 books on one night alone. And despite the fall of the Iron Curtain and the gradual relaxation of attitudes in countries like China, it persists to this day. Take India, for example. Book banning in India is very popular; as recently as 2010, an article in the Calcutta Telegraph, called it ‘the State’s favorite pastime’. 

How awful, you might think. This should be stopped at once. But ask yourself the question why a country which has an independent press, a secular government and which has operated as a democracy -- albeit of a shaky kind -- since the end of British rule in 1947 has this strange aversion to free speech, and a different picture emerges.

India’s fondness for banning books is not so much about cults of personality or propping up odious dictatorships; it’s about fear of violence. Take this quote from writer-historian Ramachandra Guha:

Every nation or rather community has its own heroes. But Indians do not allow scrutiny or scholarly inspection of their heroes. There is a deep sense of insecurity about our prominent figures.

India is a country riddled with stress fractures, both religious and cultural. Muslims, Hindus and Christians swelter together in an uneasy spiritual melting pot, each convinced that their particular brand of belief is under imminent threat of extinction. Throw in separatism, a caste system and a nascent Communist movement, and the picture that emerges is as stable as an Icelandic volcano field.

That’s the problem facing the Indian government. Criticism, however mild, of any group – religious, tribal, regional, political – is liable to set off major upheaval. The same is true in Pakistan, which also labours under the burden of a border almost guaranteed to cause trouble, because of how it divides tribal regions.

Look at it this way and book banning becomes a lesser of two evils, a way of keeping the lid on a situation which might spiral into bloodshed. And in practice, the Indian government polices its bans lightly. The point appears to be to reassure touchy factions that their concerns are being taken seriously, and so far, this is a policy which has worked. You might say that in other, more peaceful countries, banning books which incite hatred – racial, gender-based or religious – can be justified on the same grounds.

Consider another issue with regard to political dissent. Books can seek to obscure as well as enlighten. Is it acceptable to allow revisionists to publish their arguments? To deny the Holocaust happened; to downplay the massacres in Bosnia?

It's one rule for all. If we want the authors we approve of to have freedom of speech, that same freedom has to apply to those we don't approve off as well.


Which First World country has the worst record when it comes to banning books on grounds of obscenity?

If you answered ‘the US,’ go to detention and read Wikipedia for the rest of the day.

If we have a right to free expression, don’t we also have a responsibility to respect the beliefs of others?

The answer is Australia. In a period from 1933 to the early 1970s, Australia operated a system of censorship which would have brought an envious tear to the eye of Chairman Mao. Secretive, powerful and quixotic, the rationale behind a substantial proportion of the Australian Board of Censorship’s ban seems to have been intolerance of obscenity, a claim which holds water when you consider that in Australia’s Northern Territory, possession of topless photos can render you liable to two years in prison or a $22,000 fine.

In the US, by contrast, there are a grand total of zero books banned for obscenity.

‘But –' I hear you cry ‘-- that can’t be right! I read about US book bans all the time!’

What you hear about are books removed from school reading lists, or school libraries. The books concerned can easily be obtained from book sellers or public libraries, so any curious teen can still get access to the material. The issue is about what should be taught, not about what should be read, and it is an important distinction which all too often gets blurred in the heat of the moment. But what is true is that most of the books which are challenged (also often confused with a ban) or end up as proscribed, are challenged on the grounds of sexual content.

While I agree that withholding books from children is only liable to make them curious and that generally we ought to trust teachers to know what is appropriate, I don’t trust the list-inspired assumption that all books banned on grounds of obscenity (Lady Chatterley’s Lover, Ulysses et al) are literary classics which have attracted the ire of the ill-educated or reactionary. Life really isn’t as glib or simple as this. Child porn doesn’t just exist in the forms of photos on websites. It circulates as books, magazines and pamphlets too. What about bestiality, rape, necrophilia? Are we really willing to allow this kind of material onto library shelves?

And remember, before you point out that no reputable publisher would take this type of material on, that the huge rise self-publishing now renders that argument null and void. The millions of eBooks on Amazon could contain just about anything, and while most of it is harmless, are we prepared to take a punt that all of it is?


When it comes to banning books on the grounds of religious offence, this is the place, as Boyd Tonkin put it ‘we need to have a tougher discussion about the costs and benefits of free expression’.

Take this quote from a young British man, looking back at the Islamic world’s reaction to the publication of Salman Rushdie’s now infamous book:

 … it was in the heat of the Satanic Verses affair that we first saw the forging of a consciously British Muslim identity in the UK... it was a heady feeling marching and demonstrating alongside others who were from various ancestral backgrounds, including from the Indian subcontinent, north Africa, south-east Asia and elsewhere, but all united by their faith in Islam.

He goes on to admit that his and others’ calls to pulp all copies of the book were in retrospect ‘embarrassing’ but that’s with hindsight. At that moment, Muslims in the UK and other European countries needed a rallying point and Rushdie gave them one.

We might condemn the reaction, we might deplore the fatwa imposed on Rushdie which sent him into hiding, but do we support the writer’s slightly snippy assertion that publishers should be ‘braver’ about taking on books which are critical of Islam? Quite apart from the whiff of self pity which hangs about Rushdie (who according to one website is worth $15 million), does living in a free society confer on us, as he claims, the ‘right to do and say stuff’?

With rights come responsibilities. The strength of feeling aroused by Rushdie’s book may have taken the Western world by surprise, but read the quote above again. Those feelings were very real. Just as real as Rushdie’s wish to say and do ‘stuff’ in an unfettered way. In the west, Islam is a minority faith, liable to be overlooked and misinterpreted. If we have a right to free expression, don’t we also have a responsibility to respect the beliefs of others?

And there is another side to this. We might hate the death threats and murders which followed the Satanic Verses*, but how do we feel about Osama bin Laden’s Messages to the World arriving on the bookshelves? Or Sayed Qutb’s Milestones, which advocates the creation of a perfect Islamic state? If Anders Breivik wanted to publish his manifesto about the Islamification of Europe and incite others to follow his bloody example, how should we react?

Not so simple, is it?

Over to you. Should everything be published? If not, what should we ban?

*Before everyone feels too sorry for Salman Rushdie, bear this in mind:

1) There has never been an attempt on his life as a result of the fatwa;

2) The only death directly resulting from the publication of The Satanic Verses was the stabbing of its Japanese translator, Hitoshi Igarashi;

3) Rushdie has never, so far as I can determine, expressed regret for that or any other attack inspired by the publication of his book; and

4) During his time in hiding (which he has now documented in a new book which he wants us to buy) Rushdie enjoyed U2 concerts as a backstage guest, appeared in a cameo in the film Bridget Jones and became a US TV regular, making him about as anonymous as Lena Dunham.

Cath Murphy

Column by Cath Murphy

Cath Murphy is Review Editor at and cohost of the Unprintable podcast. Together with the fabulous Eve Harvey she also talks about slightly naughty stuff at the Domestic Hell blog and podcast.

Three words to describe Cath: mature, irresponsible, contradictory, unreliable...oh...that's four.

To leave a comment Login with Facebook or create a free account.


Tom1960's picture
Tom1960 from Athens, Georgia is reading Blindness by Jose Saramago October 19, 2012 - 9:02am

Censorship and banning of books is never a solution.  Banning a work does not address the core issue. That requires using criticism, a technique those who call for banning books are often too lazy or stupid to employ.  Iconic film director Fredrico Fellini said it best, "Censorship is the folly of the cruel and heartless."

Devon Robbins's picture
Devon Robbins from Utah is reading The Least Of My Scars by Stephen Graham Jones October 19, 2012 - 9:25am

I'm not for censorship, but if you want to talk about banning books, I think Uncle Fester is more worthy than anything in this article. His works have been used in terror attacks in Tokyo. The feds had to bring him into the investigation to confirm that the nerve gas bomb they released in the subway system was from one of his books, all the way down to the method in which they administered the bomb.

Devon Robbins's picture
Devon Robbins from Utah is reading The Least Of My Scars by Stephen Graham Jones October 19, 2012 - 9:27am

If the story isn't entertaining or hold some sort of intellectual merit, I don't see why a publisher would take it on anyway.

jyh's picture
jyh from VA is reading whatever he feels like October 19, 2012 - 9:33am

Part of the question would be "Who's doing the banning?" If a government makes a habit of banning books, those they let slip through might be accurately seen as being "approved" and therefore any reaction against those books could be logically directed against the government itself for having "approved" them. But in a society where the national government does not censor books, the wrath-inducing work should only bring retribution against its author and perhaps its fans, if anyone at all. (Inflammatory rhetoric could redirect that anger onto the society at large, of course.)

I agree with Tom: all censorship really does is kick the can. But some people would say that's a good enough reason: we can't have this book out due to present circumstances, not because the book is so inherently "bad" that humanity simply can't handle it.

Marc Ferris's picture
Marc Ferris from Carmel, California is reading Animal Attraction by Anna David October 19, 2012 - 9:37am

Banning a book gives it power. It makes the author attractive because the book has become a threat to the state.

Cameron Lawrence Merker's picture
Cameron Lawrenc... from Twin Cities is reading Watership Down October 19, 2012 - 9:48am

Banning books to keep religious people from becoming violent is never the answer to keeping peace in the world, it's the antithesis. Reading is one of the few ways for a person to liberate themselves from inhumane religious dogmatisms. While I respect your opinion on Rushdie, in that you may seem to think he is overrated or in some way very privileged, you come off as almost suggesting that a fatwa is not a big deal. Yes, he may have profitted off the attention he received but it was exactly this kind of publicity that probably has saved his life. Would it have been better for him to have disappeared by his own voliltion or someone else's? Should writers cease to write whenever the powerful religious elites of this world decree a book offensive to them and to a god they can never show evidence of ever existing? A fatwa is  a death sentence for a muslim who speaks out against Islam. If we want peace in the world and for everyone to get along, the first thing that has to go is religious death sentence decrees. By succumbing to these fear mongerers is how they continue winning. It's how the Taliban can shoot a teenage girl for simply wanting a higher education. It's how a man in the US can run for political office even if he thinks that parents have the right to have their children put to death if they rebel simply cause the Old Testament said so. These people exist right now. They have power, influence and even weapons. If we sit by and let books be banned to keep the calm, no solution to the bigger problem will be solved. I'm not telling people to give up their faith and everyone should become secularists, but people should never be afraid to stand up to what is humane. The more muslims that stand up to Islamic fundalmentalism the safer it will be for them to grow within their faith. The more christians that refuse to allow extremists from gaining political authority, the safer it will be for women, non-christians, GBLT, and the list goes on. I know the trend right now is to tolerate all beliefs regardless of how extreme their words, actions, and teachings are, but religion should never be granted immunity from criticism. Books are a tool to build a conversation that can last for centuries and through this liberate future generations from effects and efforts of religious fanaticism, thus finally bringing our ever-smaller world closer to peace.  

eirikodin's picture
eirikodin from Auburn, NY is reading Mediterranean Caper by Clive Cussler October 19, 2012 - 9:54am

I hope my book gets enough notoriety to earn me threats on my life.  That would be like free publicity.

VicJeju's picture
VicJeju from Austin is reading Oryx & Crake October 19, 2012 - 10:08am

I generally do not agree with censorship but anything that is about abusing a child or things of that nature should be banned. I tend to agree with the courts that you know obscenity whens you see it...There are somethings that have no artistic value and are obscene....

Scott Williams's picture
Scott Williams from Brooklyn, NY is reading 11/23/63 October 19, 2012 - 10:31am

This writer seems to be ignorant of one of the greatest instances of censorship in U.S. History, namely the burning in 1951 in New York of over 6 tons of books by the psychologist Wilhelm Reich. Though the books were burned by the FDA as medically unsound, this was only an excuse for censorship, as the books advocated controversial (and to some eyes, obscene) ideas regarding sexuality and psychology. If given the opportunity, governments, even of nominally "free" societies, will use any excuse to repress thought and expression deemed to be against the state. Which is why they must never be allowed to do so.

Books should almost never be banned by the government. Individuals are (and should be), of course, free to read or not read whatever they want. None of the reasons given (keeping the peace, protecting innocent minds, preventing blasphemy) could possibly trump free expression. Having and expressing thoughts, no matter how odious, should never be illegal if we wish to pay more than lip service to the concept of freedom.

Illegal behaviors, on the other hand, should be regulated - e.g. the actions required to create pedophillic pornographic photos and movies (the sexual abuse of children) should be and are illegal. If somebody wants to write out a fictional fantasy of having sex with children, however, it should not be illegal for them to do so, as no children are harmed in the creation of it. They are free to write it, as I am free to not read it. The idea that someone might be incited to sexual abuse by a book is no excuse to ban books, but IS an excellent argument for increasing identification and treatment of pedophiles.

The only possible excuse for censorship might be to repress widespread dissemination of information that could lead to the taking of life (e.g. the instructions for the building of bombs or creating poisonous gases). Even then, it's better to restrict access to raw materials that might make weapons of mass destruction than to restrict access to the understanding of the processes by which they are made. One means that, for example, you restrict access to fertilizer. The other means you restrict access to the concepts of chemistry. One regulates behavior, and inconveniences some people. The other regulates thought and knowledge, and leaves populations ignorant.

Scott Williams's picture
Scott Williams from Brooklyn, NY is reading 11/23/63 October 19, 2012 - 10:48am

The idea that religious faiths should be "respected" to the exclusion of free expression is a common canard. Everyone in America has the right to free expression of their religion. No one in the world has the right to go through life unoffended. Another person's right to practice their religion stops at the point where their expression prevents me from doing something not explicitly illegal. 

The arguments in this article seem more specious the more that I read them. They amount to:

1. Book burning isn't that bad if it keeps the state stable.
2. Won't someone think of the children?
3. Won't someone think of the sensiblities of the religous? (which in many ways, amounts to a variation on point 1).
4. If you believe in free expression, you support Osama bin Laden.
4.5. Salman Rushdie was a dick.

Each of these would require their own article to refute properly (except the last one, which is essentially true, but doesn't mean he shouldn't be published. The libraries would run empty if every book written by an asshole were removed from the shelves). Perhaps I'll do so.

Dino Parenti's picture
Dino Parenti from Los Angeles is reading Everything He Gets His Hands On October 19, 2012 - 10:50am

Tom1960 is correct when he says that a book-ban does not address the core issues; it's the proverbial band-aid-on-a-machine-gun-wound argument. The prevailing issue--whether from a writer writing incendiary, obscene garbage, or a reader looking to rut around in it--is ignorance. And I'll certainly risk the impossible-to-prevent, occasional piece of junk that involves horrible acts upon children or bigotry or senseless violence--which in any case tends to get cited and called out for the shit-stain on the human race that it is--than to take a chance on even resembling a Maoist or Stazi-like state. If it's out in the open, at least it can be dealt with. Hell, if you want to ban something for the betterment of mankind, start with Fifty Shades of Gray for promoting lowest-common-denominator thinking.


Dino Parenti's picture
Dino Parenti from Los Angeles is reading Everything He Gets His Hands On October 19, 2012 - 10:54am

Bravo, Scott. I was writing my comment before you'd posted yours. And I agree--Rushdie is a self-absorbed, self-important diva. That said, no one deserves to have a death-sentence imposed on them for what they wrote.

Cait Spivey's picture
Cait Spivey from Portland, OR is reading I Don't, a Contrarian History of Marriage by Susan Squire October 19, 2012 - 10:56am

The practice of censorship says a lot about how prepared or unprepared society is to actually talk about certain subjects or in certain ways. When parents call for the removal of a book because it's too ______ for kids or teens, what they're really saying (often without realizing it) is that they can't talk to their kids about the content. When governments ban books for fear they'll incite violence, the implication is that their citizens are too volatile, impulsive, and superficial to accept opposing viewpoints and respond civilly. The practice of censorship implies a lack of trust in the cognitive and communicative abilities of society. 

Unfortunately, censorship isn't going to go away without some pretty radical social change, so until then? I have no idea what to ban and what to publish. I guess I would base it on the style of the critique. If it's vehement or combative, ban it. If it's rational and moderated (not necessarily moderate), publish it. 

ReneeAPickup's picture
Class Facilitator
ReneeAPickup from Southern California is reading Wanderers by Chuck Wendig October 19, 2012 - 11:20am

All three of those reasons can sometimes be important. Sedition--oooo sounds BAD--but when a government opresses detraction, that's BAD. Much worse that being a detractor.

Obscenity? I'm reading Tropic of Cancer--and I have to say I am not at all surprised it was banned all over for being "obscene", but at the same time, it is a well respected piece of literature. Surely his use of the word "cunt" and discussions of sex with local whores doesn't detract from that.

Blasphemy--well, that's easy. We all don't believe the same thing and I don't think anyone wants to live under the religious rule of somebody else's religion.

I don't see a reason to ban books. Look at the sheer number of books that were once banned that are now considered important works. I don't want any place in advocating for even the shittiest books to be banned. 

You have situations like the pedophilia manual that were taken off-sale, and I think that's maybe an exception that proves the rule. If a book is advocating and instruction on crimes against children or humanity in general, maybe we should pull the plug.

But talking about God in the wrong way? Or the wrong god? Too much sex? Too critical of the government? Those are things that open our minds, and change societies. 

Zackery Olson's picture
Zackery Olson from Rockford, IL is reading pretty much anything I can get my hands on October 19, 2012 - 12:10pm

Censorship is never the correct course of action, no matter the issue. It is completely against the Frerian principle of education and progress through dialogue. All progressive and productive changes must begin with dialogue. censorship may ensure that some overly sensitive people don’t have to deal with the unpleasantness of things that offend them, but at best, it staunches dialogue and effectively halts social progress. At worst, it causes regression that can take decades to undo

The idea that people can be incited to hurtful behavior by books, or films, or television is one that definitely holds some truth. However, censoring the material in question does nothing to attack the fundamental problems. Instead of banning a book in which a child gets beaten, we should be working toward eradicating the ignorance and poverty that cause child abuse and other types of domestic violence. Instead of censoring something that we assume could cause a person to sexually abuse a child, we should be working harder to identify sex offenders.

Something that always irks me, and certainly plays a role in censorship, is people’s confusion of some basic concepts. First, criticism and disrespect are not the same thing. Many people seem to believe that any type of criticism, even that of a constructive nature, is akin to blatant disrespect. Just because I think that vilifying Muslims and leading a crusade against them to retrieve some land was a stupid idea doesn’t mean that I think Christianity is inherently bad. It just means that I don’t agree with demonizing an entire religion and killing a shitload of people. Second, respect and obedience are not the same thing. You can respect a person and their opinions without bowing to their every word. Obedience is what you teach your pet dog, not your child. Anyone that isn’t teaching their child to always question authority (including parental authority) is doing that child a great disservice. The same goes for governments that seek to create a culture of blind obedience in their people. Censorship serves to reinforce these misconceptions, not correct them. It is a non-progressive waste of time and intellectual effort.

John's picture
John from Brooklyn, NY is reading The Big Short by Michael Lewis October 19, 2012 - 1:09pm

Everything Scott Williams said.

Sancho LeStache's picture
Sancho LeStache from El Paso is reading Hunger October 19, 2012 - 3:14pm

Telling adults what they can and can't read is just plain wrong. I'd rather see Mein Kampf and Messages To The World next to eachother on the shelf at Barnes & Noble, than have it insinuated that I don't have the intelligence to handle something I disagree with without going on a fucking murderous rampage. It kind of feels like the world is afraid of Muslims in a lot of ways, which I think is kind of racist. Plus, the whole "only one guy got killed" argument kind of threw me off. One person getting killed because of a book is one too many.

Devon Robbins's picture
Devon Robbins from Utah is reading The Least Of My Scars by Stephen Graham Jones October 19, 2012 - 4:46pm

In east Compton, you get killed for looking at people.

rmatthewsimmons's picture
rmatthewsimmons from Salt Lake City, UT is reading I just put down 'A Game of Thrones' after 6 chapters....Couldn't do it. October 19, 2012 - 7:03pm

The flipside to this argument is that a banned book usually garners more attention and fanfare in the long run. Back in the '80's when the PMRC was running wild with record labeling artists were terrified at having a warning label slapped on the cover of their album-until some realized having one generated a lot more sales.

I mean, now there's an entire week dedicated to the topic.


Ben Villeneuve's picture
Ben Villeneuve from Maine is reading Gardens of the Moon October 20, 2012 - 9:17am


"I generally do not agree with censorship but anything that is about abusing a child or things of that nature should be banned. I tend to agree with the courts that you know obscenity whens you see it...There are somethings that have no artistic value and are obscene...."

So books like Lolita or We All Fall Down should be banned?

Pearl Griffin_2's picture
Pearl Griffin_2 from Portland, Oregon is reading Les Miserables October 20, 2012 - 10:24am


"He who gives up freedom for safety deserves neither."

The minute we allow governments to censor knowledge is the minute we lose our freedom. The End. 

Cath Murphy's picture
Cath Murphy from UK is reading Find out on the Unpr!ntable podcast October 20, 2012 - 12:05pm

Thanks everyone for your comments. I've read them all, carefully and with interest.

One sentence stood out for me:

Censorship is never the correct course of action, no matter the issue...

You could argue that this point of view is a luxury that only people living in stable democracies can afford. It struck me hard when I was researching this article, that if I happened to be living in India, I might well prefer censorship to violent and possibly bloody demonstrations.

It also struck me that it's very easy to underestimate the offence caused to someone whose religious point of view we don't share. We might see the reaction of conservative Islam to The Satanic Verses as indefensible, but most (all?) of us commenting don't believe that allowing this material to be published is an attack on the cornerstone of our faith.

I suppose what I'm arguing for is a sober assessment of the pros and cons of publication before a book is produced. If it's likely to cause grave offence, then does the benefit of its message outweigh the potential damage? Essentially, this is the rights and responsibilities argument. Not every book has to be published - the vast majority of produced fiction never sees the light of day. Why do we assume that everything deserves a place on the shelf, no matter what it contains?

As for obscenity, again during my research I came across this HuffPo article. The book has now been removed from Amazon and you could say, well, it's been dealt with, what's the problem? To which the answer is, there isn't one, now it has been censored.

So censorship was the correct action there, right? Or should people still be able to buy it freely?




Shig Vigintitres's picture
Shig Vigintitres October 20, 2012 - 8:04pm

It has never been possible to completely ban a book, i.e., to prevent anyone from ever reading it again. The more publishing technology advances, the easier it becomes to get ahold of any work you like, in spite of whatever bans might be in place.

So, banning a book is little more than a gesture. It's the establishment's way of saying, "We find this work to be objectionable, distasteful, or likely to have unpleasant consequences for those who read it. In our inestimable wisdom, as arbiters of all that is right and good, we have decided that you should not have access to it." And it may well be true that they are only concerned for the social good... but whatever reasons they may give, those who disagree with them will only hear, "This is a work that makes us afraid." Any knowledge that society fears, or appears to fear, will be gleefully sought out by the antisocial.

Take that little sex tourism guide that you're so happy is gone from Amazon. If someone really wanted to read it, do you truly think they would never be able to find it? There are some dark places on the 'net, and even if someone couldn't find this particular book, they'd probably have no trouble finding the information it contains. So, really, what was gained by banning it? Apart from shutting it away where we wouldn't have to look at it, and making those who called for the ban feel like they've saved the world, I'd say nothing of consequence. It didn't make sex tourism go away, any more than removing North Korea from the map would make the country itself go away. And the controversy surrounding the ban is advertising the author didn't have to pay for, on a level he couldn't have afforded anyway. Excellent job, crusaders! Keep up the good work.

Renfield's picture
Renfield from Hell is reading 20th Century Ghosts October 21, 2012 - 1:15pm

Yeah, banning books, it's a good way for The Big Men in Charge to infect some little folk with their fear. You don't want those people getting ideas, getting angry.

Dwayne's picture
Dwayne from Cincinnati, Ohio (suburbs) is reading books that rotate to often to keep this updated October 21, 2012 - 1:53pm

In general I like your writing Cath, but this comes across like the assignment in college that requires you to defend a point of view you don't agree with.

Andy Kennedy's picture
Andy Kennedy November 14, 2012 - 11:41am

No books should be banned.  In order for the world to better itself, we must be able to see for ourselves where others have gone wrong.

.'s picture
. November 18, 2012 - 1:48pm

Banning books led to the dark ages in Europe. Who would get to decide what books are appropriate and which are not? We seen what happened to the internet privacy bill, because censorship is flawed. See also: MPAA. Banning anything seems gray area because everyone has an opinion on the boundaries and no one really knows where to set the bar. 

Jordan O'Boyle's picture
Jordan O'Boyle November 22, 2012 - 6:56pm

There are both positive and negative aspects in this article of censorship. Yes, I agree that 'inflammatory' books as they are named should be banned from schools. This is obvious in allowing young minds to develop and to become objective in their own minds before they should decide which route their lives should go down. 'This is coming from a liberal background however'. Young adults are intelligent but they probably aren't ready for the depths of certain topics. Rhetoric is all well and good, but without true knowledge behind the words, they become void and inciteful. 

In very tense political atmospheres like those in Pakistan, as the column suggests, I can understand a certain amount of censorship. This is not to say that I agree, but my disapproval comes from a liberal country, where a more relaxed view of religion is adopted in that you may worship whatever God or Gods you please in peace. Yet the Rushdie argument doesn't quite meet the criteria of extreme religious propaganda. This means on all versions of extreme religion. I would much rather live a life without intentional hate being thrust into my face. The Rushdie comments were inflammatory and ill worded, yes. However they do not conclude we must pick up the nearest object and begin beating those who do not support whatever religion we may hold dear to death. 'Extreme scenario but the point is valid'.

Lastly, I don't agree with the self publishing comment. There are more ways than ever to get your writing published without a publisher through the internet. But, that doesn't mean your work will automatically become scripture and an overnight success. Out of all the self publishers, there are only a select few, 'probably two out of thousands' out of the many who gain notoriety, let alone alone wind their way into a school library shelf. You end up in obscurity anyway 

P.s. Zackery Olson, I enjoyed reading your objective view and your quoted perspectives about openness and dialogue. However, dialogue is not always so black and white. Censorship is used in part of every day dialogue, whether politically, religiously, or socially. Censorship can sometimes be the best way to settle an argument. 

Lenore's picture
Lenore from San Francisco is reading Marly Youmans Thaliad November 27, 2012 - 11:48pm

I have a visceral reaction of horror to this article, it appals me to think that writers, of all people, would seriously entertain the idea that censorship under any circumstances is an acceptable policy for a government to adopt. Nasty things grow in dark places, abseses spread where you try to deny the existence of unpopular concepts and the protective barriers put up by well meaning people invariably become prisons for the underrepresented.

On the Salman Rushdie point, I think it is important to note some of the people who were injured or died in the name of hatred for his work. Rushdie’s Japanese translator, Hitoshi Igarashi, was stabbed to death; Rushdie’s Italian and Norwegian translators, Ettore Capriolo and William Nygaard, were both seriously wounded in knife attacks. A Turkish mob, in search of Rushdie’s Turkish translator, Aziz Nesin, set a building on fire and murdered 37 people.

Does this mean that a society should ease its conscience by hiding what could be construde as hurtful from the eyes of groups who may threaten violence? What a pathetic conclusion to reach, what is wrong with people?

With the internet there is no way to completely censor ideas anymore, that time has thankfully passed, but a whole new group of criminals can be created out of citizens with unpopular ideas. How could this be a good thing?

anthonybetterthanyou's picture
anthonybetterthanyou February 5, 2013 - 6:55am

i don't think they should be banned 'cause you have the decision to read or not to read that book! add me as your friend


Christopher Daniel Puksta's picture
Christopher Dan... July 17, 2014 - 3:32pm

Some books are just stupid and makes people stupider for reading them... much like a bad tv show will. Like sappy love stories and overly sentimental vampire books. But they should not be banned. If thats what people want to read...