01 October 2010

Banned Books Week: And the clocks were striking thirteen

Note: This week I am breaking my no-politics policy by talking about Banned Books Week, and what it entails, and why it is important. I beg your indulgence and thank you for it.

So here we are at the last hour, and my words have left me. I could talk more, I could show you more books, but my words would begin to repeat themselves, and I would only sound like a broken record (kids, ask your parents what that is; if your parents don't know, ask your grandparents). So rather than run the risk of repetition (also  alliteration), I will instead turn this segment over to others' words, others who have spoken on this subject far more eloquently than I. And here they are.


If we don't believe in freedom of expression for people we despise, we don't believe in it at all.  ~Noam Chomsky

We are not afraid to entrust the American people with unpleasant facts, foreign ideas, alien philosophies, and competitive values.  For a nation that is afraid to let its people judge the truth and falsehood in an open market is a nation that is afraid of its people.  ~John F. Kennedy

To limit the press is to insult a nation; to prohibit reading of certain books is to declare the inhabitants to be either fools or slaves.  ~Claude-Adrien HelvĂ©tius

To choose a good book, look in an inquisitor’s prohibited list.  ~John Aikin

Obscenity is not a quality inherent in a book or picture, but is solely and exclusively a contribution of the reading mind, and hence cannot be defined in terms of the qualities of a book or picture.  ~Theodore Schroeder

Did you ever hear anyone say, "That work had better be banned because I might read it and it might be very damaging to me?" ~Joseph Henry Jackson

The paper burns, but the words fly away.  ~Akiba ben Joseph

Nature knows no indecencies; man invents them.  ~Mark Twain, Notebook, 1935

The fact is that censorship always defeats its own purpose, for it creates, in the end, the kind of society that is incapable of exercising real discretion.  ~Henry Steele Commager

The only valid censorship of ideas is the right of people not to listen.  ~Tommy Smothers 

We can never be sure that the opinion we are endeavoring to stifle is a false opinion; and if we were sure, stifling it would be an evil still.  ~John Stuart Mill, On Liberty, 1859

Censorship reflects society's lack of confidence in itself.  It is a hallmark of an authoritarian regime.  ~Potter Stewart 

Censorship ends in logical completeness when nobody is allowed to read any books except the books that nobody reads. ~George Bernard Shaw   

Censorship, like charity, should begin at home, but, unlike charity, it should end there. ~Clare Boothe Luce  

...There is more than one way to burn a book. And the world is full of people running about with lit matches. Every minority, be it Baptist/Unitarian, Irish/Italian/Octogenarian/Zan Buddhist, Zionist/Seventh-day Adventist, Women's Lib/ Republican, Mattachine/FourSquareGospel feels it has the will, the right, the duty to douse the kerosene, light the fuse. Every dimwit editor who sees himself as the source of all dreary blanc-mange plain porridge unleavened literature, licks his guillotine and eyes the neck of any author who dares to speak above a whisper or write above a nursery rhyme.... ~Ray Bradbury 

You have not converted a man because you have silenced him. ~John Morley

Obviously, the danger is not in the actual act of reading itself, but rather, the possibility that the texts children read will incite questions, introduce novel ideas, and provoke critical inquiry. ~Persis M. Karim (The New Assault on Libraries)  

Without free speech no search for truth is possible... no discovery of truth is useful... Better a thousandfold abuse of free speech than denial of free speech. The abuse dies in a day, but the denial slays the life of the people, and entombs the hope of the race. ~Charles Bradlaugh 

I am opposed to any form of tyranny over the mind of man. ~Thomas Jefferson

Wherever they burn books they will also, in the end, burn human beings.  ~Heinrich Heine, Almansor, 1823

When the conspiracy of lies surrounding me demands of me to silence the one word of truth given to me, that word becomes the one word I wish to utter above all others. ~Andre P. Brink, South African novelist, 1983
Books won't stay banned.  They won't burn.  Ideas won't go to jail.  In the long run of history, the censor and the inquisitor have always lost.  The only weapon against bad ideas is better ideas.  ~Alfred Whitney Griswold, New York Times, 24 February 1959        


That's it from me on this subject, until next year at least. Thank you very much once again for your indulgence for my opinionating on this topic most of the week. It's a subject dear to my heart, and has been for many years. If you'd like to learn more about the topic, please visit the American Library Association here.

Thanks again, and have a wonderful weekend. 

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