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A woman named Clare Booth Luce said, “Censorship, like charity, should begin at home; but, unlike charity, it should end there.”
It’s a good philosophy, and one we could all adopt—there’s no need to allow things to which you object into your homes, but there’s no need to try to say the world at large should be disallowed to have them. But sometimes censorship seems so reasonable that some of us accept it, or even encourage it.
Take for example the recent conflicts revolving around papers in Denmark, France, Germany, the Netherlands, Italy, and Spain publishing a series of cartoon depicting the Prophet Muhammad. The newspaper France Soir first stated that it choose to print the cartoons “to show ‘religious dogma’ had no place in a secular society”, but after the riots erupted they sacked their managing editor.
Having reviewed the cartoons in question, I do feel like they are in poor taste—the story of Muhammad universally tell of a man didn’t ostracize other faiths, but rather told he was sent by god to complete the teachings—but are crass cartoons enough to fire people, start riots, and set fire to things? If you don’t like it, I say, you can retaliate in kind: write a letter or publish a cartoon. Don’t let it in your home. Don’t censor it.
Censorship is the act of cowards.
Every book that’s ever been banned contains an idea that someone doesn’t want you to know. Some, like The Chocolate War might provoke a junior high school kid to question authority, or like Harry Potter might promote an occult, or even worse, Captain Underpants for being a bad influence. Someone has challenged all these books, and more, these challenges have come in the last twenty years.
We live in an age where censorship is striving to take root. Certain factions of Islam try to quash cartoons, television media play “live” events with a delay for fear of a conservative Christian might see a nipple (as if there’s no difference between nudity and pornography), or a dissident might rally the people against an unjust law.
Librarians have always been the loudest voice against censorship; they know the value of a good book. Thus it is the American Library Association (ALA) who has taken up the charge against the banning of books, and the warhead of their attack is “Read Banned Books Week”.
For 2006, Read Banned Books Week is 23-30 September, and the idea is to use this week to embrace that what others would take away. Grab a book where they write about nudity, or thinking independently, cursing, cussing, or a harmless flight of fancy that can be mistaken for consort with the devil, and revel in ideas.
Rebellions are brought about by realization that there are better ways—ideas that incomplete governments manned by inadequate people don’t want you to have. In 2003, the US Constitution was banned in Cuba. Governments hate well-informed people, and I say we should help piss them off.