Before I go off all ranty and stuff, I would encourage you to go skim this wiki page on books banned by governments. It’s not only depressing, but also discouraging that governments, normally not considered oppressive or totalitarian, are on this list. Time to get ranty then.
There will probably always be ignorant buffoons that will push the banning (and by extension, burning) of books as a viable social strategy. The strategy apparently is to protect the *insert-vulnerable-group* from the wrong kinds of ideas, knowledge and/or behaviour, because reading about that particular idea, knowledge and/or behaviour will immediately rot their brains and make them enemies of the state, possessed by demons or some other nonsense.
I’m sure this must be a sort of magical thinking, because the logic chain breaks quite early. I mean, if reading a book (or consuming any media really) is a sure fire way of injecting an idea into a human’s head, shouldn’t we then see a high number of highly knowledgeable, but easily influenced people wandering the streets waiting for the next book to tell them how to act or what to think? Wouldn’t hundreds of kids be admitted to hospitals from running into walls at train stations or jumping off roofs trying to fly on brooms after reading Harry Potter? Wouldn’t there be religious zealots roaming the streets doing all the horrific old testament crap after reading the bible? (Wait, that does happen. Damn!) Or even simpler; shouldn’t everyone be able to cook a food properly? (If in doubt, go to any dorm. Really! It’s impressive how they keep on living.)
Book banning (and burning) is a brutally simple method for controlling thought. And it is a viable method for keeping people in the dark, but not from keeping people from thinking. Only blind faith in an authority will do that, which is a completely different conversation. Only now they will be thinking without a framework or knowledge base to start from, which often leads to bad or magical thinking.
If the oppressors wanted a viable strategy, they could put their supposedly better ideas forward. Let their infallible arguments sweep aside all the wrong ideas, let erroneous behaviour be kowtowed by the might of their ideals and clearly state the incorrect nature of wrong knowledge. But they won’t, because every banned book somehow challenges an authority, a way of thinking or a status quo. And by banning a book, you’ve shown that you don’t know how to beat it with thinking.
There is really no difference between banning a book and telling a child that they can’t have cookies because “Mommy said so”. It’s avoiding addressing an issue by silencing it with an appeal to authority. And by that, reducing an educated society to nothing more than children that need protection, need to be told what to think and say and do.
And before the argument that some books are too dangerous, or some topics are too sensitive and need to be kept out of view gets trotted out, then consider the fact that anything prohibited has an uncanny way of disseminating itself regardless of restrictions. You can only delay the inevitable.
Now obviously there are books I personally feel should be ripped out of society’s collective memory and shot into the sun simply because they add nothing of value to the marketplace of ideas, or are so horrible to read that it induces physical pain in my forehead and palm (like the The Twilight Saga). But that is not what a free and open society should do. On my to-read list are many books deemed “too dangerous” by somebody, whether by a government or any other group, and that is why you should read them.
To see another list of books banned at some point in time go here. And should you hear that a book has been banned, for whatever reason, your first response should be to go and read it.
But what do you think? Are there books that are too dangerous for the public, and if so, why? Let me know.
Next post will be up on Saturday the 4th of April (around 16:00 GMT).