On censorship

Sunday 2nd October 2011

HOWL, by Alan Ginsberg, was the subject of a short obscenity trial in 1957. Mein Kampf cannot be published in Germany, but is available in Kindle format from Amazon. The Peaceful Pill Handbook (on euthanasia) is banned in Australia.

The United States of America has just celebrated its 30th annual Banned Books Week. Every year, apparently, hundreds of attempts are made – by individuals and groups across the land of the free – to have books removed from library shelves and classrooms.

It is perhaps no surprise that Maya Angelou, Toni Morrison, J D Salinger and John Steinbeck are regularly targeted, but the clear winner over the past decade was born in Gloucestershire and started her writing career in Edinburgh cafés.

I have not read much of Harry Potter and, therefore, cannot pass judgment on its anti-family or occult or satanic content, but imagine having to read 4,175 pages in order to satisfy a lust for the evidence. That would be like reading War and Peace three times. Once is enough, believe me.

Mr and Mrs Crusader of Colorado Springs have now turned an angry glare on And Tango Makes Three, a children’s book about the (true) story of two male penguins who hatched an egg and have a daughter. As far as I know, those complaining about the book are not doing so because they object to animals being held in captivity.

The American page for Banned Books Week is liked by almost 37,000 Facebook users. At the time of my writing this, the UK equivalent needs one more click to reach 666. Among its supporters, I am pleased to note, is the publisher, Penguin Books.

Meanwhile, the BBC has decided to follow the American news media in giving extensive coverage to the trial of Michael Jackson’s doctor. This is clearly considered of greater significance than the ongoing protests in New York, where the Occupy Wall Street campaign’s peaceful demonstration goes largely unrecorded.

Censorship wears many masks. Forgive my need, dear reader, to emit a long, loud HOWL of frustration.

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