Censorship

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The Net interprets censorship as damage and routes around it. ~ John Gilmore

Censorship is the suppression of speech or other communication which may be considered objectionable, harmful, sensitive, or inconvenient to the general body of people as determined by a government, media outlet, private pressure group, or other controlling body. This page is for quotes related to the subject of censorship.

Quotes[edit]

It's not just the books under fire now that worry me. It is the books that will never be written. The books that will never be read. And all due to the fear of censorship. ~ Judy Blume
Alphabetized by author
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
If we don't believe in freedom of expression for people we despise, we don't believe in it at all. ~ Noam Chomsky
They are afraid of words and thoughts; words spoken abroad, thoughts stirring at home — all the more powerful because forbidden — terrify them. A little mouse of thought appears in the room, and even the mightiest potentates are thrown into panic. ~ Winston Churchill
Don't join the book burners. Don't think you are going to conceal thoughts by concealing evidence that they ever existed. ~ Dwight D. Eisenhower
The whole principle is wrong; it's like demanding that grown men live on skim milk because the baby can't eat steak. ~ Robert A. Heinlein
Those whom books will hurt will not be proof against events. Events, not books, should be forbid. ~ Herman Melville
Military Censorship. That is a given in wartime, along with massive campaigns of deliberately-planted "Dis-information." That is routine behavior in Wartime — for all countries and all combatants — and it makes life difficult for people who value real news. ~ Hunter S. Thompson
An idea that is not dangerous is unworthy of being called an idea at all. ~ Oscar Wilde
  • Let children read whatever they want and then talk about it with them. If parents and kids can talk together, we won't have as much censorship because we won't have as much fear.
  • It's not just the books under fire now that worry me. It is the books that will never be written. The books that will never be read. And all due to the fear of censorship. As always, young readers will be the real losers.
    • Judy Blume, as quoted in Literature for Today's Young Adults (1997) by Kenneth L. Donelson and Alleen Pace Nilsen, p. 392
  • 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/Zen 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.
  • Only six weeks ago, I discovered that, over the years, some cubby-hole editors at Ballantine Books, fearful of contaminating the young, had, bit by bit, censored some 75 separate sections from the novel. Students, reading the novel which, after all, deals with the censorship and book-burning in the future, wrote to tell me of this exquisite irony. Judy-Lynn Del Rey, one of the new Ballantine editors, is having the entire book reset and republished this summer with all the damns and hells back in place.
  • The FCC, the Federal Communications Commission, decided all by itself that radio and television were the only two parts of American life not protected by the free speech provisions of the first amendment to the Constitution. I'd like to repeat that, because it sounds... vaguely important! The FCC—an appointed body, not elected, answerable only to the president—decided on its own that radio and television were the only two parts of American life not protected by the first amendment to the Constitution. Why did they decide that? Because they got a letter from a minister in Mississippi! A Reverend Donald Wildman in Mississippi heard something on the radio that he didn't like. Well, Reverend, did anyone ever tell you there are two KNOBS on the radio? Two. Knobs. On the radio. Of course, I'm sure the reverend isn't that comfortable with anything that has two knobs on it... But hey, reverend, there are two knobs on the radio! One of them turns the radio OFF, and the other one [slaps his head] CHANGES THE STATION! Imagine that, reverend, you can actually change the station! It's called freedom of choice, and it's one of the principles this country was founded upon. Look it up in the library, reverend, if you have any of them left when you've finished burning all the books.
  • If we don't believe in freedom of expression for people we despise, we don't believe in it at all.
    • Noam Chomsky, as quoted in The Big Little Book of Jewish Wit & Wisdom (2000) by Sally Ann Berk and Maria Carluccio, p. 228
  • People say we ought not to allow ourselves to be drawn into a theoretical antagonism between Nazidom and democracy; but the antagonism is here now. It is this very conflict of spiritual and moral ideas which gives the free countries a great part of their strength. You see these dictators on their pedestals, surrounded by the bayonets of their soldiers and the truncheons of their police. On all sides they are guarded by masses of armed men, cannons, aeroplanes, fortifications, and the like — they boast and vaunt themselves before the world, yet in their hearts there is unspoken fear. They are afraid of words and thoughts; words spoken abroad, thoughts stirring at home — all the more powerful because forbidden — terrify them. A little mouse of thought appears in the room, and even the mightiest potentates are thrown into panic. They make frantic efforts to bar our thoughts and words; they are afraid of the workings of the human mind. Cannons, airplanes, they can manufacture in large quantities; but how are they to quell the natural promptings of human nature, which after all these centuries of trial and progress has inherited a whole armoury of potent and indestructible knowledge?
    • Winston Churchill, in "The Defence of Freedom and Peace (The Lights are Going Out)", radio broadcast to the United States and to London (16 October 1938)
  • If today you can take a thing like evolution and make it a crime to teach it in the public school, tomorrow you can make it a crime to teach it in the private schools, and the next year you can make it a crime to teach it to the hustings or in the church. At the next session you may ban books and the newspapers. Soon you may set Catholic against Protestant and Protestant against Protestant, and try to foist your own religion upon the minds of men. If you can do one you can do the other. Ignorance and fanaticism is ever busy and needs feeding. Always it is feeding and gloating for more. Today it is the public school teachers, tomorrow the private. The next day the preachers and the lectures, the magazines, the books, the newspapers. After a while, your honor, it is the setting of man against man and creed against creed until with flying banners and beating drums we are marching backward to the glorious ages of the sixteenth century when bigots lighted fagots to burn the men who dared to bring any intelligence and enlightenment and culture to the human mind.
  • Censorship laws are blunt instruments, not sharp scalpels. Once enacted, they are easily misapplied to merely unpopular or only marginally dangerous speech.
    • Alan Dershowitz (2008). Finding, Framing, and Hanging Jefferson: A Lost Letter, a Remarkable Discovery, and Freedom of Speech in an Age of Terrorism. John Wiley & Sons. p. 191
  • Any test that turns on what is offensive to the community's standards is too loose, too capricious, too destructive of freedom of expression to be squared with the First Amendment. Under that test, juries can censor, suppress, and punish what they don’t like, provided the matter relates to "sexual impurity" or has a tendency "to excite lustful thoughts". This is community censorship in one of its worst forms. It creates a regime where in the battle between the literati and the Philistines, the Philistines are certain to win.
  • Don't join the book burners. Don't think you are going to conceal thoughts by concealing evidence that they ever existed.
  • If the human body is obscene, complain to the manufacturer!
    • Larry Flynt, in Sex, Lies & Politics : The Naked Truth (2006), p. 201
  • All the Sixties were complicated, you know. On the one hand it was funny too, you know; on the other hand it was cruel, you know. The communists are so cruel, because they impose one taste on everybody, on everything, and who doesn't comply with their teachings and with their ideology, is very soon labeled pervert, you know, or whatever they want you call it, or counterrevolutionary or whatever. And then the censorship itself, that's not the worst evil. The worst evil is — and that's the product of censorship — is the self-censorship, because that twists spines, that destroys my character because I have to think something else and say something else, I have to always control myself. I am stopping to being honest, I am becoming hypocrite — and that's what they wanted, they wanted everybody to feel guilty, they were, you know... And also they were absolutely brilliant in one way, you know: they knew how effective is not to punish somebody who is guilty; what Communist Party members could afford to do was mind-boggling: they could do practically anything they wanted — steal, you know, lie, whatever. What was important — that they punished if you're innocent, because that puts everybody, you know, puts fear in everybody.
  • They that can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety.
  • If all printers were determined not to print anything till they were sure it would offend nobody, there would be very little printed.
    • Benjamin Franklin "Apology for Printers" (1730); later in Benjamin Franklin's Autobiographical Writings (1945) edited by Carl Van Doren
  • The Net interprets censorship as damage and routes around it.
    • John Gilmore, as quoted in TIME magazine (6 December 1993)
    • Paraphrased variant: The Internet treats censorship as a defect and routes around it.
  • 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 sure way against bad ideas is better ideas. The source of better ideas is freedom. The surest path to wisdom is liberal education.
    • Alfred Whitney Griswold, address to students at Phillips Academy, Andover, New Hampshire, spring 1952; reported in "A Little Learning", The Atlantic Monthly (November 1952), p. 52. .
  • Where they have burned books, they will end in burning human beings.
  • How anybody expects a man to stay in business with every two-bit wowser in the country claiming a veto over what we can say and can't say and what we can show and what we can't show — it's enough to make you throw up. The whole principle is wrong; it's like demanding that grown men live on skim milk because the baby can't eat steak.
  • To whom do you award the right to decide which speech is harmful, or who is the harmful speaker? Or to determine in advance what are the harmful consequences going to be that we know enough about in advance to prevent? To whom would you give this job? To whom are you going to award the task of being the censor? Isn't a famous old story that the man who has to read all the pornography, in order to decide what's fit to be passed and what is fit not to be, is the man most likely to become debauched? Did you hear any speaker in the opposition to this motion, eloquent as one of them was, to whom you would delegate the task of deciding for you what you could read? To whom you would give the job of deciding for you – relieve you of the responsibility of hearing what you might have to hear? Do you know anyone? Hands up. Do you know anyone to whom you'd give this job? Does anyone have a nominee?
  • I have collected all the writings of the Empire and burnt those which were of no use.
  • The vast number of titles which are published each year—all of them are to the good, even if some of them may annoy or even repel us for a time. For none of us would trade freedom of expression and of ideas for the narrowness of the public censor. America is a free market for people who have something to say, and need not fear to say it.
    • Hubert Humphrey, address to the National Book Awards ceremony in New York City (March 8, 1967), reported in The New York Times (March 9, 1967), p. 42.
  • The priceless heritage of our society is the unrestricted constitutional right of each member to think as he will. Thought control is a copyright of totalitarianism, and we have no claim to it. It is not the function of the government to keep the citizen from falling into error; it is the function of the citizen to keep the government from falling into error. We could justify any censorship only when the censors are better shielded against error than the censored.
    • Robert H. Jackson, American Communications Association v. Douds, 339 U.S. 382, 442-43 (1950).
  • Our liberty depends on the freedom of the press, and that cannot be limited without being lost.
  • I am really mortified to be told that, in the United States of America, a fact like this can become a subject of inquiry, and of criminal inquiry too, as an offence against religion; that a question about the sale of a book can be carried before the civil magistrate. Is this then our freedom of religion? and are we to have a censor whose imprimatur shall say what books may be sold, and what we may buy? And who is thus to dogmatize religious opinions for our citizens? Whose foot is to be the measure to which ours are all to be cut or stretched? Is a priest to be our inquisitor, or shall a layman, simple as ourselves, set up his reason as the rule for what we are to read, and what we must believe? It is an insult to our citizens to question whether they are rational beings or not, and blasphemy against religion to suppose it cannot stand the test of truth and reason.
    • Thomas Jefferson, letter to Nicolas Gouin Dufief, Philadelphia bookseller (1814) who had been prosecuted for selling the book Sur la Création du Monde, un Systême d'Organisation Primitive by M. de Becourt, which Jefferson himself had purchased; reported in The Writings of Thomas Jefferson, ed. Andrew A. Lipscomb (1904), vol. 14, p. 128.
  • I thought the work would be very innocent, and one which might be confided to the reason of any man; not likely to be much read if let alone, but, if persecuted, it will be generally read. Every man in the United States will think it a duty to buy a copy, in vindication of his right to buy, and to read what he pleases.
    • Thomas Jefferson, letter to Nicolas Gouin Dufief, Philadelphia bookseller (1814) who had been prosecuted for selling the book Sur la Création du Monde, un Systême d'Organisation Primitive by M. de Becourt, which Jefferson himself had purchased; reported in The Writings of Thomas Jefferson, ed. Andrew A. Lipscomb (1904), vol. 14, p. 128.
  • If some books are deemed most baneful and their sale forbid, how, then, with deadlier facts, not dreams of doting men? Those whom books will hurt will not be proof against events. Events, not books, should be forbid.
  • Then the first thing will be to establish a censorship of the writers of fiction, and let the censors receive any tale of fiction which is good, and reject the bad; and we will desire mothers and nurses to tell their children the authorized ones only.
  • Any public committee man who tries to pack the moral cards in the interest of his own notions is guilty of corruption and impertinence. The business of a public library is not to supply the public with the books the committee thinks good for the public, but to supply the public with the books the public wants. … Censorship ends in logical completeness when nobody is allowed to read any books except the books that nobody can read. But as the ratepayer is mostly a coward and a fool in these difficult matters, and the committee is quite sure that it can succeed where the Roman Catholic Church has made its index expurgatorius the laughing-stock of the world, censorship will rage until it reduces itself to absurdity; and even then the best books will be in danger still.
    • George Bernard Shaw, as quoted in "Literary Censorship in England" in Current Opinion, Vol. 55, No. 5 (November 1913), p. 378; this has sometimes appeared on the internet in paraphrased form as "Censorship ends in logical completeness when nobody is allowed to read any books except the books that nobody reads."
  • All censorships exist to prevent anyone from challenging current conceptions and existing institutions. All progress is initiated by challenging current conceptions, and executed by supplanting existing institutions. Consequently the first condition of progress is the removal of censorship.
  • Censorship reflects a society's lack of confidence in itself. It is a hallmark of an authoritarian regime. Long ago those who wrote our First Amendment charted a different course. They believed a society can be truly strong only when it is truly free. In the realm of expression they put their faith, for better or for worse, in the enlightened choice of the people, free from the interference of a policeman's intrusive thumb or a judge's heavy hand. So it is that the Constitution protects coarse expression as well as refined, and vulgarity no less than elegance.
  • "You know, there are some words I've known since I was a schoolboy: 'With the first link, the chain is forged. The first speech censured, the first thought forbidden, the first freedom denied, chains us all irrevocably.' Those words were uttered by Judge Aaron Satie as wisdom and warning. The first time any man's freedom is trodden on, we're all damaged. I fear that today..."
  • The last half of the 20th century will seem like a wild party for rich kids, compared to what's coming now. The party's over, folks. … "Winston Churchill said "The first casualty of War is always Truth." Churchill also said "In wartime, the Truth is so precious that it should always be surrounded by a bodyguard of Lies."
    That wisdom will not be much comfort to babies born last week. The first news they get in this world will be News subjected to Military Censorship. That is a given in wartime, along with massive campaigns of deliberately-planted "Dis-information." That is routine behavior in Wartime — for all countries and all combatants — and it makes life difficult for people who value real news. Count on it.
  • But the truth is, that when a Library expels a book of mine and leaves an unexpurgated Bible lying around where unprotected youth and age can get hold of it, the deep unconscious irony of it delights me and doesn't anger me.
    • Mark Twain, in a letter to Mrs. F. G. Whitmore (7 February 1907)
  • I can imagine no greater disservice to the country than to establish a system of censorship that would deny to the people of a free republic like our own their indisputable right to criticise their own public officials. While exercising the great powers of the office I hold, I would regret in a crisis like the one through which we are now passing to lose the benefit of patriotic and intelligent criticism.
    • Woodrow Wilson, letter to Arthur Brisbane (April 25, 1917); reported in Ray Stannard Baker, Woodrow Wilson, Life and Letters (1946), vol. 6, p. 36.

See also[edit]

External links[edit]

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