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Thread: Banned books

  1. #11
    If the authorities resort to banning a book, that just demonstrates that their propaganda department has done a piss-poor job. Had they done their work properly, people wouldn't be interested in reading things not approved by the government in the first place.

    Back when my grandparents were roughly my current age, it was considered a point of pride to have read at least one banned book, of which there were many. Folks who had forbidden literature stashed away at home would reproduce it by hand on typewriters and share it with friends in what was called samizdat. This was the Soviet Union, mind you - books that were banned were actually illegal to possess or rather than merely being removed from sales and libraries, and getting caught with one could get you into serious trouble, especially if you were caught sharing with somebody. Larger libraries had restricted archives where this banned literature was stored, access typically being reserved only for members of KGB and other officials who were considered politically-reliable enough to read such material. Still, the penalties did not keep ordinary folk from sharing and reading illicit material, if only to spite the authorities.

    As to what exactly constituted banned literature varied slightly with time. The Soviet authorities generally did not touch the classics, recognizing that they were written in a time before socialism, and hence mostly focused on 20th century authors. Banned lists included anything openly critical of the regime (obviously), all national-patriotic authors of 20's and 30's unless they were clearly sympathetic with socialist ideas, Western authors with anti-socialist stance, all foreign newspapers, any technical or statistical material that contradicted the official narrative that Soviet economy was booming and living standards high, etc.

    To the credit of Soviet authorities, even they never went as far as certain PC police in the West does these days, in that they did not attempt to police the language itself. It never even occurred to them that some literature should be banned because it is 'offensive'. They sought to root out messages that contradicted the state ideology, not protect citizens' personal feelings.

  2. #12
    Books that were written before we knew better should not (IMO) be banned. They reflect, in some ways, how far we have come since those days. And they existed; banning does not erase their existence. We can look back on slavery, for example, and say how awful it was that it happened, but books that portray that stereotype are only telling us what we already know - that people in this country held slaves. The novel Gone With the Wind talks about slavery because it is a historical fiction book and historically, slaves were in that setting. Will they eventually ban that book as well? Will they ban every book that depicted slavery in the U.S?

    As readers, we are not typically asked to condone or approve the behavior of the characters we read about beyond the book's covers. Do those who support banning think removing these books from children's hands is going to erase history?
    When the night has come
    And the land is dark
    And the moon is the only light we'll see
    I won't be afraid, no I won't be afraid
    Just as long as you stand by me.


  3. #13
    Quote Originally Posted by SueC View Post
    Books that were written before we knew better should not (IMO) be banned. They reflect, in some ways, how far we have come since those days. And they existed; banning does not erase their existence. We can look back on slavery, for example, and say how awful it was that it happened, but books that portray that stereotype are only telling us what we already know - that people in this country held slaves. The novel Gone With the Wind talks about slavery because it is a historical fiction book and historically, slaves were in that setting. Will they eventually ban that book as well? Will they ban every book that depicted slavery in the U.S?

    As readers, we are not typically asked to condone or approve the behavior of the characters we read about beyond the book's covers. Do those who support banning think removing these books from children's hands is going to erase history?
    'Uncle Tom's Cabin' would have to banned in that culling, otherwise the true agenda may be revealed... I honestly don't know what that agenda may be, but it certainly isn't the betterment of human society.

  4. #14
    My wife and I actually discussed this yesterday. We both agreed that this is a hugely moral gray area.

    Some books which seem racist now were actually pretty progressive for their time. "Uncle Tom's Cabin", for example, is credited with "helping fuel the abolitionist cause" in it's day, but is now seen as popularizing "a number of stereotypes of black people" (all this information comes form the header on its Wikipedia page). Huckleberry Finn is the other book that comes to mind. These books thus have a very complicated place in our society. To me, books like these aren't at fault for the fallout of their creation. Other people piggybacking off their representations creates negative images of black people by cementing them into caricatures--not characters. This is how things like minstrel shows really got popular and is part of the reason why it is difficult for black people in the US to find roles that don't fit one of these stereotypes or specifically play against one of the stereotypes.

    I've actually been trying to find books featuring protagonists of color that do not feature racism, colonialism, or social oppression because of this. It is important to read about those subjects--I'm actually reading "The Underground Railroad" by Colson Whitehead, at the moment--but diversifying the types of books you read about a group of people is as important as reading books with diverse groups. There are some excellent studies done examining the impact of only reading books with black people as victims. Needless to say, it can create a very disturbed sense of self in young black people.

    In fact, when it comes to young children, I think there is a special case for exposure to certain material. I wouldn't say we need to ban certain things, but children will not always understand the nuance or history behind certain imagery. I applaud Dr. Seuss's estate for making a decision themselves to examine their own role in educating the younger generation and feeling as though that should be done with only positive portrayals of diverse populations. I hope that the eventual outcome of that discussion is to remove the negative imagery and replace it with positive imagery, then re-release the books. Almost all the people in his books are white, so it would be nice to see some positive representation. Diversity in the images absorbed by children correlates to their acceptance of others, their recognition and appreciation of differences, and even their ability to tell faces apart (according to many studies).

    I guess what I'm saying is, I don't think that books should be banned, but it is important how, when, and why they are introduced to people--especially young people. I also think that it is important to make sure we as a society actively seek books and authors of different cultures. I think a lot of the heat about books like this come not just from the stereotypical imagery but from the fact that they are the only depictions we see of certain cultures. In a sense, people feel that their nuance and individuality is erased by the singularity of their representation.
    Hidden Content at SPANK the CARP Fiction and Poetry

  5. #15
    Quote Originally Posted by thepancreas11 View Post
    To me, books like these aren't at fault for the fallout of their creation.
    I like this sentence in particular.

    I agree with a majority of your comments, and I also think that very young children's reading should be monitored, but sometimes I think rather than removing the "offensive" material all together, use it as a tool to teach was has been, but is no longer tolerated. Of course, that could be cumbersome, to determine whether every book a child picks up is either to be read independently, or needs supervision. I suppose providing books that reflect inclusion and kindness and equality is better than the above. I worry about our children - the world is so busy now, so many issues to act on, have an opinion about and it's all visible. People behaving badly, being unkind to others - on the news every night.

    Quite awhile ago, I had a neighbor who had two little boys, who she refused to allow any negativity into their lives. They watched no news, no TV that was controversial, no books that raised questions about their environment or other people. Adults in their presence could only be joyful and optimistic, so we also had to monitor our conversations. I thought the method totally unrealistic, and wondered what they would be like when they were older and faced with challenges or difficult choices, if they only saw their world through rose-colored glasses.

    Some years after that, however, my youngest daughter and I were watching a documentary on Rosa Parks. Heidi was about ten at the time, and she was so terribly upset that anyone was treated the way the black people in the film were treated. She literally cried, because she never knew this kind of behavior existed. I consoled her, of course, but realized how protective we had been with our children, not taking the time to talk to them about issues that would one day be important as adults, that they never treat anyone - of any color - in a way that was disrespectful. We corrected that immediately and did such a good job that when Heidi was in high school and started dating, she brought home a boy of color without ever telling us. When I asked her later why she didn't mention it, she said "He's cute. I thought that was all I needed to say." I was proud of her, and all my kids. They are all intolerant of intolerance.
    When the night has come
    And the land is dark
    And the moon is the only light we'll see
    I won't be afraid, no I won't be afraid
    Just as long as you stand by me.


  6. #16
    History forgotten is often repeated. If something seen is offensive don't rip out your eyes, instead, look closer and learn from the mistakes of our past.

  7. #17
    Quote Originally Posted by SueC View Post
    I like this sentence in particular.

    I agree with a majority of your comments, and I also think that very young children's reading should be monitored, but sometimes I think rather than removing the "offensive" material all together, use it as a tool to teach was has been, but is no longer tolerated. Of course, that could be cumbersome, to determine whether every book a child picks up is either to be read independently, or needs supervision. I suppose providing books that reflect inclusion and kindness and equality is better than the above. I worry about our children - the world is so busy now, so many issues to act on, have an opinion about and it's all visible. People behaving badly, being unkind to others - on the news every night.

    Quite awhile ago, I had a neighbor who had two little boys, who she refused to allow any negativity into their lives. They watched no news, no TV that was controversial, no books that raised questions about their environment or other people. Adults in their presence could only be joyful and optimistic, so we also had to monitor our conversations. I thought the method totally unrealistic, and wondered what they would be like when they were older and faced with challenges or difficult choices, if they only saw their world through rose-colored glasses.

    Some years after that, however, my youngest daughter and I were watching a documentary on Rosa Parks. Heidi was about ten at the time, and she was so terribly upset that anyone was treated the way the black people in the film were treated. She literally cried, because she never knew this kind of behavior existed. I consoled her, of course, but realized how protective we had been with our children, not taking the time to talk to them about issues that would one day be important as adults, that they never treat anyone - of any color - in a way that was disrespectful. We corrected that immediately and did such a good job that when Heidi was in high school and started dating, she brought home a boy of color without ever telling us. When I asked her later why she didn't mention it, she said "He's cute. I thought that was all I needed to say." I was proud of her, and all my kids. They are all intolerant of intolerance.
    Love this.
    Exactly why banning various points of view is wrong. Monitor what our kids and grandkids read, and discuss the topic. A quote from a friend: “We can learn from anyone, often what we learn is patience.”

  8. #18
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    I'm wouldn't be worried so much about getting banned these days. After all, banned means you got published, and once something's out there even the most draconian regulation is largely ineffectual against a determined consumer.

    I'd worry more about preemptive cancellation and blacklisting at the behest of a twitter mob.

  9. #19
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    Ownership of the 'Anarchist's Handbook' has been used by the prosecution as circumstantial, supporting, admissable/inadmissable evidence, referred to as 'ownership of bomb-making instructions.' This is my belief, tho' through the stretch of time references become apocryphal.

    'Guidebook to the Good Caliphate' probably dangerous to own, translated version at the front of your bookcase. I made that one up, but you get the picture. Also there's some books from the 60s when some fringe group was into bringing paedophilia into mainstream discourse. Stuff like that. I don't really want to follow this icky line of thought. Back to bombs, let's see.

    Ahh, my one decent 'Banned Book.' It cost maybe ten pounds online. It's called 'Bombs Over London.' A propaganda pamphlet released by the Communist Press 1940. They were outlawed by Churchill about 6 months later on. I'm hoping to retire on that one. Offers please.

    [Even those Israeli pulp fiction novels of the 1960s with the struggling warrior surrounded by 'Nazi ladies' type front covers could lose you a job?]

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