Banned Books: Yay Or Nay?

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Censorship is a divisive issue. Everyone has different standards for what’s acceptable. But, when it comes to games and films, age ratings are commonplace, and most of us would agree they’re necessary. They’re in place to protect kids. Watching an R rated horror is sure to scare a seven-year-old out of their skin. Ratings are also a way to keep kids from bad language, or sexual images.

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But, this banned book week we thought it’d be worth considering book censorship. Though an issue which has caused many debates, the western world still has unhindered access to literature. And, banned book week looks only at books which have been removed from individual bookshops or school curriculums. Often, these removals come about as a result of complaints. Top of the list are books like:

  • Beloved by Toni Morrison
  • Catch 22 by Joseph Heller
  • The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck
  • The Great Gatsby by F.Scott Fitzgerald

And many more. Luckily, bans on these books have always been fairly localized. But, it’s worth noting that there have been calls for more extreme book censorship. Discussions about putting age ratings on books have cropped up many times. Not to mention that there have been various incidences of book burning throughout history, namely during the Second World War.

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As of yet, though, no widespread censorship has managed to stick. For one reason or another, those age ratings have never appeared. But, some would argue this is a bad thing. After all, you wouldn’t let your kids watch a raunchy film. Yet, they can access ‘Lady Chatterley’s Lover’ in any bookshop across the country. Equally, they can buy murder mysteries with scenes which are sure to cause some distress.

So, why hasn’t book censorship happened? For the most part, it’s because we believe in freedom of access. When you read a book, you aren’t exposed to images you can’t handle. All you have are words on a page, and images in your mind. If we start censoring those, we’re in trouble, right?

There are cases where books have been accused of spreading hateful rhetoric. The World Jewish Council, chaired by figures such as European Jewish congress leader Moshe Kantor have recently urged online retailers to stop the sales of anti semitic books. And, similar acts have been seen from political leaders across the world. Books can spark our emotions, and it’s not always a good thing.

While anyone would be hard-pressed to disagree with the removal of hateful books, many would argue that it’s a slippery slope. After all, where does censorship end? Should you silence an author because you don’t agree with their message? If we’re not careful, we’ll end up with  Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451 on our hands.

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In part, it’s worth giving readers more credit. We’re free-thinking individuals, and a rogue book won’t have the power to change our minds on its own. Books don’t brainwash us. They simply open our eyes to new perspectives. And, that’s certainly not something which should be censored.

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