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God so loved the world he sent his only Son…instead of a committee.
For a couple of years I sat on a committee for Freedom of Expression representing editors and publishers.
Here’s what I learned:
Many people are staunch defenders of free expression as long as they agree with the views expressed.
I say I “sat” on the committee because my impression was that nothing would ever get done. The one time I chaired the committee, I was criticized for being too controversial.
Flash forward: I was no longer on the committee and was now working for Cannon Book Distributors. Brett Easton Ellis‘s American Psycho had been out for a short time and I was selling it across Canada. I met a former employer with whom I’d locked horns before in a Toronto street. He looked smug; he had no other facial expression, actually. He thought he had me.
“Now how do you feel about having to sell American Psycho?” (He didn’t say “ha-HA!” but the unspoken hung in the air between us.)
“Great,” I said. “I let grown-ups decide what they read. Otherwise, I’d be treating them like children.”
“You’re a civil libertarian, then?” he asked. He asked the question the same way you might ask an acquaintance how often he buggered syphilitic goats.
He shook his head. No hope for me.
Here’s what censors don’t seem to get: Either you read a book you found offensive and decided for yourself it wasn’t for you (in which case everyone else should have that same privilege) or you didn’t read it, in which case you shouldn’t condemn it. I’ve already got two parents. I really don’t need more authority figures telling me what not to read.
I love a list of censored books.
Almost invariably, that’s where to find great, or at least interesting, books.
Filed under: banning books, censors, American Psycho, Bret Easton Ellis, censors, censorship