Customer Reviews


47 Reviews
5 star:
 (31)
4 star:
 (9)
3 star:
 (3)
2 star:
 (3)
1 star:
 (1)
 
 
 
 
 
Average Customer Review
Share your thoughts with other customers
Create your own review
 
 

The most helpful favourable review
The most helpful critical review


81 of 89 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars You should read this book.
`Do you believe in free speech? Are you sure?' So asks Nick Cohen in this important and timely book. Through a combination of righteous indignation, mordant wit and searing polemic, he shows how the ideals of Milton, Mill and the Enlightenment - those of freedom of expression, conscience and the free, enquiring mind - are being undermined, indeed, deliberately attacked,...
Published on 25 Jan 2012 by MJE4

versus
11 of 15 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars An Apposite Title
Nick Cohen's title is strangely prophetic: it took me four months and five attempts to read You Can't Read This Book! The odd thing is, I should have loved it, I'm intellectually and politically sympathetic to Cohen's position, but sadly the author botches what should be a straightforward treatise on censorship in the modern era.

Cohen opens with an attack on...
Published on 20 Aug 2012 by John Dexter


‹ Previous | 1 25 | Next ›
Most Helpful First | Newest First

81 of 89 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars You should read this book., 25 Jan 2012
`Do you believe in free speech? Are you sure?' So asks Nick Cohen in this important and timely book. Through a combination of righteous indignation, mordant wit and searing polemic, he shows how the ideals of Milton, Mill and the Enlightenment - those of freedom of expression, conscience and the free, enquiring mind - are being undermined, indeed, deliberately attacked, by a derisory and intellectually inadequate group of religious fundamentalists, oppressive corporations, quack scientists, timid politicians and self-satisfied academics.

Cohen effortlessly takes us through some of the defining freedom of speech issues of our time: the Salman Rushdie and Danish cartoon affairs; the impressive figure of Ayaan Hirsi Ali throwing off the chains of obnoxious religious chauvinism only to encounter the gently ruminating herd of cloistered academia; the near-dictatorial conditions employees face the moment they step into the workplace, and the dangers faced by whistle-blowers in the face of managerial and bureaucratic incompetence; the absurd entity that is Britain's chiropractor lobby; and the vicious counter-attack against the liberating forces of the Internet, reminding us that oppressive nations are perfectly capable of utilising the net as well as its citizens.

Along every step of the way, as Cohen shows, there is seemingly always a constituency just waiting to be offended into action. Readers will already be familiar with perennially grumpy and stony-faced theocrats like the Ayatollah Khomeini, calling as he did for the assassination of a private citizen in a sovereign country for publishing a work of fiction which he had not read, and probably could not have read. Perhaps more surprising for some will be a certain kind of bien pensant figure, one who is never more at ease and exquisitely complacent when seeking to delegitimise the champions of free thought and expression.

The notion of tolerance has been twisted into meaning we should avoid offending others at all cost. Being offended is now one of the chief addictions of our culture, giving rise to and sustaining the truly totalitarian idea of pre-censorship. Cohen's articulate and lively distillation of this worrying tendency, why it all matters, and what we can do about it, is a fine reproach to the demagogues, the theocrats, the useful idiots, the closed minds and the impregnably humourless of our time.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


47 of 53 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars You MUST read this book., 24 Mar 2012
By 
Rafiq Mahmood (Bogor, Indonesia) - See all my reviews
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
To say that this is an important book is to vastly underestimate it. To say that it is a well-written book is to do it scant justice. It is a work that stands out as a masterpiece of literature, political discourse and enlightenment that should be required reading in every high school and in every home.

We have had a global counter-revolution in the past thirty years and no one seems to have noticed. The clock has been turned both forward and back at the same time. Despite all the technology bringing previously unimaginable access to resources and information, we have slipped into a new age of fear and tongue-biting. These are the best of times and the worst of times; the freest and the most restricted. Nick Cohen examines how the terrible mental slavery of religion, and especially Islam, has been coddled and protected and been not only allowed but encouraged to get away with murder; how money can buy anything and how censorship is alive and powerful in the shape of Britain's libel laws, and how the supposed liberal democracies have had their liberalism and democracy subverted.

As I turned its pages I found myself constantly urged to email my friends or post a comment on one or more of my favourite blogs, quoting from the book. It was an impossible task because I didn't know where to start or where to end. I would have to quote the whole thing, cover to cover.

I live in a country which is not free, where there are draconian anti-pornography, anti-blasphemy, anti-libel and anti-press laws which are enforced to protect the powerful and subjugate the weak. There is a charade of democracy, a charade of tolerance and a charade of freedom. It is badly needed here in the local language, not only in the language of the English speaking elite. This book must be translated into all the major languages of the world. It is a beacon of light in a world where we do not realise that we are in darkness.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


23 of 26 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars You can and you should.., 30 Jan 2012
By 
Ms Viv (London, UK) - See all my reviews
Nick Cohen has done it again - identifying the issue we dare not name. A worthy addition to the growing "telling the truth even though no one wants to admit there's a problem" genre.

Having recommended "What's Left" to everyone I know -the bar for his new book was set high but he has cleared it, with room to spare, with his attack on society's increasing cowardice towards freedom of expression and thought. You Can't Read This Book is entertaining and terrifying in its honesty and caustic approach and no one gets a free ride - not the famous, the infamous, the academic, the religious, ideological or promiscuous. He defies us to see that values aren't valuable if we aren't prepared to fight for them

Confronting the danger posed by self-censorship, and the blatant chutzpah of those who would defend it as a way to dissuade all debate and critical thought, can not be overstated. We can only hope that a discussion will finally start about the right of everyone to offend everyone equally especially when that means speaking unpopular truth. Threats of violence and threats of deeper pockets should never make us waiver from taking on the bullies.

As George Washington said - If the freedom of speech is taken away then dumb and silent we may be led, like sheep to the slaughter..
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars YOU MUST READ THIS BOOK, 1 Aug 2013
By 
Dr. Michael A. Ward (West Yorkshire, UK) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: You Can't Read This Book: Censorship in an Age of Freedom (Paperback)
This book is about freedom of speech.

The simplistic notion of "freedom" in liberal capitalist countries is a notion that has (quite properly) been contested over the years but (while acknowledging such debates) Nick Cohen argues persuasively that there really is a crucially important issue at stake here - whatever your other views on social justice.

But even those who might have always subscribed to Evelyn Beatrice Hall's "I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it"[Often mis-attributed to Voltaire], still need to read this book. YOU CAN'T READ THIS BOOK is not just some kind of woolly defence of liberal principles, it is a forensic (though highly readable) examination of an eclectic range of contemporary threats to our liberties. I had actually heard of nearly every case presented in this book, but I had no idea of the details and would have never thought to join these cases together in the single thread which Cohen spins. His book was a real eye-opener - even for people like me who try to walk around with their eyes fully open. There are moments when you find yourself thinking "what's he on about now", but in every case he succeeds expertly in tying the stories he presents back to his main thesis.

What is particularly illuminating, is the way Nick Cohen ties together different kinds of de jure and de facto constraints on free expression - from the behaviour of autocratic governments and religious zealots to that of private companies.

YOU MUST READ THIS BOOK!
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


13 of 15 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The mind-forg'd manacles of the 21st century, 1 Feb 2012
By 
J. H. Bretts "jerard1" - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)    (REAL NAME)   
In this lucid, urgent and well-argued book Nick Cohen starkly shows how we are living with new forms of censorship - 'political correctness' which stifles genuine debate about religion and creates a climate of fear; UK libel laws and corporate culture which massively favour the rich; and misguided Techno-Utopianism which ignores the Net's ability to create a culture of surveillance and, in its indiscriminate freeing up of data, to expose dissidents to the secret police in dictatorships. A must-read for anyone who cares about freedom of expression in contemporary society and wants to do something to bring it back.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Magnificently - if occasionally unreasonably - angry, 22 Dec 2013
By 
Jeremy Bevan (West Midlands, UK) - See all my reviews
(TOP 500 REVIEWER)    (REAL NAME)   
This review is from: You Can't Read This Book: Censorship in an Age of Freedom (Paperback)
Once you've finished this book, you can be in no doubt: Nick Cohen, journalist on the British `Observer' newspaper, writes with passion, vehemence and considerable panache. He makes the case for old-fashioned liberal individualism (à la John Stuart Mill) as a necessary antidote to our ever-shrinking freedom of thought and expression. He does so with wit, style, and a thumb firmly on the windpipe of self-serving counter-arguments. His analysis of the chilling effects of post-Rushdie `self-censorship' when writers (and cartoonists) speak of (or portray) Islam was thought-provoking, though at times I felt his rather intrusive personal views on religious faith crowded out any space for the sorts of reasoned arguments deployed by more rational religious believers against their own more fundamentalist brethren.

But this is really only the warm-up for arguments about the way that that Britain's libel laws distort journalistic and whistle-blower freedoms, and how the idea of the internet as guarantor of the freedom to `publish and be damned' is a dangerous illusion. Drawing on Mill's thought alongside Orwell's dictum that 'effective' (not total) control is all a Government needs to keep the lid on protest and the search for truth, he ends with some timely advice `for free-speaking citizens', a plea for better libel laws in the UK, and for something like the First Amendment. He makes a strong case. It would perhaps have been stronger if he'd acknowledged that his hero Mill's advocacy of a freedom to do anything short of actual harm has its limitations as a philosophy of human nature. In relying on a coherence between what someone says and how someone else construes it, it assumes people are all alike. The murderous threats to Salman Rushdie for simply penning a novel, and the way the internet gives no `context' to comments broadcast - literally - to the world, exemplify why that isn't always the case. The bigger challenge for liberals is to find a way of dealing with that gap that manages to preserve the freedoms we rightly cherish, and which Cohen here so passionately defends.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A book consisting of potentially many books, 27 July 2013
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
While in general the book did not tell me what I already knew,it did confirm my concern about self-censorship in particular. I find it disturbing that, for example, liberal leaders within the church have taken it upon themselves to remove Israel Today magazine from their reading resources. Why? Lest it offends any muslims. Did any muslim complain about the display of the magazine? No. It was removed IN CASE they were offended. Pathetic. It is this kind of 'you can't read this' self - censorship that disturbs me especially since it is carried out by those who profess to be liberal. This behaviour is at the pedestrian level of censorship if you like. Nick Cohen draws upon higher level examples in order to convey the top down drip drip effect of censorship that has now embedded itself in public discourse across all levels. In particular any challenge to Islam, global warming and immigration (though he does not go into this latter topic mores the pity because it is a highly sensitive subject at present and will be for a long time to come). As a post - graduate social science student I'd commend any student to obtain this book amongst others too numerous to list as an antidote to the Marxist/feminist/postmodernist drivel that is conveyed by the university text books.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The most important book of 2012, 20 Dec 2012
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This book must confirm Nick Cohen as one of the greatest left wing writers currently writing in the English language. Not only is the book's core theme absolutely central to a host of contemporary debates, but his writing style is witty, intellegent and engageing.

Cohen casts a wide net in his analysis of modern censorship, tackling the extremist religious right, quack therapists, high finance, the law and much else. Despite this varied and lively discussion the book never strays into digression or navel gazing, instead keeping a tight focus on the very serious practical consequences of prohibiting speech and infantalising free citizens. Cohen is fair minded, and acknowledges the often good intentions behind some calls for speech restrictions, in the name of social harmony and anti-discrimination, however he concludes that the truth is too important to sacrifice at the alter of 'respect'. Moreover, by refusing to engage with our opponents we actually do them a dissevice, by treating them like petulant children who cannot handle an adult argument, as well as denying them alternative viewpoints which they may actually appreciate. He also examines the darker, violent and coercive side of censorship and is magnificently scathing about the parochial cowards in the media and entertainment who, while posing as speakers of truth to power, are never in any real danger, and refuse to speak truth to anybody who might be in a position to actually put them in harms way.

Also of note is his dissection of English libel law, the operation of which is nothing short of a national embarrassment.

The book is the most powerful modern argument in favour of free speech that I have read, containing chilling examples of supression and intimidation but also a spiriting call for free inquiry, adult debate and resistence to tyrants great and small who think that they know what you should think. An essential read.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


21 of 25 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars You Can't Read This This Book - BUT YOU MUST!, 18 Feb 2012
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
Nick Cohen gives an ascerbic revelation of the ways that the rich, the powerful, the despotic and the theocrats use their wealth, influence, authority the threat of violence or murder to suppress and diminish free speech and limit the political and life options of those who dare to speak out or resist.
Contains powerful examples of the cynical and ruthless actions of the above but also the hypocrisy and cowardice of those who contend they are leftists or liberals but in reality are anything but and who have sold out the ideals and values hard won to overcome misogyny, homophobia and other liberal issues.
Buy the book, read it and then tell as many people as you can about it.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


21 of 25 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Nick's Hit the nail on the head, 19 Jan 2012
By 
J Millis (London, United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
Nick Cohen's You Can't Read This Book is a must read for those who still believe we have freedom of expression in the UK. He entertainingly lays bare the control the rich elite have over writers, magazines and newspapers. Your story might be absolutely true, but if the person you are writing about has deep pockets and a fearsome reputation, you are unlikely to get the story of financial - or any - wrongdoing published. In this magnificent book, the message is clear: you'd be downright naive to believe that the truth will protect you from claims of libel here in Britain, whose defamation laws are the most Draconian in the Western world.
A case in point is how Nick Cohen expertly tackles the workings of the late unlamented Robert "Captain Bob" Maxwell, who took his company for a ride and no one could report on it contemporaneously.
Cohen quotes the tycoon's unofficial biographer Tom Bower: "His purpose was to make it impossible for any editor of a newspaper or book to consider writing about him critically without considering the enormous cost both financially and in time wasted that would entail. He would come down on them with the force of a bulldozer." The truth didn't matter, the fear of cost did. And Captain Bob had very deep pockets, stuffed full of his employees' money.
Cohen has done a wonderful job here of exposing the lie that we live in a free country. More power to his elbow.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


‹ Previous | 1 25 | Next ›
Most Helpful First | Newest First

This product

You Can't Read This Book: Censorship in an Age of Freedom
You Can't Read This Book: Censorship in an Age of Freedom by Nick Cohen (Paperback - 1 Aug 2013)
£7.19
In stock
Add to basket Add to wishlist
Only search this product's reviews