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You Can't Read This Book: Censorship in an Age of Freedom Paperback – 19 Jan 2012

4.5 out of 5 stars 65 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Paperback: 330 pages
  • Publisher: Fourth Estate (19 Jan. 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0007308906
  • ISBN-13: 978-0007308903
  • Product Dimensions: 21.3 x 13.2 x 2.5 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (65 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 367,236 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description


‘Cohen is perhaps the most insightful, thought-provoking and entertaining political writer in Britain today, and comes from the honest tradition of English liberal thought that threads from John Milton to John Stuart Mill and George Orwell’ Telegraph, Ed West

‘Nick Cohen’s books are like the best Smiths songs; however depressing the content, the execution is so shimmering, so incandescent with indignation that the overall effect is transcendently uplifting’ Julie Burchill, Prospect

‘It is useful to have all this material in one place, particularly for the benefit of young people, who must be taught about previous disputes over free expression’ Hanif Kureishi, Independent

‘You can read this book, and you probably should’ Hugo Rifkind, The Spectator

‘Into the space vacated by the controversialist Christopher Hitchens we might recruit the sardonic, sceptical columnist Nick Cohen’ Iain Finlayson, The Times

‘Nick Cohen’s new book is a corrective to the tendency of internet utopians to think that the web has ushered in an “age of transparency” New Statesman

‘Writing with passion, wit and erudition, Cohen draws upon the spirit of Orwell and Milton in his call for a fightback against the onslaught on free speech’ Metro, 4 stars

‘You Can’t Read This Book. You can, OF COURSE. And you should. Cohen is right about everything that matters.’ Standpoint, Anthony Julius

About the Author

Nick Cohen is a journalist and commentator for the Observer and Evening Standard. He is also the author of ‘What’s Left’? – the most important and provocative commentaries on how the Left lost its way.

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
`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.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
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.
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Format: 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.

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