7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
The most important book of 2012,
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This review is from: You Can't Read This Book: Censorship in an Age of Freedom (Paperback)
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.
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Showing 1-2 of 2 posts in this discussion
Initial post: 2 Jan 2013, 07:27:55 GMT
Last edited by the author on 2 Jan 2013, 07:29:31 GMT
O. G. M. Morgan says:
As I have asked elsewhere, what does this phrase mean: "extremist religious right"? I'd like to know what defines each of those three words. I notice you don't have the guts to refer to any religion in particular. Do you seriously think Jews and Catholics and Baptists are "extremist"? If not, what do you mean? Don't bother looking in Cohen's book for answers; he's as muddle-headed as you are.
In reply to an earlier post on 17 Jan 2013, 16:43:26 GMT
I'd have thought that the phrase was fairly self-explanatory - those with views which are traditionally associated with the authoritarian anti- liberal right, who base these views in their religion. And certainly I think that there are some Christians, Jews Hindus etc... who can be fairly described as on the extreme right (just as there can be some on the extreme left, and the moderate right). As for the claim that I don't have the 'guts' to name a particular religion, I can only assume that you want me to mention Islam, since that is the religion that people are always referring to when snide comments about who does and does not have the backbone to speak the truth are made these days. So fine - I'll play. The Islamist right are a threat to free speech in Britain, primarily due to the chilling effect of threats of violence. They aren't the only ones, but they are a major source of legitimate concern. Happy now? Why it would be a matter of courage to mention this in an amazon review is beyond me, however I am not one of those people who mistakes anonymous ranting on the internet for brave political dissidence.
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