Our Point of View
Special Mysterious Book Report No. 9
by John Dwaine McKenna
When we began writing the Mysterious Book Report a little over ten years ago, its purpose was to encourage reading. It’s always been our belief that all of us have the right to read anything in print and then make our own decisions about its veracity, credibility or worth. Now, in what we’re beginning to think of as the Age of Big Tech Tyranny, those rights are being abrogated by some nameless faceless and menacing do-gooders who want to control how we think, by limiting our access to content they don’t like, disagree with, or simply label as ‘radical lies’, then arbitrarily delete the content and ban the writer from the platform. Therefore, it was gratifying to learn of an important document known as The Freedom to Read Statement. It was brought to our attention by Christopher M. Finan, the executive director of the National Coalition Against Censorship, (email address is Chris@ncac.org) Mr. Finan’s remarks may be seen by clicking on the following link: https://ncac.org/news/chris-finan-publishers-weekly whose Op-Ed appeared in the May 24, 2021 edition of Publishers Weekly. We think everyone should read it. Here is Part II of the Freedom to Read Statement which was written in May 1953 by a group of publishers and librarians who met in Westchester County, NY.
So far at least, you can read the entire statement by searching the web. As always, you comments are welcome at: Johndwainemckenna@gmail.com
The Freedom To Read Statement
- It is in the public interest for publishers and librarians to make available the widest diversity of views and expressions, including those that are unorthodox, unpopular, or considered dangerous by the majority.
- Publishers, librarians, and booksellers do not need to endorse every idea or presentation they make available. It would conflict with the public interest for them to establish their own political, moral, or aesthetic views as a standard for determining what should be published or circulated.
- It is contrary to the public interest for publishers or librarians to bar access to writings on the basis of the personal history or political affiliations of the author.
- There is no place in our society for efforts to coerce the taste of others, to confine adults to the reading matter deemed suitable for adolescents, or to inhibit the efforts of writers to achieve artistic expression.
- It is not in the public interest to force a reader to accept the prejudgment of a label characterizing any expression or its author as subversive or dangerous.
- It is the responsibility of publishers and librarians, as guardians of the people’s freedom to read, to contest encroachments upon that freedom by individuals or groups seeking to impose their own standards or tastes upon the community at large; and by the government whenever it seeks to reduce or deny public access to public information.
- It is the responsibility of publishers and librarians to give full meaning to the freedom to read by providing books that enrich the quality and diversity of thought and expression. By the exercise of this affirmative responsibility, they can demonstrate that the answer to a “bad” book is a good one, the answer to a “bad” idea is a good one.
We state these propositions neither lightly nor as easy generalizations. We here stake out a lofty claim for the value of the written word. We do so because we believe that it is possessed of enormous variety and usefulness, worthy of cherishing and keeping free. We realize that the application of these propositions may mean the dissemination of ideas and manners of expression that are repugnant to many persons. We do not state these propositions in the comfortable belief that what people read is unimportant. We believe rather that what people read is deeply important; that ideas can be dangerous; but that the suppression of ideas is fatal to a democratic society. Freedom itself is a dangerous way of life, but it is ours.
These efforts at suppression are related to a larger pattern of pressures being brought against education, the press, art and images, films, broadcast media, and the Internet. The problem is not only one of actual censorship. The shadow of fear cast by these pressures leads, we suspect, to an even larger voluntary curtailment of expression by those who seek to avoid controversy or unwelcome scrutiny by government officials.
Such pressure toward conformity is perhaps natural to a time of accelerated change. And yet suppression is never more dangerous than in such a time of social tension. Freedom has given the United States the elasticity to endure strain. Freedom keeps open the path of novel and creative solutions, and enables change to come by choice. Every silencing of a heresy, every enforcement of an orthodoxy, diminishes the toughness and resilience of our society and leaves it the less able to deal with controversy and difference.
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