Censorship without Government


Always give a child a choice; this is the advice the clever people gave me. So if I want my kids to go to bed I say either you can go to bed or I  punish you. What does the child  choose?

My superior knowledge of psychology helps me to get them to choose to go to bed, without me being the bad guy.

Now, how do you effectively keep a book off the racks or off Kindles, without getting the government involved? Especially when the government may not be willing to be labeled as a nanny state?

Mein Kampf in Germany

English: Dust jacket of the book Mein Kampf, w...

Photo credit: Wikipedia

Mein Kampf by the infamous Adolf Hitler is a good case in point. The Bavarian State owns the copyright of this book since 1945. The book is not banned, but the copyright holder does not print copies, nor does it allow anyone else to do that. You are free to circulate any existing copies though, while they last…

By the way, the copyright expires at the end of 2015 and enters into Public Domain. This is causing a lot of speculation (and anxiety) as to how the book will be used and by whom.

Stopping Your Own Prostitute from Becoming a Number One

Cliff Richard, the singer of Honky Tonk Angel, who did not write the song himself, was under the impression that the song was about a piano player. Meanwhile, back at the ranch, “Honky Tonk Angel” is, or at least was, American slang for a prostitute.

When he found that out out he withdrew the record and refused to promote it. (Although he changed his mind in 2008.)

Religious High-handedness

One of the weirdest things is that for a long time the institutionalized church, the Christian structure itself, made it illegal to own a Bible — in local languages. The reasoning of the clergy, in a simplified form, was that the laity would not be able to understand the Bible. They would misinterpret it and apply the teachings in an incorrect way.

It is a bit like the International Cricket Council making it illegal for a team to have a copy of the rules of the game in their vernacular. It would, however, be acceptable if it was in Latin.

Laws without Invocation

“The Hindus, an alternative history” by Source. Licensed under Fair use via Wikipedia

Indian readers of this blog would be aware of The Hindus by Wendy Doniger. Long story short, the book was getting by fine (it was nominated in India by Indians, some of whom were Hindus and probably still are, for various literary prizes). But an activist organization run by a retired school teacher claimed that the book contravened Indian law by “deliberate and malicious acts intended to outrage religious feelings” (of Hindus!).

The court or the government never banned the book. Despite fighting it for a long time, Penguin finally decided to voluntarily withdraw the book and pulp the copies. The reasons weren’t quite clear, but probably the fact that outraging religious feelings is a criminal and not a civil offence according to Indian laws made them fear for their employees. The long-running court battle might also be turning out to be too expensive for even the publishing giant that Penguin is.

Another Country with Laws


Green Illusions by Ozzie Zehner

Ozzie Zehner self-censored his book Green Illusions (specifically the US edition), because of certain US laws that allow the food industry to sue researchers who dare to criticize their products. (McDonalds makes you fat. But we are safe, seeing that we are not researchers!)

What Else?

Abominable as it is for most people who believe in freedom of expression, censorship can get quite creative. Are you aware of other such instances where something was banned without official government censorship? Tell us about it.


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