Artists Speak Out on Censorship for Banned Books Week

by Isla McKetta on October 1, 2012


In honor of Banned Books Week, Sept. 30-Oct. 6, 2012, we’re letting the artists do the talking about censorship. Here’s what they have to say:

George R.R. Martin

“When you tear out a man’s tongue, you are not proving him a liar, you’re only telling the world that you fear what he might say.”

Mark Twain

“Censorship is telling a man he can’t have a steak just because a baby can’t chew it.”

George Bernard Shaw

“Censorship ends in logical completeness when nobody is allowed to read any books except the books that nobody reads.”

Holbrook Jackson

“History proves there is no better advertisement for a book than to condemn it for obscenity.”

Steven Spielberg

“There is a fine line between censorship and good taste and moral responsibility.”

Alfred Whitney Griswold

“Books won’t stay banned. They won’t burn. Ideas won’t go to jail. In the long run of history, the censor and the inquisitor have always lost. The only sure way against bad ideas is better ideas. The source of better ideas is freedom. The surest path to wisdom is liberal education.”

Martha Graham

“Censorship is the height of vanity.”

Judy Blume

“Let children read whatever they want and then talk about it with them. If parents and kids can talk together, we won’t have as much censorship because we won’t have as much fear.”

Joseph Brodsky

“There are worse crimes than burning books. One of them is not reading them.”

Richard Peck

“Only the nonreader fears books.”

Michel de Montaigne

“To forbid us anything is to make us have a mind for it.”

Eugene O’Neill

“Censorship of anything, at any time, in any place, on whatever pretense, has always been and always will be the last resort of the boob and the bigot.”

Decimus Junius Juvenalis

“Who will watch the watchers?”

Walt Whitman

“The dirtiest book of all is the expurgated book.”

Charles Bukowski

“Censorship is the tool of those who have the need to hide actualities from themselves and from others. Their fear is only their inability to face what is real, and I can’t vent any anger against them. I only feel this appalling sadness. Somewhere, in their upbringing, they were shielded against the total facts of our existence. They were only taught to look one way when many ways exist.”

Salman Rushdie

“What is freedom of expression? Without the freedom to offend, it ceases to exist.”

Benjamin Franklin

“If all printers were determined not to print anything till they were sure it would offend nobody, there would be very little printed.”

Potter Stewart

“Censorship reflects a society’s lack of confidence in itself.”

Henry Louis Gates

“Censorship is to art as lynching is to justice.”

Sterling M. McMurrin

“Censorship in the schools that denies intellectual freedom to teachers robs the student of that same freedom. And the freedom to learn is clearly no less precious than the freedom to teach.”

David Leavitt

“When one writer tries to silence another, he silences every writer—and in the end he also silences himself.”


“If you believe that I’m a cop killer, you believe David Bowie is an astronaut.”

Margaret Bald

“Like water leaking slowly through a dike to become a steady trickle or a flood, words and ideas inexorably elude the censor’s grasp.”

George Orwell

“If the Party could thrust its hand into the past and say of this or that event, it never happened—that, surely, was more terrifying than mere torture and death.”

Ray Bradbury

“They began by controlling books of cartoons and then detective books and, of course, films, one way or another, one group or another, political bias, religious prejudice, union pressure; there was always a minority afraid of something, and a great majority afraid of the dark, afraid of the future, afraid of the past, afraid of the present, afraid of themselves and shadows of themselves.”

Check out the Banned Books Week website for more information on local events celebrating your freedom to read.

Quotes were sourced from City Lights Books, Brainy Quote, and Goodreads.

Isla McKetta, MFA is a novelist and book reviewer. Read her reviews at A Geography of Reading or connect with her on Google+.

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