The Freedom To Read Whatever You Want

A few weeks ago it was banned books week, but obviously this is a topic worth talking about all year round. In fact it is something that *must* be discussed all year round.

I shouldn’t have to say this, but censorship is wrong. Yup- that’s right, I’m against censorship- who’d have thunk it? (erm- well most people I hope!) I am anti-censorship in the same way I am a firm believer of freedom of speech. The no holds barred kind. The “I do not agree with what you have to say, but I’ll defend to the death your right to say it” kind. I hold a wide variety of political views, but when it comes to freedom of speech, my liberal and libertarian sides come out. I inherently believe that we should be open to trying anything and at the same time leave people to read whatever the hell they like.

So that clears up most things, right? Yet I want to take this censorship issue further. Because when it comes to books, I am not going to censor myself. Some people may disagree with this approach to reading- but for me the way I choose books is *entirely meritocratic*. I don’t care where things come from or who wrote it- if it’s good, I want in.

More than that, I am open to read anything, regardless of the source. There are certain horrifically bigoted, but genius authors that I love (I won’t ruin people’s childhoods by saying who). I do my best to read their work and judge it on its own merits. This is a similar principle to one that Stephen Fry (in “Wagner and Me”) holds about listening to Wagner as a Jew- if it’s good art, it’s worth exploring, regardless of the source. I may be wary of where the money’s going, but that’s it.

Nor will I stop myself from reading something for fear it might upset me or because I don’t agree with the views being espoused. In fact, if I don’t agree with the views being espoused I’ve either got to buoy up my arguments by confronting it head on or change my own opinion- because one of us is wrong here. It’s not just about free speech and letting everyone have their say- it’s about making informed decisions. Being challenged is the only way to grow intellectually.

That means even if something is controversial I will read it. And sometimes I will have controversial opinions about books (if you’ve been around on my blog long enough you will already know this!) You may not like what I read or what I have to say about them, but c’est la vie. In the words of Orwell: “If liberty means anything at all, it means the right to tell people what they do not want to hear.” And in the words of Steve Hughes:

Right there is so much more I could say on this issue, but this is not an echo chamber, so let’s get a discussion going! Where do you stand on the issue of censorship of books? Do you ever believe there is an instance where you agree with banning books? And what is your stance on controversial reads? Let me know in the comments!