Censorship can be an ugly thing, but it's been around even before the printed word.
Like murder and rape, it doesn't seem to be ugly enough for us, as a species, to wipe it out of existence. And yet, like murder and rape, it needs to be.
It was believed that Ovid was exiled by Emperor Augustus due to his writings, but it turned out to be something a bit more political.
400 years before the Common Era, Plato suggested the removal of material from Homer's Odyssey for immature readers. Hell, Caligula tried to suppress it completely.
In 325 C.E. the Council of Nicaea gathers to decide what writings should be kept, and which others to discard, for a book that would later be called The Bible. It was such fun, they did it again in 787.
Speaking of which, many Christians will say that The Bible was the first banned book, and, while it was not, I wonder how many are aware that because of their book, many other similar works by Gnostic sects are now lost.
The Catholic Church began their first list of banned books in 1559, though they began banning books in 1514. The Index Librorum Prohibitorum or "List of Prohibited Books" was done away with only by a decree of Pope Paul VI in 1966. Even so, Catholics still try to tell you what books to read and what films to see.
In 1818 Shakespeare received a reworking for decent folk, titled Family Shakespeare. This unforgivable act was committed by English physician Thomas Bowdler, who upon retiring from medicine thought reading Shakespeare to be a necessity for children - so long as it wasn't the actual works of Shakespeare. Now, thanks to him, we have the word "bowdlerize".
Well, if knowledge is power, then books are dangerous.
When books flood the streets, blood will flow there as well!
Or, at least, that seems to be what those in charge have thought all along, as once printing became cheap, and books were available to the "common man" - thank you Guttenberg - it became policy, by governments since the beginning of government, to ban books.
Some bans are funny, like the 1931 banning of Lewis Carroll's Alice's Adventures in Wonderland in the Hunan providence of China, because it portrayed animals that spoke, and acted like humans.
Better yet, in 1966 a Yugoslavian court order had to ban the Dictionary of Modern Serbo-Croatian Language by Miloš Moskovljevi?, as many of the definitions were not only poor, but fist-fight worthy.
Some aren't so funny: The Diaries of Anne Frank was banned in Lebanon for "portraying Jews, Israel or Zionism favorably". They also banned Sophie's Choice by William Styron, Thomas Friedman's From Beirut to Jerusalem, and even entire titles by authors, such as Philip Roth and Saul Bellow. All of it helping to brood calls of Muslim anti-Semitism, but then they go and ban the over-hyped The DaVinci Code, when a Catholic board deems it offensive to Christians.
Well, Christians use the word "kyke" too, I guess. I forget that anti-Semitism is a world sport.
Anyhow, no country is blameless, and though many do look towards the States for progressive action, we're just as guilty by sometimes being frightened witch-hunters.
Southern U.S. states banned Uncle Tom's Cabin, and the writings of Harriet Beecher Stowe send half the country fighting the other half.
The United States had book burnings from the mid-1800s to the 1950s, reaching its zenith in 1957 by throwing author Wilhelm Reich in jail over his books.
By far, the U.S. has some of the strangest bans. It hated Fanny Hill (by John Cleland) so much, that it banned it in 1821, and then again in 1963. It was the last book to be banned by a court in the U.S., until 2003, when a judge ordered Irwin Schiff's 13 year old book, The Federal Mafia, to be removed from store shelves.
In the early 1960s, Naked Lunch was banned, or threatened to be banned, to an extent where it helped William Burroughs become the first man to get rich off of nonsensically rambling.
And one has to ask, "Why were all German copies of George Orwell's Animal Farm confiscated by the Allies after the war?"
The United States can be bad, but we're not terrible. There really was a lot worse going on out there.
In the 50s, the U.S.S.R. banned everything Orwellian, not to mention almost anything else that had pages, or wasn't The Communist Manifesto itself.
South Korea put out a list in 2008, which banned their military from reading 23 specific books, including Noam Chomsky's Year 501: The Conquest Continues and Bad Samaritans: The Myth of Free Trade and the Secret History of Capitalism by Ha-Joon Chan. Though I don't agree, I can understand those two titles being on the list, but why did they add the novel A Spoon on Earth by Hyeon Gi-yeong?
Sometimes, these matters can get kinda personal.
For instance, Pakistan banned copies of Stanley Wolpert's biography Jinnah of Pakistan, after the book made mention of Pakistan's founder, Muhammed Ali Jinnah, having a huge crush on pork and wine. The book The King Never Smiles reached the same fate in Thailand, when they believed author Paul M. Handley was messing with their King Bhumibol Adulyadej.
Other times, it's otherworldly, as when Salman Rushdie had a five million dollar price tag on his head, when the Ayatollah considered his work blasphemous against Islam. The book is still banned in Indonesia, Bangladesh and Iran.
There were bans then, and still are bans today.
Charlemagne's four-volume refutation of Nicaea's Second Council, Libri Carolini, was hated by the Church so much in 790 C.E., that it did not see the light of day until 1549. Johannes Kepler had his Astronomia nova placed on the Catholic's shit list in 1609. Daniel Defoe's 1722 novel Moll Flanders was one of the first pieces of fiction to be banned. Radclyffe Hall's The Well of Loneliness was banned in 1928 Britain due to lesbian themes. In the 1990s, Germany outlawed The Turner Diaries by William Pierce, due to its calls for racial war. Today, China probably bands more books than they produce.
The biggest problem is, unlike murder and rape, no one cares about book censorship. That is probably because no one reads books anymore, as almost every literary work and politico-religious philosophic idea are now available on the internet.
Wait a sec! Doesn't that just stream into our homes?
Shit! The government's going to be at all of our doors any minute now!
Oh wait, never mind... they already found a shortcut through our bedrooms.