The global war on books, redux

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The global war on books, redux

Oct 03 2019

The New York Times has just published a powerful article on how governments across the globe are spending a remarkable amount of resources attacking books. Because this is an important article and many BookBrowse readers may be blocked from reading the full piece by the newspaper's paywall, here are four of the most salient paragraphs:

…Regimes are expending so much energy attacking books because their supposed limitations have begun to look like strengths: With online surveillance, digital reading carries with it great risks and semi-permanent footprints; a physical book, however, cannot monitor what you are reading and when, cannot track which words you mark or highlight, does not secretly scan your face, and cannot know when you are sharing it with others….

…During the Cold War that followed, the federal government established a network of 181 libraries and reading rooms in over 80 countries. In 1955, specially-made lightweight copies of Animal Farm were flown from West Germany into Poland by balloon. The unifying principle — despite the terrible hypocrisy of Jim Crow — was that freedom of thought abroad would ultimately favor the spread of tolerant, free liberal democracies…

…The tepid response of the Trump administration to the murder and dismemberment of the Saudi critic Jamal Khashoggi is just the most egregious example of why the global defense of freedom of the press and speech is no longer an American priority. The State Department has made barely a peep about any of this. Perhaps it should come as no surprise coming from a president who is almost comically boastful about his antipathy to reading…

The consequences of America standing by apathetically could be disastrous — particularly if Mr. Trump and his secretary of state, Mike Pompeo, remain in power for another four years. In classic dystopian novels of the near-future — Brave New World, 1984, Fahrenheit 451 — the digital world is ubiquitous. The ghostly absence of books, and the freethinking they seed, is the nightmare. For much of the world, it’s not an impossible fate

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