Monday, June 18, 2012

“Who is more to be pitied, a writer bound and gagged by policemen or one living in perfect freedom who has nothing more to say?”— Kurt Vonnegut, Jr.

"But early this year, Grove Press, a venturesome publishing house, felt that the time had come to challenge the taboo and they brought out the book unexpurgated, just as Lawrence wrote it. Literary critics all over the country cheered. Some said it was a masterpiece. Some said it wasn’t all that great, but still it was a good book and a serious one that deserved to be read. Not one important critic felt that the book should continue to be suppressed.
     A bookclub for eggheads, the Reader’s Subscription, thought enough of the book to make it a selection and started to mail it out to members.
     Wham! The Post Office stepped in.
     The fellows who always ring twice refused to ring at all for Lady Chatterley. The P.O. said the book was obscene and couldn’t be mailed.
     This punch not only caught the Reader’s Subscription in the solar plexus (they do their business by mail) but it was also a gasser for the Grove Press, which couldn’t mail the copies out to bookstores.
     So the two companies demanded a hearing. The Post Office gave them one before Judicial Officer Charles D. Ablard. The companies brought in two of the most eminent literary critics in America, Malcolm Cowley and Alfred Kazin, to testify that the book was not obscene, but was a work of art by a serious artist.
     Ablard listened, but passed the transcript and the final decision on to Postmaster General Summerfield. And Summerfield decided that Lady Chattelley’s Lover was filthy."
— Tim Wilkins, "Art Or Filth? – The Prose And Cons Of Lady Chatterley" (Nov, 1959) Mechanix Illustrated via Modern Mechanix

"In its twice-yearly Transparency Report, the world's largest web search engine [Google] said the requests were aimed at having some 12,000 items overall removed, about a quarter more than during the first half of last year.
     'Unfortunately, what we've seen over the past couple years has been troubling, and today is no different,' Dorothy Chou, the search engine's senior policy analyst, said in a blogpost. 'We hoped this was an aberration. But now we know it's not.'
      Many of those requests targeted political speech, keeping up a trend Google said it has noticed since it started releasing its Transparency Report in 2010.
     'It's alarming not only because free expression is at risk, but because some of these requests come from countries you might not suspect — Western democracies not typically associated with censorship,' said Chou.
     [...] in Thailand videos featuring the monarch with a seat over his head have been removed for insulting the monarchy. The country has some of the world's toughest 'lese- majeste' laws.
     In Canada, Google was asked by officials to get rid of a YouTube video showing a citizen urinating on his passport and flushing it down the toilet. But in that instance the company refused.
     Google and many other online providers maintain that they cannot lawfully remove any content for which they are merely the host and not the producer, a principle enshrined in EU law on eCommerce since 2000."
Reuters (via Huffington Post)

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