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quotations about censorship

Censorship quote

The whole principle [of censorship] is wrong. It's like demanding that grown men live on skim milk because the baby can't have steak.

ROBERT HEINLEIN, The Man Who Sold the Moon

Censorship is never over for those who have experienced it. It is a brand on the imagination that affects the individual who has suffered it, forever.

NADINE GORDIMER, speech, June 1990

The censorship method ... is that of handing the job over to some frail and erring mortal man, and making him omnipotent on the assumption that his official status will make him infallible and omniscient.

GEORGE BERNARD SHAW, speech, Jan. 20, 1935

Vietnam was the first war ever fought without any censorship. Without censorship, things can get terribly confused in the public mind.

WILLIAM WESTMORELAND, Time magazine, Apr. 5, 1982

We are willing enough to praise freedom when she is safely tucked away in the past and cannot be a nuisance. In the present, amidst dangers whose outcome we cannot foresee, we get nervous about her, and admit censorship.

E.M. FORSTER, Two Cheers for Democracy

I can imagine no greater disservice to the country than to establish a system of censorship that would deny to the people of a free republic like our own their indisputable right to criticise their own public officials. While exercising the great powers of the office I hold, I would regret in a crisis like the one through which we are now passing to lose the benefit of patriotic and intelligent criticism.

WOODROW WILSON, letter to Arthur Brisbane, Apr. 25, 1917

We live in oppressive times. We have, as a nation, become our own thought police; but instead of calling the process by which we limit our expression of dissent and wonder “censorship,” we call it “concern for commercial viability.”

DAVID MAMET, Writing in Restaurants

When a critic sets himself up as an arbiter of morality, a judge of the matter and not the manner of a work, he is no longer a critic; he is a censor.

EDWARD ALBEE, preface, The American Dream

I don't believe in censorship, but I do believe that an artist has to take some moral responsibility for what he or she is putting out there.

TOM PETTY, interview, Oct. 23, 2002

State censorship presents itself as a bulwark between society and forces of subversion or moral corruption. To dismiss this account of its own motives by the state as insincere would be a mistake: it is a feature of the paranoid logic of the censoring mentality that virtue ... must be innocent, and therefore, unless protected, vulnerable to the wiles of vice.

J.M. COETZEE, Giving Offense

The worse your daily life, the better your art. If you have to be careful because of oppression and censorship, this pressure produces diamonds.

TATYANA TOLSTAYA, London Independent, May 31, 1990

Censorship is not an occupation that attracts intelligent, subtle minds. Censors can and often have been outwitted. But the game of slipping Aesopian messages past the censor is ultimately a sterile one, diverting writers from their proper task.

J.M. COETZEE, Giving Offense

Where there is official censorship it is a sign that speech is serious. Where there is none, it is pretty certain that the official spokesmen have all the loud-speakers.

PAUL GOODMAN, Growing Up Absurd

A book which, above all others in the world, should be forbidden, is a catalogue of forbidden books.

GEORG CHRISTOPH LICHTENBERG, attributed, A Dictionary of Scientific Quotations

Sometimes it’s a short step from banning to burning.

HOWARD ZINN, Identity Theory interview, Jan. 10, 2001

Censors are dead men
set up to judge between life and death.
For no live, sunny man would be a censor,
he'd just laugh.

D. H. LAWRENCE, "Censors"

Censorship, like charity, should begin at home; but unlike charity, it should end there.

CLARE BOOTHE LUCE, attributed, Oxford Dictionary of Humorous Quotations

Lock up your libraries if you like; but there is no gate, no lock, no bolt that you can set upon the freedom of my mind.

VIRGINIA WOOLF, A Room of One's Own


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