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Quotations about Censorship,
Cursing, Political Correctness, etc.

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We can never be sure that the opinion we are endeavoring to stifle is a false opinion; and if we were sure, stifling it would be an evil still.  ~John Stuart Mill, On Liberty, 1859

The fact is that censorship always defeats its own purpose, for it creates, in the end, the kind of society that is incapable of exercising real discretion.  ~Henry Steele Commager

The only valid censorship of ideas is the right of people not to listen. ~Tom Smothers, 1960s

Censorship reflects society's lack of confidence in itself. It is a hallmark of an authoritarian regime. ~Potter Stewart, United States v. Ginzburg, 1965

We have a natural right to make use of our pens as of our tongue, at our peril, risk and hazard.  ~Voltaire, Dictionnaire Philosophique, 1764

The dirtiest book of all is the expurgated book.  ~Walt Whitman

Think for yourselves and let others enjoy the privilege to do so, too.  ~Voltaire

Everybody swears everywhere.... Shakespeare and all the rest, all up and down the years they swore at life. Plain old mother talk ain't nowheres near strong enough to describe such a terrible mixup as life... ~Mark Harris, "Bang the Drum Slowly," 1956

I am thankful for all the complaining I hear about our government because it means we have freedom of speech. ~Nancie J. Carmody

The peculiar evil of silencing the expression of an opinion is, that it is robbing the human race; posterity as well as the existing generation; those who dissent from the opinion, still more than those who hold it.  If the opinion is right, they are deprived of the opportunity of exchanging error for truth:  if wrong, they lose, what is almost as great a benefit, the clearer perception and livelier impression of truth, produced by its collision with error.  ~John Stuart Mill, On Liberty, 1859

Books won't stay banned.  They won't burn.  Ideas won't go to jail.  In the long run of history, the censor and the inquisitor have always lost.  The only weapon against bad ideas is better ideas.  ~Alfred Whitney Griswold, New York Times, 24 February 1959

Clutch some hope from fear — read banned books. ~Terri Guillemets

Freedom of the press is guaranteed only to those who own one. ~Abbott Joseph Liebling, "Do You Belong in Journalism?" The New Yorker, May 1960

A free press can be good or bad, but, most certainly, without freedom a press will never be anything but bad.  ~Albert Camus

I wonder how many Americans are aware how deep the issue of book burning goes. This is a time when great passions are loose in the world... You don't have to like a book in order to let it stand on the shelves. When you burn books, however wrong and bad they may be, you are doing an indignity to every book... The crime of book purging is that it involves a rejection of the word. For the word is never absolute truth, but only man's frail and human effort to approach the truth. To reject the word is to reject the human search. ~Max Lerner, 1953

Nature knows no indecencies; man invents them. ~Mark Twain

What progress we are making.  In the Middle Ages they would have burned me.  Now they are content with burning my books.  ~Sigmund Freud, 1933

That was but a prelude; where they burn books, they will ultimately burn people as well. ~Heinrich Heine, Almansor, 1821 ("Das war ein Vorspiel nur, dort wo man Bücher verbrennt, verbrennt man auch am Ende Menschen.")

Every burned book enlightens the world.  ~Ralph Waldo Emerson

The paper burns, but the words fly away.  ~Akiba ben Joseph

Did you ever hear anyone say, "That work had better be banned because I might read it and it might be very damaging to me?" ~Joseph Henry Jackson

A really pure mind does not know enough about dirt to venture at scrubbing other minds. ~Henry Stanley Haskins, "The Ancient Virtues," Meditations in Wall Street, 1940

If you don't have this freedom of the press, then all these little fellows are weaseling around and doing their monkey business and they never get caught.  ~Harold R. Medina

Obscenity is not a quality inherent in a book or picture, but is solely and exclusively a contribution of the reading mind, and hence cannot be defined in terms of the qualities of a book or picture. ~Theodore Schroeder

Assassination is the extreme form of censorship... ~George Bernard Shaw, 1910 July 14th Preface to The Shewing-Up of Blanco Posnet, a 1909 play, "The Rejected Statement: Part I," published 1911  [Bookmans Entertainment Exchange, an Arizona used bookstore chain established 1976, has a bookmark and merchandise: 'Censorship — The Assassination of an Idea ™' —tεᖇᖇ¡·g, 2005]

I believe in censorship. I made a fortune out of it. ~Mae West

Censorship feeds the dirty mind more than the four-letter word itself.  ~Dick Cavett

The test of democracy is freedom of criticism.  ~David Ben-Gurion

If all mankind minus one were of one opinion, mankind would be no more justified in silencing that one person than he, if he had the power, would be justified in silencing mankind.  ~John Stuart Mill, On Liberty, 1859

To choose a good book, look in an inquisitor’s prohibited list.  ~John Aikin

What's in the raging flame
of banned books burning?
Knowledge, truth, learning;
courage, freedom, yearning.
~Terri Guillemets

To limit the press is to insult a nation; to prohibit reading of certain books is to declare the inhabitants to be either fools or slaves.  ~Claude-Adrien Helvétius

Censorship offends me.  ~Author Unknown

We are not afraid to entrust the American people with unpleasant facts, foreign ideas, alien philosophies, and competitive values.  For a nation that is afraid to let its people judge the truth and falsehood in an open market is a nation that is afraid of its people.  ~John F. Kennedy

It's now very common to hear people say, "I'm rather offended by that." As if that gives them certain rights. It's simply a whine, just no more than a whine. "I find that offensive": it has no meaning; it has no purpose; it has no reason to be respected as a phrase. ~Stephen Fry

Imagine a world in which we are all enlightened by objective truths rather than offended by them. ~Neil deGrasse Tyson, 2014

They try to burn the Devil out from books, but Angels of knowledge resist the flames of fear. ~Terri Guillemets

[T]he German censorship forbade or mutilated my every book, which was like sticking pins into my soul... ~Israel Zangwill, Dreamers of the Ghetto, "From a Mattress Grave," 1897  [character Heinrich Heine speaking —tεᖇᖇ¡·g]

The worst part of censorship is XXX  XXXXXX  XX  XXXXXXX. ~Bumper sticker, author unknown

God forbid that any book should be banned.  The practice is as indefensible as infanticide.  ~Rebecca West

But the truth is, that when a Library expels a book of mine and leaves an unexpurgated Bible lying around where unprotected youth and age can get hold of it, the deep unconscious irony of it delights me and doesn't anger me. ~Mark Twain, letter to Harriet E. Whitmore, 1907 February 7th

If we don't believe in freedom of expression for people we despise, we don't believe in it at all.  ~Noam Chomsky

I offer you my sincere apology for mutilating your brave and admirable work. In publishing it in English, I have omitted certain portions, much against my inclination. Perhaps you, who live in a land that enjoys a greater freedom of the press than we know in the United States, will wonder why I was forced to do this. Let me, then, explain to you that the men whose ugly souls your Célestine does not hesitate to lay bare are types, to a greater or less extent, of most of the men whom we place in our halls of legislation to make our laws, in our halls of administration to execute them, and in our halls of so-called justice to interpret and enforce them, and that among the laws which they have made are some, aimed ostensibly at the suppression of obscene literature, that are really intended to protect from exposure their own obscene lives and those of others of their ilk, and to protect from attack the social evils and political institutions upon which they thrive. These lawless law-givers hope, by obscuring the sufficiently sharp line that divides the vulgar appeal to eroticism from the earnest narrative of the honest thinker and the truthful picture of the conscientious artist, to brand both with the same condemnation, and thus secure immunity for those who, by all the various forms of exploitation, deal, as Célestine bluntly says, in human meat. This is why it is unsafe to publish in the English language those portions of her diary which I have omitted. But, if, as I hope and believe, the portions that are here printed shall do something to change the public opinion that sanctions the claim of these law-givers to legislative power, I am sure that you will excuse a liberty which under other circumstances would be an inexcusable act of vandalism. ~Benjamin R. Tucker, To Monsieur Octave Mirbeau, translator's preface to A Chambermaid's Diary, 1900

Censorship: protecting you from reality. ~Author unknown

Don't burn books — let them set young minds on fire. ~Terri Guillemets

Oh, fudge! Only I didn't say "fudge." I said the word. The big one. The queen mother of dirty words. The F-dash-dash-dash word. I had heard that word at least ten times a day from my old man. My father worked in profanity the way other artists might work in oils or clay. It was his true medium — a master. Over the years, I got to be quite a connoisseur of soap. ~A Christmas Story (1983), written by Jean Shepherd, Leigh Brown, and Bob Clark, spoken by the character Ralphie, a little altered

Just in case there might be
Little ears around
I won't say it
I'll just spell it out—
I feel like pound sign, question mark
Star, exclamation point,
Don't give a blank,
And a whole lot of other
Choice words I can't say...
Percentage sign, at symbol
Backslash, squiggle-thing...
~"Pound Sign" by Jim Collins, David Lee Murphy, and Tony Martin, 2010, performed by Kevin Fowler ♫

Every human being has a right to hear what other wise human beings have spoken to him.  It is one of the Rights of Men; a very cruel injustice if you deny it to a man!  ~Thomas Carlyle

Let knowledge live. Burn your fears instead. ~Terri Guillemets

Books won't stay banned -
Ideas won't go to jail.
~Alfred Whitney Griswold

Let us be thankful that there is no court by which we can be excluded from our share in the inheritance of the great poets of all ages and countries, to which our simple humanity entitles us... ~James Russell Lowell (1819–1891), "Nationality in Literature"

Books light the world — to burn them extinguishes the flame. ~Terri Guillemets

Great spirits have always encountered opposition from mediocre minds. The mediocre mind is incapable of understanding the man who refuses to bow blindly to conventional prejudices and chooses instead to express his opinions courageously and honestly. ~Albert Einstein, on the controversy surrounding Bertrand Russell's appointment to the faculty of the City University of New York, quoted in The New York Times, 1940 March 19th  [According to Alice Calaprice in The Ultimate Quotable Einstein, "Some conservative religious and so-called patriotic New Yorkers regarded Russell as a propagandist against religion and morality and brought legal suit against his appointment. His teaching contract was rescinded." —tεᖇᖇ¡·g]

Books that get burned are written by authors whose souls are on fire with passion or knowledge. ~Terri Guillemets

You can cage the singer but not the song. ~Harry Belafonte, in International Herald Tribune, 1988 October 3rd

To kill words with fear,
It's a dreadful thing.
~Terri Guillemets, "Censorship," 2018, blackout poetry created from Charles Dickens, "The Haunted Man and the Ghost's Bargain," 1848

I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it. ~Evelyn Beatrice Hall, The Friends of Voltaire, 1906, a description of Voltaire's attitude, commonly misattributed to Voltaire, the closest of his documented sentiments being "I detest what you write, but I would give my life to make it possible for you to continue to write." in a 1770 letter  (Thanks, Toby & Bill)

The populist authoritarianism that is the downside of political correctness means that anyone, sometimes it seems like everyone, can proclaim their grief and have it acknowledged. The victim culture, every sufferer grasping for their own Holocaust, ensures that anyone who feels offended can call for moderation, for dilution, and in the end, as is all too often the case, for censorship. And censorship, that by-product of fear — stemming as it does not from some positive agenda, but from the desire to escape our own terrors and superstitions by imposing them on others — must surely be resisted. ~Jonathon Green, "Did You Say 'Offensive?'" (

To burn one book is to burn the entire library. ~Terri Guillemets

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