Invisible Censorship

From Diplomaatia
Review of You Can’t Read this Book
Just like the late Christopher Hitchens (to whom the book was dedicated), Cohen, who is a columnist for the Observer, belongs to the rare class of thinkers who position themselves politically on the left, but have the capacity to rise above ideologies when assessing any particular topic at hand, and who is therefore hard to categorise politically to the confusion of those who desperately try to do so. Cohen can harshly criticise economic inequality and the bankers’ greed, but he does not share the view, popular among left-wing thinkers, that everything bad comes from capitalism and ‘American imperialism’, and consequently nothing bad can come from cultural ‘non-West’ that is seen as their opposite. Cohen opposes the repression of freedom regardless who and where it comes from – in his own backyard and out in the world.
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The Truth Won’t Out

Review of You Can’t Read This Book
By Sonia Purnell
Literary Review

NICK COHEN’S book opens with a quotation from the late Christopher Hitchens about how ‘ideas and books have to be formulated and written by individuals’. It is just as well that we have individuals such as Cohen, who are sufficiently bloody minded – as Hitchens himself was – to strike out against conventional wisdoms and a wilful collective complacency. As Cohen’s work amply demonstrates, we in the West believe ourselves to be free but when it comes to freedom of speech we are anything but. Even legitimate criticism can leave us financially ruined or dead.
After Parliament gave judges the power to develop a right to privacy in 2000, the judiciary saw fit to reject England’s tradition of open justice with a breathtaking disdain for the past. They built a wedding cake of suffocating injunctions and superinjunctions, to the point, Cohen observes, that ‘the censors censored the fact of censorship’. Fred Goodwin, now stripped of his knighthood because of the way he disastrously steered the Royal Bank of Scotland to near collapse, was able to persuade a court to suppress reporting of his extra-marital affair with a subordinate. Although he was in charge of a publicly traded bank employing tens of thousands of people and responsible for the savings and prospects of many more, the courts ruled that the relationship was private and could not be revealed without fear of going to jail.
Once, England and her thinkers, such as John Milton or John Stuart Mill, were known as passionate defenders of freedom. Yet now our courts’ reputation overseas is for their eagerness to prevent unwelcome truths about the wealthy and the powerful from being aired. No wonder foreigners flock to these shores for our particularly alarming brand of rich man’s justice. Continue reading

“This mild-mannered group – two journalists; a PR; a teacher; Paul, who does something in finance that I still don’t understand – responded with cacophony of hooting derision”

Review of You Can’t Read This Book
I raised the subject of Nick Cohen – who has written an incisive, depressing, and wonderful new book on censorship – over supper with some friends on Sunday evening. The topic of conversation had drifted from crappy remuneration – mine was the crappiest – to current reading habits. I supposed dropping the name of the impeccably progressive Observer columnist would score some acceptable-face-of-conservatism points from leftish friends who find my centre-right views eccentric.

This mild-mannered group – two journalists; a PR; a teacher; Paul, who does something in finance that I still don’t understand – responded with a cacophony of hooting derision punctuated by fitful denunciations largely populated by the terms “neocon”, “WMD”, “war-monger”, and “it’s all about Israel”. Cohen may not be an “Islamophobe” but he was “the kind of writer Islamophobes enjoy reading”. He was an “apologist for Bush’s war for oil” who was “almost as shrill as Melanie Phillips”. Paul, whose job, whatever it is, presumably doesn’t involve managing hedge funds on behalf of orphanages, deployed the most stinging insult in the liberal armoury: “Cohen should go write for the Daily Mail”.

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Freedom of expression under attack

Britain’s plaintiff-friendly libel laws are so infamous, they’ve even inspired a gag on South Park. In the notorious “Trapped in the closet” episode, young Stan Marsh — thought to be the reincarnation of Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard — announces that the “religion” is a giant scam. Scientologist Tom Cruise, furious at this gross insult to his faith, declares, “I’ll sue you — in England!”

The real-life punch line: “Trapped in the closet” did not air on British television, because of the very real possibility that Cruise would successfully sue any broadcaster who tried.
Carry on reading