You Can’t Read This Book | Nick Cohen

Summary of: You Can’t Read This Book: Censorship in an Age of Freedom
By: Nick Cohen


Step into a world where the power of words is stifled, and the ability to express oneself freely is challenged like never before. Immerse yourself in the gripping tale of Salman Rushdie’s The Satanic Verses and the impact his book had on censorship and freedom of speech across the globe. Explore the outrageous actions taken by leaders and regimes to control and suppress dissenting voices and understand the far-reaching consequences of their actions. Discover the fine line between free speech and self-preservation and realize the dangerous game of self-censorship that many are forced to play, from the oppressed masses to the wealthiest elites.

Censorship and Fear Tactics

Salman Rushdie’s book, The Satanic Verses, sparked a fatwa by Iran’s Ayatollah Khomeini, resulting in censorship and fear tactics that have silenced liberal voices from criticizing or discussing Islam. Rushdie’s previous works had challenged culture and religion, but it was underestimation of Khomeini’s rising power that led to the worldwide protest against The Satanic Verses. Bookshops were bombed and world leaders banned the book to avoid violence and potential loss of the Muslim vote. The use of fear tactics to silence dissenting voices and justify the murder and persecution of critical thinkers has resulted in the silencing of many people.

Fear Silences Liberal Voices

The aftermath of the backlash against Salman Rushdie’s book ‘The Satanic Verses’ saw liberal voices, who initially criticized conservative tenets of Islam, becoming silent and fearful. Robert Hughes explains in his book ‘Culture of Complaint’ that while liberals spoke against racism and sexism in universities, they remained silent against murderous threats to free speech. This attitude seemed to blame them for the violence. Western liberals redirected criticism from radical Islam to broader issues like racism and Western religions. As a result, journalists downplayed atrocities committed by Islamists to protect themselves. Fear not only directly suppressed free speech but also led to unwritten information. While non-Western societies hold oppressive attitudes towards Christianity, Western writers and critics prefer to criticize Christianity than Islam.

Perpetuating Fear to Maintain Power

Religious and political leaders use fear and outrage to keep their population under control and maintain their authority. Inflaming followers with claims of offense, even when none exists, is a common tactic in many countries, not just Muslim ones. Persecution becomes an illusion that keeps a population continuously enraged, allowing leaders to position themselves as the savior. This tactic is used to target artists and writers whose ideas may threaten those in power. When these individuals are punished for their work, it creates a chilling effect that encourages self-censorship and silences future dissenting voices, perpetuating the cycle of fear and control.

The Power of Wealthy Censorship

In countries where a small wealthy segment controls the economy, free speech is often suppressed. With many governments owning and controlling the media, independent voices are stifled, leaving room for corruption and bribery. Those who challenge the status quo risk imprisonment or extortion, while the wealthy elite share their riches to protect themselves and suppress dissent. Oligarchs in these countries conspire with private interests to control public information, affording them enormous power to suppress any critical voices.

Free Speech in the Workplace

The workplace does not offer the same freedom of speech laws as the rest of society. While whistleblowers are protected by the law, employees often face consequences from their employers and must self-censor to maintain job security. The 2008 recession demonstrated the dangers of self-censorship, as flaws in the banking and mortgage industry went unaddressed due to fear of speaking out.

Want to read the full book summary?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Fill out this field
Fill out this field
Please enter a valid email address.
You need to agree with the terms to proceed