November 29, 2001
8:44 AM   Subscribe

The CEO of Canada's largest book retailer will be pulling Adolf Hitler's Mein Kampf from store shelves and the Chapters/Indigo online store, saying "We consider it hate literature... With freedom of expression, the line is drawn on hate literature." Perhaps MeFites can help her out by compiling a list of other books to remove. Can we get rid of The Anarchist's Cookbook, The Protocols of Zion, and Turner Diaries?
posted by tranquileye (30 comments total)
The Bible, the Torah and the Qu'ran.
posted by allaboutgeorge at 8:52 AM on November 29, 2001

The Bible (all versions) would be a good start.

Seriously, I was dismayed when I heard this on the radio this morning. It seems that where history is unpleasant then some people think we need to have our eyes and ears closed to whatever lessons that unpleasantness has to teach us. Further, I think that there is a real distinction to be made between actively spreading hatred against a race/group/whatever and the re-publication of historical texts that happen to do the same thing. The former has a living mouthpiece to push it, the latter is the collection of bad ideas from dead people.
posted by holycola at 8:55 AM on November 29, 2001

My first reaction is to say NO! NO! NO! I believe that no book should be put on a banned list: just as in music and television, one could just as easily not read, watch or listen to something. If you don't like it, don't do it.
Of course, this begs the question,
"What if you do like it?" The odds are good that if someone does like the supposed offensive material, they already subscribe to some sort of current philosophy that allows this kind of thinking.
But what about freedom of speech and expression? Nobody is saying that you can't talk about these books and others, you just may have a hard time finding a store that sells them.

What if Joe Schmo from Atlanta wrote Mein Kampf. Would there be the same controversy?
posted by ashbury at 8:58 AM on November 29, 2001

Can we include books that cause people to hate?

Ayn Rand's Atlas Shrugged hurt my head. I was scarred for life from reading that. Hateful woman. She tortured her readers. The final speech of John Gault makes my most longwinded rambles look like postcard scribbles.

I'm sure in Kensington, Maryland they're gonna remove Twas The Night Before Christmas from the school libraries. It's not just happening in Canada. Censorship seems to be becoming fashionable again.

I blame the conservatives. *ducking*
posted by ZachsMind at 9:01 AM on November 29, 2001

Then she's bloody stupid. There's a reason that Mein Kampf was found in the history section of the bookstore - we're supposed to learn from our history.
posted by dlewis at 9:03 AM on November 29, 2001

Let's ban Fahrenheit 451.
posted by Holden at 9:12 AM on November 29, 2001

A book retailer can always make choices about what to carry; if she doesn't want to sell Mein Kampf, it's not going to affect my ability to find it, should I want to -- it's in pretty wide circulation. (I don't have any particular desire to do so, but I'm sure there are many with legitimate interests in one of the most controversial memoirs of the 20th C.)

I don't understand the impulse to make lists of "hate" literature. Don't get me wrong -- the Protocols is an absurd and noxious fiction that's done a lot of damage. But down this road quickly we arrive at a bunch of books (like the bizarre and wonderful collection of texts that get called "the Bible") which contain hateful awfulness and essential pieces of much of our culture, and the cultures of the world. All mixed up together. What are we supposed to accomplish here?

And Zach: Sorry you're still in recovery from Atlas Shrugged: I was saved in college from suffering through the last third when a friend ripped my copy out of my hands and threw it out the window -- I didn't stop muttering "make it stop, oh please, make it go away!" for hours.
posted by BT at 9:14 AM on November 29, 2001

I read it cuz it got me laid. That's the ONLY reason to read Ayn Rand. The girl's no longer in my life by the way. Thank GAWD. Man, college was weird.

...I think I'd read Mein Kampf to get laid.
posted by ZachsMind at 9:27 AM on November 29, 2001

Can't we ban books that suck instead of books that are offensive?

HR Salvatore - begone! Anna Quindlan - adios! John Grisham - never again!

PS: I have a copy of Mein Kampf. If it gets banned, just email me, I'll scan it and send it over. Fair warning: it's kind of boring. Hitler was about as good a writer as he was a painter.
posted by UncleFes at 9:30 AM on November 29, 2001

Threw it out the window? How irresponsible! Someone could have picked it up and tried to read it!

I'm not so concerned about a retailer deciding not to carry a title in her particular store as I am about provincial review boards deciding that the entire province isn't allowed to see something.
posted by transient at 9:32 AM on November 29, 2001

My clothes went out of style and came back in style while I read Atlas Shrugged...Zach, when you get the time can you please explain the difference between conservatives and liberals? I can't seem to predict behavior by invoking those labels anymore.
Censorship by Government is wrong, but this is a business decision; it is still revisionism.
posted by Mack Twain at 9:41 AM on November 29, 2001

I blame the conservatives

I blame the idiots who overreact. Conservatives like to ban material with what they consider overt violent, sexual or anti-religious themes. Liberals like to ban "hate speech" like Mein Kampf. Me, I'm neither and don't think that either deserves censorship. I was listening to The Politics of Culture yesterday, which featured an interview with John Reechy by Jonathan Kirsch. Reechy said something that really caught my attention. Kirsch asked him what he thought about criticism that Reechy liked to use stereotypical characters. Reechy responded that even in our PC world, the stereotypes (not racial, but social) do exist and they are one of a writer's best tools. They allow the reader to recognize and therefore identify with a character. I had never thought of it that way before.

As for Ayn Rand, I read Atlas Shrugged last year because I was curious about all the fuss (I had also just watched The Passions of Ayn Rand and was so repulsed by her that I wanted to understand the attraction.) What I found is that the book is as ugly as she was a person.
posted by eyeballkid at 9:42 AM on November 29, 2001

The Ayn Rand Cult.
posted by Marquis at 9:47 AM on November 29, 2001

I read [Atlas Shrugged] cuz it got me laid.

Potential answer 1: Zach, that may be the single most disturbing idea I've encountered here. ;)

Potential answer 2: "Atlas Shagged."
posted by rodii at 9:50 AM on November 29, 2001

rodii: "Zach, that may be the single most disturbing idea I've encountered here."

Just thank your god/s/nil/nads that you didn't have to date her. She would only sit in a restaurant with her back to the wall. "So no one can sneak up on me," she'd say.

"Atlas Shagged"

Nope. I missed England in the sixites. This was Texas in the eighties. The terminology of that time and place wasn't "shagged." It was "boinked" but you'll never see a movie about it. ...After watching Austin Powers I learned a new appreciation for why the girls always called him Shaggy. I mean why else would four teens and a dog drive a van? Kinky...

Mack Twain: "can you please explain the difference between conservatives and liberals?"

Liberals are future conservatives. Conservatives are ex-liberals who actually own valuable shit. Liberals are potential conservatives but never found a way to make a steady living. A conservative is a liberal who has been robbed one too many times. Beyond that it's all random.

Oh, and I ducked. So there. *sticks out tongue*

I've never known a homeless conservative, but my ex-wife is dating a rich liberal. I think it's too good to be true but maybe I'm just bitter.
posted by ZachsMind at 10:12 AM on November 29, 2001

If we're banning books, we should definitely get rid of Matt Kent's Gasstationthoughts.

Free speech encroachment? Why, what do you mean? You're free to say anything that the rest of us agree with!
posted by arielmeadow at 10:19 AM on November 29, 2001

Unless I'm mistaken, "Mein Kampf" has been outlawed in Germany since 1945. It's basically a free-speech country, but Nazi references (including the Heil-Hitler salute and display of the swastika flag) are illegal.
posted by muckster at 10:23 AM on November 29, 2001

Except for the infamous John Galt speech, I actually find Atlas Shrugged interesting enough to keep me reading. I read it for like the fourth time a few months ago, in fact. Not for the philosophy anymore, and certainly not for the characters or the plot, though I do find Rand's portrayal of societal collapse by means of incompetence to have some parallels in reality. Still, I can't really explain why I find it so curiously engaging. Perhaps for the sheer depths of its flaws (the novel is nigh-heroic in that department); perhaps because I can easily measure how I have changed through the years by my reaction to it. Perhaps because I so value competence.

On the other hand, I find The Fountainhead thoroughly repulsive. One of the few books I've ever read that makes me want to take a week-long shower. It is far more transparent in its attempts at manipulation and the characters are completely unlikeable. Atlas Shrugged is IMHO a very solid novel by comparison, and that's saying something.
posted by kindall at 10:24 AM on November 29, 2001

Hmm. I read all the Ayn Rand speeches, and skip over all the J.R.R. Tolkien songs.
posted by thirteen at 10:45 AM on November 29, 2001

I read it cuz it got me laid. That's the ONLY reason to read Ayn Rand. The girl's no longer in my life by the way. Thank GAWD. Man, college was weird.

wow... that was strange. im in college right now, and i read "the fountainhead" about two months ago because this girl i liked was in love with howard roark (long story.). maybe that is the only reason for males to read ayn rand.... (i say "bah" to all you intellectuals.)
posted by lotsofno at 10:52 AM on November 29, 2001

Maybe I'm cynical, but I can't help wondering whether this is a way to generate publicity. According to the article, the total sales in North America are about 15000 copies a year, so the sales for this Canadian chain can't be all that great. It probably costs them next to nothing in sales, and there are surely people who are pleased by the action. In any case, the publicity they're getting is probably worth more than any loss of revenue.

Also, if the only way you can get laid is to read Ayn Rand, then you have my sympathies.
posted by anapestic at 11:46 AM on November 29, 2001

Call me crazy, but i llike Anthen. It didn't get me laid, and i'm not the big "intillectual." In 10th grade, it was just an interesting book. Have yet to read her other 2 biggies, though
posted by jmd82 at 2:50 PM on November 29, 2001

Can't we ban books that suck instead of books that are offensive?

Please burn, shoot, then bury Old Man and The Sea. Pretentiously boring piece of crap.
posted by owillis at 2:54 PM on November 29, 2001

You could say that for most of Hemingway's catalog, you ask me.
posted by UncleFes at 3:05 PM on November 29, 2001

eyeballkid, “Conservatives like to ban material with what they consider overt violent, sexual or anti-religious themes. Liberals like to ban ‘hate speech’”

You’d like this book: Free Speech for Me—But Not for Thee: How the American Left and Right Relentlessly Censor Each Other.
posted by raaka at 4:43 PM on November 29, 2001

Yes, eyeballkid. You have stumbled onto the truth.

The ultra left and the radical right are identical in that they both despise and seek to destroy any speech that doesn't agree with their political philosophy.

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.

First Amendment - Constitution of the United States of America

That includes Mein Kampf, The Turner Diaries, The Anarchists Cookbook, flag burning, etc. etc.

Plenty of folks would like keep you from knowing that these ideas exist. They do. Knowledge is Power.
posted by zeb vance at 5:20 PM on November 29, 2001

Uh, yeah, but zeb, we're talking about a private institution, not Congress, and we're also talking about Canada, where this would be the relevant document. I personally think it has less to do with the "left" censoring things than with the CEO simply wanting to make herself look good in the society pages.
posted by transient at 6:24 PM on November 29, 2001

funny, within the first month of college a girl had given me a copy of fountainhead... havent read it yet though...
posted by atom128 at 7:55 PM on November 29, 2001

the plot thickens...
posted by lotsofno at 8:09 PM on November 29, 2001

And if she gave atom128 a copy of the book, let's hope the plot ain't all that's thickening.

posted by allaboutgeorge at 4:06 AM on November 30, 2001

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