Tuesday, July 5, 2011

A Cautionary Tale Part Deuce

Back in 2009 I wrote about The Anarchist Cookbook.  You know about the book, I'm sure.  A guidebook, no matter how questionable, on how to make bombs, improvised weapons, drugs, etc..  Really hippie stuff, you know?  I wrote about my experience in trying to buy the damn thing many, many moons ago.  I'm a sucker for someone telling me I can't buy a book.  The first thing I want to do is march out and get it.  Hence, my copy of Rainbow Party.  Anyway ...

While looking at my stats for the week on this blog, I noticed two interesting things.  One: That 2009 posting is the most read post of the week.  Two:  I had more readers from Ireland this week than any other country, including the USA, which is the first time I can remember that happening.  Coincidence, or are Irish Republican Army supporters doing some random Google searches for inspiration?  I have no idea, but it made me think more about what this book represents.

First of all, anyone who thinks it ties in politically with anarchism has their signals crossed.  It's more about chaos and general distrust than anything else, but regardless, should books like this exist?  Should there be books out there that teach people how to make bombs, how to poison and cause other types of destruction?

Books, with few exceptions (and usually always religious-based) don't make people violent.  Violent people are drawn to certain books.  So are the curious.  Anyone reading The Anarchist Cookbook is not going to go from pacifist to bomb throwing nut case by the final page.  It just won't happen.  And while it can give someone on the fringes of sanity (however you define it) the blueprints for making some kind of weapon of destruction, that person doesn't really need it because we all have that capacity within us, and if there is one thing we are really good at it is finding out ways to hurt other people.

That doesn't answer the question, though.  It's easy to say previously banned books, such Alice in Wonderland, American Psycho and Uncle Tom's Cabin, should have never been banned.  They are stories, and we tend to agree stories don't hurt people.  (Well, governments don't tend to agree, and neither do certain groups, but independent thinkers tend to agree on that.)  But what about something that serves as a how-to manual for making bombs?  Should that be available?


That type of book is doing something that is dangerous.  It is giving its readers information.  Information, of any sort, is dangerous to the people who don't want you to have it.  This information could be related to making nerve gas or torture techniques used on "terrorists."  Once you suppress one type of information, it's very easy to suppress another.  It's easy to justify, and it's easy to do.

As far as I can tell, The Anarchist Cookbook was never "officially" banned by our government, though places did not sell it or make it otherwise available to the public (as I detailed in my original post).  Lots of websites say it was banned, but a quick Wikipedia check shows otherwise.  The author of the book, William Powell, wanted the book to be yanked from sale after he "matured," and eventually the publisher did drop it.  That had more to do with morals (and perhaps fear of legal action) than a government-guided ban.

Ideas and information exist help goals become accomplished, better society, encourage debate and so on.  Taking ideas and information out of circulation only ends up giving them more strength than what they would've had on their own and cause more people to seek them out.  It also demonstrates that the censor in power has little faith in their own ideals.  It's a dangerous game to play, but governments and groups continue to do it, stating they are trying to "protect" us.  If that doesn't send a chill down one's spine, perhaps you do need protecting.

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