Eric Berkowitz, "Dangerous Ideas: A Brief History of Censorship in the West from the Ancients to Fake News" (Beacon Press, 2021)

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Eric Berkowitz has written a short history of a censorship, a large topic that has been a phenomenon since the advent of recorded history. In Dangerous Ideas: A Brief History of Censorship in the West from the Ancients to Fake News (Beacon Press, 2021), Berkowitz reviews the motives and methods of governments, religious authorities, and private citizens to quell freedom of thought and expression. One theme Berkowitz reveals is how ineffective many censorship efforts have been. For example, after the printing press multiplied the sources available to readers and the opportunities for the Church and governments to suppress books and pamphlets, the attempts to censor speech served to heighten interest and encourage more dissent, creating profitable black markets for forbidden topics. Some publishers actually encouraged authors to write something likely to be forbidden. Yet, Berkowitz forthrightly acknowledges the dangers under which free thinker have lived and continue to live in our contemporary world. The dangers of daring to express oneself are present not only in authoritarian polities but in our own, and Berkowitz’s history seeks to reveal the common motives of censors and their targets.

Ian J. Drake is Associate Professor of Jurisprudence, Montclair State University.

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