“What Sort of Societies Ban Books and Repress Free Speech?”
We do not find ourselves in good company by book banning. The big three of censorship in history were the Catholic Church, the Stalinist regime, and the National Socialist party of Germany, more fondly known as the Nazis. Starting in 1557 Pope Paul IV authorized the first list of banned books. The practice ended in 1948 with a list of over 4,000 titles. One may think being associated with the Church for censorship is not such a bad thing. To persons aware of church history, it will be no consolation at all to be associated with the Catholic Church regarding censorship. The more profitable lesson is that the Church gave up the practice of official censorship after 400 years. As for the Nazis, apart from all the blood on their hands, in 1933 a heap of 25,000 books by Jewish authors were put to the torch in Berlin.
In other cities around the country many similar bonfires were made, but none was as spectacular as the Berlin bonfire.
The censorship statistics for Stalinist Russia are not available. By killing most of the people he opposed, Stalin practiced the most effective form of censorship.
The essential point is that the practice of censorship is not viewed as indicative of enlightened political or religious leadership, but as repressive and intolerant. It is always associated with totalitarianism or, as in the more recent fiasco with Salman Rushdie, with fanaticism. In the chapter called Dogma Vs. Science we have already unearthed what lies at the heart of fanaticism.