The terror of censorship

I live in Australia, where the Attorney General Philip Ruddock wants to enact a law whereby the Office of Film and Literature Classification must identify in advance the books, films, symphonies, news broadcasts, sitcoms and sermons that “might lead a person (regardless of his or her age or any mental impairment) to engage in a terrorist act”. He bases that on the shooting of Ronald Reagan by a crazy guy who was obsessed with Jodie Foster.

That’s like knowing in advance that J.D. Salinger’s “The Catcher in the Rye” would lead to the assassination of John Lennon – which it did, via the delusions of a paranoid schizophrenic reader obsessed with that book and with Lennon. People have raised practical objections, but he says the Board can seek the help of psychiatry professionals if they need to.

The point Ruddock is missing (if he is genuine) is that people with mental health problems such as paranoid schizophrenia will incorporate whatever cultural material is to hand into their complex delusional systems. And, arguably, the Bible is the one that is most frequently encountered there. So that should be the first to go, in his great book-burning spree.

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