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You Can't Read This Book [Paperback]

Nick Cohen
2.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
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Book Description

Feb. 17 2012

Winner of Polemic of the Year at the 2013 Political Book Awards.

After the fall of the Berlin Wall, the collapse of Communism, and the advent of the Web which allowed for even the smallest voice to be heard, everywhere you turned you were told that we were living in an age of unparalleled freedom.
You Can't Read This Book argues that this view is dangerously naive. From the revolution in Iran that wasn't, to the Great Firewall of China and the imposition of super-injunctions from the filthy rich protecting their privacy, the traditional opponents of freedom of speech - religious fanaticism, plutocratic power and dictatorial states - are thriving, and in many respects finding the world a more comfortable place in the early 21st century than they did in the late 20th.

This is not an account of interesting but trivial disputes about freedom of speech: the rights and wrongs of shouting 'fire' in a crowded theatre, of playing heavy metal at 3 am in a built-up area or articulating extremist ideas in a school or university. Rather, this is a story that starts with the cataclysmic reaction of the Left and Right to the publication and denunciation of the Satanic Verses in 1988 that saw them jump into bed with radical extremists. It ends at the juncture where even in the transgressive, liberated West, where so much blood had been spilt for Freedom, where rebellion is the conformist style and playing the dissenter the smart career move in the arts and media, you can write a book and end up destroyed or dead.


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Review

‘Cohen is perhaps the most insightful, thought-provoking and entertaining political writer in Britain today, and comes from the honest tradition of English liberal thought that threads from John Milton to John Stuart Mill and George Orwell’ Telegraph, Ed West

‘Nick Cohen’s books are like the best Smiths songs; however depressing the content, the execution is so shimmering, so incandescent with indignation that the overall effect is transcendently uplifting’ Julie Burchill, Prospect

‘It is useful to have all this material in one place, particularly for the benefit of young people, who must be taught about previous disputes over free expression’ Hanif Kureishi, Independent

‘You can read this book, and you probably should’ Hugo Rifkind, The Spectator

‘Into the space vacated by the controversialist Christopher Hitchens we might recruit the sardonic, sceptical columnist Nick Cohen’ Iain Finlayson, The Times

‘Nick Cohen’s new book is a corrective to the tendency of internet utopians to think that the web has ushered in an “age of transparency” New Statesman

‘Writing with passion, wit and erudition, Cohen draws upon the spirit of Orwell and Milton in his call for a fightback against the onslaught on free speech’ Metro, 4 stars

‘You Can’t Read This Book. You can, OF COURSE. And you should. Cohen is right about everything that matters.’ Standpoint, Anthony Julius

About the Author

Nick Cohen is a journalist and commentator for the Observer and Evening Standard. He is also the author of ‘What’s Left’? – the most important and provocative commentaries on how the Left lost its way.


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0 of 5 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Fun to read but... Sept. 9 2012
Format:Paperback
I was attracted to it because of this, "In Britain, they are shamefully abetted by libel laws that have made the country an international byword for the judicialsuppression of inconvenient truths. Here, one of the wittiest and most excoriating journalists at work today passionately and persuasively describes how those in the liberated West find themselves in a situation in which one can write a novel, criticize an alternative therapy, or "offend" a religion by drawing a cartoon, and risk ending up financially ruined, or even dead."

Then I was reading a review by Stuart. The whole review is worth reading but I want to bring attention to this by Stuart: "Now to Cohen's hypocrisy! He has written a book about free-expression and yet doesn't believe in that when it comes to the Israel-palestine conflict! At one point in the book he states that when people use the term zionist, they really mean jew. It follows that anti-zionism is therefore anti-semitism. Anti-zionism means opposition to the colonialism of a state (Israel in this case)not an ethnic group. He accuses the left of anti-semitism later in the book as well. He also took part in a documentary by Richard Littlejohn accusing israel's critics of fighting a war against britains jews. He's not to keen on free speech when it comes to Israel!

This is a very well-written, informative and lucid book. It is recommended for everyone who believes in free speech. Shame it is written by a hypocrite!!"

I thought there is a good chance there is a perspective in this book that would be some food for thought.. a consideration of an idea that would influence my activism and help ground me a bit.. I came away from this book believing this was written for the neo-cons.
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