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Censorship Gone Made (Time Magazine) [Apr. 3rd, 2008|09:47 pm]
Bob Bain
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Censorship gone mad. Time Magazine.

Stupidity Goes Marching Forth In the Name of Morality

Justice John Ford of the Supreme Court of New York, like Polonius, had
a daughter. One day, so the story goes, he caught her reading D. H.
Lawrence's Women in Love. It is a very long novel, an erudite and
obscure novel, and some critics say - among them H. L. Mencken - a
very dull novel. But unquestionably it has some erotic passages which
are intelligible to the sophisticated intelligentsia, Whether they
were understood by his daughter or not Justice Ford did not say;
whether her mind was corrupted by them he did not try to ascertain.
But Justice Ford, being a lawyer and used to the obscure and
euphemistic language of legal pleading, understood them and was out
raged. Because his daughter might have been shocked by some highly
literary but indecent expression, Justice Ford set about outlawing the
whole body of literature from the Greek classics to George Moore for
everybody, at least in New York State. That was the origin of the
Clean Books Campaign wherein the mobilized blue forces of New York are
attempting to jam through the legislature the most drastic piece of
censorship in American history.

Their legal weapon is the so-called Cotillo-Jesse bill.

This bill provides that any book containing a " lewd, obscene, or
filthy word or expression " is liable to get into trouble. The intent
of the book is not considered; if from the purest and most moral
motives it used an obscene word it comes under the law. The book is
not to be judged as a whole but shall be condemned for a single
passage out of its context. In one fell stroke this clause would
outlaw the Bible, Shakespeare, the Greek and Roman classics, Swift,
Chaucer, the whole of Restoration comedy, Milton, Fielding, Voltaire,
Flaubert, Goethe, Balzac, the writings of the early Christian fathers,
Martin Luther, the Encyclopedia Britannica and the dictionary.

Moreover, another provision of the law forbids the introduction of
expert testimony by the defense. That is to say, the Clean Books
League and the Society for the Suppression of Vice, who are backing
the bill, can not hope for conviction if expert intelligence is
brought to bear on a suspect author. They must rely on ignorance and

It is a significant fact that not a single author, nor a single
publisher, whether of books or magazines, has appeared in favor of the

Surely here is censorship gone mad.

Saturday, Apr. 28, 1923