According to the Banned Books Week website, this is “the national book community’s annual celebration of the freedom to read. Hundreds of libraries and bookstores around the country draw attention to the problem of censorship by mounting displays of challenged books and hosting a variety of events.”
The “banned books” discussed on this website primarily focus on books meant for children.
When children’s books are removed from libraries and schools, we can partly understand that as misguided parental concern. But when the potential readers are adults, the ban is meant to remove information itself from public forums.
Feral House’s books have been banned by nation-states such as Russia, in which UltraKultur’s translation of an Apocalypse Culture compilation, and later Extreme Islam, had its stock seized and extirpated. Sadly, UltraKultur’s publisher, Ilya Kormitsev, died a nasty premature death around this time as well. On a trip to a Moscow book fair several years ago we saw a pirated version of UltraKultur’s Apocalypse Culture. Apparently its ban made it an underground samizdat hit.
About fifteen years ago a book as innocent as the Feral House take-off on 50s men’s magazines, Cad: A Handbook for Heels was banned in Canada due to offending a new feminist law engineered by Andrea Dworkin and Catherine MacKinnon. Sadly but ironically, police invaded and seized the book from a Victoria LGBT bookstore! A few years after that the self-righteous town of Bellingham, Washington banned the “Rape Issue” of Answer ME! magazine. The magazine was later cleared, though my article on Andrea Dworkin became the butt of controversy at the trial.
It’s not rare to get threatened with legal action in order to suppress and ban a book. But we actually went to trial to defend an article by Alex Constantine in the book Psychic Dictatorship in the USA. The trial was held in the Mormon-heavy town of Ogden, Utah, where the ex-police chief (and Mormon) holding the unfortunate name Robert Wadman sued us for suppressing possible jobs by defaming him. Fortunately, even the judge saw no merit in Wadman’s suit.
Despite dealing successfully with all these threats and suits, there was one case in which we were forced to settle, and thereby take a book out of print. That book was the late David Hoffman’s The Oklahoma City Bombing and the Politics of Terror. The suit was from the Deputy Chief of the FBI, Oliver Buck Revell, whose quick retirement enabled him to sue Feral House for the book. Revell at the time was a CNN spokesperson regarding domestic terrorism. Both ACLU and PEN turned down the opportunity to support Feral House, but a former head of the ACLU called me into his plush penthouse office overlooking Santa Monica Bay offering to support us as our attorney if we deposited $150,000 into his account, a sum we obviously could not afford. A few sketchy right-wing attorneys offered to take on our case since they had it out for Clinton, the President at the time. We couldn’t accept this option, though they later got Revell’s case against author Hoffman dismissed by the Supreme Court. This hard lesson taught us to pay up on legal insurance, and we’ve been covered ever since.
A more subtle sort of ban takes place when chains or independent sellers consider a book to be too risky, or perhaps too offensive, to their clientele…. We’ve had the fortunate support of many readers throughout the decades who demanded that bookstores special order our books. Dog bless our supporters against banned Feral House books!