Following the publication of his more recent Imminent Fears piece, Xu was allegedly ordered by university officials to stop “all teaching and research” and take a pay cut. A university “work team” would also be investigating him and the essays he has been writing.
The second spot of the Intellectual Freedom Fighter series is Flash Drives for Freedom, a Human Rights Foundation initiative to provide USB drives to North Korean defectors to smuggle into the country.
Carmen-Francesca Banciu is an author, journalist and lecturer who grew up in Romania as the daughter of a high-ranking member of the Communist party. She studied in Bucharest, going on to win the International Short Story Prize in Arnsberg, Germany in 1985, leading to a ban on her works in Romania.
Even since 1997, that tradition of free speech has endured. An entire cottage industry of publishing content banned throughout Mainland China emerged to a point of (semi-)national notoriety in Hong Kong, if not actual pride.
Like a vague, passive-aggressive post on the social media site itself, Facebook changed its terms of service for a whopping 1.4 billion users without warning.
I think the recent headlines regarding a lack of knowledge about the Holocaust just serve to reinforce how important it is to continue to allow access to and discussion of Mein Kampf. Only by remembering what happened and by studying Hitler’s mindset and psychology can we understand – as much as is possible – what happened and thereby try to prevent it from happening again. And any consideration of banning Mein Kampf should also consider the fact that book banning (and burning) was an early part of Hitler’s reign, too.
Pro tip number one: Pick a word any word – except maybe the hash tag #MeToo. The Me Too Movement, founded by a Black American woman named Tarana Burke to encourage empathy and empowerment for sexual assault survivors, became ubiquitous online and off-line in 2017. In China, women have been using the coded phrase “rice bunny” (米兔), pronounced as “mi tu” to get around would-be censors who would shut down conversations online about sexual harassment.
Likewise, it says a great deal about the importance of librarians, library paraprofessionals, museum curators, archivists, educators, and anyone else involved in the protection and promotion of cultural heritage and protection of intellectual freedom. Knuth’s book demonstrates that librarians can be active participants in protecting cultural history, or they can be twisted to add legitimacy to the regime’s propaganda.
For those familiar with censorship in China, the Chinese government’s banning of books on the politics and history of its leaders (both past and present) is not a new phenomenon.
Intellectual freedom provides our world with innovation: new technology, cures to diseases, new ways of providing food to starving communities. Intellectual freedom enriches culture. Answering the question, “why is intellectual freedom important” is something I am continuing to explore and think about.