Dangerous Ideas is a vivid history of censorship and thought suppression, reaching from the origins of language to the current floods of online disinformation, and tracing the ongoing tension between humankind’s basic urge to speak and its compulsion to silence the speech of others.
PRAISE for Dangerous Ideas
"Regarding freedom of speech, Berkowitz demonstrates -- with both rigor and humor -- that no human right is less separable from its most absurd manifestations." —The Sunday Telegraph
"A captivating sprint through two millennia of censorship..."
—The Financial Times
"Berkowitz provides a sorely needed reminder of the follies and crimes of censorship." —The Wall Street Journal
"Berkowitz is a skilled narrator and has synthesized a great deal of history ... its details can be fascinating and unfamiliar, implicitly rebuking our conventional wisdom." —The Times Literary Supplement
"Engrossing ... lively and wide-ranging ... shows that conflicts between free speech and censorship are rarely simple or settled for long." —The Economist
“A timely contribution to an ongoing debate.” —Kirkus Reviews
"A level-headed, salutary intervention in today’s overheated rows over free speech." —The Daily Telegraph
"Absorbing and comprehensive ... The sweep of Berkowitz’s lively account emphasizes that the fight for freedom of expression has never been won." —Jo Glanville, former editor of Index on Censorship, for Chatham House
"A masterpiece ... astounding. I have never read a more comprehensive, entertaining historical account of censorship in the West." —Greg Lukianoff, President of Foundation for Individual Rights in Education
"In this nuanced outing, California human rights lawyer Eric Berkowitz gives the subject of censorship the consideration it is due." —The Globe and Mail
“[A] thought-provoking account . . . Berkowitz segues fluidly between historical eras and marshals a plethora of intriguing case studies. Readers will be convinced that policing harmful rhetoric too aggressively ‘will cause worse mischief in the long run.’” —Publishers Weekly
“Free speech good! Censorship bad! Undeniable. Indisputable. Except that Eric Berkowitz denies and disputes with such intellectual agility as to induce cramping of the brain. Vivid, violent historical examples buttressing the case against censorship, while we citizens of the internet find ourselves drowning in crud for want of it. The point is you’ll enjoy the ride, and the argument has never been more pressing.” —Ted Koppel, ABC
“Berkowitz untangles censorship’s maddening complexities to reveal core truths behind every book burning, every silencing of dissidents, and every removal of online content. Weaving together unforgettably vivid stories and accessible analysis, Dangerous Ideas takes the reader on an unruly ride—from the Vatican’s infamous list of banned books to algorithms that manipulate online speech to modern demands for safe spaces from offense. A hugely entertaining and urgently important book." —Nadine Strossen, former president of the ACLU, and author of Hate: Why We Should Resist it With Free Speech, Not Censorship
“In Dangerous Ideas, Eric Berkowitz has traced censorship in the western world from its beginnings in antiquity through the ambitions of Donald Trump. The sweep of this book is vast and its judgments thoughtful. Above all, Berkowitz shows that censorship remains tempting for those in power, even as history demonstrates how often it proves futile.” —Richard Tofel, President of ProPublica
“Eric Berkowitz has written a magnificent book that is original in its scope: looking at the history of censorship from ancient times through today’s efforts to restrict what is on social media and the internet. Beautifully written, this book leaves the reader with the strong sense that in every society there is the impulse to censor, but censorship rarely works.” —Erwin Chemerinsky, Dean of the UC Berkeley School of Law
“Unorthodox ideas can be dangerous enough to provoke censorship. Forbidden truths lurk in the shadows of taboo. With impressive scholarship and erudite humor, Eric Berkowitz guides the reader through mental spaces that have been declared off-limits from the ancient world to the present. Read this book before it's banned.” —Christopher Ryan, Author of Sex at Dawn and Civilized to Death
"An entertaining and instructive overflight of censorship from late antiquity to the present, [Berkowitz's] study reminds us that to understand free speech we need to understand the many ways it can be gagged." —The Political Quarterly
"A timely riposte to censorship." —The Morning Star
"Eric Berkowitz’s book continues to astonish and shame those who think thinking can be policed ... This book is important."
"A lively, engaging and thoughtful history of the complex evolution of free speech. Tracing the story from ancient Athens to the Sedition Act to the advent of American blasphemy and anti-obscenity laws to the Supreme Court's first encounters with the First Amendment to the Communist era and, ultimately, to the world of the Internet, Berkowitz brings to life the most exciting and compelling controversies over free speech in the history of the Western world." —Geoffrey R. Stone, Author of Perilous Times: Free Speech in Wartime from the Sedition Act of 1798 to the War on Terrorism
"Rollicking, entertaining ... Berkowitz has a flow and a style that makes Dangerous Ideas an easy yet never simplistic read." —The Australian
"An engaging book asking important questions..." —The House Parliamentary Journal
Eric interviewed on NPR's Fresh Air
with Terry Gross
Eric interviewed by Manish Shaw for Readara.com
"Readers will be sad to arrive at the end of this skillful piece of popular history."
Starred Review -- PublishersWeekly.com
Author, human rights lawyer, and journalist Eric Berkowitz's articles have appeared in The New York Times, the Washington Post, and the Los Angeles Times, as well as a range of online outlets. His first two books, about the intersection of sex, marriage and the law over history, earned accolades worldwide. The Sunday London Times, for example, called his first book, Sex and Punishment: Four Thousand Years of Judging Desire, “Enlightening, astounding, broad-ranging and rich in detail, exciting and impressively relentless.”
Eric has now turned his attention to the history of Western censorship. His new book, Dangerous Ideas: A Brief History of Censorship in the West from the Ancients to Fake News, brings all of Eric's analytical and storytelling talents to bear, focusing on the travails of the people, famous and obscure, who played central roles in the formation of our right to express ourselves.