Discussion Transcripts

Text Transcript for Session 9: Controlling Readers, Policing Reception Part 2 (of 2)

Much discussion of censorship and information control focuses on creators, so we wrap up our series by examining how they affect readers, often by curating access, creating concentric categories of people who are permitted access to different materials. Social status, ethnicity, religion, language group, political affiliation, age: in this two-day event creators and scholars specializing in six different regions of the world will discuss how information control systems from the Inquisition to the Great Firewall of China have categorized and policed readers.


  • Kyeong-Hee Choi (colonial censorship in occupied Korea under Japanese rule)
  • Wendy Doniger (author of a book censored in India)
  • Alan Charles Kors (Enlightenment censorship & book regulation, free speech on College Campuses)
  • Hannah Marcus (Inquisition licensing process, history of science)
  • Stuart McManus (Iberian empires, Spanish and Portuguese Inquisitions)
  • Glenn Tiffert (contemporary China, internet censorship)
  • Cory Doctorow (digital information policy) by teleconference
  • Plus series hosts Ada Palmer and Adrian Johns

[Ada Palmer] Alright. Good morning and welcome all to the last session of censorship and information control during information revolutions, the second half of our two day examination of the question of policing readers and creating different concentric groups of readers and trust and how this is one of the functions and goals of many bodies of censorship and information control. Let’s do our brief introductions. I’m Ada Palmer. I work on Italian renaissance and radical thought and the reception of the classics. And it’s fun to introduce myself differently every single session. Adrian?

[Adrian Johns] Yes, I’m Adrian Johns. I’m in the history department. I do the history of science and loosely history of information. Yeah, you know.

[Hannah Marcus] Hannah Marcus, Harvard History of Science. I work on early modern Europe history of science and medicine and I’d like to thank especially the undergraduates who helped me find my way here this morning. I sort of was lost wondering in the rain.

[Stuart McManus] Stuart McManus. I teach premodern world history at the Chinese University of Hong Kong. I work on early modern Iberian and global history.

[Alan Charles Kors] I’m Alan Charles Kors, professor emeritus, University of Pennsylvania. My field has been 17th and 18th century French intellectual history above all.

[Adrian Johns] Right so you can really tell what the effect of rain is on a Saturday morning.

[Hannah Marcus] Or the effect of a Saturday morning on everyone.

[Adrian Johns] There’s this great phrase from Milton that his audience will be fit though few. Hopefully we’re fit at least. So I guess I really want to start just by seeing whether the benefit of sleeping on it, if any of the panelists have stuff that they want to add to yesterday. And then I would like to, I know I’m harping on about this but I would like to go back to the question of readers, taking the term readers broadly to include things like viewers, people who use stuff on the internet, listeners, recipients, basically and to ask what their active role is, what their place is when we think about information control and censorship. But first let me just see whether people have things that they, there’s this French phrase which means the witty phrase that occurs to you just as you’re leaving the apartment building and going down the stairs, you curse yourself because you weren’t able to say it. So I want to give people a chance to say that thing that thegives them.

[Hannah Marcus] I don’t think I came up with any witticisms but I’m hoping that we will talk about self censorship at some point today. So just open that up as a topic.

[Stuart McManus] Yeah, maybe something we could’ve discussed yesterday and might discuss today is different premodern media. We were talking a lot about printed books yesterday but certainly in the Iberian world, there’s a large manuscript culture and especially in places that are further away from the great centers of printing like Mexico City and Lima. This is a real focus of the inquisition, the manuscripts that circulate across the Pacific. So maybe that might come up today.

[Adrian Johns] You’re good? Okay. We’re at least content, yes. So let me say something that’s been dogging me. And I think it probably, Alan, it was probably you who assigned the John Stuart Mill reading. So one of the standard ways in which I think we in the anglophone west, UK, the US, Canada places like that, think about censorship at a relatively high level is derived from John Stuart Mill and classical liberalism. And if you’ve read the text that Alan prescribed which is one of the chapters from Mill’s essay on liberty, that’s pretty much a sort of for much of the, not so much the thinking but the kind of gut level response we have when people invoke censorship. The idea is that the very culture and society that we live in depends on not having systems of this kind. And that knowledge itself is honed by the experience of having to conflict with rival claims out there in the world. It’s a sort of point that seemed relevant to go back to the beginning ’cause everything isn’t relevant as we said yesterday. But it’s clearly in Mill and Mill being the sort of rigorous, Victorian thinker that he is, insists on going through the wholeabout it where he brings out the strongest possible counterarguments and refutes them. So that statement really is a canonical statement of if you like the classical liberal view about censorship. And if you want to see how that plays through in modernity, immerse yourself in reading The Economist for about two months. The Economist emerges from that world of John Stuart Mill in the 19th century and to a larger extent it tries to cling to that mode even now. And I want to say it’s not one that can at all be treated lightly. It’s not obvious. For one thing, it’s not hypocritical. It’s actually quite self disciplined. It involves a lot of self discipline because you have to–

[Ada Palmer] You mean the practice or the magazine The Economist?

[Adrian Johns] The practice. I’m sorry, that notion of liberalism is actually quite, it involves quite a lot of self discipline to cling to it honestly. But what I want to say to play devil’s advocate slightly is that it needs severe updating because we now live in a world where technical expertise is a major sort of element, a foundational element of the society in which we want to live and in fact the society in which we do live. And that to really cleave to that Mill view where all opinions have to be answered, would be absolutely fatal, I want to say to the world in which technoscientific expertise is something on which we rely. And I think that, I was trying to go down into saying something productive when I was going on about this thing about readers, but I really think that there’s a complexity to this that didn’t exist in the 19th century when Mill was writing. Because Mill was writing in a certain media ecology, if you like, built in implicitly to Mill’s claim that experts have or that we have to reply to anybody who criticizes us, and our knowledge is only knowledge by virtue of doing that, is a notion of a filtering that exists through the 19th century world of male newspaper press, quarterly reviews and things like that. That’s gone. What we have now, if you’re a climate scientist or an evolutionary biologist or maybe certain domains of historian is a world in which literally millions of people could pose to you challenges and if you’re going to really take literally that Mill claim that all the challenges have to be answered in good faith, that’s going to kill research. So what I want to put out as a challenge, what do we do with that?

[Alan Charles Kors] It’s not Mill’s position that you should look for every single argument that’s been made and respond. It seems to me one wants to think of John Stuart Mill, if you’ve read On Liberty, modally, that is to say what he’s proposing is a way of being human, a way of dealing with differences of belief, strong differences of opinion. I had asked people to read just the section on freedom of speech and expression. But it runs into a very interesting paradox of sorts in Mill that feeds into this issue of self censorship. Mill’s central belief in the part that you’ve read is that given variety and given to see what survives criticism, the human species is always theoretically able to improve upon its beliefs, its condition, its ways of thinking. His great fear is that his 19th century England is becoming homogenized intellectually and in terms of lifestyle. So he calls for experiments of thought, experiments of living, and a tremendous fear of public opinion. It’s not simply governmental censorship. In some ways, that for Mill is secondary as opposed to what he calls the tyranny of public opinion, that people will not be able to say what they believe out of fear of the response. And if you look at the examples most favorable to Mill, you’re the village atheist in a town and people don’t let their children play with your children, people barely greet you on the street. For Mill, that’s a form of the censorship of public opinion. But later in the essay, he talks about the problem what if people are vile and what if people are promulgating vile beliefs? And the paradox is at that point, Mill says, well, you’re a free individual, you don’t have to associate with, you don’t have to be kind to. You can shun. You can’t silence, but you can shun. And that seems to me very relevant to the problem of self censorship that we face even on a college campus. Where do you draw the line between things uttered or written that seem to so vilely want nothing to do with that person and your commitment not to shut down the human conversation, to keep people talking and arguing with each other. So if you look at Europe, I’ll finish with this, if you look at Europe in the wake of Nazism, you’d find hate speech laws and the minimization of Hitler’s crimes is itself a crime in a large number of European countries to which I would always respond that the minimization of Stalin’s crimes is the root to its shared professorship at European universities and it is not clear to me, to say the least, that we do not gain by dealing with speech that we find hateful. Mill’s model is one, you can’t assume your own infallibility. So there is always a possibility that the view you don’t believe in is true. Two, it most likely has some modicum, some minimum portion of truth that’s missing. So you might clarify your own thinking by in fact learning something from what you thought you didn’t even have to encounter or tolerate but then third, and this is the one where I find myself most engaged, Mill argues that if you never have to defend your beliefs, if you never have to engage people who disagree with you about the most fundamental things, your beliefs become rote, they seize to be living beliefs. You don’t even understand the reasons why you believe what you believe because you’ve never defended them against people who disagree sharply with you. And my sense is that we are entering an age like that through self censorship above all of the places where it should least happen are university campuses. I didn’t mean to give a lecture.

[Adrian Johns] No, I think it’s good. I like the idea of sort of getting to some issue like this, especially at what is the last session of this quarter for this class.

[Ada Palmer] This made me think about the earliest iteration that I have personally run across of this argument which is in a weird, anonymous Latin poem that appears in the second edition of Lucretius in the 1490s. It’s a mediocre attempt at a pastiche of rearranging lines from Lucretius to say stuff that almost makes sense. But the only bit of original couplet in it that isn’t made from rearranging the lines is the argument that it’s useful to read false things because truth is sweeter and more pleasant through the process of separating truth from falsehood. And it was fascinating running across that as the first printed defense of reading in an extremely Christian world this poem which attacks the immortality of the soul, attacks providence, attacks the role of the divine in nature, that the idea that there is pleasure in sorting things, and indeed argue that the book itself is falsehood but that there is a pleasure in engaging with that falsehood and when I first started to study Lucretius, very much like with you Alan when you first started studying 17th and 18th century atheists, we’re looking for the atheists, the atheists are the rare, exciting species that is hard to spot camouflaged in the woods evading the predatory sensors that will crush it out. And the reason that you look at a text like Lucretius is that it’s like setting out a bait. You figure out this is a food that will draw this rare species and it will come out of hiding and it will congregate around it and we can find the mysterious, invisible, renaissance atheist because he will congregate around Lucretius. And over and over what I found, which I know is what parallels what you found is that people are reading this who definitely aren’t secret atheists, who are absolutely fairly orthodox Christians and if not orthodox christians, theists of another weird sort but are excited by this different, heterodox idea, excited by wrestling with it, excited by what I would call hostile reception, they want to engage with this adversary. And it’s that that multiplies the palm and ensures its survival which is in no way what I expected. But that in that particular context, and indeed in many early modern contexts, what makes the radical idea that almost everyone disagrees with survive is the eagerness and enthusiasm of intellectuals to engage with their adversary and to say we hate Thomas Hobbes, let’s keep reading Thomas Hobbes until we find a way to refute Thomas Hobbes because otherwise we have not yet conquered Thomas Hobbes. But as Adrian points out, this operates very differently in a world with an order of magnitude fewer books in it in a renaissance context in which you can, and in fact are expected to read all the ancient Latin texts and to master the corpus, and there’s one corpus and everybody in your intellectual world will read the whole thing. Or even a bit later, even in the first half of the 16th century, it’s still this expectation, you’re gonna read most everything or at least everything in your field. But as every half century has advanced forward, the order of magnitude of what their is has increased from you can read everything to you can read everything in your field to you are constantly racing if you want to even be on top of all of the book reviews of books in your micro subspecialty because we’re producing so much material. And the remember always the statistic that even though the eBook is exploding and our media is full of people talking about the death of the printed book, nonetheless every year, more printed books are being produced than the year before even with an enormous volume of electronic media also expanding and being produced. So the volume of material is enormous and the sorting process therefore, which was a game to the composer of this poem in the second edition of Lucretius in the 1490s, that sorting process has come to mean a wide variety of different things over time, how we go about sorting, how we attempt to be a savvy and a prudent reader. I remember reading a short blog piece on people’s tendency to click on the second Google search result instead of the first Google search result because it feels as if you’re being a savvier and choosier Googler that you haven’t gone for the first one which obviously did things to game the system as if somehow the second one didn’t do things to game the system. But we’re in a situation in which we wrestle with how can we use common sense and the degree of understanding we have to navigate information? And I think the last point I’ll make with this before passing the ball on there’s the, what’s the, the Monty Hall problem. The Monty Hall problem is this puzzle based on an old game show where there’s three doors and behind two of the doors, there’s a goat and behind the third door, there’s a prize and you pick a door at random which means there’s a one in three chance of there being a prize and two third chance of there being a goat. And then the game show host opens one of the other two doors and you have to choose whether to keep the original door, so you don’t know what’s behind your door. He reveals one of the goats and so you have to decide whether to keep the original door or move to the other unopened door and in fact if you do the statistical math, it’s correct to switch to the other unopened door as opposed to yours even though originally there was a one third chance but statistics mean that it’s actually a two-thirds chance with the other one, or close to two-thirds, because the game show host knew other stuff. This is a tricky, the point of this is–

[Adrian Johns] ‘Cause then you have 50/50?

[Ada Palmer] Yeah, then you have 50/50. It’s fairly simple when you think about it a bit. But people will argue about these problem for days. My father introduced this problem at his office full of computer engineers and they were still fighting about it a week later and wouldn’t stop fighting about it until they actually just did it with two quarters and an apple 100 times and measured the statistics of the thing. Because it’s confusing and slightly counterintuitive. And the reason I bring this up is that so much of the information that we’re presented with uses studies and statistics and stuff that we know doesn’t quite operate in alignment with common sense. Statistics don’t operate in alignment with common sense. You have to have done some savvy study of how statistics operate to actually understand and be able to judge this statistic is a meaningful statistic, this one is not. It’s really hard to do that. We’re all sort of vaguely aware of that. But people are willing to argue for a week about the Monty Hall problem. We have a deep anxiety about how we handle the mathematical expertise, the scientific expertise, the statistical expertise that we know we don’t have the deep understanding of. And yet we have to feel, in order to feel that we’re savvy readers that our common sense is letting us navigate it well. And so the arguments about the Monty Hall problem I think are symptomatic of a larger anxiety that we all have about knowing that we only sort of understand statistics, knowing that it’s indispensable to understand statistics in order to be able to prudently judge the plausibility of A claim of truth versus B claim of truth. But we live in a world where we don’t have the capacity to study all of the details necessary. And so the argument is symptomatic of the anxiety which is symptomatic of the truth world that we live in being so full of information that it’s difficult to evaluate even on a common sense metric.

[Adrian Johns] Okay.

[Ada Palmer] Sorry if the Monty Hall problem was a little too much. That was not a good summary of it but there’s two goats–

[Stuart McManus] Exactly, exactly. Unless you really want a goat and then your chances are good.

[Ada Palmer] Usually it’s two goats and a car.

[Stuart McManus] Okay.

[Ada Palmer] The question is how this relates to the issue of information overload which is I think at the heart of it. Does anyone else want to comment on information overload? We all, in the periods we study, watch people feel like information overload is coming on them ’cause information increases exponentially throughout this whole phase.

[Stuart McManus] Sure. And actually if I might add one other thing, and that is the question, it’s sort of related to readers, that of education as well and the learnings of techniques of sifting and reading that are tremendously, they seem very rigorous to us in the early modern world. Before these people are reading Hobbes, before they’re having this experience of reading things they might not agree with, they had spent many, many years reading a highly curated curriculum full of things with which on principle, they should agree with and they should use as framing devices for understanding everything else. I mean from the perspective of the Iberian Hispanic world, the Jesuits were tremendously successful at ruling out on a subglobal but very large scale, a Christian humanist curriculum that taught you how to read Latin and vernacular texts through a Christian lens. We might compare it to, I don’t know, say, civics education today, plus basic literacy and computer science. Between these things, that should give you some way of interacting with the world. So we have to remember that they’re not coming as a They have these techniques that they’ve built up through a very strict and of course Christian education system as well.

[Adrian Johns] Yeah.

[Alan Charles Kors] Briefly linking information overload and the need to confront arguments, in the earliest days of Facebook, there was a wonderful cartoon made in the New Yorker, a woman is sitting at her computer, desktop computer, and a voice comes out of a room saying, why won’t you come to bed? It’s three AM.

[Ada Palmer] Oh this was XKCD, I think.

[Alan Charles Kors] What?

[Ada Palmer] This was XKCD I think, this cartoon.

[Alan Charles Kors] She replies, but someone has said something wrong on the internet.

[Adrian Johns] Yeah, has to be corrected, yeah. A lot of you will probably know this, there’s an academic field of the history of reading now that looks at this kind of question that Stuart just mentioned about, so when we learn to read, as one of the formers of this field a French historian says, “When you learn to read, “you’re not just learning as it were “the facility to parse text. “You’re learning, as it were, how to be part of a community” because one of the ways you tell this, there was a generation of scholars who looked at autodidact readers in history, these people crop up who at least as far as one can tell, sort of train themselves to be readers. But often what they come up with are completely bizarre readings of things. And they often fell afoul of institutions like the inquisition or the censorship authorities of one kind of another. Most notorious example is a guy called Menocchio who was a miller in Italy who fell afoul of the inquisition, I think three times, if I remember right, is that right? Two, okay. And it’s a controversy still about exactly who autodidact Menocchio was. But in the first iteration of the study, the idea was that because he’d taught himself how to engage with even canonical books like scripture, he was combining them in ways that were completely incommenserable with authorized readings that anybody quote, “sensible,” end quote, of that period would’ve had. It’s as though, if you’re say, and this actually happens I think, if you’re something like a quantum mechanics expert at MIT or Caltech, every sorting you’ll get somebody writing into you who’s reinterpreted and showed that Einstein was wrong and Boar was wrong and that the deep structure of the cosmos is such and such a thing. It’s like that. And this is an occupational hazard.

[Hannah Marcus] I get these every week, you know?

[Adrian Johns] Every week?

[Hannah Marcus] Mmhmm.

[Adrian Johns] Really? There you go–

[Hannah Marcus] Something about the Harvard email address, got a new theory on Galileo.

[Adrian Johns] Yeah, that’s right, this is almost like a sporadic example about how not to do synergisms. They laughed at Galileo, they laugh at me. Ergo, I too am another Galileo. You get that kind of notion. And this is what I’m trying to get at with the script that I said at the beginning about how if you’re going to have a world of graduated expertise, then with that, I think has to come some notion of graduated readership. So there are, as it were, licensed readers, even though we no longer have an official licensing body for readers such that if you are Hannah and you get somebody writing into you every week demanding a detailed rebuttal to their theory of Galileo, that isn’t the rest of your life.

[Ada Palmer] But you’re reminding me of the question of technological delegation which I think is a Ray Bradbury short story that sets this up well but we develop technologies to which we delegate work. You delegate washing your clothes to your washing machine. You delegate watching television to your VCR when you set it to tape the television for you. You delegate, in the short story, there’s an electric monk who’s job it is to worry about theology for you and you tell it your theological questions and it’s programmed to sit there all day contemplating them for you and then give you a little report at the end of the day about its progress worrying about metaphysics on your behalf. And similarly, we use whether it’s news aggregators, as old as the gentleman’s magazine or recently, whether it’s our news feeds, we can’t keep on top of every kind of news ourselves so we delegate some of the analysis and checking to a wide variety of different sources. Sometimes to our family or friends, sometimes to a particular commentator, sometimes to a particular publisher by saying we will trust the things that this publisher has vetted and not others. And if we think of the fact that we’re delegating part of the process of sorting truth from falsehood, just as we delegate washing our clothes, that’s a useful thing to keep in mind.

[Hannah Marcus] Yeah and I think that the great early modern example of this delegation is Conrad Gessner’s Bibliotheca universalis. So this idea that you can list all of the books in the world in a select number of languages, but the good ones, according to him, right, Greek, Latin and Hebrew. And then Antonio Possevino Bibliotheca Selecta. So he’s Catholic and he’s coming up with a list of only the books that a good Catholic should read. And I think that these are striving actually to, I think that they’re both striving to universality but within different mindsets. And this is an interesting thing to grapple with. It’s all too much to read. It’s all too much to know, as A.M. Blair would say, it’s all information overload. So how do you select and who should be the person who’s selecting? Because it’s not that Conrad Gessner isn’t doing any selecting. Historians of science would see he’s limiting the data set, he’s limiting certain kinds of things that he’s looking for, but he’s limiting them in a very different way and those are very revealing about the cultures that these people are coming from. I feel like I was gonna add something else but I’m losing it so I’ll interrupt later.

[Stuart McManus] I mean the thing that struck me, today, maybe we’re less comfortable with the idea of having a Gessner-type figure of creating gatekeepers, and maybe we should emphasize more the education side and giving people the critical faculties to make decisions, as opposed to, I know we’re at universities and we love credentialization but maybe we should be looking more to that kind of early modern educational model and seeing how can we prepare people to read, to interact with this information in a critical way, to make those selections for themselves as opposed to having our Bibliotheka universalis CNN whatever.

[Hannah Marcus] One of my theories is that expurgation is actually playing on humanist practices of common placing. So that it’s a very short jump from excerpting the good stuff to put in your notebook to excerpting the bad stuff to throw away. And so with expurgation, you end up with an anti-common place book, an index of expurgations is an anti-common place book in the most beautiful way in that they don’t even reproduce the passage that’s being removed. It’s like from he said to the end of the page and that’s what’s gone. So I think we need to look at how these processes of education influence also censorship practices. I think that these things are closely related.

[Adrian Johns] There was a book that is now completely forgotten that I believe was handed out to every student at Oxford and Cambridge for about 70 or 100 years but it’s by a man called Degoraeus Wheare and it’s called The Method and Order of Reading Histories it originally appears something like 1630 and I think they stopped giving it out somewhere in the early 18th century, I’m not sure exactly, but in that period which is the period of Newton and all these other people this would’ve been given to you and it was a standard something like Aristotle or later in the century Descartes and it’s a bit of a frustrating book, you see that, the catalog and you think that’s great, that’s gonna be really interesting and you pick it up and it’s unfortunately not really interesting. It’s incredibly boring actually. It’s like a selected, almost like a printed common place book with extracts from living and this kind of thing. But in a certain sense, it’s boringness is what’s significant. But it’s telling you that basic sort of skill. These are the things that are worth extracting and remembering. It’s almost as though if you read this, it’s like a cliffs notes to something in a certain way.

[Alan Charles Kors] One of the things that excited me greatly in my own research is the life of works that are condemning works that no one should read. In 18th century England, for example, every deist work, critical of Christianity, every deist work produces about 100 refutations. An easy way to make your mark as an English theologian on the way up is to write a devastating critique of a deist work and to show just how awful these works are, there are page after page of excerpts. You get the whole argument. And it is frequent to have deistic treatises published that have very small readerships. And then you get refutations of them and you’ve got 15, 16 works out there saying this is the most dangerous work there, here’s what it says, and suddenly interest in that original work. Same thing happens in 18th century France where the French which is a royal court, the Frenchto Paris will issue condemnations and bans on a work. And they have to prove that they have a right to do this by citing and usually block quoting at great length the most dangerous passages in that work. It is the best advertisement for that work possible and there are instances where the royal authorities have to step in and censor the condemnation because it is more effectively than anything else replicating those arguments for the audience.

[Hannah Marcus] But Alan, that seems like an interesting change because I feel like that in the 16th and at the very least the first half of the 17th century, the Catholic church is onto that. People are like, oh I want to write a refutation of Machiavelli, they’re like, nice try. I want to write against Luther and they’re like, nice try. So I think that there’s one element which is that some people become a little bit insidious where they are using these things without citing them. There’s this sterilization of some of these ideas by removing protestant authorship and then maintaining some of the ideas and embedding it deeply within a gigantic, dense Latin ’cause people then aren’t gonna then engage with. But when is it that it becomes this proliferation of legal anti, discourses against something? Because that seems like a change?

[Alan Charles Kors] It’s very significant and it’s part of the process that occurs dramatically in 17th century France. I don’t know about to the east of France and these sorts of matters. But the crown takes censorship from the church and once the crown takes censorship from the church, all of that potential, no, we don’t want a refutation of this dangerous work, falls by the wayside but before I can see too much there, there is in the educated world of the 17th century, people who have had a university education have extraordinary confidence in their disputational skills. They are looking for arguments to refute. They want to refute Halls, they want to refute Spinoza. They’re not afraid of anyone. And part of that confidence is a willingness to lay out the argument and then from their own perspective eviscerate it, philosophically and theologically. But it moves out of the control of the church. Censorship becomes monarchical, not the bun, the faculty of theology.

[Hannah Marcus] Yeah, thank you.

[Adrian Johns] One of the things about that, back in the contemporary world is I don’t know if you remember but back when the troop of actors were here a couple of weeks ago, for some reason the conversation went on to issues of climate change as presented it the media and that I’m forgetting the name of the lead actor made the point that the BBC in the UK has recently changed its convention for reporting on climate change issues. Where for a long time it had had this rule which is a similar rule that exists in the US where every time you had an item on say rising rates of CO2 and their effects, you’d always have to bring into the studio opposing voices. So you have some scientists, who it’s very easy to find, who’s an authorized climate scientist, and then you scour to find somebody who has remotest claim to credibility who can be the anti-climate change person. And then they’re presented as though this kind of level playing field and they’re both to be regarded as authority speakers. And I think there’s a fairly, there’s a fairly wide sense consensus that this has been a very damaging practice. So the BBC has apparently stopped this now. So it’s going to be the case that there’s going to be at least I guess a higher threshold for deciding who is really qualified to speak on issues like this–

[Ada Palmer] Well what would make sense is to have a climate scientist who thinks the CO2 is gonna go up by 20% and another one who thinks it’s gonna go up by 23% and they debate.

[Adrian Johns] This is the point that I’m trying to make about if you have a really open field, especially if you have a system that forces to the foreground unqualified voices, you kill research because if you had people who basically agree on the well founded consensus among the scientific community of what climate science is, then you could have that debate and you could actually move forward and you could say something useful and the next time you could comment at a higher level, and you could, I hate to say this, you could make progress. But you can’t if you have a system where not just as it were by the natural state of things but by the artificially created sort of impotence to bring forward unqualified voices all the time, you’re always going back to these very, very basic questions that

[Hannah Marcus] I realize I do have a little bit of a bone to pick with something that we said that came out of yesterday’s conversation which is this idea that inquisitors, the people who are doing Catholic censorship are the many second sons out there. There is an explicit acknowledgement when the Catholic church begins to pursue a policy of expurgation that they need experts in the field to advise what content needs to stay in books and what content needs to leave. So when I tell you that I’m writing about the censorship of medical texts, I’m looking at the ways in which physicians, university educated, the best physicians in Italy are being recruited to try to participate in the correction of books. They undermine that I a lot of ways, though a lot of them are just not interested in engaging in this process at all. But I do think that we need to realize that there is, and I don’t think that this is apologetic on behalf of the church pursuing these censorship initiatives but I do think that it’s important to recognize that there is a sense that there are multiple realms of expertise in the early modern period and that the catholic church recognizes that their expertise is fundamentally in theological matters and that they see that as above everything else. So whatever comes up from these other people who are experts professors at Padua who are experts in medicine, people in Bologna who are experts in cannon law, that those are input that the Catholic church is hearing although at the end of the day, the theologians, the college of Cardinals are the people who are making the ultimate decision. So I want to emphasize a little bit that there are realms of expertise that are really relevant in this early modern context as well. I don’t want it to be just a world of religion that everybody has the same church education, that there is an acknowledgement that there are different kinds of experts, even in this early stage, right?

[Adrian Johns] Yeah, sure yeah. The other thing that Alan’s point about the appearance of refutations out in the public. It’s such an interesting question. When that comes in and why it isn’t seen through in the way that it was in the 16th century. And one of the things that occurs to me as possibly relevant to that is that the nature of university training changes in the 18th century. Depending on where you are, there’s a complicated geography to this. But prior to about 1700, when you were at university, you didn’t graduate from university by doing a written exam. You graduated from university by doing a disputation. So the whole thing is very theatrical and it’s completely predicated on the idea that you are in an argument. And you have to concoct the strongest possible counterargument, all that stuff that we spoke about yesterday. What it was to be a university graduate was to master that. But in the 18th century, increasingly you get written exams introduced, first in things like classics and mathematics and then it expands out from that in the 19th century which means that you don’t get rid of the idea that it’s to some extent political. But it doesn’t quite have that foregrounded notion that the whole thing is a head to head duel. So that may be something to do with this I think.

[Hannah Marcus] Yeah.

[Stuart McManus] And we obviously see this kind of disputation mentality in the areas affected by European expansion. There’s this famous section in the diary of where he describes this feverish dream he had the night before that he woke up from sweating. He was imagining he’d had a disputation with a Jesuit priest, Father Raleigh who was up in Maine and he had defeated him. So it finally knocked down his archenemy who was hiding up in the woods up in Maine.

[Hannah Marcus] As a native Mainer, this feels very weird.

[Stuart McManus] Yeah, yeah, exactly, exactly. He was creating all these Jesuit indigenous alliances to attack the New Englanders. So you can sort of see why Mather had this interest. But we also find it in other missionary contexts as well. And this is tremendously useful for historians in a lot of ways because say in Portuguese India, we don’t have much evidence of native religious practices except from these attacks on them by Jesuits who by trying to tear them apart have actually preserved certain kind of what we’d say Hindu practices for posterity that otherwise would’ve been destroyed and of course they programmed to destroy them. So there were all these European parallels as well.

[Ada Palmer] You’re reminding me of the Czech language index of banned books that’s in our exhibit which is a list compiled by an enthusiastic book burner of the works in Czech that are anti-Catholic and should be banned which is our only index of Czech literature from that century and in fact our only record of most of these authors and is the foundation of Czech bibliographic study because no one else was indexing books and publication except for the censors, the meticulous notetaking of the enemies of things as again the way hostile engagement is destructive but simultaneously is generative and continues to preserve and duplicate and perpetuate some of the material. But I’m also reminded of the second paragraph of the address to the reader at the beginning of a collection of the works of Charles Blount. This is one of the few people we could call a follower of Thomas Hobbes. And he’s beginning a new treatise and in paragraph two he says, “I can already see some haute pedant “gazing down as it were from the high mountain “and his eye happens to fall upon this volume “and already here on the first page “he picks a bone with some passage here “and decides to begin one of these refutations.” Blount who is an earnest deist, constantly being accused of wickedness and atheism and 1,000 different things which aren’t the particular radical heterodoxy that is his radical heterodoxy, has had this experience that every time he published anything, there are 100 ferocious refutations, many of which are largely orthogonal to the content of his work. Some of which is sincere engagement but a lot of which is the hautie pedant gazing down from the mountain and finding an object that he feels he can attack. So that that too, even as generative as these attacks are, returning to the question of self censorship, fatigue is one of the things that prevents writing, fatiguing the author, the author is too exhausted from this, from the many things that that author experiences. And one of the ways that regimes of censorship and regimes of intellectual hostility silence adversaries is exhausting them. Every time Charles Blount writes anything there are 100 books published calling him an evil murderer.

[Adrian Johns] He ends up committing suicide.

[Ada Palmer] Yeah, he ends up committing suicide in fact. It makes it that much more exhausting to take up the pen and try to write a fourth book when this has been the reception of the first and second and third. And sometimes when you read the writings of somebody like Zamyatin, author of We, the foundational dystopia novel which is one of the inspirations of 1984. His enthusiasm in the early days of the Russian revolution, he writes poetry about how excited he is that these new order is coming. Five years later his words are heavy with the exhaustion of living under the censorship that makes it so impossible to express himself. And I think that that which encourages, it’s even a little bit beyond self censorship, it’s the wearing out of the author so that you cannot produce, is another one of these arenas where perhaps the regime doesn’t succeed in destroying the book that’s been published that they don’t want to circulate but they certainly succeed in destroying the unwritten book that that author can’t produce because the author is frightened and because the author is exhausted or in Blount’s case because the author couldn’t face it.

[Stuart McManus] So do you think this writer exhaustion has increased in the internet age or decreased? Because of course, in an age of dollars for clicks, then the more people who come to your popular, unpopular article and comment is definitely, that’s definitely to your advantage but the number of hostile tweets you get, the number of hostile comments you get probably wears you down as well.

[Ada Palmer] And putting on my novelist hat for a minute, I think by volume it’s increased but by volume the number of authors has increased. I think the speed of it has increased, that it can happen in minutes instead of in weeks but I don’t necessarily, and I think the distribution of power of who’s capable of making it happen has increased because Charles Blount is being worn down by treatises published by this hautie pedant who is a person in a position of authority. In today’s internet society, anybody with any status within society can be part of the fire storm that causes the exhaustion of an author. I don’t think that it happens more or is easier now than it was in the 17th century. But I think that it is less limited to elite voices being able to trigger it and I think that it happens more quickly and more dynamically just as all circulation of information happens more quickly and more dynamically but that it absolutely happened in the later 16th, in the 17th, in the 18th centuries. In the middle ages, it takes many months for a copy of your manuscript to get one person who dislikes it and then spends many months starting a Latin reputation which spends many months getting back to you. You can still have that firestorm land on someone like Peter Abelard in the middle ages but it’s slower and the people who can make it happen have to be at even higher levels of authority. We have democratized the capacity to exhaust an author.

[Adrian Johns] But it must be, this is one of those cases where quantitative difference arises to the extent where it becomes qualitative difference, I would think partly because it is now the case that just the entire Twitter sphere can weigh in. So maybe both sides are increasing but as you, to put it in Carthusian terms, one side is increasing arithmetically and the other side is increasing geometrically. That creates a different experience it seems to me. But the other thing is that you think about it at the level of visibility of these exchanges. So in the case of somebody like Abelard or even Blount in the late 17th century, these are tracks that are produced in relatively small quantities, 1,000 or so. So it’s not that they are really restricted to tiny numbers of people, the standard thing, rule of thumb about thinking about readerships for these things for the early Blount period is you multiply it by about 10 because of all kinds of things like people reading Blount, people circulating copies, things like this. It’s thought that roughly speaking if in addition is 1,000 copies, that you can think of that as being roughly 10,000 people who encounter it, readers of some kind. Now it’s potentially almost global. That report on internet freedom that was in the reading list, I think it says that it’s something like 80% of the global population that had access to the internet in some form. And the thing is that these people were able to sort of, there’s a point of access that kind of cuts straight through right to your Facebook account or whatever it is. So they’re able to access things with a directness that didn’t exist before. And I think that makes it, to my mind different and more intense and more intimate in a certain way. Certainly, there’s a certain amount of testimony I think that writers who are subjected to this kind of firebombing feel it with an immediacy and a threatening air that maybe Blount would’ve felt. But I think usually it’s not quite as–

[Alan Charles Kors] Given that the topic is censorship, it does seem to me crucial though to distinguish between intensely critical response, absent coercion, and the critical response in the presence of dramatically coercive power. So one might write something that leads to endless refutations. It’s very different from being sent to the gulag for something that one has written. And there probably is no way to solve the problem that Mill worried about which is the power of public opinion other than to encourage an atmosphere, but I mean to do that constantly and intensely in which competition of ideas occurs, in which people are encouraged to say what they actually believe. But in the presence of coercive power, which has become awesome, you’re talking about information overload, if we compare the power of the church in the 15th or 16th century to the power of the Chinese government or Stalin’s Russia to deal with control of information and audience and readers, we’re in very, very different worlds there. And since you raised climate change and what are the parameters that ought to exist, there Mill’s victim seems to me a good one that not necessarily scientists at their conferences but people who understand scientists at their conferences. If they never have to defend their beliefs, if they don’t have to defend the foundational aspects of what they’re doing, it does become almost gross, it ceases to be the kind of belief that one has when one is forever defending it against people who disagree with one. Mill is no friend of Christianity or to say the least the Catholic church but what he admires very deeply is the form of medieval education, where you must deal with arguments antithetical to your own and the institution of the devil’s advocate. And Mill argues that it may well be over the next century or so that everyone comes to agree about certain principles necessary to live together harmoniously as human beings or understanding how society functions. And at that point, if people all agree, there will have to be people who assume sincerely the role of devil’s advocate, and attempt to challenge them so that they have the experience of defending what they believe to be true against arguments that run against their conclusions.

[Stuart McManus] With that, absence of coercion doesn’t mean absence of consequences.

[Alan Charles Kors] Correct, correct. You might not get tenure.

[Stuart McManus] Well, I mean there’s famous examples of things like this. If a professor writes an op-ed that is for whatever reason unpopular and there’s a firestorm of complaints then that might threaten their livelihood.

[Alan Charles Kors] I would still put that as a cost to bear quite different from being sent to the gulag.

[Stuart McManus] No of course, of course.

[Adrian Johns] One thought that rings in my mind is that, I don’t think this has been brought up just as a thing in brackets, in the 17th century when the English monarchy had moments when it tried to suppress parts of literature, what it would say was that it was suppressing debate. It would say this was what it was doing, it was spreading dispute because dispute led to disorder and they had a belief that the ideal commonwealth was harmonious. And this happens in the 1620s in the first waning years of James the 1st, beginning of Charles the 1st when there are big disputes about ecclesiology. There’s the puritan movement and things like that. And the crown moves in saying that it’s going to suppress both sides equally. And the idea is that it’s going to suppress this kind of threat to harmony. And there’s a kind of complicated almost neoplatonic cosmology to that. But it’s almost the diametric opposite of the Millian idea that disharmony is what you want, that progress arouses out of the clash of ideas or it’s the Miltonic idea that it’s progress and truth arises out of the clash of ideas. This is the idea that the state of affairs on the Earth ideally would be harmonious and part of the role of the crown is to try to underwrite that when threats come in from whatever side. So they suppress both sides. And it’s never in fact done that way. They suppress one side more than the other side but that’s the rhetoric of it. But the other thing is that I still think that, and let’s leave aside the whole business about the gulag which I think we can just agree about that sending people to the gulag is probably a bad thing.

[Alan Charles Kors] You don’t want to play devil’s advocate.

[Hannah Marcus] I was gonna say don’t goat him.

[Adrian Johns] Sorry go ahead.

[Ada Palmer] Just very briefly one on the gulag. I think it’s useful to paint this gradient right where there are consequences where the consequences is bankruptcy, there are consequences where the consequence is losing a job. There are situations where the consequence is you get death threats and you get doxed and your financial information gets put online and your bank account gets emptied by trolls and your kids have to drop out of school because people are harassing them in school. There’s this vast gradient of what the consequences can be. I think it’s absolutely the case that you see a big distinction between when it’s the force of the state or something that has been delegated, force like the state. So there are some iterations of the inquisition that have force to imprison and lock up people. There are other moments where it’ll be the inquisition, that the duke is displeased with the inquisition, not helping it at the moment, the inquisition doesn’t have very many resources to do very much. But I return to the comparison of if you’re trying to publish a pornographic comic book under New Zealand’s censorship laws in the ’60s, you go to jail. If you’re trying to do it in the US, you go bankrupt. These are different but they are on a gradient with each other and there isn’t a line where it’s just financial and just financial and just financial until it’s the state because there are these intervening moments like doxing in which the force that’s being exerted is life-destroying or even life-threatening without yet being the state which is why I think gradient is an invaluable way to approach that question. And every point on that gradient is different and it does make a big difference when it’s the state, particularly ’cause then it has a kind of legitimacy such that there is no remedy through the legal system but that all of these others in between and the fact that the consequences can get life-threatening without it yet being the state, are important to keep in our minds as we try to draw a line between what is or isn’t censorship with coercion since non-state coercion is very real. But Adrian, I’d love you to return to the reader–

[Adrian Johns] No, no, I was just gonna say that I feel like I’m always coming back to things repeatedly but one of the issues I think with this idea is that there’s a suppressive effect paradoxically which is not imposed by either the state or corporations or whatever sort of actually clamping down on things but it’s almost the opposite. It’s an effect that’s created now in our culture by pushing things to the foreground. Cory spoke at one of the previous meetings about that flooding the channels with misinformation, disinformation, rival information so that you don’t see what you might want to see, what might be useful to see. And I think that one of the things that is not, that one would want to see better treated by latter day Mills style approaches to information control and censorship issues is a recognition of that, a recognition of the complexities that are involved when you have determined agents out there that are pushing things to the foreground and demanding debate all the time. It’s partly a fatigue effect. But it’s not just that.

[Hannah Marcus] Can I make a quick comment about the inquisition? I think it’s really important that we use lots of adjectives with the inquisition so we can talk about the Spanish inquisition or the Portuguese inquisition in Goa or the Roman inquisition.

[Ada Palmer] I like pluralizing it, the inquisitions.

[Hannah Marcus] Right, so there are lots of inquisitions. Best not to think of them as one structure. They work differently in different times and places, they have always a secular relationship. They become embedded in the state in the late 15th century beginning with Spain and then on from there. So just caveat. Additionally, I think it’s worth pointing out that if you have some prohibited books in the 16th century in a Catholic country, you aren’t gonna just get burned by the inquisition if you get caught with them. That’s now how this body works. You will be put on trial and you will be given many opportunities to repent. So I think that again we should think about this gradation. One of the great examples, of all of the physicians that I’ve looked at in my work, one of the ones who does get killed by the inquisition, who is sentenced to death and is drowned in the lagoon in Venice, is Donzellini. And this guy, he’s an illustrative example because he is definitely a heretic. He is not Catholic. He believes things that are absolutely not Catholic and I think we need to recognize that the inquisition is killing people for their religious beliefs. And that is something that I hope very few of us in this room would condone. But that’s the world that this is operating in. So he gets put on trial, he gets arrested. He says that actually, never mind, I didn’t mean to say those things and then he goes back out and starts selling prohibited books again and is clearly living a heterodox life. Put on trial again. He gets arrested again, he repents again. They release him, he goes back out, he keeps up. He gets put on trial again. They’re like, we’re gonna keep you in prison for awhile, you’re seeming a little suspicious. Then the plague comes and they’re like, we need some more doctors to help with this. And so they release him to go help with the plague ’cause he’s actually quite a learned physician too. And while he’s out, he starts up a chain of distributing prohibited books, Lutheran materials throughout the Veneto. So there are many, many opportunities. Then he sees the writing on the wall and doesn’t get out in time and then he gets caught and drowned. So I just want, this is an example to show again that, I don’t want to minimize the fact that the inquisitions are killing people for having different beliefs and for reading materials that they shouldn’t be reading but just reading a copy of a prohibited book isn’t gonna get you killed in this period. And so we do need to think of this as a gradient in which many people are interacting and that there are many opportunities to engage with this system in different ways.

[Stuart McManus] And of course, in the Hispanic world anyway, more often than killing people, they’re shaming people through these big public events called an where you’re sort of marched into the town’s square, you have to wear a dunce’s hat, you have to say what you’ve done wrong, repent and do this publicly in a huge event that lots of people are going to see. So they have actually a lot of tricks up their sleeve that aren’t capital but are quite significant in people’s lives.

[Alan Charles Kors] Just to bring this back to Mill and the gradation argument, it seems to me from a Millian perspective, the issue becomes at what point of response to a work are you actually inhibiting and suppressing the kind of freedom of expression and confrontation of ideas that it wouldn’t be progressive to encourage, not suppress? And it is not a blueprint, it’s a set of poles toward which you move, one or the other. And on the gradation arguments, there are aspects of shame when someone says something absolutely appalling that you hear and respond to that could be beneficial for both parties, how good that the person’s saying, you get a chance to respond, know the depth of your own feeling, someone knows how other people respond to what he or she has said but at some point on that scale of gradations, you are suppressing freedom of thought, freedom of expression, and that’s the moment where Mill becomes terribly concerned.

[Ada Palmer] Welcome all to the second half of our last session of censorship and information control. I think before we plunge in, let’s quickly have our two new returnees introduce themselves who weren’t here in the first half.

[Glenn Tiffert] Sure. I’m Glenn Tiffert, 20th century historian of China at the Hoover Institution and I’m also working on forms of digital censorship or censorship of our digital knowledge base.

[Kyeong-Hee Choi] My name is Kyeong-Hee Choi. I teach Korean literature, modern era but I also study Japanese and Korean censorship in Korea.

[Ada Palmer] I think we had wanted to talk about self-censorship as one of the factors to jump into. Anyone want to plunge in?

[Hannah Marcus] How ’bout a story?

[Ada Palmer] Alright.

[Hannah Marcus] So I’ve been going through the papers of this physician who lives in Ravenna in the 16th century, well the second half of the 16th century, beginning of the 17th century, and he worked as one of these expert censors for the Roman inquisition, for the Roman Index of Prohibited Books, that is when the Roman index is asking, submits a call for people to take part in what they call the honorable enterprise which is censorship, he steps up and decides out of piety to participate in expurgating other people’s books. As I was going through his papers I also found that he then goes back over his own writings, his own manuscripts and changes them.

[Adrian Johns] Sorry.

[Hannah Marcus] Oh no, no, no, it’s okay, I thought it was my battery or something. He goes back and then starts censoring his own books. We know that self-censorship happens. We know that that’s one of the effects of censorship regimes but we so rarely have the material evidence of the ways that people then take their pen to their own work in this period. And so I think one of the things that I’ve found that’s really exciting is him going back through and editing his papers and removing praise of protestant authors or reframing the ways that he puts certain comments or labeling heretical authors as such in the indexes of his books. So we see this process of revisiting his own text and I think something I was talking with Glenn about about 30 seconds ago is that for him this is indeed an act of piety, that he is participating from the perspective of a physician in the process of reforming catholicism and he sees this as an act of piety that he’s performing for the public at large, the Catholic public at large with correcting other people’s books and on a personal level in reviewing his own text. And I’m sort of curious to what extent you see self-censorship as an act of, if not piety, of true belief. And when we should see it as that versus an internalized repressive process which it also is? But when we can see it as really an expression of also true belief in the system?

[Glenn Tiffert] I mean in my own experience, some of my research has looked at legal intellectuals who sort of straddle the period before the 1949 revolution in China which means that they were trained in the nationalist period with a very western leaning civil law tradition type of legal education and a commitment to constructing a western style civil law legal system in China. And then the 1949 revolution happens and these are the experts on law that are available to the new PRC communist government. And some of them, a great many of them, because they served the former regime are no longer able to participate in the legal system for ideological reasons. And so they are purged. But a small number of them are preserved and instead of using the sources of authority that they cited before 1949 in the civil law tradition, largely Japanese or German sources, they turned to the Soviet Union as a framing device because the Soviet Union also is deeply embedded in civil law tradition post, from the mid-1930s onward, Pashinsky and the post-1936 Soviet constitution. And they used that framing device to legitimate arguments that they had previously legitimated by citation to German and Japanese sources. And for a time this works because the Soviet Union is the ideological big brother, the model to which China looks for what socialist modernity should be. But by the end of the 1950s, it no longer works as Mao’s relationship with the Soviet Union and Khrushchev begins to become more complicated and Mao decides that he is the true successor to Stalin and that the Soviet Union has gone off the rails and those people end up suffering tremendously as well. But interestingly, many of them outlive Mao and they become a resource in the 1970s for the reconstruction of the legal system. And so this argument kind of comes back full circle simply because of their longevity and then because a new source, kind of a Marxist resource on which to draw on.

[Hannah Marcus] Fascinating.

[Adrian Johns] So about self-censorship, I think one of the interesting things to think about is the self that’s being censored and there’s a sense in which I think this comes into a whole area of thinking about the historical sociological constitution of selves. What is it to have a self or be a self? And I think in the 16th and 17th century, there was a big literature that retrospectively looks like it deals with this on what were called the passions. And in a certain sense, it’s like a psychological literature before psychology. And what it does is it goes through a series of, they’re almost like the poses that are used in 17th century acting. So passions are responses that the body and the mind give to stimuli from outside you. So it’s things like anger, love, curiosity, vengefulness, things like that. There’s a whole sort of canopy of them. And in fact, in the 17th century, John Locks treats education and is very explicit about this, what education is is a process of disciplining your passions. And the thing about, what I’m getting to here is that there’s an interesting counterintuitive sense in which self-censorship is actually seen to be essential for freedom because it was widely held that true freedom, the freedom of the mind, involves liberating yourself from what otherwise might be the overbearing, corrupting influence of the body. And the body is likely to lead you to irrational things like fear, anger, vengefulness, love. You need to discipline yourself to go beyond or through those things so that you can think in a truly free rational way and there’s a big essay, there’s literature on the passions supposedly training you to do this. So one of the techniques for example is to think about opposites. So if you’re a child, to train yourself out of fear of lions or something, whenever you see a picture of a lion, you might train yourself to think of a picture of a lamb or something like that. The idea is that eventually it will become habituated and you will grow out of the fear response. And that’s what allows you the freedom then to really think as an individual soul. And in that light, a certain kind of self-censorship is actually sort of completely necessary if you’re really going to be a truly realized human person. Now I don’t know what happens to that in the 18th and 19th century as modern psychology arises and you start getting very different ideas of what the soul might be but it would be an interesting project to try and think through how an idea of internal discipline kind of connects with programs of self-censorship through the development of modern psychology like that.

[Ada Palmer] So to repeat the question, this is a question about the practice of going on Facebook, typing out a status update and then not hitting post and a study suggested that 70 something percent of people on Facebook do this regularly where they’ll type something out and then never actually hit post and how this relates to questions of self-censorship which I think is an interesting question given the kind of public, I want to connect that to a question about Catholic ideas of sin which Hannah made me think of and an anecdote from some accounts of Nazi book burning that I was looking at last week. And I think the trifecta gets at something valuable which is different regimes have different attitudes toward when one has participated in negative/forbidden knowledge, what’s the good outcome for the future in that moment? If we look, for example, at the inquisition, the happy ending is when, from the perspective of the inquisitor, the happy ending is when the heretic decides that the thing they did earlier was wrong and repents and becomes orthodox. And that’s what results in, for example, these practices of public performance of repentance and public recitation of here are the wrong things I used to think but now I think this other stuff. And in one way, you’re humiliating the person but you’re also celebrating this as an achievement. So that when somebody has had a library of abandoned, forbidden and bad material, having a ceremonial burning of it, having a public announcement that this has happened and the person’s changed their mind is a moment of celebration and that’s the happy ending. So this was, a friend of mine sent me an account from some people who were living in Nazi Germany and they were describing a problem of what do you do with the books that they’ve just announced are banned because you mustn’t let anyone know that you had them in the first place or you’ll be in trouble? What do you do? You can’t burn them in your fireplace, the smoke will be really conspicuous and your neighbors will notice. You can’t put them in your garbage because they’re searching the garbage. Do you sneak out and leave them behind someone else’s house? But then you get them in trouble. How do you dispose of it? Because if it’s found out that you ever had it in the first place, then you’ll be marked as bad and for purgation which is a very different attitude toward what the Catholic attitude would’ve been, great, you used to have it, you want to get rid of it, we’ll celebrate getting rid of it. And I think these tie into, in some sense, Catholic V. Protestant V. Other ways of thinking about sin. Because the very Catholic way of thinking about sin is everybody sins, everybody’s gonna stray all the time. And you stray and then you realize you were wrong and then you repent and then you go back and we celebrate that. And everybody is expected to sin a lot. And so when you go back over your old writings, you say, wow, I was endorsing these protestants, what a wonderful thing that I’ve learned better and I can go back and cross this material off. Things like Calvinism and much more bring in to some versions of reformation and postreformation christianity, something much closer to a zero tolerance idea of sin that if you ever strayed it means you’re not one of the elect and you’re kinda out and that that stain proves that you’re not one of the chosen, you’re one of the contaminated and that’s it. And so going back over even your own notes and finding that in past thing makes you be marked for purgation. And even though something like Stalinist purges are secular and indeed antireligious in many ways, I think they inherit to some extent that notion of having once strayed, you are not one of the elect. Having once been immersed in this forbidden material, the outcome is that you are to be purged even if you have changed your mind about it which is very different from the Catholic system. Now neither of them is automatically more or less oppressive than the other one. Certainly there have been regimes that use the latter way of thinking about sin that are less oppressive than some that use the other but these ways of thinking about what it means to have been contaminated strongly saturate how you then think about the apparatus that should be in place and the process that should be in place once a person’s contamination or past engagement with something bad or forbidden comes out. Is this a permanent black mark or is this a cause for celebration that the person has changed and gotten better? If we then apply this to the Facebook kind of context, different communities have very different attitudes toward this question. And there aren’t Facebook communities where X person is running for political office, somebody reposts a status update that they posted when they were 13 which expresses a terrible sentiment and is enough to turn people on that person. In a different Facebook community someone would post exactly the same, they said this when the person was 13 and everyone will say, boy 13 year olds sure don’t know things about the world yet. Glad that the person is now 35 and running for office instead of 13. It’s a good thing that we don’t allow 13 year olds to run for office very often. But that is very much what the response is gonna be. It’s very much in how people think about engagement with things that are negative and whether people think about it as a symptom of an ineradicable contamination or whether people think of it as something that is engaged with, moved on from, et cetera. Those attitudes can be related to what religion people are but much more arise out of what, this concept of contamination or negativity that society’s immersed in. I would love to hear the others who’ve been nodding follow up.

[Glenn Tiffert] You know that actually resonates very much with something that I look at in the period I study which is Maoist approaches to thought reform. This idea of contamination, that ideas, practices, vestiges of the prerevolutionary world which the revolutionist has tried to kind of expunge and eradicate live on and survive and are constantly threatening the purity of the revolution going forward. And so there’s this ongoing process to remind oneself to constantly purge these contaminants that’s required. You don’t have the option to sit out and not participate in the performance of the revolution. And this is what happens, this is a signature difference in the Maoist period between what came before and after, you don’t have the option of silence. Everyone is required to participate and perform their obedience and fealty to the revolution, and beyond that, to continually criticize themselves and their own failures in order to say I will try to do better. Now those beyond the pail who are so contaminated by the past that they can’t participate in the real fruits of the revolution their punishment or perhaps their opportunity for expiation is to continually self criticize themselves or ask to write biographies of themselves that go back to their childhoods that name everybody that they’ve come into contact with who contributed to their straying from the path. And to do this over and over again. And the first, second, third, even fourth drafts are never accepted. They’re always required to go beyond, to embellish, to tear down more of their previous psychology, the idea being that the person that they were before is utterly destroyed and repudiated and has no redeeming qualities so that they can reconstruct this new socialist persona going forward. And in the ideal sense, at some point, you reach the point where you’re invited back into the community but in practice, many people are simply required to do this over and over again and it was never good enough. Now also understood, and this was his lesson he drew from the Soviet experience, that the revolution can die, it can become rigidified and create a sort of new class of elites. And so part of his strategy was to keep the elite people within the party constantly off balance by requiring them to also do a flavor of this constant self criticism. It became ritualized. And you had to participate and one way that you demonstrated your loyalty to the regime was by attacking those around you. So it also tended to sort of disrupt loyalties within groups. And make everybody loyal to the party and Mao but disrupt factionalism. And so this produced a really dysfunctional, and the cultural revolution was an outgrowth of this because people retained grudges from earlier rounds of this. They remembered who had attacked them previously and when they had the opportunity they would turn around and settle the score.

[Kyeong-Hee Choi] I want to take up the issue of self-censorship to a slightly different direction by introducing the particular regional area, Korea. And just going back to Ada’s question about fatigueness of this censorship, giving on to the writers and others and also Adrian’s idea about the graduated expertise and readership that has to be really kind of coming out from the whole realm of censorship. I want to bring that into some reflection that I’ve never done before and just while I’m listening to you, I began to really think about oh, this is something that we really have to think in Korea. I was thinking, what would happen to those people who really had years of self-censorship and then liberated, then what would happen? What happens to the discipline and the burnings and the kind of resolutions that were really being really solidated during the period if they had not been exhausted? But here I want to bring a factor of individual versus collective idea and how the models of self-censorship has been actually being about individual basis so far or a minority basis rather than majority and collective basis. And colonial created a quite interesting kind of counterexample because minority was the Japanese colonial regime officials. The majority was the Korean public who were using Korean vernacular language and the conventions. And so of course during the wartime when Japan and Germany and Italy were really winning, certainly there were people who were kind of trying to espouse what Japan is trying to kind of promote and yet liberation take place. Those people who are most censored on the Japanese colonial regime went to North Korea under Kim Il-sung’s leadership. And this interesting happened kind of divided Korea and I’m trying to think about how this self-censorship as kind of a program of training, or discipline, might have actually garnered different kind of reactions in different state formation in the divided Korea. So under Kim Il-sung’s regime, the many South Korean intelligentsia’s that were, ’cause we’re really heavily censored, had a quite of rudimentary kind of flourishing and earlier phase of the state formation and theNorth Korea but they were being purged soon. Kim Il-sung and his guerrilla groups were not part of the public sphere or printed world sphere, they were actually doing the arms struggle in Manchuria. And therefore certain kind of conflict between the Soviet factions and Kim Il-sung factions and South Korean regional communist factions and the colonial factions, many factions and then Kim Il-sung got the power. And so North Korea really wanted to very interestingly censorship department very clearly in the regime and then that will be changed to different kind of form. In South Korea, I was just thinking, okay so there were people who were collective self-censorship and then how this would come out in a different kind of forms toward democratization after South Korea was divided from North Korea. And I want to bring this one particular instance about activities that have been still very long legacy. The second in a very heavy instance of external state-led censorship was done in the 1970s and also early ’80s and at that time, that group of writers were censored and imprisoned an tortured and the reaction was not individual-based. It’s a collective. They were really trying to kind of form organizations, small and large, and clandestine or formal, they really kind of put the idea of a civil society as democratic. And I think one particular publisher, it’s called Creation and Criticism Company really played a very important role in this 1970s and ’80s. And even the publisher itself was closed under kind of paramilitary dictatorship but their reactions was that, I think that it’s not about author as an individual but the publisher as a leader of intellectual community and then they really, these days they survive, that the companies survived. But they were actually exercising this kind ofnotion of the function of criticism in our time. How to propagate the best knowledge in the world to the masses as possible? And I think right now when there is so much inundation of information and knowledge and different ideas in Korea, how to select what is most important for the best form of civil society became a very important issue. And currently it may to be precedented in any other countries in the world but currently two presidents are now prosecuted and two former president and one president is also is going to be prosecuted. This is the result of a revolution that took place a couple of years ago. It’s called the Candlelight Revolution and finally people just came out and said, okay constitution is what we really want to really observe and before there’s nominal forms of Western modernity going on. But I think the menu of the kind of trained, self-trained kind of reactions to this state enforced pressures really met this real mass scale revolution. So before the government, especially the, the dictator’s government, really had the blacklisting and obvious suppression of the publication of free speech but thedaughter Pakune who is now in prison, they did whitelisting as opposed to blacklisting. So instead of really picking up and trying to suppress, they really chose who will be the ones who will give out innocuous or the kind of right wing kind of a thing. So instead of using legal ones, financial ones. But again between the state funds attribution and actual, really has a lot of cultural elements. They were using various family ties or various ties and really pressuring the only those people who would comply with the governmental, ideological and will get the money. So finally I think many people just realized that this has to come to an end and then there was a revolution. And this particular company, I was just thinking that they’re doing not only the publication and this was quarterly but also podcast and Twitter and book cafe but also there’s a physical space for the readers to come in and so there’s era one of the lecture series, era two of the lecture series. And actually this physical space was opened, it’s called Book Cafe and part of the publishing engine, they really create the kind of open space where people can really have lectures and different expertise who contribute to the general magazine called the Korean Criticism will be coming in and really open up the kind of debate.

[Ada Palmer] I think the question of whitelisting versus blacklisting gets at a lot of the questions about information overload or drowning out voices with a proliferation of other voices that we get at, that when we’re looking at information control as well and its relation with censorship, the practices which we could call whitelisting and strategic drowning out of other voices are not looked at as much as the converse but very central. You also both, or Glenn why don’t you say something real quick first?

[Glenn Tiffert] Yeah, I wanted to kick the hornet’s nest right now actually in my field and I may regret this but the question of self-censorship is very much alive in China studies today. And among practitioners outside of China. We live in an interesting moment where, as you’re all aware, the rise of the liberalism around the world and the consolidated democratic gains that people thought had been made since the Berlin Wall came down are now starting to fracture. And in the case of China, in particular, you have a resurgent authoritarian tendency with profound economic market power. And China is able to flex this economic muscle around the world to assert its influence in ways that are legitimate and potentially more problematic. And so one of the ways that China’s doing this as I’m sure you’re aware is well think of the enormous Chinese market that Google has several years ago decided not to participate in but is now reevaluating its decision by contemplating having a censored search engine, a censored version of Google that will operate within China. And this is simply because Google was responsive to the demands of its shareholders. And it wants a larger market. It needs economic growth. And the China market is almost too big to pass up, it’s tempting. But they have to play by China rules. Similarly, China exerted its market power to get major international airlines and hotel chains to erase the word Taiwan from their literature and from their websites because of course, Taiwan is not an independent entity but in the PRC government’s point of view it’s an unalienable part of China. This applies in the information space and the university space too in subtle ways. Some of you may have heard that scholars of China who write works that are critical of certain practices in China, a very small number of them have encountered visa difficulties. It’s not possible for them to return to China. And for many scholars, this is a professional kiss of death. If you’re tenured already, then you can survive but if you’re not tenured then it impacts your research and your ability to move ahead in your field. And so this is extremely punitive and it has real consequences. This has only happened in a tiny number of cases but the fact that it has happened leads people to think well gee, what are the standards? There’s an ambiguity, a sense that this could potentially happen to me and it could be ruinous. And everybody navigates those sets of concerns in their own way. Some people, it never comes up. If you’re working on a piece of 18th century fiction, the political ramifications of it are probably quite limited. But if you’re working on LGBT rights in contemporary China that’s maybe extremely political. And so there might be ways in which you choose not to engage with that topic if you’re concerned about whether you’d be able to return to China. Like I say, people sort of navigate this in their own way. There are no clear guidelines and you don’t know where the red lines are and that’s deliberate because what it does is it puts the onus on you and it makes you kind of second guess your own inclinations. And so some people may choose not to say things that they otherwise would say. Another consequence of this is that your informants that you use for your research in China could be compromised by things that you might say. And so simply to protect them, you may choose to backpedal or softpedal some arguments you might make because it might expose people that you care about who at some risk to themselves have shared information with you. And so this is a form of self-censorship but it’s a benign form of self-censorship because you might not be as forthright as you otherwise would’ve been if there were no human consequences for speaking the way that you might first want to speak. At the organizational level, China’s market power is impacting American universities as well. Many of the cooperative arrangements that happen between American universities and Chinese universities are happening most smoothly in the space of STEM fields because those implicate politics less, engineering, biomechanical stuff, computer science. The social sciences tend to be less a part of that and in fact, American universities have in practice decided that social scientists are really messy and problematic to involve in the negotiations of this because we raise all of the problems in contemporary China. Whereas the STEM people are simply concerned with getting their basic computer science research done. And so it’s much easier for them to collaborate with China in this space. And so what you see very often is the collaborations tend to flow in areas where everyone can cooperate and not make waves. In the fields like again the social sciences and the humanities where we ask more critical questions, the cooperation is less. And so this kind of shapes the field in subtle ways too. The sciences are privileged and the social sciences and humanities tend to not participate in this. And then there’s a final area in which self-censorship occurs and that is simply when you’re choosing the topics to work on. Some topics because of the political regime in China and the information that’s available to you are harder to research, harder to look into. So frequently just to get your work done, you may choose the path of least resistance. You may choose topics that are easier to research, you may choose topics on which there’s better data available so you can simply do higher quality work. This works to the Chinese government’s advantage too by limiting, channeling you in some areas and away from others. And so it operates on multiple levels. Many individual scholars take umbridge at the idea that self-censorship is a concern because it implicates their own personal choices. And yet it doesn’t necessarily require affirmative complicity in a regime of self-censorship to be affected by the censorship regime.

[Ada Palmer] You’re making me think of scholars who study Russia who run into similar things. I have a good friend who’s a Russia historian who’s spouse is within the US a political activist and she’s not allowed to go to Russia to go to archives anymore and consequently cannot continue her academic career because she cannot access the material that she can study. And that’s happened as well. But I love this concept of thinking about collective self-censorship or group self-censorship in addition to individual self-censorship. I think we’ve looked a lot at how regimes try to project power and cultivate situations of fear or inducements of piety and reward and thereby encourage a variety of self-censorship. One of the questions with which we began this series is the utility of reconsidering when we use the word us with regard to censorship and when we use the word them. And an Orwellian model of censorship has an impersonal distant, them censoring us and that it is sometimes very useful to think about the question of when is it us censoring us or when is it us censoring them as opposed, where do we put the agency? And the question of collective self-censorship is a very interesting one. When you have the censoring authority is that censoring authority thinking we must make an apparatus to censor us or we must make an apparatus to censor them? In some cases, it’s easy to answer that question. In a colonial situation, for example, we can pretty much easily say the authority is thinking that we must censor them, that the us is the colonizer, the them is the colonized, that’s very uncomplicated. When it’s a parent or a PTA association it’s easy to say that this is us, the adults, wanting to censor them, the children or if you’re on the other end of it, it’s them, the adults, wanting to censor us, the children, but the authority is not thinking we’re creating an apparatus to censor us. But I think sometimes the us is in there and it’s interesting to look for. When is it, we’ve just had this revolution, we’re good communists, we’re trying to make sure that we’re censoring us enough to keep the contamination of the old regime from being carried on by the fact that we grew up in it. Whether it’s a member of the inquisition or the Catholic church who sincerely internalizes the idea that even bad individual is prone to sin and therefore is trying to come up with what is the system that will censor us effectively and protect us from the weakness within ourselves? I think it’s very interesting to reexamine these different authorities and ask the question is the person in the position of authority using us or them or some of each when thinking about who is being censored by the apparatus that they’re trying to make?

[Adrian Johns] Whenever you have boundaries like that or geographic or chronological boundaries it’s always worth as a shortcut to understanding things trying to find people or institutions who move across the boundary. So people who make you start from the outside and become us or we start from us and become the outside. When I was struck by both the Korean case and the China case I was thinking one of the issues that we’ve, one of the claims that we’ve made repeatedly through the 10 weeks is that there’s a geography to censorship and information management as well as a chronology to it and so it would be interesting to ask about cases of readers or censors who move from one jurisdiction to another and they’ve built in the internal tacit knowledge about what it is to read well in a certain regime and then they’re put into a different one. And they’ve tried to practice that art in a different regime. There are such people, in the early modern period, I think of Marco Antonio de Dominis, I think it goes back and forth between some quite sort of hard line Catholic regions.

[Hannah Marcus] Well you know that most of the Vatican librarians are converts.

[Adrian Johns] Is that right?

[Hannah Marcus] Yeah, yeah, yeah. Throughout the 17th century, the Vatican librarians are converts from Northern Europe, many of them and there’s this I think idea about right thinking and also a breadth of knowledge that is there.

[Ada Palmer] They’re considered to be effective as librarians because they had this access to the enemy earlier in their careers and familiarities out of it?

[Hannah Marcus] It’s not something I’ve looked into sufficiently but I think there’s also a conscientious embrace of a Catholic model with a full awareness of what’s out there.

[Adrian Johns] So there’s a research project there.

[Hannah Marcus] Yeah.

[Adrian Johns] Also, this is connected in some ways but slightly in a different direction. So with institutions like Google, they’re almost, in certain circumstances they’re like the institutional counterpart to these individual people who move back and forth. So Google, like you say, originally rejected the idea of being involved in the Chinese search market because they were gonna be censored and now is moving back into there and there’s internal ruptures at Google because this is going on. One doesn’t really want to be too charitable to the corporate world but there’s an issue about as it were, the self-censorship of institutions or corporations. How open are they to oversight either by the state or by citizens about the decision processes that go on? There’s obviously a show of openness quite often. But there’s also a lot of layered confidentiality and secrecy that goes on not just in states but in corporations and much of what we see as rationales for decisions are actually public relations. And this comes to mind because a few years back I had to be in Italy and this was right under the Berlusconi regime and I spent a day actually doing media interviews with people, people interviewing me. And they kept asking me about WikiLeaks and I couldn’t see why they were asking me about WikiLeaks. This is about 2010, 2011 so a long time ago now and eventually I took one of these journalists aside and said, “Why is everybody asking about WikiLeaks?” And they said, “Well what it is “is that here in Italy, “we’re under the rule of Belusconi”, who is a bit like a kind of Trump figure in the earlier 2000s, but Belusconi was a press magnet. So the basic assumption of a liberal democracy which is that the press is a central infrastructure for responsible accountability and decision making is cast into doubt. Because normally the idea is the press investigates the state, it prints stories, maybe it takes time for the stories to sink in but eventually the public knows and it delivers a verdict in the next election about whether that government should be reelected or not. So the press is kind of a central mediating factor. The problem with Italy is that the prime minister is also the head of the press, as it were when Belusconi was there. So the question that liberal democrats were asking was could you come up with a new model of a responsible social democracy cutting out the world of information businesses like the New York Times for example. And instead going straight from internal decision making of the institutions like the state or corporations and the public through WikiLeaks. So it would be just like a fire hose of information. And maybe you could build up a new model of liberal democracy which was based on radical openness like that. And the question that they wanted to ask me was did I think that was possible?

[Hannah Marcus] Do you?

[Adrian Johns] It hadn’t actually occurred to me. What I ended up saying just on the spur of the moment was that I didn’t think it was possible and what I thought instead was that we’re not to try to draw a distinction between confidentiality on the one hand and secrecy on the other. That I think for expertise to work, and you want expertise to work, you want decisions to be taken on the basis of expert informed opinion, there need to be layers, as it were, of access and these layers can be partly sociological but also geographic and chronological. So I can see a system where you have radical openness staggered by time, for example. So if you take decisions about things like trade policy, trade negotiators tend to be incredibly secretive now. This is something that was brought in I think under the Clinton administration in the US and it’s been a disaster. But for whatever reason, they tend to be very secretive. And the fear is that if you make trade negotiations, international trade negotiations open to everybody, you’ll never make any progress because it’ll be constantly subject to qualification and it’s an expert matter. I think that I wouldn’t want to entirely gain say that perspective but at the same time, the radical secrecy that they’ve adopted has been I think a catastrophe. So what I think you want is something that’s somewhere between the two where you have something like a staggered level of confidentiality where you can have expert opinions voiced freely in confidential settings but there’s an understanding that maybe in two to five years, the records are available to circulate, something like that. I was speaking off the top of my head so what do I know? But I thought it was an interesting question and it got to something like an issue of self-censorship at the level of the collective, of institutions, rather than just individual psyches.

[Ada Palmer] I think the challenge with a system like that in part is what Joshua Grayes brought up for us where a government document is 700 pages of two and a half times spaced tedious, badly edited unconcise material in which three sentences are important. And it takes you dozens of hours to find those three sentences. And a WikiLeaks burst is millions of pages. A system in which the government was required to release all of those would be hundreds of millions of pages. And then you need some organizational system by which the public takes turns plowing through to find and flag the significant sentences. Then you’ve just created another press corps in a sense which operates in a different way which could develop into a great press corps but could not. And the way that would develop to have a structuring system would be an important challenge to that process.

[Glenn Tiffert] It’s interesting. Those who look at universities have frequently commented on the fact that there’s been administrative bloat, within university structures, that the balance between administrative staff and teaching staff and faculty has shifted radically in the last several decades. One of the contributory factors is that there’s a much greater regulatory burden on universities and a specific area which is a huge growth area is actually for public universities and public records requests. And in fact, public university being a state university is subject to government openness regulations, whatever the regime for that might be within a particular state jurisdiction and it has been really interesting in the last 10 years these laws have been used by organizations with particular political agendas to kind of impose onerous administrative burdens on faculty and universities in the areas of affirmative action, climate science and so forth, to file records requests with these offices in which they’re required because they operate under state law to then go through faculty email, with respect to admissions decisions like the affirmative action case against Harvard but that’s a private university. So in some sense it’s governed by a very different regime. If this had been a public university, there would be much more openness. But the burden has become onerous for universities and it impacts the ability of faculty to do research. And the fact that their email is potentially available in public and can be requested by people outside with particular political agendas is also changing the way email is being used among faculty members and their willingness to commit things to a record that can then be subpoenaed. And so it changes the way that faculty and scholars do their work and communicate with one another. And it’s funny but ironic that a regime of openness can produce new levels of secrecy.

[Adrian Johns] Yeah that happened near locally in Wisconsin about five years ago. It was a big deal.

[Ada Palmer] I had my email subpoenaed when I was in Texas A&M at one point.

[Adrian Johns] Really what for?

[Ada Palmer] To see whether I had emails concerning a student I had never heard of to which the answer was no. But it occurred and it was interesting and an interesting feeling of imagining different randomly selected students and what the email thread about that would look like in a similar context. It does make you think about the difference between a public and a private document differently.

[Adrian Johns] Yeah and what happens a lot with these things of course is that as you say it creates new levels of confidentiality and secrecy. So radical openness laws can create a system where decisions are actually taken through face to face conversation ’cause you don’t want it to be an email or anything like that, anything that can be subpoenaed.

[Ada Palmer] I’d like to talk about apparatuses which can be used to censor. So beyond creating a thing whose original purpose is censoring, those points at which an apparatus which exists for some other purpose gets repurposed for that. So the moment I’ve mentioned before in 1951 when the funding system for a recognized student organizations on Chicago campuses is used to take funding away from the student newspaper to silence the student newspaper because they had a communist editor or at least an editor who had attended a communist youth rally over the summer though whether sympathetically or critically is a separate question. The funding of a club, the funding of a statewide program, the administration of trash pickup–

[Adrian Johns] Security fees is one that Alan brought up the other day as well.

[Ada Palmer] Yeah. The post office. These are all tools that have at different points and in different ways been repurposed to censor. We’re surrounded by apparatuses which can be repurposed to censor. I think one of the factors we all face is that whenever one does that, one then makes it easier to reuse that apparatus to censor because it’s been used to censor once already. The precedent is there, the method is there, the model for someone else to look at is there and I would love to know whether any of the rest of you have thoughts on this question of repurposed apparatus and whenever we censor something, we make it easier for the same method to be used to censor something else question.

[Adrian Johns] Yeah, liable law would be an example in England, it’s used that way.

[Hannah Marcus] Go ahead please.

[Adrian Johns] No, that’s it.

[Hannah Marcus] As a counter example, the Roman inquisition in 1571 starts the congregation of the Index of Prohibited Books. So previously, the Roman inquisition had been responsible for censorship, prosecuting heresy in both people and in documents, in print and then they decide to divide those things. This creates an institutional battle in the church for the next couple 100 years as they try to duke out what these different realms are. So this is a bit of a counter example in the sense that with the recognition of the proliferation of print materials, there needs to be a remedy for print.

[Ada Palmer] Separate from people or parallel to people.

[Hannah Marcus] And it can’t be separate. There’s this constant recognition that it can’t be separate and yet they need to have certain people who are tasked with this project separately also.

[Kyeong-Hee Choi] Also, sometimes I was thinking that the apparatus that was used for printed media could be easily going on to performative medias in very different ways where the issues, is not just author and the publisher, but it’s about theater and laws and police and all those kind of peripheral institutions, that were very much differently used but not under the name of censorship or thought control.

[Adrian Johns] So, one of the things that I do now is I’m doing a sort of history of the policing of authenticity over hundreds of years. So it starts with medieval girls worrying about whether bread has been properly made and it comes up to the present and when it hits the present is where a series of congresses that I held roughly every year to 18 months under the aegis of INTERPOL, this is an ongoing series, it’s not stopping and they’re actually run, forward by a company in the northern suburbs of Chicago called Underwriters Laboratories and what these congresses do is they bring together all kinds of agencies from the FBI and Scotland Yard through things like Cisco and Apple to Monsanto and Disney and Mercedes and to a certain extent public non-enforcement agencies. But the focus of them is on the practical upholding of something like public credibility in all the products that circulate around in the economy globally. So one of the most notorious examples is pharmaceuticals. If you take a medicine from a pharmacy, how can you be sure that that pill actually contains what it’s supposed to contain? That’s not something that is just upheld by the free market by itself. There’s an entire invisible infrastructure that exists to confirm that. But now that principle extends all the way across the economy, so things like auto parts, aircraft parts which is really scary, software, all kinds of things. And when you go to these congresses, I’ve never been to an arms fair but in a certain way, this is what I imagine an arms fair would be like. You walk into a huge conference center like McCormick Place and before you get into the hall, you run the gauntlet of a long series of stalls and these stalls are basically companies, some of them startups, some of them big companies that are selling technologies for policing loosely designed or information out there in the global information economy. So it’s things like mind detecting instruments that have been repurposed to detect whether chemical substances are the right chemical substances when they’re shipped around the world. Or digital watermarking techniques or various kinds of digital authentication measures. And this process about repurposing is absolutely ubiquitous in this world of the business stalls. Because you’re very often seeing things that start out in a realm of maybe the military or the harder line policing stuff.

[Ada Palmer] Or NASA.

[Adrian Johns] Something like that. And they’re reappearing here as often rather vapor wear like, utopian technologies that are going to guarantee the authenticity of anything anywhere in the world. One of the best examples is actually that for awhile, INTERPOL was projecting a universal global register of goods. So if you had a cell phone and you went into a pharmacy, the example’s always pharmaceuticals, you point it at your cough medicine and there will be some, like an RFID chip on the cough medicine that your cell phone will pick up on and it will immediately be able to track back through the entire supply chain globally to where that thing was created. And that technology actually came out of the cigarette industry. It was devised in the wake of the collapse of the Warsaw Pact to try to track counterfeit cigarettes being produced in factories in Poland and the Czech Republic and Slovakia and places like that where the tobacco industry runs what was essentially a private detective agency to go out and take these people down. So it’s gone from the tobacco industry which God help us is not the most critical organization in the world to supposedly the essential infrastructure for upholding public health globally. That’s the greatest example of a kind of cross transposition of these technologies. But they are intended to be used also in the world of things like digital information. So to stop things like piracy of movies and music and stuff like that. So there is a sense in which that transposition extends out into the domain of something like censorship. Sorry it’s a long scree. I didn’t mean to go on for so long.

[Glenn Tiffert] The gap is actually much smaller between the technologies that we’re increasingly calling upon our social media firms to employ to police odious content and which copyright holders are also requiring them to employ to police against copyright infringement. So you can’t put movie clips up on these sources. Well the digital watermarking that occurs and the well frankly speech control that is applied towards these more benign purposes is easily transferred to policing political speech as well. And so the research, the basic research is fundamentally the same. So what happens in parallel to versus what happens in Beijing or in Moscow, they can speak the same language but simply apply these tools to different purposes.

[Adrian Johns] But you may remember this better than I do but Microsoft has outposts around the world of anti-counterfeiting, anti-counterfeiting, anti-piracy forces and they had one in Russia. I believe they ended up withdrawing it because it was very clear that it was being co-opted by the Russian state to track dissidence as it were.

[Alan Charles Kors] Kind of want to mic up Alan and get him to talk about peer review, peer review and censorship but maybe any of you would like to speak to that as well.

[Ada Palmer] Oh, peer review. I don’t know. So, I live in an academic commune with STEM scientists as well as social science and humanities people and I recommend living in an academic commune. It’s really refreshing. But it’s amazing to me how completely different peer review is within STEM when I hear them talking about it and then my own experiences. And I’ve had great peer review experiences and I’ve had bad peer review experiences. But even when I’ve had a peer review experience where fundamentally the person whose peer reviewing this piece published a book that if that book is correct my book is wrong and if my book is correct, that book is wrong and there is no gray zone to debate anything just we hold opposite positions and one of us is wrong in a Schrodinger, in a we can’t, we need a time machine but one of us is wrong way. Even in that situation, that person doesn’t actually have an incentive to try to prevent my book from being published because the publication of my book attacking that person’s book is just gonna make more people also read that person’s book and advance this debate. And history operates like that, English literature operates like that that a new book in your field makes your field richer. Whereas in STEM, there are these situations where you’re being peer reviewed by the other team that is trying to get to the result and they want to publish it before you do and you’re really working on the same thing and people game and worry about and sabotage peer review in order to be first out the gate because second out the gate means nothing. And it’s interesting to me how the financial stakes and the publication culture and a lot of other accidents of the fields. It is this way, it could’ve been another way, accidents of these fields, partly financial, partly structural, partly cultural, make peer reviews success and failure modes, it succeeds in both, it fails in both but the success and failure modes are so incredibly different between the two, which again goes to this question of it isn’t just the structure, it’s also the financial world around the structure and the cultural world around the structure and New Zealand can have a law on the books that bans criticizing the church of England and enforce it once in 150 years and be embarrassed at every having enforced it all and even in that case in 1928 and it can be a nondysfunctional system because both the culture and the application are fine. Technically peer review operates from a systemic sense identically for social sciences, humanities and STEM, just as technically the law which says you may not criticize religion is identical in New Zealand and in Afghanistan. But if the culture and the way it’s applied and the way it’s enforced and the financial realities that surround both of these power structures are radically different, the consequences and the success modes and the failure modes of that structure’s existence are gonna be radically different. And I think that peer review shows us that enormously well. Because peer review is sometimes triumphantly beneficial to an article in STEM. As it is sometimes triumphantly beneficial to an article in humanities. And in fact, the peer review I had from the person who had a very hostile book review because our book’s disagree was the single most helpful peer review I’ve ever had, single most emotionally trying peer review I’ve ever had but the single most valuable peer review I’ve had because every possible nitpick with that piece was dealt with at that stage before it released press. And boy was it better as a result of that. And so even hostile peer review turned out beneficially because of the structures and incentive patterns surrounding social science peer review or history peer review which is sometimes in humanities, sometimes in social science, depending on which university you’re at. But the structures for STEM both in publication culture and in financial systems just make it operate differently.

[Glenn Tiffert] Seems to me that peer review, I wonder if you all agree is an inherently conservative institution and one of our imperfect responses to the problem we were speaking about earlier with respect to Mill in that how do we manage the democratization of information. Peer review is a filtering mechanism, a gate keeping mechanism, which serves, even when it operates properly to keep some voices out and allow other voices to pass through. Now ideally, it improves substance. But sometimes peer review can also be specific to form or convention of a particular discipline and in that sense, it actually might be inherently extremely conservative and hold back innovation in a particular discipline because people are expecting arguments to flow in a particular way and to adhere to a particular literature that they’re familiar with. So it’s a gate keeping mechanism too and it serves to keep some voices out. Now whether on balance it’s positive or negative is something we can probably debate but it’s just one of the solutions that we’ve arrived at and it’s highly imperfect and as we’ve seen, can be gamed or hoaxed as well.

[Kyeong-Hee Choi] I don’t know what I can say actually is relevant to this particular flow of discussion but in the colonial Korea, the Korea regime did not want to issue the prohibition easily because it can easily have a lot of popularity. So clandestine and secretive kind of issuance of the verdict is extremely important. And so often times the verdicts are, Japanese metropolitan publishers and editors are asking the censors actually, please give us a standard explicitly so that we don’t have to lose our published books. Because under the post publication censorship, it’s abandon sale or abandon distribution. So it takes a lot of money to lose that. But in the prepublication system in colonial Korea it’s quite different. So the censors kind of function is almost like a peer review function. It improves the standard of excellence from aesthetic perspective because they really have to work hard to go into the kind of techniques that would be at once counter censorship purpose but also aesthetically. So to the extent that people say there’s a certain paradox that because Korea went through the formative modern literary experience through censorship, literary achievement has been higher because of the high bar.

[Adrian Johns] There’s a couple of things about peer review. The one thing about peer review is that a system, it’s a lot younger than people think it is. It only really becomes a de facto thing in maybe the 1960s. So you can trace back roots of it a lot further than that if you want to. But as a kind of normative expectation, it’s maybe within my lifetime. But people think it’s a lot younger or older. But one of the weird things about it is the extent to which it takes on a very strong normative role in our notion of why it is that something like modern science is better than anything else. It takes on that normative role almost at exactly the same time as it actually exists. It’s not that it exists for a long time and then people realize and it’s a central thing to the sciences. Another thing is that there’s a very interesting sociology to it if you’re actually in the system. So I’ve sat for example on what’s called the Board of University Publications here which is the group that meets monthly. It’s a combination of faculty and editors at the University Press and it has to get approval for everything that the University Press publishes, every book, the journals are different. And so they go through an elaborate peer review process when they’re publishing books and it’s very responsible. And one of the things that’s quite impressive about it if you’re involved in it is that it’s treated very seriously. It’s not taken as a kind of pro forma thing. But the sociology of it that I always found very interesting is that in a certain sense, the most damaging peer reviews, the ones that might actually sink a project are often not the ones that are really hostile to it, the ones that just set out to attack it. Because an editor is able to say of those ones, oh this person clearly didn’t understand the project or they had their own ax to grind or they wrote a rival book. There’s always something like that. The ones that tend to be, so you can discount that. But the ones that can be really damaging are the ones that are basically sympathetic but produce rapia like cuts to the argument that from a distance you might not notice but when you get into the weeds, you realize that they basically cut out the heart. Those are the ones that can actually be really fatal. So there’s a kind of interesting thing where what you might think would be the really damaging reviews are actually not the damaging reviews. Sometimes. It depends on the editorial interventions that are made. But the other thing I would say is just that one of the things that saves peer review, peer review is one of these things, it’s like Churchill’s line about democracy right, it’s the worst system except for all the others. But one of the things that makes it salvageable is that it’s multiple. So it’s not that everybody has to go through the same peer review process. It’s that there’s a University of Chicago press and a Harvard University Press and the Yale University Press and the University of California Press, there’s like, depending on where you draw the lines a dozen or so pretty prestigious outfits. And they all have independent processes that they differ in different ways and they have different sort of address books, different rolodex of people that they call out to be referees. So it would be much more, and I think that that multiplicity is actually a central part of what makes it legitimate. If you had it where you had as it were a much more sort of logically articulated system but it was singular, then it would be, then it would be like censorship. The fact that there were multiple of them means that it’s much more defensible.

[Adrian Johns] I think I’m gonna echo Hannah in being curious as to what Alan would add to this. Do you want to pop up and borrow my mic for a minute? I saw you bristling with the desire to respond to Adrian at one point.

[Alan Charles Kors] If I submit a book manuscript to this or that university press, I know with a pretty good degree of certainty to whom they will send it for peer review. My work is by implication, not directly, very critical of the work of someone with a wonderful reputation at the Princeton Institute of Advanced Study, Jonathan Israel. If I submit my manuscript to Princeton, they send it out to Jonathan Israel and now I’m dependent upon his pluralism and tolerance for what kind of a review goes back to the editors. If I submit it to Cambridge, I knew exactly what was gonna happen. Alan, whom do you think would be good readers of this book from an editor who is very sympathetic to the way I do my work? Now retired, so I can say that. And I think this is also true always about playing a system of censorship. It’s why coercion seemed to me so important. When the risks get up to a certain level, you don’t get creative in dealing with censorship. In the 18th century in France, people found alternate spaces in which to communicate, salons, for example, and specific academies. You had a religious movement in 18th century France that could not get a book published, the Jansenists, more Augustinian as opposed to Tonist as understood in the 18th century view of Catholicism. So they developed their network of printers willing to take risks, they developed their network of theologians who would give approbation to various works that the royal censors could then look upon and be reassured. Also the weight given to peer review in departments is arbitrary and capricious. If a department likes someone, I don’t know how it works in others, in my own department, for example, if someone is coming up for promotion or tenure, a committee is formed to evaluate the work. And they send it out to outside readers. Their choice of outside readers can doom the process of peer review against someone or it can virtually guarantee smooth sailing through tenure. And people find ways to be very creative in evading, especially when the risks are so low. Did that even come near what you were hoping to get from me?

[Ada Palmer] I think yes.

[Alan Charles Kors] Before I give up the mic, may I say one thing about, if you look at these examples in peer review, what seems to me critical is the spirit in which people in a free society approach each other’s ideas and the issue of mutual criticism. I don’t know well enough the people on the panel to know if they were the person doing review of a work with which they fundamentally disagreed, if they would stress the egregious errors of the writer or the striking innovative and interesting criticisms of the writer? So much depends on that. And that’s often the responsibility of both the broader culture to implicate a love of debate and conflicting ideas and of personality, of one’s own level of tolerance. So for my last thing, let me just give the kind of spirit that I think should animate higher education and intellectual culture and culture in general. When I was an undergraduate at Princeton, early ’60s, I took a course from a brilliant Marxist historian on 20th century European history, Arnold Mayer, still alive. And he assigned one or two of his own works but he assigned a very broad range of readings including people approaching issues fundamentally differently from himself. When he gave back the midterms, class of about 250, he stood up and said, you have shamed me. Almost all of you wrote what you thought I wanted to hear. I gave you diverse points of view, you chose to flatter me. So, for the final exam, one third of it will be your reading of the work I most disagree with about the history of the 20th century. And I will not ask you to critique it. I will ask you to recreate its arguments with intellectual empathy so that I know that you know how the world looks through the eyes of someone who thinks differently from myself. At that moment before reading the text I knew how I wanted to teach. The empathetic intellectual recreation of perspectives toward the end of understanding. And the book he assigned was Friedrich Hayek’s, The Road to Serfdom. It changed my entire intellectual, political and moral life. I ran into him decades and decades later after I was in a very minor key notorious and reminded him of that story and consistently, he said that makes me very proud. That kind of attitude seems to me essential if any regime of censorship in a country without overt forceful coercion, if any regime of censorship is going to be evaded.

[Ada Palmer] Discussing the plural channels by which Jansenists and others were forbidden to communicate under particular regimes managed to, I feel I need to try to channel our co-organizer Corey Doctorow for a moment who is so adamant about the fact that we are in the process now of creating the shape of the internet and what discourse can happen on the internet. And whether we’re creating monopole communities, allowing Facebook to be the only space in which X conversation can occur or Twitter to become the only space in which X conversation can occur or whether the internet we collectively cultivate is going to be one with many plural complex competing channels and that it’s very important as this matchlist tool for communication is shaped by the technologies we develop, by the communities we set up, by the laws and policies we adopt, to make sure that it becomes one that has plural avenues. Because when one avenue fails, then another can be resorted to in the wake of which I feel I need to also remind you of the discussions we had when Kathleen Blue was here talking about hate groups and when Teresa Neilsen Hayden was here talking about online communities, that the most persecuted voices will be the first new adopters of a new channel, whether those are Jansenists who are disagreeing with the dominant Catholicism of France, whether these are radical feminists or radical GLBT activists, whether these are neo-Nazis and hate mongers, they will be the first adopters of the alternate channel because they’re the people who are having trouble communicating in the main channel. And therefore it’s worth it to them to face the extra effort, the extra time, the extra layers of exhaustion, that come from learning to adapt to the new channel. So if we choose to create a complex and plural internet which has lots of spaces for communication as enabled to the liberty of Jansenist speech in the enlightenment we also thereby enable the liberty of a huge range of political spectra, many of which we agree with, many of which we don’t agree with, whoever the we is, there’s gonna be somebody that you agree with and somebody that you disagree with described in this range of spectra which I think is important for us to think about the structures of new information worlds. Briefly in response to the second half, we talked a little bit earlier about Adrian’s question of how to cultivate a good reader. And there’s a lot of focus on the idea of critical reading and critical thinking. And one of the things we really want in the educational system is to be cultivating critical reading and critical thinking, but critical so often gets interpreted as criticizy, that the smart thing to do is pick the holes in the thing. That the authoritative movie reviewer is the one that always hates everything or the book reviewer who is really hard to please and finds the flaw in everything is the one that is smartest, most objective, most worthy of respect. I have graded more than 500 undergraduate papers about why Plato is an idiot and no one would ever behave in the republic the way he has the people behave in the republic I have graded maybe 15 brilliant undergraduate papers about why Plato thought people would behave that way in the republic and the differences between Plato’s world view and Plato’s psychology and our own and why he thinks this thing that to us seems wrong. That to me is the much harder kind of critical thinking, the empathetic kind of critical thinking that doesn’t criticize but reads carefully, critically, prudently and with empathy and connection to try to understand the other side which I think is something that doesn’t just apply to the academic world, doesn’t just apply to how we write a paper in a class. It applies to how we read a blog post, how we judge a New York Times article, how we evaluate when someone has posted something on Twitter that they want us to hate or like to hate as Twitter often is, whether the empathetic reading which is the really challenging critical element is there. I’m sure you guys have things to say on empathy or pluralism or any of this.

[Glenn Tiffert] I think that realization was fundamental to my formation as a scholar too. One of the faculty members who became my advisor early on, I remember in a seminar, we were all socialized, you’re right, to go for the weak point in a book or an article and that becomes a jumping off point for our discussion. And he just paused everyone and said, well why is this on the syllabus in the first place? It’s not for target practice. It’s for us to engage with a body of ideas which you may agree or may disagree with. And so let’s focus on that. Clearly this work that we’re talking about this week is important in some sense. Why is it important and let’s unpack those ideas rather than go for the jugular. Because often that’s easy. But it also I think impoverishes the way we understand a body of ideas and that takeaway for me was critical in my own development in reading.

[Kyeong-Hee Choir] I mean for me, understanding Japanese colonial censorship regime was extremely important to think about the whole 19th century racial and imperialist kind of racist and how Korea and Japan and China and other anonymists really had to deal with such conflicts, such daunting issues at this moment of the world history. And in fact, after studying Japanese censorship in Korea I felt much more sympathetic to Japanese censors and the regime in terms of how to really understand and tend to the immediate issues and long term issues. And I think this is a kind of a perspective that we can really learn through. Bad practices, but for the very important, I think long term good purposes.

[Ada Palmer] Hannah?

[Hannah Marcus] Yeah, I think that it feels when you’re in college that there’s very little time, especially when you’re on the quarter system which is like sort of crazy. But I think it’s one of the few times that you actually do have time and are encouraged to think really deeply about issues and you should take advantage of that while you’re here. One of the things that I ask my students to do which is in the same spirit that we’ve been discussing is certainly there are many analytic elements where we pick apart arguments and we figure out what the evidence is. But I also ask them to write collaborative syntheses as their final project in one of the classes that I teach. So they come in during the final period and they sit together for three hours and they answer a big question together that is synthetic which is that you have to propose your own reading and defend that with evidence that you’ve gained over the course of the class. And I think that, I think it’s a lot harder to come up with and defend a big argument than it is to just pick holes in somebody else’s. So I want to encourage you while you have the time here at the this incredible university to decide how you feel about these important issues and how you think about these important issues and how those things interact and how you want to defend them in your life and your work going forward. I think it’s just such an incredible opportunity that we have to be in these spaces and to be in these conversations. It’s my favorite part of the job that I do.

[Ada Palmer] I’d like to repeat the distinction you drew there which is a really important one between how you think about X issue and how you feel about X issue which can seem like they’re the same thing. But especially when thinking about censorship, one of the things that I’ve found very fruitful is what I sometimes call first person empirical study which is you can read Milton, you can read Mill, you can read analyses, you can read Thomas Paine, you can read contemporary voices about censorship. You can think about X is the principle that I respect, X is the logical argument that my reason ascents to and then separately you can look at materials and ask yourself emotionally do I want this material to be gone? If I suddenly had the power to make this book not exist, would I be tempted to exercise it? If there were suddenly a trial over this, would I actually stand up and do something? And often there will be mismatches between the rational principles that you arrive at and respect and the visceral internal feeling that you have when you respond to something and those are extremely informative in themselves. I study, among other things, pornography. I study very extreme pornography. I study very violent pornography. I study it enough that a month ago I was skimming through a catalog of pornography with 30 covers on a page and I suddenly stopped on page 12 because I realized that with my expertise in scanning what the covers of this particular type of pornography communicated to me I could tell the third one down in the second row all the sex was consensual and that had not been true of any of the others in the entire catalog and it stood out ’cause a lot of this is not just pornography, it’s very uncomfortable pornography. And I think about it hard and I feel through how I would defend it and a couple months ago I read one that just stepped way beyond where I had ever met. And some of these are really violent and really unpleasant but in this one the most delicate way I can put it is that rather than what was being done to the victim, what was suppose to titillate you was the mind and personality of the victim being gradually erased into nothing. You’re supposed to be titillated by the fact that at the end of this long sequence the victim has lost the ability to speak, the victim has amnesia, the victim has forgotten about what her life goals were before this sequence and there is nothing left of the thinking thing except consent to the degrading and nonconsensual. And it was so horrific in what it communicates about how human beings interact with another human being but I sat there shaking and thinking the world would be better in a way if this didn’t exist. And I never expected in my life to feel viscerally that way about any book having studied this very grim genre for a long time. It was amazing to read it and to think if I had the magic power to make a wish and wish that this didn’t exist, I don’t know in this moment whether or not I would use that magic power. And I had never expected in my life to hit that edge. And I think we can all exploring stuff with that, it’s just really uncomfortable because you have to explore stuff on the edge of what’s tolerable. But even if you’re not doing so bad exploring things that are that extreme, the differences between the intellectual principle that you respect and the visceral feeling that you have when you encounter something is worth studying in itself. And you learn about the field, you learn about the question, you learn about the material and you learn about yourself from studying the differences between what you ascent to intellectually and what you feel emotionally when you encounter something very outside your comfort zone. And I think we’re just about out of time. Before we end, I wanted to call the teaching fellows who have helped make this possible and also Julia the research assistant who helped make this possible to come up and take a bow for a moment and be thanked because they have not been up on the stage but have been indispensable to allowing this project to happen. We also need to thank our various sponsors again, the Institute on Information and Knowledge, the New Bar Collegium, the Nicholson Center. Come close, make sure you’re in the shot. So, introduce yourselves briefly. Julia first, you’re on the end. Actually, you can’t be heard so I’ll introduce. This is Julia Thomas and our research assistant Brendan Spawl, John Paul Hial, Zayna Tazar, who have been indispensable contributors to this. Also, Alexandra Peters who isn’t here this morning has been indispensable contributor to everything as have our various supporters and sponsors and our wonderful camera man who you saw briefly fixing the mics now and again. So, thank you all for this wonderful series, thank you guests.