Censorship works. It prevents books, ideas and authors from circulating and reaching the public. But censorship is never a long term or permanent solution. Ideas and books will come out and authors will speak with readers, though it may take time. When Dan Pulcrano, the publisher of The Bohemian, put the kibosh on a story by Peter Byrne about a pro-Palestinian demonstration in Santa Rosa he probably didn’t realize he would stir up a hornet’s nest. Not surprisingly, Pulcrano has claimed that he didn't censor the story, but made “editing decisions.”
That’s what the censors all say. Pulcrano also said that “censorship is something a government does,” and thus showed how little he knows about censorship, which is carried out by corporations and businesses, newspapers, magazines, and on the internet.
Byrne’s story has been published in Counterpunch and is available online. It has probably been read by far more people than would have read it had it appeared in The Bohemian. Byrne calls the Israeli military action in Gaza “genocide.” Others have called it “ethnic cleansing,” which seems like splitting hairs.
Censorship brings attention to the work that’s censored and to the censored author. It also backfires. That has happened throughout history and from the USA to the USSR, Israel to Iran, China and beyond. Right now somewhere in the world a book or news story is surely being censored. The work may never see the light of day, though these days there are so many outlets for publication that it seems unlikely it will be permanently buried.
I have long believed that self-censorship is the worst kind of censorship. The author or authors do the work of the censors. They internalize censorship. Some writers long to be censored; they’re under the impression that censorship will make their work more widely read than if it’s uncensored. Unfortunately, some readers assume that a censored work has more literary and political value than an uncensored work.
James Joyce’s Ulysses and D. H. Lawrence’s Lady Chatterley's Lover were both censored in their day and have since been widely recognized as great works of literature. James M. Cain’s The Postman Always Rings Twice, which was censored, attracted a great deal of attention, plus sales and a Hollywood movie, but it’s not great literature. Don’t judge a book by its cover, and don’t judge its merits on its status as a censored or uncensored work.