Is this headline safe?

Jack Engelhard

OpEds Books -- but not on Mideast with Israelis
Books -- but not on Mideast with Israelis
צילום: מתוך האתר האישי

Looks like we may have to start whispering, or start passing notes under the table.

Samizdat is what they called those secret messages when writers were forbidden to speak freely or write truly under the boot of Soviet repression.

Terrible times for those who could not speak their minds or write without being monitored, hounded and imprisoned.

Pity them.

Luckily we were Americans. Nothing like that for us. Can’t happen here. You could bet on that.

Well, all bets are off.

Samizdat is coming. It’s already happening here. We’re being watched and we’ve been warned

Liberals want the entire floor to themselves. “Safe spaces” for them have begun elbowing out the First Amendment for us.

We could be talking about Loretta Lynch, our attorney general, who says she’s more worried about Islamophobia than anything else, and threatens to prosecute anyone who speaks badly of Islam, although we have no specifics to let us know when we’ve crossed the line.

Or, we could be talking about various publications and media carriers who threaten to cut us off at the headline if we fail to conform to specifications.

“I write and then I rewrite to keep out of trouble,” a particular columnist told me. “Don’t we all?”

To stay out of trouble we could use a comprehensive advisory as to who’s in and who’s out so far as who else is untouchable. That would be helpful.

Meantime what we are doing is pre-censoring ourselves, here in America, and you don’t have to be a writer, anything anybody writes will do, will be enough to get you Indexed for Prohibited Books. That was the term popular (or rather unpopular) during the age of the Spanish Inquisition.

Torquemada was proud to say, “Show me 20 words written by the most honest of men, and I will find something in them to hang him.”

Take that for specifications.

Salman Rushdie met his own Index in the form of an Islamic fatwa when his book “The Satanic Verses” came out in 1988 – and I remember it well because a book of mine came out around the same time, “Indecent Proposal,” equally dangerous because even The New York Times noted that the counterpoint of the novel presented the Arab/Israeli conflict in a nutshell, and favored the Israelis when no one favored the Israelis.

So I was ready when a fellow writer called to say that a group of writers were marching on a particular bookstore.

This shop was somewhere on Fifth Avenue and word was out that the manager had taken Rushdie’s book off the shelves fearing the fatwa.

Fatwa This! was our response.

The poor manager did not know what hit him when 50 writers, from rich to starving, came at him all at once, righteous fury in their eyes.

The reason all the books were gone was because…because they had sold out. We left embarrassed and muttering that we should all be so lucky.

Lucky we were to be in America. But the butterfly effect had us hurting for Behind the Iron Curtain writers chilled into silence.

Philip Roth, now quickly famous, fought for their cause so that they should not feel lonely.

He made sure to get their works published here in the West. Milan Kundera, Czech-born, is another story. He exiled himself to France but in “The Unbearable Lightness of Being” he gave a wonderful account of what’s it’s like to be watched, word for word, by Big Brother in and around Prague.

In that book, the hero, a physician, writes an op-ed for an anti-Communist newspaper, and immediately must run for his life.

Today we are being Indexed for different reasons. Scary just the same.

Banned speech, spoken or written, threatens us once again, for the columnist, the blogger, the novelist, the poet.

Fatwa This! still sounds like a good answer.

New York-based bestselling American novelist Jack Engelhard writes a regular column for Arutz Sheva. He is the author of the international classic “Indecent Proposal” now followed by the prophetic thriller “The Bathsheba Deadline.” Engelhard is the recipient of the Ben Hecht Award for Literary Excellence. Website: www.jackengelhard.com



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