Is It Censorship If the Government Buys a Book and Then Destroys It?

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Moby Lives has some background on one of the weirder and more disturbing publishing stories in a long time. What do you call it when the government buys out the entire first printing of a book -in this case Anthony Shaffer’s Operation Dark Heart–in return for the publisher’s agreement to destroy every one of the copies? Munificent censorship, maybe? A particularly ugly but perfectly legal bit of capitalist monkeyshines? 

It sure sounds like a cut-and-dry case of censorship to me, but this attempt at an explanation from Thomas Dunne, publisher of St. Martin’s Press, is pretty curious, to say the least: 

We have been receiving letters of concern that we changed the text due to government censorship, and that the government “burned” the books from our initial printing. The true facts are that the government bought the entire first printing in its entirety and we destroyed and recycled those copies at their request. 

Source: Moby Lives

Image by altemark, licensed under Creative Commons.

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