The phrase "book burning" conjures up many frightening images. One can easily imagine crowds of self-righteous stern-faced brutes, lighting a fire in the town square and encouraging all the onlookers to throw their copies of the banned books onto the blaze. It's not too hard to envision a phalanx of government-sponsored goons standing guard, and a town cryer issuing a public proclamation that this book burning is a warning, to all the blasphemers out there who don't toe the line, that every copy of their work will be erased from history.
The destruction of some copies of some of Reich's publications by burning them wasn't that kind of a "book burning" at all.
As described in my article on the FDA injunction against Reich, in March of 1954 Reich was scheduled to appear in court to defend himself against a Complaint for Injunction issued by the FDA. When, for various reasons, Reich failed to appear before the court, the judge granted every one of the FDA's injunction requests against Reich, including a few the FDA had thrown in at the last minute. Among these last-minute requests granted in the FDA's injunction against Reich was that any of Reich's soft-cover publications that described how to build an orgone accumulator, or that mentioned the orgone accumulator in any way, shape, or form, were to be considered labelling for the orgone accumulator.
And all labelling for the orgone accumulator was, by decree of the FDA's injunction, to be destroyed.
It is important to remember that the major works that Reich had published up to that point, his books, had only been produced in hardcover editions. The injunction did not order the destruction of any of Reich's hardcover books. (It did, however, order those books to be withheld from publication unless and until all references to orgone energy were expunged from them.) The only soft-cover publications which were declared by the injunction to be "labelling" were the magazines and ordering blanks that Reich and company had issued. Among these, the injunction listed 12 soft-cover titles explicitly, including The Oranur Experiment: First Report, Annals of the Orgone Institute, and Orgone Energy Bulletin.
The destruction of these magazines and ordering blanks were carried out by hauling them off to the local garbage dump and throwing them into the dump's incinerator. So, yes, they were burned, but hardly in the manner of a big public bonfire of intimidation that the phrase "book burning" normally brings to mind. Furthermore, none of the items burned were actually books; the act could at worst be described as a "magazine and pamphlet burning."
Nevertheless, the order to withhold Reich's hardcover books from publication, until all mentions of orgone energy were removed from them, smacks of the Index of Forbidden Books that grew out of the Catholic counter-reformation in the 16th century. It's a clear violation of the First Amendment's guarantee of freedom of the press, and would not have stood up to Constitutional scrutiny had Reich challenged it.
— Remainder of article yet to be written. —
Send comments regarding this Web page to:
Main Wilhelm Reich index page | Roger M. Wilcox's home page