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It has happened from time to time that an emerging dictatorship would whip its followers into a frenzy to burn books. If one were to ignore the unethical part of it, it makes sense from a purely pragmatic stand. In order to exercise excessive power over people, it's important to make sure they don't have ready access to alternative ideas and treat all sources of such ideas with suspicion.

What I am curious about (and to my surprise and embarrassment I just realized that I don't know this) is how have these types of calls have been made in the recent history (100-150 years). Do the nascent tyrants demand that their loyalists orchestrate book burning as a show of loyalty? Do they simply suggest that certain books are undesirable and smile with content as mobs whip themselves into frenzy purging what the "wise" leader would see purged?

There are a number of accounts of how mobs behave once they are there -- they are ready to burn books and other sources of undesirable thought.

But I don't recall anyone describing how the leaders of those mobs direct the actions of the mobs towards the book burning.

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Both, book burnings are incited by direct and indirect appeals.

Different organizations are different.

NAZI leadership (and the allies after the war) directly called for burning books.

Students at Berkley apparently have burned books, though pretty certainly no public official call happened. The FLDS Church seems to have burned some books while officially claiming to not be interested in suppressing anything.

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It is more indirect now and is often done by restricting publication rather than burning an actual book.

This doesn't directly answer your question, but it is important to point out that most information transfer in the modern day is through the internet rather than books and is "burned" within certain communities as censorship (which can be as large as a country as censorship in China shows).

Many large online communities have been found to censor ideas the owners/moderators disagree with:

  • Twitter

    Any organised group can now make Twitter work for them censoring the people they target, to make it label their tweets as "sensitive" or "potentially offensive", to delete all of them, to hide, suspend, and close the accounts they may see fit. It's enough to launch an organised attack to denounce the targeted accounts as "sensitive", "offensive", "harming", "spam", and Twitter will obligingly censor it.

  • Reddit

    The practice is intended to stop anyone accidently coming across potentially offensive groups.

    Reddit said: 'The quarantine process doesn't end the conversation - it adds an opt-in measure so that people have the choice to join the conversation.'

  • Facebook

    Activists and users have been particularly frustrated by the absence of an appeals process when their posts are taken down. (Facebook users are allowed to appeal the shutdown of an entire account, but not of individual posts.) People have likened this predicament to being put into "Facebook jail" without being given a reason they were locked up.

  • Youtube

    YouTube has been accused of censorship after it emerged it has been removing the ability for users to make money from their videos if they express politically incorrect or offensive views.

While not as symbolic as gathering around a pyre to burn books, it accomplishes the same goal which is suppression of ideas that are deemed "undesirable".

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