Still True After All These Years

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by Neil Godfrey

The sinister fact about literary censorship in England is that it is largely voluntary.

Unpopular ideas can be silenced, and inconvenient facts kept dark, without the need for any official ban. Anyone who has lived long in a foreign country will know of instances of sensational items of news—things which on their own merits would get the big headlines—being kept right out of the British press, not because the Government intervened but because of a general tacit agreement that “it wouldn’t do” to mention that particular fact. So far as the daily newspapers go, this is easy to understand. The British press is extremely centralised, and most of it is owned by wealthy men who have every motive to be dishonest on certain important topics. But the same kind of veiled censorship also operates in books and periodicals, as well as in plays, films and radio. At any given moment there is an orthodoxy, a body of ideas which it is assumed that all right-thinking people will accept without question. It is not exactly forbidden to say this, that or the other, but it is “not done” to say it, just as in mid-Victorian times it was “not done” to mention trousers in the presence of a lady. Anyone who challenges the prevailing orthodoxy finds himself silenced with surprising effectiveness. A genuinely unfashionable opinion is almost never given a fair hearing, either in the popular press or in the highbrow periodicals.

From George Orwell’s 1945 Preface to Animal Farm

It surely applies to more than just the media industries in countries like the UK, USA, Australia . . . . .


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Neil Godfrey

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3 thoughts on “Still True After All These Years”

  1. “Manufacturing Consent” by Chomsky and Herman.
    Highly recommended.
    Chomsky is also on youtube talking to a BBC ‘left’ journalist who is a sceptic/denialist/critic of Chomsky’s thesis that western media practice censorship. The young fella cites the well known, much touted courageous investigative journalism of Woodstein and WaPo as contrary to Chomsky’s thesis but … had never heard of CONINTELPRO.
    That’s at 16.53 in the video.
    Earlier, at 8.33, Chomsky cites the Orwell quote you mention.

  2. Orwell was writing during the Second World War when it was considered “not done” to be critical of Russia or Stalin. Today, of course, we have different powers whose actions it is “not done” to report critically. Of course I can’t mention who they are because it is “not done” to do so.

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