Bertrand Russell at lunaart.net
All creeds that use suppression of facts show a lack of robust-ness and a lack of confidence in the reasonableness of their own beliefs. What is true will emerge as true from the fullest consideration of events.—Bertrand Russell, 1934
Cartoongate: What Would Bertrand Russell Say?
Censorship by Progressives
Those who are opposed to change are naturally opposed to all mention of the evils of existing systems; hence they unavoidably I turn to suppression of facts as a method of recommending their views. But the frame of mind which leads to censorship is not confined to anyone set of opinions; indeed, I find quite as much of it among those who believe themselves to be in the vanguard of progress as among more conventional people. Very few are convinced that the whole truth and nothing but the truth will cause their own opinions to appear convincing to others.
This attitude is particularly apparent in education. Old-fashioned people took the view that children should know nothing about sex, thinking that ignorance would produce virtue but knowledge would prevent it.
Many modern pacifists, in a very similar way, teach their children nothing about wars; they emasculate history and reduce it to an account of the development of arts and crafts among neolithic men. When, later, their children learn about war, it is likely to have the charm of forbidden fruit; at best they will not be in a position to combat it intelligently, since they cannot have any realistic understanding of the actual world.
Take again the part played by religious organisations. The history of Europe ever since the time of Constantine has been very largely the history of the Catholic Church. But many parents who think themselves broad-minded and many schools which think themselves progressive suppress the share of the Church in great events.
I met recently a very intelligent child of thirteen years of age, elaborately educated on ‘modern’ lines, who had barely heard of the Pope, thought that each country had its own Pope, and did not know even the word ‘Cardinal’. A child so educated cannot understand the actual world and will be at the mercy of unsuspected forces.
Reaction against snobbery has produced another kind of distortion. Civilisation has been in the past an affair of privileged minorities—necessarily, since the others were too hard worked to acquire proficiency in art or science: without social injustice there would have been no intellectual or technical progress.
The need for injustice is now past, since machine production makes it possible for everyone to work short hours. But that is no reason for falsifying history or for pretending that, in the present day, wage-earners are more to be admired than (say) men of science. Yet many radicals do thus falsify and pretend, especially in their intercourse with children.
All creeds that use suppression of facts show a lack of robust-ness and a lack of confidence in the reasonableness of their own beliefs. What is true will emerge as true from the fullest consideration of events.
The habit of bringing children up in a world of pretty make- believe is wholly bad as a preparation for taking a responsible part in the world; it is no adequate defence to say that the purpose is the inculcation of what are thought wholesome views. To understand the actual world as it is, not as we should wish it to be, is the beginning of wisdom.
[From Mortals and Others, Volume II, by Bertrand Russell (Routledge), pp. 141-42]
Candide's Notebooks, February 9, 2006