Does Truth Get Censored?

Posted by M ws On Friday, July 20, 2012 2 comments
The July 2012 issue of Harper's Magazine featured "Rules of Engagement" - a piece written by Albert Camus in November 25, 1939 to be exact. At the time of writing, the French authorities censored his writings. It was first published by Le Monde in March this year.

Although "Rules of Engagement" was written for the Algerian newspaper Le Soir Republicain,  it was never published. No one knows why the French authorities suppressed it.

When Camus wrote "Rules of Engagement",  France and Britain were at war with Germany, with no direct engagement yet.  All the military action by Germany upon Poland  to neutralize the Soviet Union resulted in the Nazi-Soviet Non-Aggression Pact in August 1939.

Clearly, Camus was acting as the "free journalist" in his crusade to defend press freedom and to protest the censorship of his work by censors. Although the piece was not signed,  it has been attributed to Camus. Despite the fact that it was written 73 years ago, those ideas still hold true today!

Rules of Engagement is largely a discourse about press freedom and the necessity of winning a war. Camus addresses the limits of freedom which must be "freely acknowledged, not imposed." Camus writes about how the fact that we will repeat all words that could possibly be written into the future.

Indeed it is so true,  73 years later.

Camus questions  how a journalist can remain free when battling the suppression of freedom. Camus defines the conditions in which freedom in the midst of war and opines that its enslavement can be preserved and demonstrated via clarity, refusal, irony, and obstinacy. I believe these conditions are are not only relevant but also applicable.

Here is a key passage in Rules of Engagement as translated by John Cullen:

“And so we come to irony. We can postulate that, as a rule, a mind with a taste for applying constraints and possessed of the means to impose them is a mind impervious to irony. 
We don’t see Hitler—to take only one example out of several—employing Socratic irony. Conversely, when it comes to weapons that can be used against the too powerful, irony remains unparalleled.
It completes refusal in the sense that it often allows its user not only to reject the false but also to say what is true. A free journalist in 1939 hasn’t got many illusions about the intelligence of those who are oppressing him. 
In regard to mankind, he’s a pessimist. Nine times out of ten, a truth proclaimed in dogmatic tones gets censored. When presented in an amusing way, the same truth gets censored five times out of ten. 
This tendency represents, exactly enough, the possibilities of human intelligence…A free journalist in 1939 is therefore, necessarily—even if often reluctantly—ironic. Truth and freedom, having few lovers, are demanding mistresses.”
Albert Camus, from a November 25th, 1939 article written for his Algerian newspaper, Le Soir républicain. 

Therefore (Camus reasons), a "free journalist in 1939" must employ ironic means. "Truth and freedom, having few lovers, are demanding mistresses."

Let's consider those four elements that Camus considered -  clarity, refusal, irony, and obstinacy.

Clarity is needed to help us  realize that everything can be avoided. We have to know that resistance to hatred is possible. With clarity, we can see the source of problems/issues and our personal role in self-actualization.

Refusal - When we understand that processes are not inevitable, we can make a conscious decision not to be a part of the action. Perhaps that is why some may be apolitical today.

Irony - Camus believes that irony is unparalleled in weapons to use against the all too powerful. He says:

"Nine times out of ten, a truth proclaimed in dogmatic tones gets censored. When presented in an amusing way, the same truth gets censored five out of ten times."

To help us to understand better, we sometimes use humor to poke fun at others and to laugh at the absurdity of life. Once one realizes that one is being treated unfairly, the next step is to refuse the powers that be and then poke fun at them. And I see this happening even in this land!

Obstinacy - Obstinacy must be used objectively with lots of tolerance. We have to be obstinate when fighting against:

  • the stupidity that rages around us
  • the spinelessness of some leaders
  • the unintelligence of some elected leaders in failing the electorate by not delivering promises 
  • ignorance 

I believe that even though Camus was writing about journalists in Rules of Engagement, these rules are applicable to all who cherish freedom over enslavement, upholds honor and justice and is willing to play their part in the maintenance of freedom.

So, when does truth get censored?


Please leave a comment to share your views. Do check out my posts on Albert Camus:

Albert Camus Quotes

The Stranger

2 comments to Does Truth Get Censored?

  1. says:

    walla They never had instant communication then.

    Now, it's just a click away. Now, truth can't get censored.

    The journalists who know the truth can vent their bile on the web and know the real content they are embargoed from delivering in their offices can now be openly delivered on the web to compensate for the professional dilemma they have to endure in their work just to fill the plates of their families.

    As more people get to know the truth, it will get easier to tell the truth.

  1. says:

    Shadower Hi MWS



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