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The reaction towards it of most English intellectuals will be quite simple: “It oughtn’t to have been published.” Naturally, those reviewers who understand the art of denigration will not attack it on political grounds but on literary ones.They will say that it is a dull, silly book and a disgraceful waste of paper.
In 1937, George Orwell (June 25, 1903–January 21, 1950) got the idea for his now-classic dystopian allegory exploring the ferocious dictatorship of Soviet Russia in a satirical tale eviscerating Stalin’s regime.
In his 1946 essay , Orwell remarked that this was his first conscious effort “to fuse political purpose and artistic purpose into one whole.” But by the time he finished it six years later, in the middle of World War II and shortly before the start of the Cold War, the book’s decidedly anti-Soviet message presented an obvious challenge in politically cautious Britain. Perhaps even more interesting than the story of the book, however, is the prescient essay titled “The Freedom of the Press,” which Orwell intended as a preface to the book.
“That language reflects Justice Kennedy’s long-standing view that the public forum doctrine should not remain frozen in time, limited to protecting public squares and public parks, while new forums for public debate go unprotected,” explains free-speech expert Kevin O’Neill, a professor at Cleveland-Marshall School of Law.
“It will be interesting to see whether today’s judges respond to his call.” This hot battleground raises serious concerns about the future of free speech, including attempts at censorship by government actors critical of comments on social media, the shifting standards of private platforms to censor online expression and the rise of hate and extremist speech in the digital world.
The manuscript was rejected by four major houses, including Orwell’s publisher of record, Gollancz, and T. Included in Penguin’s 2000 edition of ,” the essay — penned more than seven decades after Mark Twain bewailed that “there are laws to protect the freedom of the press’s speech, but none that are worth anything to protect the people from the press” — tackles issues all the more timely today in the midst of global media scandals, vicious censorship, and near-ubiquitous government-level political surveillance.
Orwell begins by excerpting a letter from a publisher who had originally agreed to publish the book but later, under the Ministry of Information’s admonition, recanted: .
The British press is extremely centralized, 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.
Put it in that form and nearly any English intellectual will feel that he ought to say “Yes.” But give it a concrete shape, and ask, “How about an attack on Stalin? ” and the answer more often than not will be “No.” In that case the current orthodoxy happens to be challenged, and so the principle of free speech lapses.
If one loves democracy, the argument runs, one must crush its enemies by no matter what means. It always appears that they are not only those who attack it openly and consciously, but those who ‘objectively’ endanger it by spreading mistaken doctrines.