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   Chapter 12 No.12

The Free Press By Hilaire Belloc Characters: 2225

Updated: 2017-11-30 00:05

But only a little later than this second motive of indignation against falsehood and acting with equal force (though upon fewer men) was the third motive of freedom: of indignation against arbitrary Power.

For men who knew the way in which we are governed, and who recognized, especially during the last twenty years, that the great newspaper was coming to be more powerful than the open and responsible (though corrupt) Executive of the country, the position was intolerable.

It is bad enough to be governed by an aristocracy or a monarch whose executive power is dependent upon legend in the mass of the people; it is humiliating enough to be thus governed through a sort of play-acting instead of enjoying the self-government of free men.

It is worse far to be governed by a clique of Professional Politicians bamboozling the multitude with a pretence of "Democracy."

But it is intolerable that similar power should reside in the hands of obscure nobodies about whom no illusion could possibly exist, whose tyranny is not admitted or public at all, who do not even take the risk of exposing their

features, and to whom no responsibility whatever attaches.

The knowledge that this was so provided the third, and, perhaps, the most powerful motive for the creation of a Free Press.

Unfortunately, it could affect only very few men. With the mass even of well-educated and observant men the feeling created by the novel power of the great papers was little more than a vague ill ease. They had a general conception that the owner of a widely circulated popular newspaper could, and did, blackmail the professional politician: make or unmake the professional politician by granting or refusing him the limelight; dispose of Cabinets; nominate absurd Ministers.

But the particular, vivid, concrete instances that specially move men to action were hidden from them. Only a small number of people were acquainted with such particular truths. But that small number knew very well that we were thus in reality governed by men responsible to no one, and hidden from public blame. The determination to be rid of such a secret monopoly of power compelled a reaction: and that reaction was the Free Press.

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