“As I Please,” Tribune, 31 December 1943
[A] world in which it is wrong to murder an individual civilian and right to drop a thousand tons of high explosive on a residential area does sometimes make me wonder whether this earth of ours is not a loony bin made use of by some other planet.
Not to have a national anthem would be logical.
“As I Please,” Tribune, 28 January 1944
Antisemitism, for instance, is simply not the doctrine of a grown-up person.
“As I Please,” Tribune, 4 February 1944
History is written by the winners.
“As I Please,” Tribune, 3 March 1944
If you talk to a thoughtful Christian, Catholic or Anglican, you often ﬁnd yourself laughed at for being so ignorant as to suppose that anyone ever took the doctrines of the Church literally.
[Man] is not likely to salvage civilization unless he can evolve a system of good and evil which is independent of heaven and hell.
“As I Please,” Tribune, 10 March 1944
Let a politician die, and his worst enemies will stand up on the ﬂoor of the House and utter pious lies in his honour, but a writer or artist must be sniffed at, at least if he is any good.
[E]ven stupidity is better than totalitarianism.
“As I Please,” Tribune, 28 April 1944
Take away freedom of speech, and the creative faculties dry up.
“The English People,” written Spring 1944, published 1947
From Carlyle onwards, but especially in the last generation, the British intelligentsia have tended to take their ideas from Europe and have been infected by habits of thought that derive ultimately from Machiavelli. All the cults that have been fashionable in the last dozen years, Communism, Fascism, and paciﬁsm, are in the last analysis forms of power worship.
“As I Please,” Tribune, 12 May 1944
In the nineteenth century some parts of the world were unexplored, but there was almost no restriction on travel. Up to 1914 you did not need a passport for any country except Russia. The European emigrant, if he could scrape together a few pounds for the passage, simply set sail for America or Australia, and when he got there no questions were asked. In the eighteenth century it had been quite normal and safe to travel in a country with which your own country was at war.
“As I Please,” Tribune, 9 June 1944
A phrase much used in political circles in this country is “playing into the hands of”. It is a sort of charm or incantation to silence uncomfortable truths. When you are told that—by saying this, that or the other—you are “playing into the hands of” some sinister enemy, you know that it is your duty to shut up immediately (em dashes added).
“As I Please,” Tribune, 14 July 1944
[T]he outcry against killing women, if you accept killing at all, is sheer sentimentality. Why is it worse to kill a woman than a man?
“As I Please,” Tribune, 21 July 1944
The whole question of evolution seems less momentous than it did, because, unlike the Victorians, we do not feel that to be descended from animals is degrading to human dignity.
“As I Please,” Tribune, 28 July 1944
In any form of art designed to appeal to large numbers of people,…[t]he rich man is usually ‘bad’, and his machinations are invariably frustrated. ‘Good poor man defeats bad rich man’ is an accepted formula.
“As I Please,” Tribune, 11 August 1944
Anyone who knows of a provable instance of colour discrimination ought always to expose it.
“As I Please,” Tribune, 13 October 1944
[Some correspondents] rightly claimed that State patronage [for artists and authors] is a better guarantee against starvation than private patronage, but seemed to me too ready to disregard the censorship that this implies. The usual line was that it is better for the artist to be a responsible member of a community than an anarchic individualist. The issue, however, is not between irresponsible “self-expression” and discipline; it is between truth and lies.
Artists don’t so much object to aesthetic discipline. Architects will design theatres or churches equally readily, writers will switch from the three-volume novel to the one-volume, or from the play to the ﬁlm, according to the demand. But the point is that this is a political age. A writer inevitably writes—and less directly this applies to all the arts—about contemporary events, and his impulse is to tell what he believes to be the truth. But no government, no big organization, will pay for the truth. To take a crude example: can you imagine the British Government commissioning E. M. Forster to write A Passage to India? He could only write it because he was not dependent on State aid.
“As I Please,” Tribune, 8 December 1944
The thing that strikes me more and more…is the extraordinary viciousness and dishonesty of political controversy in our time. I don’t mean merely that controversies are acrimonious. They ought to be that when they are on serious subjects. I mean that almost nobody seems to feel that an opponent deserves a fair hearing or that the objective truth matters as long as you can score a neat debating point.
“As I Please,” Tribune, 26 January 1945
Victor Raikes, the Tory M.P., who is an able and outspoken reactionary, made a speech which I should have considered a good one if it had referred only to Poland and Jugoslavia. But after dealing with those two countries he went on to speak about Greece, and then suddenly black became white, and white black. There was no booing, no interjections from the quite large audience—and none there, apparently, who could see that the forcing of quisling governments upon unwilling peoples is equally undesirable whoever does it.
The Daily Worker disapproves of dictatorship in Athens, the Catholic Herald disapproves of dictatorship in Belgrade. There is no one who is able to say—at least, no one who has the chance to say in a newspaper of big circulation—that this whole dirty game of spheres of inﬂuence, quislings, purges, deportation, one-party elections and hundred per cent plebiscites is morally the same whether it is done by ourselves, the Russians or the Nazis. Even in the case of such frank returns to barbarism as the use of hostages, disapproval is only felt when it happens to be the enemy and not ourselves who is doing it.
“As I Please,” Tribune, 2 February 1945
In spite of the efforts of several newspapers, ‘Hun’ has never caught on in this war, but we have plenty of other offensive nicknames. Someone could write a valuable monograph on the use of question-begging names and epithets, and their effect in obscuring political controversies. It would bring out the curious fact that if you simply accept and apply to yourself a name intended as an insult, it may end by losing its insulting character.
“Politics and the English Language”
[A]n effect can become a cause, reinforcing the original cause and producing the same effect in an intensiﬁed form, and so on indeﬁnitely. A man may take to drink because he feels himself to be a failure, and then fail all the more completely because he drinks.
[A] mixture of vagueness and sheer incompetence is the most marked characteristic of modern English prose, and especially of any kind of political writing.
In the case of a word like democracy, not only is there no agreed deﬁnition, but the attempt to make one is resisted from all sides. It is almost universally felt that when we call a country democratic we are praising it: consequently the defenders of every kind of regime claim that it is a democracy, and fear that they might have to stop using that word if it were tied down to any one meaning. Words of this kind are often used in a consciously dishonest way. That is, the person who uses them has his own private deﬁnition, but allows his hearer to think he means something quite different. Statements like Marshal Petain was a true patriot, The Soviet press is the freest in the world, The Catholic Church is opposed to persecution, are almost always made with intent to deceive. Other words used in variable meanings, in most cases more or less dishonestly, are: class, totalitarian, science, progressive, reactionary, bourgeois, equality.
[P]olitics itself is a mass of lies, evasions, folly, hatred, and schizophrenia.
“As I Please,” Tribune, 29 November 1946
It is not easy to ﬁnd a direct economic explanation of the behaviour of the people who now rule the world. The desire for pure power seems to be much more dominant than the desire for wealth. This has often been pointed out, but curiously enough the desire for power seems to be taken for granted as a natural instinct, equally prevalent in all ages, like the desire for food. Actually it is no more natural, in the sense of being biologically necessary, than drunkenness or gambling. And if it has reached new levels of lunacy in our own age, as I think it has, then the question becomes: What is the special quality in modern life that makes a major human motive out of the impulse to bully others? If we could answer that question—seldom asked, never followed up—there might occasionally be a bit of good news on the front page of your morning paper.
“As I Please,” Tribune, 20 December 1946
One may decide, with full knowledge of what one is doing, that an occasional good time is worth the damage it inﬂicts on one’s liver. For health is not the only thing that matters: friendship, hospitality, and the heightened spirits and change of outlook that one gets by eating and drinking in good company are also valuable.
“As I Please,” Tribune, 31 January 1947
[A]ll the French journalists I met [in 1945] seemed to have heard of [Tribune] and to know that it was the one paper in England which had neither supported the Government uncritically, nor opposed the war, nor swallowed the Russian myth.
Libertés, which was opposed to the Gaullists on one side and the Communists on the other, had almost no money and was distributed by groups of volunteers on bicycles.
“As I Please,” Tribune, 7 February 1947
Whenever A is oppressing B, it is clear to people of goodwill that B ought to be independent, but then it always turns out that there is another group, C, which is anxious to be independent of B.
“As I Please,” Tribune, 28 March 1947
[A]ntisemitism is only one variant of the great modern disease of nationalism.