Monday, June 24, 2024

C.S. Lewis On Who Buys Into Propaganda and Misinformation

From Mr. Lewis' novel That Hideous Strength:

 “Why you fool, it's the educated reader who CAN be gulled. All our difficulty comes with the others. When did you meet a workman who believes the papers? He takes it for granted that they're all propaganda and skips the leading articles. He buys his paper for the football results and the little paragraphs about girls falling out of windows and corpses found in Mayfair flats. He is our problem. We have to recondition him. But the educated public, the people who read the high-brow weeklies, don't need reconditioning. They're all right already. They'll believe anything.”
That would seem to describe the Russia, Russia, Russia phenomena of a few years ago, with the caveat that many who repeated the b.s. may not have totally believed things like Mr. Steele's hookers peeing on a bed but the vilifiers didn't care if it was true, some may have wanted it to be true, while others, the calumniators, didn't think it was true but spread the story anyway..

As we've seen, Machiavelli considered calumny* a scourge on the Roman Republic and its usage the playground of political low-lifes. It is such a threat to representative government that Machiavelli in his discourses on the first ten books of Livy's history of the Roman Republic mentions calumny (The making of false and defamatory statements about someone in order to damage their reputation; slander...O.E.D.) at least a hundred times and in fact dedicates a chapter (XIII of book I) to making the distinction between accusation as a tool for finding the truth and calumny as a method of destruction:

XIII In proportion as accusations are useful in a republic, so are calumnies pernicious

He was against it.

The all-knowing one (Wikipedia) describes the Lewis book as:

That Hideous Strength: A Modern Fairy-Tale for Grown-Ups is a 1945 novel by C. S. Lewis, the final book in Lewis's theological science fiction Space Trilogy.


  1. A false statement maliciously made to injure another's reputation.
  2. The utterance of maliciously false statements; slander.
  3. False accusation of a crime or offense, maliciously made or reported, to the injury of another; malicious misrepresentation; slander; detraction.

—from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 5th Edition via Wordnik