Truth and Politics

The New Yorker, February 25, 1967.


An essay on the antithesis of truth and politics. While probably no former time tolerated so many diverse opinions on religious and philosophical matters factual truth, if it happens to oppose a given group’s profit or pleasure, is greeted today with greater hostility than ever before… Even in Hitler’s Germany and Stalin’s Russia, it was more dangerous to talk about concentration and extermination camps, whose existence was no secret, than to hold and to utter “heretical” views on anti-Semitism, racism, and Communism. What seems even more distrubing is that to the extent to which unwelcome factual truths are tolerated in free countries they are often, consciously or unconsciously transformed into opinions –as through the fact of Germany’s support of Hitler or of France’s collapse before the German armies in 1940 or of Vatican policies during the Second World War were not a matter of historical record but a matter of opinion.

The New Yorker