Monday, November 12, 2007

Persecution and the Art of Writing Pt II

(cont'd from here)
Strauss starts out by making a statement that it is possible for a good writer in a totalitarian regime to write a work in such a way that it will expose his heterodox ideas without triggering the attention of the censors. For example, the writer can write an attack on a particular topic, and by doing so, expose his readers to most of the points of such a topic. It would be as if a Chareidi writer wrote a book attacking evolution, but in the course of the book described in detail the main points of evolutionary theory. His readers would be exposed to many ideas which they had not been exposed to before, and may be then impelled to study these ideas and to think more about them.

Strauss gives several reasons why this method would be feasible. One is his assertion that in general, censors are less intelligent than writers. Another is that if challenged by the censors, the burden of proof would be on them to show that the writer had intentionally done something to promote the heterodox beliefs.

For some reason, Strauss' thesis doesn't resonate with me. I feel like he is being naive, which is surprising, since this essay was written in the late '30s. It seems like his argument falls apart if you say that the state doesn't have to be fair when accusing the writer of subversion. Sure, in a fair trial you could argue that bad intent on the part of the writer would be hard to prove, but what of the case where the state doesn't make the effort to have a fair trial? - which was the case in most of the totalitarian regimes in 20th century Europe!


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