Noam Chomsky Defines The Real Responsibility of Intellectuals: “To Speak the Truth and to Expose Lies” (1967)

Image by Andrew Rusk, via Wikimedia Commons

The novel medium of social media—and the novel use of Twitter as the official PR platform for public figures—allows not only for endless amounts of noise and disinformation to permeate our newsfeeds; it also allows readers the opportunity to refute statements in real time. Whether corrections register or simply get drowned in the sea of information is perhaps a question for a 21st century Marshall McLuhan to ponder.

Another prominent theorist of older forms of media, Noam Chomsky, might also have an opinion on the matter. In his 1988 book Manufacturing Consent, written with Edward Herman, Chomsky details the ways in which governments and media collude to deliberately mislead the public and socially engineer support for wars that kill millions and enrich a handful of profiteers.

Moreover, in mass media communications, those wars, invasions, “police actions,” regime changes, etc. get conveniently erased from historical memory by public intellectuals who serve the interests of state power. In one recent example on the social medium of record, Twitter, Richard N. Haas, President of the Council on Foreign Relations, expressed dismay about the disturbingly cozy state of affairs between the U.S. Administration and Putin’s Russia by claiming that “International order for 4 centuries has been based on non-interference in the international affairs of others and respect for sovereignty.”




One recent critique of foreign policy bodies like CFR would beg to differ, as would the history of hundreds of years of colonialism. In a very Chomsky-like rejoinder to Haas, journalist Nick Turse wrote, “This might be news to Iraqis and Afghans and Libyans and Yemenis and Vietnamese and Cambodians and Laotians and Koreans and Iranians and Guatemalans and Chileans and Nicaraguans and Mexicans and Cubans and Dominicans and Haitians and Filipinos and Congolese and Russians and….”

Genuine concerns about Russian election tampering notwithstanding, the list of U.S. interventions in the “affairs of others” could go on and on. Haas’ initial statement offers an almost perfect example of what Chomsky identified in another essay, “The Responsibility of Intellectuals,” as not only a “lack of concern for truth” but also “a real or feigned naiveté about American actions that reaches startling proportions.”

“It is the responsibility of intellectuals to speak the truth and to expose lies,” wrote Chomsky in his 1967 essay. “This, at least, may seem enough of a truism to pass over without comment. Not so, however. For the modern intellectual, it is not at all obvious.” Chomsky proceeds from the pro-Nazi statements of Martin Heidegger to the distortions and outright falsehoods issued routinely by such thinkers and shapers of foreign policy as Arthur Schlesinger, economist Walt Rostow, and Henry Kissinger in their defense of the disastrous Vietnam War.

The background for all of these figures’ distortions of fact, Chomsky argues, is the perpetual presumption of innocence on the part of the U.S., a feature of the doctrine of exceptionalism under which “it is an article of faith that American motives are pure, and not subject to analysis.” We have seen this article of faith invoked in hagiographies of past Administrations whose domestic and international crimes are conveniently forgotten in order to turn them into foils, stock figures for an order to which many would like to return. (As one former Presidential candidate put it, “America is great, because America is good.”)

Chomsky would include the rhetorical appeal to a nobler past in the category of “imperialist apologia”—a presumption of innocence that “becomes increasingly distasteful as the power it serves grows more dominant in world affairs, and more capable, therefore, of the unconstrained viciousness that the mass media present to us each day.”

We are hardly the first power in history to combine material interests, great technological capacity, and an utter disregard for the suffering and misery of the lower orders. The long tradition of naiveté and self-righteousness that disfigures our intellectual history, however, must serve as a warning to the third world, if such a warning is needed, as to how our protestations of sincerity and benign intent are to be interpreted.

For those who well recall the events of even fifteen years ago, when the U.S. government, with the aid of a compliant press, lied its way into the second Iraq war, condoning torture and the “extraordinary rendition” of supposed hostiles to black sites in the name of liberating the Iraqi people, Chomsky’s Vietnam-era critiques may sound just as fresh as they did in the mid-sixties. Are we already in danger of misremembering that recent history? “When we consider the responsibility of intellectuals,” Chomsky writes, the issue at hand is not solely individual morality; “our basic concern must be their role in the creation and analysis of ideology.”

What are the ideological features of U.S. self-understanding that allow it to recreate past errors again and again, then deny that history and sink again into complacency, perpetuating crimes against humanity from the Cambodian bombings and My Lai massacre, to the grotesque scenes at Abu Ghraib and the drone bombings of hospitals and weddings, to supporting mass killings in Yemen and murder of unarmed Palestinian protestors, to the kidnapping and caging of children at the Mexican border?

The current ruling party in the U.S. presents an existential threat, Chomsky recently opined, on a world historical scale, displaying "a level of criminality that is almost hard to find words to describe." It is the responsibility of intellectuals, Chomsky argues in his essay—including journalists, academics, and policy makers and shapers—to tell the truth about events past and present, no matter how inconvenient those truths may be.

Read Chomsky’s full essay, "The Responsibility of Intellectuals," at The New York Review of Books.

Related Content:

Noam Chomsky Explains the Best Way for Ordinary People to Make Change in the World, Even When It Seems Daunting

5 Animations Introduce the Media Theory of Noam Chomsky, Roland Barthes, Marshall McLuhan, Edward Said & Stuart Hall

Noam Chomsky Defines What It Means to Be a Truly Educated Person

Josh Jones is a writer and musician based in Durham, NC. Follow him at @jdmagness

George Orwell Identifies the Main Enemy of the Free Press: It’s the “Intellectual Cowardice” of the Press Itself

Image by BBC, via Wikimedia Commons

Tucked away in the style section of yesterday’s Washington Post—after the President of the United States basically declared allegiance to a hostile dictator, again, after issuing yet more denunciations of the U.S. press as “enemies of the people”—was an admonition from Margaret Sullivan to the “reality-based press.” “The job will require clarity and moral force,” writes Sullivan, “in ways we’re not always all that comfortable with.”

Many have exhausted themselves in asking, what makes it so hard for journalists to tell the truth with “clarity and moral force”? Answers range from the conspiratorial—journalists and editors are bought off or coerced—to the mundane: they normalize aberrant behavior in order to relieve cognitive dissonance and maintain a comfortable status quo. While the former explanation can’t be dismissed out of hand in the sense that most journalists ultimately work for media megaconglomerates with their own vested interests, the latter is just as often offered by critics like NYU’s Jay Rosen.




Established journalists “want things to be normal,” writes Rosen, which includes preserving access to high-level sources. The press maintains a pretense to objectivity and even-handedness, even when doing so avoids obvious truths about the mendacity of their subjects. Mainstream journalists place “protecting themselves against criticism,” Rosen wrote in 2016, “before serving their readers. This is troubling because that kind of self-protection has far less legitimacy than the duties of journalism, especially when the criticism itself is barely valid.”

As is far too often the case these days, the questions we grapple with now are the same that vexed George Orwell over fifty years ago in his many literary confrontations with totalitarianism in its varying forms. Orwell faced what he construed as a kind of censorship when he finished his satirical novel Animal Farm. The manuscript was rejected by four publishers, Orwell noted, in a preface intended to accompany the book called “The Freedom of the Press.” The preface was "not included in the first edition of the work," the British Library points out, "and it remained undiscovered until 1971."

“Only one of these” publishers “had any ideological motive,” writes Orwell. “Two had been publishing anti-Russian books for years, and the other had no noticeable political colour. One publisher actually started by accepting the book, but after making preliminary arrangements he decided to consult the Ministry of Information, who appear to have warned him, or at any rate strongly advised him, against publishing it.” While Orwell finds this development troubling, “the chief danger to freedom of thought and speech,” he writes, was not government censorship.

If publishers and editors exert themselves to keep certain topics out of print, it is not because they are frightened of prosecution but because they are frightened of public opinion. In this country intellectual cowardice is the worst enemy a writer or journalist has to face, and that fact does not seem to me to have had the discussion it deserves.

The “discomfort” of intellectual honesty, Orwell writes, meant that even during wartime, with the Ministry of Information’s often ham-fisted attempts at press censorship, “the sinister fact about literary censorship in England is that it is largely voluntary.” Self-censorship came down to matters of decorum, Orwell argues—or as we would put it today, “civility.” Obedience to “an orthodoxy” meant that while “it is not exactly forbidden to say this, that or the other… it is ‘not done’ to say it, just as in mid-Victorian times it was ‘not done’ to mention trousers in the presence of a lady. Anyone who challenges the prevailing orthodoxy finds himself silenced with surprising effectiveness," not by government agents, but by a critical backlash aimed at preserving a sense of “normalcy” at all costs.

At stake for Orwell is no less than the fundamental liberal principle of free speech, in defense of which he invokes the famous quote from Voltaire as well as Rosa Luxembourg’s definition of freedom as “freedom for the other fellow.” “Liberty of speech and of the press,” he writes, does not demand “absolute liberty”—though he stops short of defining its limits. But it does demand the courage to tell uncomfortable truths, even such truths as are, perhaps, politically inexpedient or detrimental to the prospects of a lucrative career. “If liberty means anything at all,” Orwell concludes, "it means the right to tell people what they do not want to hear.”

Read his complete essay, "Freedom of the Press," here.

via Brainpickings

Related Content:

George Orwell Reveals the Role & Responsibility of the Writer “In an Age of State Control”

George Orwell Predicted Cameras Would Watch Us in Our Homes; He Never Imagined We’d Gladly Buy and Install Them Ourselves

George Orwell Creates a List of the Four Essential Reasons Writers Write

Josh Jones is a writer and musician based in Washington, DC. Follow him at @jdmagness

Teaching Tolerance to Activists: A Free Course Syllabus & Anthology

The waters of academia have grown choppy of late, and many veteran sailors have found themselves ill-equipped to navigate the brave new world student activists are forging at a breakneck pace.

Trigger warnings. Safe spaces. Curricula restructured with an eye toward identity. Swift judgments for those who fail to comply.

Admissions brochures and campus tours make frequent mention of their institution’s commitment to social justice. They have to—many high schoolers share the undergrads' beliefs.

Those of us whose college years are but a distant memory shouldn't depend on our school’s alumni mag to paint an accurate picture of the battles that may be raging within. Sustainability, preferred pronouns, and inclusive bathroom facilities may get a mention, but the official organ's unlikely to peek into the abyss where tolerance goes to die.

Cultural scholar Frances Lee, a queer trans person of color recovering from a forced conversion to evangelical Christianity, took a hard look at the problem of intolerance within activist circles as a second year Masters student in Cultural Studies at the University of Washington.

Published exactly one year ago, their essay, Kin Aesthetics: Excommunicate Me from the Church of Social Justice, was plainspoken about the negative side effects of social progress in activist circles, and by extension, on campus:

Telling people what to do and how to live out their lives is endemic to religious and to dogmatic activism. It’s not that my comrades are the bosses of me, but that dogmatic activism creates an environment that encourages people to tell other people what to do. This is especially prominent on Facebook. Scrolling through my news feed sometimes feels Iike sliding into a pew to be blasted by a fragmented, frenzied sermon. I know that much of the media posted there means to discipline me to be a better activist and community member. But when dictates aren’t followed, a common procedure of punishment ensues. Punishments for saying/doing/believing the wrong thing include shaming, scolding, calling out, isolating, or eviscerating someone’s social standing. Discipline and punishment have been used for all of history to control and destroy people. Why is it being used in movements meant to liberate all of us? We all have made serious mistakes and hurt other people, intentionally or not. We get a chance to learn from them when those around us respond with kindness and patience. Where is our humility when examining the mistakes of others? Why do we position ourselves as morally superior to the lowly un-woke?

The essay’s viral success gives extra oomph to "Woker Than Thou: Leftist Activist Identity Formations," a community course Lee designed and taught earlier this year.

Intended for community leaders, political activists, and organizers, Lee welcomed anyone with any interest in the subject, provided they were willing “to stay open to dissenting or unpopular ideas for the sake of discussion, instead of foreclosing certain topics or ideas by judging them as not worthy of attention.”

The 10-week syllabus delved into such relevant topics as Call-out Culture, the False Promises of Empathy, and of course “wokeness,” a term Lee takes care to attribute to Black culture.

While not all of the required readings can be found online, Lee provides a wealth of links to those that can.

Titles include University of San Francisco Professor Rhonda Magee’s "Addressing Social Injustice with Compassion," author Andrea Smith’s "The Problem with Privilege," Trauma Stewardship Institute founder Laura van Dernoot Lipsky’s TEDx Talk on systematic oppression and liberation theory.

There’s even a Sufjan Stevens song that evolved from cheap shots at skater Tonya Harding’s expense to something that considered the “wholeness of the person… with dignity and grace.”

Following Lee’s course materials seems a much more rational way to confront the current social climate than binging on confessional essays by liberal arts professors who feel hamstrung by not-unfounded fears that their students could cost them their jobs … and the good reputation required to secure another.

For further reading, Lee offers free downloads of Toward An Ethics of Activism: A Community Investigation of Humility, Grace and Compassion in Movements for Justice, an anthology that “seeks to disrupt dogmatic, exclusionary activist culture with kindness and connection.”

Find Frances Lee’s "Woker Than Thou" syllabus here.

Download a PDF of the anthology Toward An Ethics of Activism here. (A screen reader accessible version is also available.)

Related Content:

Slavoj Žižek Calls Political Correctness a Form of “Modern Totalitarianism”

Noam Chomsky Explains the Best Way for Ordinary People to Make Change in the World, Even When It Seems Daunting

Dr. Jane Goodall Is Now Teaching an Online Course on Conservation, Animal Intelligence & Activism

Ayun Halliday is an author, illustrator, theater maker and Chief Primatologist of the East Village Inky zine. Follow her @AyunHalliday.

A Big Digital Archive of Independent & Alternative Publications: Browse/Download Radical Periodicals Printed from 1951 to 2016

The consolidation of big media in print, TV, and internet has had some seriously deleterious effects on politics and culture, not least of which has been the major dependence on social media as a means of mass communication. While these platforms give space to voices we may not otherwise hear, they also flatten and monetize communication, spread abuse and disinformation, force the use of one-size-fits-all tools, and create the illusion of an open, democratic forum that obscures the gross inequities of real life.

Today’s media landscape stands in stark contrast to that of the mid-to-late twentieth century, when independent and alternative presses flourished, disseminating art, poetry, and radical politics, and offering custom platforms for marginalized communities and dissenters. While the future of independent media seems, today, unclear at best, a look back at the indie presses of decades past may show a way forward.

Paradoxically, the same technology that threatens to impose a global monoculture also enables us to archive and share thousands of unique artifacts from more heterodox ages of communication. One stellar example of such an archive, Independent Voices—“an open access collection of an alternative press”—stores several hundred digitized copies of periodicals “produced by feminists, dissident GIs, campus radicals, Native Americans, anti-war activists, Black Power advocates, Hispanics, LGBT activists, the extreme right-wing press and alternative literary magazines during the latter half of the 20th century.”

These publications come from the special collections of several dozen libraries and individuals and span the years 1951 to 2016. While examples from recent years show that alternative print publications haven’t disappeared, the richest, most historically resonant examples tend to come from the 60s and 70s, when the various strains of the counterculture formed collective movements and aesthetics, often powered by easy-to-use mimeograph machines.

As Georgia State University historian John McMillian says, the “hundreds of radical underground newspapers” that proliferated during the Vietnam war “educated and politicized young people, helped to shore up activist communities, and were the movement’s primary means of internal communication.” These publications, notes The New Yorker’s Louis Menand, represent “one of the most spontaneous and aggressive growths in publishing history.”

With publications from the era like And Ain’t I a WomanBread & Roses, Black Dialogue, Gay Liberator, Grunt Free Press, Native Movement, and The Yipster Times, Independent Voices showcases the height of countercultural activist publishing. These are only a smattering of titles on offer. Each issue is archived in a high-resolution, downloadable PDF, perfect for brushing up on your general knowledge of second-wave feminism or 60s Black Power; sourcing scholarship on the development of radical, alternative press over the past sixty years; or finding material to inspire the future of indie media, whatever form it happens to take. Enter the Independent Voices archive here.

Related Content:  

Download 834 Radical Zines From a Revolutionary Online Archive: Globalization, Punk Music, the Industrial Prison Complex & More

Download 50+ Issues of Legendary West Coast Punk Music Zines from the 1970-80s: Damage, Slash & No Mag

Enter the Pulp Magazine Archive, Featuring Over 11,000 Digitized Issues of Classic Sci-Fi, Fantasy & Detective Fiction

Josh Jones is a writer and musician based in Durham, NC. Follow him at @jdmagness

 

Read George Washington’s “110 Rules of Civility”: The Code of Decency That Guided America’s First President

Contrary to a thoroughly abused political metaphor, Washington, DC was not in fact built on a swamp, though anyone who has visited in the summer will find that story plausible. Having just returned to my hometown for a few days, I’ve had ample reminder of its stickiness, and have experienced its figuratively overheated atmosphere firsthand. I needn’t go over the political and moral crises turning the capital into a cauldron of “incivility.”

But what exactly is "civility" and what does it entail? Is it just another word for politeness, or a hypocritically insidious code for silencing dissent? Oxford Dictionaries recently chose the word for its Weekly Word Watch, citing an Oxford English Dictionary entry defining it as “the minimum degree” of decorum in social situations. Deriving from the Latin civis, or “citizen,” and related to “civics” and “civilization,” the word first meant “citizenship,” and connoted the treatment supposedly due a person with said status. As often happens, connotation became denotation, and civility came to stand for basic respect.




Nervous columnists now worried about civility’s decline have pinned the problem on citizen protesters exercising civil disobedience and their first amendment rights, rather than on the torrents of abuse, threats, and lies that pour forth daily from the executive, who seems incapable of treating anyone with minimal decency. But the very first holder of the office—faced with a fractious and uncivil populace (some of whom toasted to his “speedy death”)—believed it was his duty to set “a standard to which the wise and honest can repair.”

What, we might wonder, would George Washington, builder of DC, have thought of the city’s current state? We can speculate by reference to his “Farewell Address,” in which the departing president wrote:

The alternate domination of one faction over another, sharpened by the spirit of revenge natural to party dissention, which in different ages & countries has perpetrated the most horrid enormities, is itself a frightful despotism. But this leads at length to a more formal and permanent despotism. The disorders & miseries, which result, gradually incline the minds of men to seek security & repose in the absolute power of an Individual: and sooner or later the chief of some prevailing faction more able or more fortunate than his competitors, turns this disposition to the purposes of his own elevation, on the ruins of Public Liberty.

Washington, argues historian and conservative columnist Richard Brookhiser, governed his own behavior with a strict code of conduct based on “The Rules of Civility & Decent Behavior in Company and Conversation,” a list he carefully copied out by hand as a schoolboy in Virginia. “Based on a 16th-century set of precepts compiled for young gentlemen by Jesuit instructors,” notes NPR, “the Rules of Civility were one of the earliest and most powerful forces to shape America’s first president,” as Brookhiser claims in his 2003 book Rules of Civility: The 110 Precepts That Guided Our First President in War and Peace.

Many of these “rules” are outmoded etiquette, many are baroque in their level of detail, some should never go out of style, and many would be mocked and derided today as “political correctness.” Brookhiser “warns against dismissing the maxims” as mere politeness, noting that they “address moral issues, but they address them indirectly. Maybe they can work on us in our century as the Jesuits intended them to work in theirs—indirectly—by putting us in a more ambitious frame of mind.” Or maybe they could induce some humility among the already politically ambitious.

See all of the 110 “Rules of Civility” below, with modernized spelling and punctuation, courtesy of NPR:

  1. Every action done in company ought to be with some sign of respect to those that are present.
  2. When in company, put not your hands to any part of the body not usually discovered.
  3. Show nothing to your friend that may affright him.
  4. In the presence of others, sing not to yourself with a humming voice, or drum with your fingers or feet.
  5. If you cough, sneeze, sigh or yawn, do it not loud but privately, and speak not in your yawning, but put your handkerchief or hand before your face and turn aside.
  6. Sleep not when others speak, sit not when others stand, speak not when you should hold your peace, walk not on when others stop.
  7. Put not off your clothes in the presence of others, nor go out of your chamber half dressed.
  8. At play and attire, it's good manners to give place to the last comer, and affect not to speak louder than ordinary.
  9. Spit not into the fire, nor stoop low before it; neither put your hands into the flames to warm them, nor set your feet upon the fire, especially if there be meat before it.
  10. When you sit down, keep your feet firm and even, without putting one on the other or crossing them.
  11. Shift not yourself in the sight of others, nor gnaw your nails.
  12. Shake not the head, feet, or legs; roll not the eyes; lift not one eyebrow higher than the other, wry not the mouth, and bedew no man's face with your spittle by approaching too near him when you speak.
  13. Kill no vermin, or fleas, lice, ticks, etc. in the sight of others; if you see any filth or thick spittle put your foot dexterously upon it; if it be upon the clothes of your companions, put it off privately, and if it be upon your own clothes, return thanks to him who puts it off.
  14. Turn not your back to others, especially in speaking; jog not the table or desk on which another reads or writes; lean not upon anyone.
  15. Keep your nails clean and short, also your hands and teeth clean, yet without showing any great concern for them.
  16. Do not puff up the cheeks, loll not out the tongue with the hands or beard, thrust out the lips or bite them, or keep the lips too open or too close.
  17. Be no flatterer, neither play with any that delight not to be played withal.
  18. Read no letter, books, or papers in company, but when there is a necessity for the doing of it, you must ask leave; come not near the books or writtings of another so as to read them unless desired, or give your opinion of them unasked. Also look not nigh when another is writing a letter.
  19. Let your countenance be pleasant but in serious matters somewhat grave.
  20. The gestures of the body must be suited to the discourse you are upon.
  21. Reproach none for the infirmities of nature, nor delight to put them that have in mind of thereof.
  22. Show not yourself glad at the misfortune of another though he were your enemy.
  23. When you see a crime punished, you may be inwardly pleased; but always show pity to the suffering offender.
  24. Do not laugh too loud or too much at any public spectacle.
  25. Superfluous compliments and all affectation of ceremonies are to be avoided, yet where due they are not to be neglected.
  26. In putting off your hat to persons of distinction, as noblemen, justices, churchmen, etc., make a reverence, bowing more or less according to the custom of the better bred, and quality of the persons. Among your equals expect not always that they should begin with you first, but to pull off the hat when there is no need is affectation. In the manner of saluting and resaluting in words, keep to the most usual custom.
  27. 'Tis ill manners to bid one more eminent than yourself be covered, as well as not to do it to whom it is due. Likewise he that makes too much haste to put on his hat does not well, yet he ought to put it on at the first, or at most the second time of being asked. Now what is herein spoken, of qualification in behavior in saluting, ought also to be observed in taking of place and sitting down, for ceremonies without bounds are troublesome.
  28. If any one come to speak to you while you are are sitting stand up, though he be your inferior, and when you present seats, let it be to everyone according to his degree.
  29. When you meet with one of greater quality than yourself, stop and retire, especially if it be at a door or any straight place, to give way for him to pass.
  30. In walking, the highest place in most countries seems to be on the right hand; therefore, place yourself on the left of him whom you desire to honor. But if three walk together the middest place is the most honorable; the wall is usally given to the most worthy if two walk together.
  31. If anyone far surpasses others, either in age, estate, or merit, yet would give place to a meaner than himself in his own lodging or elsewhere, the one ought not to except it. So he on the other part should not use much earnestness nor offer it above once or twice.
  32. To one that is your equal, or not much inferior, you are to give the chief place in your lodging, and he to whom it is offered ought at the first to refuse it, but at the second to accept though not without acknowledging his own unworthiness.
  33. They that are in dignity or in office have in all places precedency, but whilst they are young, they ought to respect those that are their equals in birth or other qualities, though they have no public charge.
  34. It is good manners to prefer them to whom we speak before ourselves, especially if they be above us, with whom in no sort we ought to begin.
  35. Let your discourse with men of business be short and comprehensive.
  36. Artificers and persons of low degree ought not to use many ceremonies to lords or others of high degree, but respect and highly honor then, and those of high degree ought to treat them with affability and courtesy, without arrogance.
  37. In speaking to men of quality do not lean nor look them full in the face, nor approach too near them at left. Keep a full pace from them.
  38. In visiting the sick, do not presently play the physician if you be not knowing therein.
  39. In writing or speaking, give to every person his due title according to his degree and the custom of the place.
  40. Strive not with your superior in argument, but always submit your judgment to others with modesty.
  41. Undertake not to teach your equal in the art himself professes; it savors of arrogancy.
  42. Let your ceremonies in courtesy be proper to the dignity of his place with whom you converse, for it is absurd to act the same with a clown and a prince.
  43. Do not express joy before one sick in pain, for that contrary passion will aggravate his misery.
  44. When a man does all he can, though it succeed not well, blame not him that did it.
  45. Being to advise or reprehend any one, consider whether it ought to be in public or in private, and presently or at some other time; in what terms to do it; and in reproving show no signs of cholor but do it with all sweetness and mildness.
  46. Take all admonitions thankfully in what time or place soever given, but afterwards not being culpable take a time and place convenient to let him know it that gave them.
  47. Mock not nor jest at any thing of importance. Break no jests that are sharp, biting, and if you deliver any thing witty and pleasant, abstain from laughing thereat yourself.
  48. Wherein you reprove another be unblameable yourself, for example is more prevalent than precepts.
  49. Use no reproachful language against any one; neither curse nor revile.
  50. Be not hasty to believe flying reports to the disparagement of any.
  51. Wear not your clothes foul, or ripped, or dusty, but see they be brushed once every day at least and take heed that you approach not to any uncleaness.
  52. In your apparel be modest and endeavor to accommodate nature, rather than to procure admiration; keep to the fashion of your equals, such as are civil and orderly with respect to time and places.
  53. Run not in the streets, neither go too slowly, nor with mouth open; go not shaking of arms, nor upon the toes, kick not the earth with your feet, go not upon the toes, nor in a dancing fashion.
  54. Play not the peacock, looking every where about you, to see if you be well decked, if your shoes fit well, if your stockings sit neatly and clothes handsomely.
  55. Eat not in the streets, nor in the house, out of season.
  56. Associate yourself with men of good quality if you esteem your own reputation; for 'tis better to be alone than in bad company.
  57. In walking up and down in a house, only with one in company if he be greater than yourself, at the first give him the right hand and stop not till he does and be not the first that turns, and when you do turn let it be with your face towards him; if he be a man of great quality walk not with him cheek by jowl but somewhat behind him, but yet in such a manner that he may easily speak to you.
  58. Let your conversation be without malice or envy, for 'tis a sign of a tractable and commendable nature, and in all causes of passion permit reason to govern.
  59. Never express anything unbecoming, nor act against the rules moral before your inferiors.
  60. Be not immodest in urging your friends to discover a secret.
  61. Utter not base and frivolous things among grave and learned men, nor very difficult questions or subjects among the ignorant, or things hard to be believed; stuff not your discourse with sentences among your betters nor equals.
  62. Speak not of doleful things in a time of mirth or at the table; speak not of melancholy things as death and wounds, and if others mention them, change if you can the discourse. Tell not your dreams, but to your intimate friend.
  63. A man ought not to value himself of his achievements or rare qualities of wit; much less of his riches, virtue or kindred.
  64. Break not a jest where none take pleasure in mirth; laugh not aloud, nor at all without occasion; deride no man's misfortune though there seem to be some cause.
  65. Speak not injurious words neither in jest nor earnest; scoff at none although they give occasion.
  66. Be not froward but friendly and courteous, the first to salute, hear and answer; and be not pensive when it's a time to converse.
  67. Detract not from others, neither be excessive in commanding.
  68. Go not thither, where you know not whether you shall be welcome or not; give not advice without being asked, and when desired do it briefly.
  69. If two contend together take not the part of either unconstrained, and be not obstinate in your own opinion. In things indifferent be of the major side.
  70. Reprehend not the imperfections of others, for that belongs to parents, masters and superiors.
  71. Gaze not on the marks or blemishes of others and ask not how they came. What you may speak in secret to your friend, deliver not before others.
  72. Speak not in an unknown tongue in company but in your own language and that as those of quality do and not as the vulgar. Sublime matters treat seriously.
  73. Think before you speak, pronounce not imperfectly, nor bring out your words too hastily, but orderly and distinctly.
  74. When another speaks, be attentive yourself and disturb not the audience. If any hesitate in his words, help him not nor prompt him without desired. Interrupt him not, nor answer him till his speech be ended.
  75. In the midst of discourse ask not of what one treats, but if you perceive any stop because of your coming, you may well entreat him gently to proceed. If a person of quality comes in while you're conversing, it's handsome to repeat what was said before.
  76. While you are talking, point not with your finger at him of whom you discourse, nor approach too near him to whom you talk, especially to his face.
  77. Treat with men at fit times about business and whisper not in the company of others.
  78. Make no comparisons and if any of the company be commended for any brave act of virtue, commend not another for the same.
  79. Be not apt to relate news if you know not the truth thereof. In discoursing of things you have heard, name not your author. Always a secret discover not.
  80. Be not tedious in discourse or in reading unless you find the company pleased therewith.
  81. Be not curious to know the affairs of others, neither approach those that speak in private.
  82. Undertake not what you cannot perform but be careful to keep your promise.
  83. When you deliver a matter do it without passion and with discretion, however mean the person be you do it to.
  84. When your superiors talk to anybody hearken not, neither speak nor laugh.
  85. In company of those of higher quality than yourself, speak not 'til you are asked a question, then stand upright, put off your hat and answer in few words.
  86. In disputes, be not so desirous to overcome as not to give liberty to each one to deliver his opinion and submit to the judgment of the major part, especially if they are judges of the dispute.
  87. Let your carriage be such as becomes a man grave, settled and attentive to that which is spoken. Contradict not at every turn what others say.
  88. Be not tedious in discourse, make not many digressions, nor repeat often the same manner of discourse.
  89. Speak not evil of the absent, for it is unjust.
  90. Being set at meat scratch not, neither spit, cough or blow your nose except there's a necessity for it.
  91. Make no show of taking great delight in your victuals. Feed not with greediness. Eat your bread with a knife. Lean not on the table, neither find fault with what you eat.
  92. Take no salt or cut bread with your knife greasy.
  93. Entertaining anyone at table it is decent to present him with meat. Undertake not to help others undesired by the master.
  94. If you soak bread in the sauce, let it be no more than what you put in your mouth at a time, and blow not your broth at table but stay 'til it cools of itself.
  95. Put not your meat to your mouth with your knife in your hand; neither spit forth the stones of any fruit pie upon a dish nor cast anything under the table.
  96. It's unbecoming to heap much to one's mea. Keep your fingers clean and when foul wipe them on a corner of your table napkin.
  97. Put not another bite into your mouth 'til the former be swallowed. Let not your morsels be too big for the jowls.
  98. Drink not nor talk with your mouth full; neither gaze about you while you are drinking.
  99. Drink not too leisurely nor yet too hastily. Before and after drinking wipe your lips. Breathe not then or ever with too great a noise, for it is uncivil.
  100. Cleanse not your teeth with the tablecloth, napkin, fork or knife, but if others do it, let it be done with a pick tooth.
  101. Rinse not your mouth in the presence of others.
  102. It is out of use to call upon the company often to eat. Nor need you drink to others every time you drink.
  103. In company of your betters be not longer in eating than they are. Lay not your arm but only your hand upon the table.
  104. It belongs to the chiefest in company to unfold his napkin and fall to meat first. But he ought then to begin in time and to dispatch with dexterity that the slowest may have time allowed him.
  105. Be not angry at table whatever happens and if you have reason to be so, show it not but on a cheerful countenance especially if there be strangers, for good humor makes one dish of meat a feast.
  106. Set not yourself at the upper of the table but if it be your due, or that the master of the house will have it so. Contend not, lest you should trouble the company.
  107. If others talk at table be attentive, but talk not with meat in your mouth.
  108. When you speak of God or His attributes, let it be seriously and with reverence. Honor and obey your natural parents although they be poor.
  109. Let your recreations be manful not sinful.
  110. Labor to keep alive in your breast that little spark of celestial fire called conscience.

via WashPo

Related Content:

Discover Thomas Jefferson’s Cut-and-Paste Version of the Bible, and Read the Curious Edition Online

The Poetry of Abraham Lincoln

John Green’s Crash Course in U.S. History: From Colonialism to Obama in 47 Videos

Josh Jones is a writer and musician based in Durham, NC. Follow him at @jdmagness

The Simpsons Take on Ayn Rand: See the Show’s Satire of The Fountainhead and Objectivist Philosophy

Say what you will about the tenets of Objectivism—to take a fan favorite line from a little film about bowling and white Russians. At least it’s an ethos. As for Ayn Rand’s attempts to realize her "absurd philosophy" in fiction, we can say that she was rather less successful, in aesthetic terms, than literary philosophers like Albert Camus or Simone de Beauvoir. But that’s a high bar. When it comes to sales figures, her novels are, we might say, competitive.

Atlas Shrugged is sometimes said to be the second best-selling book next to the Bible (with a significant degree of overlap between their readerships). The claim is grossly hyperbolic. With somewhere around 7 million copies sold, Rand's most popular novel falls behind other capitalist classics like Think and Grow Rich. Still, along with The Fountainhead and her other ostensibly non-fictional works, Rand sold enough books to make her comfortable in life, even if she spent her last years on the dole.




Since her death, Rand's books have grown in popularity each decade, with a big spike immediately after the 2008 financial crisis. That popularity isn’t particularly hard to explain as an appeal to adolescent selfishness and grandiosity, and it has made her works ripe targets for satire—especially since they almost read like self-parody already. And who better to take on Rand than The Simpsons, reliable pop satirists of great American delusions since 1989?

The show’s take on The Fountainhead, above, has baby Maggie in the role of architect Howard Roark, the book’s genius individualist whose extraordinary talent is stifled by a critic named Ellsworth Toohey (a cardboard caricature of British theorist and politician Harold Laski). In this version, Toohey is a vicious preschool teacher in tweed, who insists on educating his charges in banality (“mediocrity rules!”) and knocks down Maggie’s block cathedral with a snide “welcome to the real world.”

In response to Toohey’s abuse, Maggie delivers a pompous soliloquy about her own greatness, as Rand’s heroes are wont to do. She is again subjected to preschool repression in the clip just above—this time not at the hands of a socialist critic but from the headmistress of the Ayn Rand School for Tots. The domineering disciplinarian tells Marge her aim is to “develop the bottle within” and dissuade her students from becoming “leeches,” a dig at Rand’s tendency—one sadly parroted by her acolytes—to dehumanize recipients of social benefits as parasites.

Readers of Roald Dahl will be reminded of Matilda’s Miss Trunchbull, and the barracks-like daycare, its walls lined with Objectivist slogans, becomes a site for some Great Escape capers. These sly references hint at a deeper critique—suggesting that the libertarian philosophy of hyper-individualism contains the potential for tyranny and terror as brutal as that of the most dogmatically collectivist of utopian schemes.

Related Content:

Christopher Hitchens Dismisses the Cult of Ayn Rand: There’s No “Need to Have Essays Advocating Selfishness Among Human Beings; It Requires No Reinforcement”

Flannery O’Connor: Friends Don’t Let Friends Read Ayn Rand (1960)

When Ayn Rand Collected Social Security & Medicare, After Years of Opposing Benefit Programs

Josh Jones is a writer and musician based in Durham, NC. Follow him at @jdmagness

A New Massive Helen Keller Archive Gets Launched: Take a Digital Look at Her Photos, Letters, Speeches, Political Writings & More

Take an innocuous statement like, “we should teach children about the life of Helen Keller.” What reasonable, compassionate person would disagree? Hers is a story of triumph over incredible adversity, of perseverance and friendship and love. Now, take a statement like, “we should teach children the political writing of Helen Keller,” and you might see brawls in town halls and school board meetings. This is because Helen Keller was a committed socialist and serious political thinker, who wrote extensively to advocate for economic cooperation over competition and to support the causes of working people. She was an activist for peace and justice who opposed war, imperialism, racism, and poverty, conditions that huge numbers of people seem devoted to maintaining—both in her lifetime and today.

Keller’s moving, persuasive writing is eloquent and uncompromising and should be taught alongside that of other great American rhetoricians. Consider, for example, the passage below from a letter she wrote in 1916 to Oswald Villard, then Vice-President of the NAACP:

Ashamed in my very soul I behold in my own beloved south-land the tears of those who are oppressed, those who must bring up their sons and daughters in bondage to be servants, because others have their fields and vineyards, and on the side of the oppressor is power. I feel with those suffering, toiling millions, I am thwarted with them. Every attempt to keep them down and crush their spirit is a betrayal of my faith that good is stronger than evil, and light stronger than darkness…. My spirit groans with all the deaf and blind of the world, I feel their chains chafing my limbs. I am disenfranchised with every wage-slave. I am overthrown, hurt, oppressed, beaten to the earth by the strong, ruthless ones who have taken away their inheritance. The wrongs of the poor endure ring fiercely in my soul, and I shall never rest until they are lifted into the light, and given their fair share in the blessings of life that God meant for us all alike.

It is difficult to choose any one passage from the letter because the whole is written with such expressive feeling. This is but one document among many hundreds in the new Helen Keller archive at the American Foundation for the Blind (AFB), which has digitized letters, essays, speeches, photographs, and much more from Keller’s long, tireless career as a writer and public speaker. Funded by the National Endowment for the Humanities, the archive includes over 250,000 digital images of her work from the late 19th century to well into the 20th. There are many films of Keller, photos like that of her and her dog Sieglinde at the top, a collection of her correspondence with Mark Twain, and much more.

In addition to Keller’s own published and unpublished work, the archive contains many letters to and about her, press clippings, informative AFB blog posts, and resources for students and teachers. The site aims to be "fully accessible to audiences who are blind, deaf, hard-of-hearing, low vision, or deafblind." On the whole, this project “presents an opportunity to encounter this renowned historical figure in a new, dynamic, and exciting way," as AFB writes in a press release. "For example, despite her fame, relatively few people know that Helen Keller wrote 14 books as well as hundreds of essays and articles on a broad array of subjects ranging from animals and atomic energy to Mahatma Gandhi.”

And, of course, she was a lifelong advocate for the blind and deaf, writing and speaking out on disability rights issues for decades. Indeed, it’s difficult to find a subject in which she did not take an interest. The archive’s subject index shows her writing about games, sports, reading, shopping, swimming, travel, architecture and the arts, education, law, government, world religions, royalty, women’s suffrage, and more. There were many in her time who dismissed Keller’s unpopular views, calling her naïve and claiming that she had been duped by nefarious actors. The charge is insulting and false. Her body of work shows her to have been an extraordinarily well-read, wise, cosmopolitan, sensitive, self-aware, and honest critical thinker.

Two years after the NAACP letter, Keller wrote an essay called “Competition,” in which she made the case for “a better social order” against a central conceit of capitalism: that “life would not be worth while without the keen edge of competition,” and that without it “men would lose ambition, and the race would sink into dull sameness.” Keller advances her counterargument with vigorous and incisive reasoning.

This whole argument is a fallacy. Whatever is worth while in our civilization has survived in spite of competition. Under the competitive system the work of the world is badly done. The result is waste and ruin [….] Profit is the aim, and the public good is a secondary consideration. Competition sins against its own pet god efficiency. In spite of all the struggle, toil and fierce effort the result is a depressing state of destitution for the majority of mankind. Competition diverts man's energies into useless channels and degrades his character. It is immoral as well as inefficient, since its commandment is "Thou shalt compete against thy neighbor." Such a rule does not foster Truthfulness, honesty, consideration for others. [….] Competitors are indifferent to each other's welfare. Indeed, they are glad of each other's failure because they find their advantage in it. Compassion is deadened in them by the necessity they are under of nullifying the efforts of their fellow-competitors.

Keller refused to become cynical in the face of seemingly indefatigable greed, cruelty, and hypocrisy. Though not a member of a mainstream church (she belonged to the obscure Christian sect of Swedenborgianism), she exhorted American Christians to live up to their professions—to follow the example of their founder and the commandments of their sacred text. In an essay written after World War I, she argued movingly for disarmament and “the vital issue of world peace.” While making a number of logical arguments, Keller principally appeals to the common ethos of the nation’s dominant faith.

This is precisely where we have failed, calling ourselves Christians we have fundamentally broken, and taught others to break most patriotically, the commandment of the Lord, “Thou shalt not kill” [….] Let us then try out Christianity upon earth—not lip-service, but the teaching of Him who came upon earth that “all men might have life, and have it more abundantly.” War strikes at the very heart of this teaching.

We can hear Helen Keller’s voice speaking directly to us from the past, diagnosing the ills of her age that look so much like those of our own. “The mythological Helen Keller,” writes Keith Rosenthal, “has aptly been described as a sort of ‘plaster saint;’ a hollow, empty vessel who is little more than an apolitical symbol for perseverance and personal triumph.” Though she embodied those qualities, she also dedicated her entire life to careful observation of the world around her, to writing and speaking out on issues that mattered, and to caring deeply about the welfare of others. Get to know the real Helen Keller, in all her complexity, fierce intelligence, and ferocious compassion, at the American Foundation for the Blind’s exhaustive digital archive of her life and work.

Related Content:

Mark Twain & Helen Keller’s Special Friendship: He Treated Me Not as a Freak, But as a Person Dealing with Great Difficulties

Helen Keller Writes a Letter to Nazi Students Before They Burn Her Book: “History Has Taught You Nothing If You Think You Can Kill Ideas” (1933)

Watch Helen Keller & Teacher Annie Sullivan Demonstrate How Helen Learned to Speak (1930)

Josh Jones is a writer and musician based in Durham, NC. Follow him at @jdmagness

More in this category... »
Quantcast