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The Free Press

Hilaire Belloc

Book Overview: 

I propose to discuss in what follows the evil of the great modern Capitalist Press, its function in vitiating and misinforming opinion and in putting power into ignoble hands; its correction by the formation of small independent organs, and the probably increasing effect of these last.

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Book Excerpt: 
. . .Lowlands of Scotland, told men what their proprietors chose to tell them, both as to news and as to opinion. The population was still fairly well spread; there were a number of local capitals; distribution was not yet so organized as to permit a paper printed as near as Birmingham, even, to feel the competition of a paper printed in London only 100 miles away. Papers printed as far from London,[Pg 10] as York, Liverpool or Exeter were the more independent.

Further the mass of men, though there was more intelligent reading (and writing, for that matter) than there is to-day, had not acquired the habit of daily reading.

It may be doubted whether even to-day the mass of men (in the sense of the actual majority of adult citizens) have done so. But what I mean is that in the time of which I speak (the earlier part, and a portion of the middle, of the nineteenth century), there was no reading of papers as a regular habit by those who work with their hands. Th. . . Read More

Community Reviews

Brilliant, brief, accessible and incisive analysis of why and how the media manipulate and control the truth. Although this was written at a time - 1918 - when the media was largely limited to the Press (not even radio then) Belloc's understanding of the underlying issues remains profoundly relev...more

The author was talking about pre-WWI Britain, but he could just as easily have been talking about the US in 2013. Good book.

It's unsettling how contemporary this feels despite being just over a century old. Obviously not 1:1, but it's evidence enough of how solid and obvious the foundation of socialist critique is and how little changing institutions are as a whole within Capitalism. Today's criticism of Mainstream Me...more

Very good book regarding the media, and those who ultimately control it.

It is hard for me to give this book a fair reading because the warnings Hillaire Belloc gave for the future of the fourth estate are now widely acknowledged to have occurred, so it is old hat in a way. Nowadays though, everyone knows that very few people own the mainstream outlets, indeed maybe t...more

A sort of addendum to "The Servile State", Belloc describes the problem with a press that obtains the majority of its revenue from advertising, viz. that the publisher will always find it in his best interest to omit (or distort) portions of the truth. Inasmuch as large business concerns are tied...more

Belloc nails it. As applicable today in the blogger vs Fox/CNN era as it was 100 years ago.

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