1918 Allen & Unwin short book praising, and with great hopes for, the Free Press. Suggestive parallels with Internet now. This review July 20, 2014
Belloc wrote this book towards the end of the 'Great War'. The title is not ironic or sarcastic; he genuinely praised and liked the Free Press, and had experience working on and for independent newspapers. He hoped they would become very influential; and that optimistic prediction is the point of his book. Looking back a century, we can see parallels between independent news sources and websites; and looking back further, we can see an analogy with the influence of pamphlets as far back as the Reformation.
My Conclusions. And comparisons with Websites. I'll put these conclusions first; feel free to examine the evidence (below), in which I've done my best to include all of Belloc's examples and all his reasoning.
• To Summarise Belloc: He dated plutocratic England, with power combined between newspapers, politicians, and the rich, from I think about 1900. The Marconi scandal marked some sort of boundary between aristocratic politics and plutocracy. Belloc had contempt for Parliament, and I think respect for the past; he thought in some unspecified ancient times people were conscious of their rights and property. He considered the Free Press was a counter to new powers, and would succeed, and within a few decades. But the success would be in debate: he thought all the serious issues, notably in his view Economic, would be fully debated within a few decades. (Belloc said much the same in The Jews. He said in about 1920 of Jewish power that the 'cat was out of the bag'). But although there would be debates, Belloc could see no sign that people would act to establish their entitlements.
• Belloc did not foresee modern-style propaganda, which includes the output from 'think-tanks', trusts, radio, greatly-expanded numbers of academics, and many quasi-scientific groups. Nor the strange developments budding from those things—trolls, distractors and timewasters, flooders with wrong material, multiple sources putting the same views in different ways, and so on. The reason seems to be he assumed a 'capitalist' press: despite wartime propaganda bureaux, he did not foresee the vast subsidies to official establishment sources making them independent of advertising and cover price.
• Belloc assumed, in his Eurocentric way, that, somewhere, there will be a writer who knows about any controversial topic, and is willing to discuss it in print. These assumptions may fail where (for example) far distances are involved: Soviet Russia was never reported reliably at any time. His assumption fails where there is intense secrecy: official secrets illustrate the possibilities. So the principle that reading mass newspapers, plus the Free Press, will fully inform anyone who takes the trouble, is simply wrong. The fantastic deceptions such as 'the Holocaust', NASA, 9/11, false flags to start wars, linger largely because of effective gagging methods and mass dishonesty.
And Belloc assumed that writers would emerge; in retrospect, the laziness of many people, and the corruption of academics, was something he ignored. At the present day, I don't know of a single person who's listed BBC crimes and omissions and deceptions, for example. Or anyone who's continued Lewis Fry Richardson's 'socionomic' attempts to (for example) summarise wars to identify 'cui bono'.
• Belloc seems to have had no systematic way to comb the world of the Free Press for likely titles. He says he reads English and French Free papers, and American, but no others. He supported the 'Great War', largely because Britain and France had secretly decided to be allies, and his idea of war was something chivalrous and honorable, in which profiteering wasn't talked of much. His list of scandals (picked out in red, below) omits the arming of Japan by Jews against Russia, assassinations of Russians, and many other matters. But he seems to have missed arguments against the war. And he had little idea of the nuts and bolts of finance: he does not discuss the 1913 formation of the 'Federal Reserve', although he was aware of Jewish power. Other missing issues include long-term planning, of the 'Illuminati' sort, and the worrying long-term implications; and such things as land reform and finance reform.
• Belloc draws attention to weaknesses of the Free Press, one being that many newspapers could not survive the loss of an influential editor or writer(s). In the same way, many websites cease having influence if the founder or writers leave or lose interest. The most reasonable conclusion, looking back over a century of news, seems to be that the official media had almost complete domination: almost everyone for example supported the opinions they were fed about the Second World War. The Free Press had a bit of influence—see the examples below—but most large issues, including the Great War, went unexamined. Personally, I hope Internet will prove much more robust.
• Lessons for Internet. These seem to be somewhat hopeful.
(1) The marginal cost of the Free Press—i.e. here we compare with websites—is zero. If you have a computer, it costs nothing more to access 'Free Press' sites than the effort of hunting for them.
(2) The cost of websites is far, far below that of hard-copy newspapers.
(3) The multiple specialist topics are relatively easily hunted down by search engines, something (apart from indexes) unknown before.
(4) Free machine translation allows access to sites from anywhere. If the translations aren't wonderful, they still exceed anything even the most polyglot person was able to read.
(5) Hypotheses (e.g. the acts of the Illuminati, the behaviour of Hitler, the causes of wars) are more explorable on Internet, although of course there is a mass of unsound material, some of it the Internet version of the 'Official Press'
(6) 'Political lawyers' who inspired such fear in Belloc are, arguably, in a weaker position since websites can be held in varied locations and subject to varied national laws.
(7) Belloc bewailed the fragmentation of the 'Free Press'. There's not much sign of change here; there are large numbers of websites. But it would be relatively easy to arrange alternative sites with multiple inputs.
BUT Belloc was hopeful that debates would ensue in full and within a few decades. The failure of debate on Jewish issues, notably the coup in Russia, the control of money, the world wars, and 'post-war' frauds show Belloc was enormously more optimistic about the 'Free Press' than proved realistic. AND Belloc also doubted there was a popular will to do anything: exposing frauds and absurdities may simply have little effect amongst the general public, and this so far has been the Internet experience too. Considering the reactions to (e.g.) nuclear weapons doubts, the takeover of Palestine, wars in Korea and Vietnam, Jewish immigration attitudes, Belloc was correct there.
I hope this is helpful!!
Digest of contents of 'The Free Press' as briefly as possible. 'Scandals' in red; Free Press newspaper titles in green.
I Press began to arise with Capitalism; Finance; National Debt (all latter undefined)
II Impersonal large-scale press allows no personal judgment to be made on the contents [His argument is analogous to later criticisms of one-way radio & TV broadcasts]
III Small and local newspapers (at the time of rail travel) were aimed at people with time and some education
IV After about 1860, advertising and circulation dominated newspaper finance. The press considered advertisers, not the public
V The Press becomes owned by base rich men. And advertisers (e.g. of patent medicines) are the same type. AND 'A Prime Minister is made or deposed by the owner of a group of newspapers'
VI People can boycott newspapers if newspapers 'burke reality': most news until c. 1880s was what people really wanted to hear. The Press can boycott very successfully.
VII Three examples of public opinion forcing newspapers to take notice. The Fabian movement; Women's Suffrage; insurrection against Chinese Labour in South Africa. [Note: on the theory of Jewish influence, these examples are not surprising, and may in fact have pushed agenda]
VIII Tiny oligarchy ... can suppress any truth and suggest any falsehood': examples: unprinted letters to the editor and 'hundreds of examples of suppression and lies. MPs when speaking: mediocrities. Disputes leading to strikes: the event always comes with violence ... the Press boycotted the men's claims. The great building lock-out at the outbreak of the War. Price rises in 1915, with 'a mass of nonsense about the immense earnings of the proletariat.'
IX Aristocracy replaced by a Plutocracy [by about 1900]. Press oligarchy now works with parliamentary politicians; in effect it is "official Press". Serves a clique and never deals with vital matters; Belloc has three examples: Excess of lawyers in government and secret trading with the enemy [i.e. Jew with Germans] and secret Party funds. The mass of Englishmen have ceased to obtain information ... observation over public servants has slipped from them... gives immense irresponsible power to a handful ... repulsive.. weakness ... baseness.
BUT the Free Press has arisen. Belloc's examples here include The New Age and Eye Witness/ New Witness, founded 1907 & 1911. In a long-winded manner, Belloc examines 'the nature of that movement which I call "The Free Press".'
X Three moral motives converged--
XI A Propaganda for religion 'and cognate enthusiasms'. 'The Free Press has the character of disparate particularism'. Belloc means they are spread around disjointed topics which all differ from each other: Veuillot's L'Univers (Roman Catholic), Justice (Socialist, says Belloc; he does not describe this 'sheet'. Belloc is too early to identify 'Red', Jewish, imitation socialism, and too early to see it presented as an all-encompassing view of possible society), Drumont's Libre Parole (anti-Semitic, in a technical sense—counter-Semitic or pseudo-anti-Semitic might be more accurate), Henry George's Single-tax, Teetotal, Rationalist, Atheist. Pacifism is represented (later) by Belloc as Brailsford [of 'War of Steel and Gold'] and Norman Angell [of 'The Grand Illusion'] in New Republic.XII Disabilities which the Free Press reaction suffered.--
B Indignation against falsehood. By the 1900s editors were no longer supreme in matters of culture and opinion, as they had been, but a mere mouthpiece of the proprietor. The necessity of getting certain truths told was a force.. 'That is why you nearly always find the Free Press directed by men of exceptional intelligence and cultivation'. [Belloc gives no examples here]
C Indignation against Arbitrary Power. '... the mass even of well-educated and observant men [felt] little more than a vague ill-ease. .. the particular, vivid, concrete instances [e.g. blackmail and make/unmake politicians, dispose of Cabinets; nominate absurd Ministers] that specially move men to action were hidden from them.'
1 Going against the stream of the normal daily paper. Mere inertia ... the remaining three are far graver...XIII 'I am of the deliberate opinion that the Free Press will succeed.' Reasons for this audacious conclusion:
2 Particularism means there's no one Free Paper to read. In France, Belloc mentions Humanité (French Jewish Socialist he says; founded by Jean Jaurès), La Guerre Sociale (French revolutionary), Action Française (French Royalist), Libre Parole (French anti-Semitic). Irish and other Free Papers New Ireland and Freeman: but they present 'the same truth ... for different motives'. Belloc's examples are Marconi Scandal ('insider share dealing' is the modern phrase), Rothschild death duties (Drumont), Dreyfus Case (Charles Maurras in Action Française), Brandeis (US Supreme Court 1916-1939) in New Republic ('Jewish in tone').
Related to the split readership, is the dependency on individual editors; if they go, the paper usually follows. The Free Press also has the disability of preaching to a restricted audience. So the Free Press 'captures no great area of public attention'.
3 Economic Weakness. Rigid boycott by the great advertisers, and difficulty of distribution. And boycott of quotation means 'Most of the governing class know the Free Press. The vast lower middle class does not yet know that it exists.'
4 Imperfect Information on general matters. [Belloc is saying in effect that international news sources like the Jewish Reuters are not available to the Free Press]. The Official Press collaborates with politicians on valuable truths, and falsehoods equally valuable. For instance the Indian silver scandal and financial scandals where 'professional politicians all stand in together'.
THE POLITICAL LAWYERS [Long passage by Belloc on the 'unchecked power of the political lawyers', which is a Guild, with a Charter and a monopoly. The two great guilds are Doctors (12 months hard labour to a non-Doctor who gave medical advice to someone who later died) and Lawyers 'at a cost quite unknown anywhere else in Europe'].
Belloc regards lawyers in law-drafting mode as honest: The Legal Guild is only consciously tyrannical or fraudulent when it feels itself to be in danger.
'Whether after exposing a political scandal you shall ... be subject to the risk of ruin or loss of liberty ... depends negatively upon the Legal Guild. ... so long as the lawyers support the politicians you have no redress, and only in the case of independent action by the lawyers ... have you any opportunity for discussion and free trial. The old idea of the lawyer ... protecting the subject against the arbitrary power of the executive, of the judge independent of the government, has nearly disappeared. ...' [And more in this vein including the accusation of criminal libel. '... we have in modern England an executive controlling the expression of opinion. It is absolute in a degree unknown, I think, in past society. ... The loss of freedom ... is quite familiar to all of us ...']
XIV The Free Press is read with close attention. The Free Press is read and digested. The Official Press is not, as is illustrated by their dependence on Headlines and Posters.XX The Free Press ... will succeed ... in getting the truth told pretty openly and ... thoroughly. '... even within the lifetime of those .. in the struggle [say, another 30 years] ... all the great problems of our time, particularly ... Economic [will be] .. honestly debated.' Belloc thought though that 'I do not see ... the avenue whereby the great mass of the people can ... be restored to an interest in the way they are governed, or even in the re-establishment of their own economic independence.' All Belloc hoped for was to undermine the power of the Capitalist Press, to weaken that evil and hence create a good; and do this out of self-respect. His 'last consolation' is that writers for the Free Press don't lose 'their chance of fame in letters'.
XV The Free Press powerfully affects ... the small class through whom in the modern world ideas spread. Belloc thinks 'there was a time in Europe ... when people thought so little for themselves'. But he thinks the Free Press bites in deeply. His evidence is the finding into writings of phrases; such as profiteer, first used Belloc thinks in The New Age. His only other example here is 'The Servile State'. He said both phrases are misunderstood, which perhaps weakens his point. 'Professional politician', 'Secret Party Funds', Aliases [Jews? Lords?], 'Purchase of Honours, Policies, and places in the Government'
XVI The Free Press introduces 'programmes' which are taken up by the Official Press. Belloc's examples are guild socialism, which had some vogue: a trade union idea which seems to have foundered after jokes were made about 'sewers for the sewermen'. And Socialism, which Belloc thinks was a movement taken up by very many people, and initiated solely by the Free Press. Here's Belloc on Socialism: '... great numbers of men were persuaded that a solution for the whole complex of social injustice was ... "nationalizing the means of production, distribution and exchange." ... in plain English, putting land, houses and machinery, and stores of food and clothing in the hands of the politicians for control in use and for distribution in consumption.'
The Free Press introduces 'news' items which are never taken up by the Official Press, but which have definite effects. Such as a Capitalist wishing to control a free journal, a policy initiated after the suggestion of a Free Paper without acknowledgement, and, specifically, a Spanish Jew called Vigo who had been ordered to be referred to by a French name exposed in a Free Press newspaper.
XVII The truth confirms itself. Belloc has in mind two things here: the first is misdescription of the true, corrupt state of things. As impressive, of politicians who are, in Belloc's view, not impressive. Or as honest, if rich. Or as promoting to the House of Lords by competence, not by money. If they happen to hear him, the truth may dawn on them (This is pre-television, pre-cinema, and pre-radio).
The second are events which confirm the Free Press's opinions on the reality of corruption: much as a scientific hypothesis may be confirmed by later evidence (my example, not Belloc's). The scandalous arrangement between the Front Benches which forced the Insurance Act down our throats; the cynical politicians in the matter of Chinese Labour after the 1906 Election; stage play over the Welsh Disestablishment Bill and the Education Bills.
XVIII Cumulative effects of small blows. 'There is not a single thing which has not been borne out by events..' House of Commons at Westminster's fake democracy and Marconi men as examples. [G K Chesterton thought the division between Pre-Marconi and Post-Marconi days was almost as essential as between Pre-[Great] War and Post-War.]
XIX Free Press and changes in attitudes with decades. Belloc seems to assume a 20-year cohort, with typical young men at 20, 40, and 60 representing different viewpoints. He thinks the House of Commons will be assumed to be joke, just as, when he wrote, accusations of bribery would be so commonplace that the political lawyers could not put up a pretence of shock, as would have happened twenty years before.
Free to Cheat: "Jewish Emancipation" and the Anglo-Jewish Cousinhood, by Andrew Joyce (Occidental Observer online, August 2012) is a good article on Jewish power in 19th century Britain and the empire as implicit in Belloc's discussions–