My Commonplace Book (a diary of excerpts copied from printed books, with comments added by the reader.)
One of the chief obstacles to intelligence is credulity. Credulity . . . is a greater evil in the present day than it ever was before, because, owing to the growth of education, it is much easier than it used to be to spread misinformation, and, owing to democracy, the spread of misinformation is more important than in former times to the holders of power.
Bertrand Russell (1872—1970)
From Free Thought and Official Propaganda (1922)
Russell, one of the best minds of the 20th century, was also one of the strongest advocates of universal education, sexual liberation, and democratic government. An aristocrat in social status and intellect, he labored hard to hone a simple writing style that any literate person could understand and emulate. (I could and did actually use his essays in teaching remedial writing students.)
I had to reread the brief quotation above, several times, in admiration, wondering how he managed to say so much, so deeply, in so few simple words.
I wonder what he would be saying now—if he had lived into our “information age” with its vast store of facts, errors, misinformation and trivial chatter released by the click of a computer key.
(Send the Berkeley Daily Planet a page from your own Commonplace Book)