My reading notes from Free Thought And Official Propaganda, a speech delivered by Bertrand Russell in 1922.

Free Thought#

Thought is not free when it is illegal to hold certain opinions or beliefs. Thought is not free if you can't earn a living because of beliefs. Thought is not free if you can only easily access one side of an argument. Thought is truly free when it's free to compete against other thoughts on an equal ground.

Will To Doubt#

Society should adopt an attitude of rational doubt (will to doubt, the wish to find out), borrowing steps for seeking the truth from the scientific method. Most beliefs are either vague, erroneous or untrue.

Irrational Beliefs#

Irrational beliefs are common because of three factors:

  • Education: State - controlled education is a propaganda machine for children. Without it, it would be hard to preserve an appearance of democracy. Only the guardians (in plato's terms) are to think; the rest are to obey.
  • Propaganda: Then, throughout their adult lives, they are bombarded by all sorts of absurd statements. Propaganda has become a method of government, and shapes democratic opinion. What is worse, it gives an unfair advantage to rich and powerful to affect public opinion. Education should teach people to not believe propositions with no evidence.
  • Economic pressure: Leaving members of the out-group jobless because of beliefs or other characteristics is bound to become a new form of Inquisition. Jobs should be given on merit.