Truth is powerful only thanks to its dissemination.
Complete Works volume I, page 47 (in French)
Letter dated July 26th, 1844
It is at the heart of a letter in which Frédéric Bastiat reflects on the value of truth, be in within society or religion that I pick up this quote, of which the impacts reach beyond his thoughts.
Indeed, in the current context, the point is to highlight that it is not possible to retire from the world and defend one’s ideas at the same time. However, I read this quote in the context of increasing appetite for censorship in 2023, notably with the vote on the Digital Services Act within the European Union, that publicly aims at fighting misinformation. The search for truth is essential for human progress but it sometimes conflicts with what governments would like to be the truth so that they can act as they wish. Since the dawn of times, censorship helped limiting dissemination of truths inconvenient to the sitting power. The reason can be found precisely in today’s quote – a truth that cannot be disseminated will not have the same power as a truth that is widely spread.
My hope today comes from modern communication tools that have become so powerful and decentralised that, when censorship is used, it is often possible to know what has been subject to it, which is more often than not the truth because if it were not so, refuting it with some good arguments would be more convincing than prohibiting it.