Saturday, July 27, 2019

Old Thunder

Hilaire Belloc was born July 27, 1870 in La Celle-Saint-Cloud, France. As a child, he got the nickname Old Thunder for being noisy and boisterous, and he never really stopped. A great walker, when he was trying to convince Elodie Hogan to marry him, he once walked from the American midwest to northern California to see her, trading sketches and poetry recitations for shelter and food. From his book, The Free Press (1918), arguing for the necessity of diverse news sources:

The man who tells the truth when his colleagues around him are lying, always enjoys a certain restricted power of prophecy. If there were a general conspiracy to maintain the falsehood that all peers were over six foot high, a man desiring to correct this falsehood would be perfectly safe if he were to say: "I do not know whether the next peer you meet will be over six foot or not, but I am pretty safe in prophesying that you will find, among the next dozen three or four peers less than six foot high."

If there were a general conspiracy to pretend that people with incomes above the income-tax level never cheated one in a bargain, one could not say "on such-and-such a day you will be cheated in a bargain by such-and-such a person, whose income will be above the income-tax level," but one could say; "Note the people who swindle you in the next five years, and I will prophesy that some of the number will be people paying income-tax."

This power of prophecy, which is an adjunct of truth telling, I have noticed to affect people very profoundly.

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