I had never read this before. I had heard the word Areopagitica before a few times in reference to the freedom of the Press, but never took the time to track down what it meant.
It took me an hour and a half to read, but it was worth the time. Set aside two or three hours (I can read pretty quickly) and read this speech. Then, the next time somebody mentions this smart idea they have of licensing bloggers, reporters, &c., you will understand that they are either ignorant or malignant. In either case, they are wrong.
A couple of quotes from Areopagitica to make a couple of points. The recent discussion about licensing bloggers does indeed come from people who think you are stupid.
“Nor is it to the common people less than a reproach; for if we be so jealous over them, as that we dare not trust them with an English pamphlet, what do we but censure them for a giddy, vicious, and ungrounded people; in such a sick and weak state of faith and discretion, as to be able to take nothing down but through the pipe of a licenser.”
The argument that you people must have guardians over your information sources is as weak now as it was at the time of the Inquisition. Truth stands the test of time, and unless the proponents of licensure suspect they themselves are on the wrong side of the line, there is no reason for them to try to pursue this idea.
“And though all the winds of doctrine were let loose to play upon the earth, so Truth be in the field, we do injuriously, by licensing and prohibiting, to misdoubt her strength. Let her and Falsehood grapple; who ever knew Truth put to the worse, in a free and open encounter?”
“For who knows not that Truth is strong, next to the Almighty? She needs no policies, nor stratagems, nor licensings to make her victorious; those are the shifts and the defences that error uses against her power.”
The very first Amendment to the Constitution for the United States of America established the freedom of the Press. For those unfamiliar with the concept: requiring approval from the government to speak or to publish ideas is something only the worst of tyrants would seek to do. To quote one of the worse tyrants of modern times:
“Ideas are more powerful than guns. We would not let our enemies have guns, why should we let them have ideas?” – Joseph Stalin