Vital Signs

The Formidable Evil

Reviewing a polemical pamphlet of mine on Sovietology published by the Claridge Press in London, Arnold Beichman assured readers of the May issue of Chronicles that I am "a serious man." The bulk of his review, however, supported the proposition that I am a conspiracy nut, a proposition whose originality the reviewer may well have overestimated, hi mv life it is a familiar presence, as an American tourist's exclamation to the effect that his little niece can paint better than that is a familiar presence to the guards at the Musée d'Orsay.

It all comes down, then, to the question of what constitutes a platitude, or rather to the relationship, if any, between conformity and truth. This question, asked by John Stuart Mill more than a century ago, has never been more relevant. Precarious as the freethinker's position was, even in a society as free and steeped in the culture of adversarial debate as Palmerston's England, in our totalitarian age the exogenous conformity pressing upon him is added to the endogenous conformity of the kind Mill described. In this climate, all forms of intellectual resistance appear Quixotic.

Though threatened with extinction, the freethinker continues to do what every artist is born to do—to tell the whole truth as he sees it. Of necessity, this whole is only a fragment, yet it is invariably different from any of the fragments that comprise the conformist...

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