In the prologue of "Animal Farm", George Orwell wrote a phrase worthy of being chiselled into marble: “If liberty means anything at all, it means the right to tell people what they do not want to hear.” When I read it for the first time, I thought that such phrase would be a magnificent motto to live by; and, from the time that I started writing, I considered—following Orwell—that the writer’s mission is not to flatter his public, but much better to urge them, to inconvenience them, even to the point of annoying them by writing about thorny questions or about topics contrary to the spirit of the time. Now I know that this is a useless and chimerical enterprise; and that, as all useless and chimerical enterprises go, it only engenders melancholy in the end.

We could, in order to demonstrate the impossibility of Orwell’s desideratum, begin invoking his figure, condemned in life to heterodoxy by rebelling against the blind adhesion that Stalinism imposed upon intellectuals. By telling Stalinists what they did not want to hear, Orwell was expelled to the shadows, where he was at least picked up by anti-Stalinists; but if they picked him up, it was precisely because they could use him in their dialectic war against Stalinism (that is, because Orwell said exactly what they wanted to hear). But that time of bellicose and ideological conflagrations has remained behind; now, we find ourselves in a democratic phase of History, which, if it is characterised by anything, it is by the desire of all corridors of power to flatter and bribe the so-called “citizenry” (which is how finely a populace reduced to an amorphous and cretinised mass is designated). We could also say that the objective of power in our time is no other than to flatter the “citizenry,” applauding their whims, gratifying their appetites and desires, nourishing their depraved passions, etc. To this effort, rulers—to whom adopting rough measures that oppose their voters’ expectations already proves to be almost impossible (and because of that, they constantly commission opinion polls)—dedicate themselves with particular confidence. To this effort, likewise, means of communication—which is governed by the tyranny of the audience, and commission “market studies,” in order to establish what the preferences of their public are—dedicate themselves. And, finally, there exists no corridor of power in the so-called democratic society, which does not operate in accordance with the maxim of telling their clientele what their clientele desires to hear. That these corridors of power devote themselves afterwards to underhandedly crushing their clientele, having once flattered their principal desires, is another thing; but it is the least what ought to be done with someone who has previously consented to be bribed. So what we have written concerning corridors of power applies to the writer. The writer, who makes use of that chimerical Orwellian right to tell the people what the people do not want to hear, will be immediately consigned to ostracism; because the public will immediately make use of their corresponding right not to hear what they do not want to hear.

We will not deny that some privileged spirits, able to hear (and even listen to!) those which do not please them, exist; but they are exceptions that confirm the rule, souls rare and endangered by extinction who pitch camp outside the walls of the fold. Generally, people do not tolerate being told things they do not want to hear, especially when the atmosphere of the period has previously created a fortune of acoustic illusion wherein people always hear things that entice them to hear; and wherein annoying things are unanimously labelled as horridly sounding. Of course, the conformist writer who says what the public want to hear will nevertheless lay himself down as a rebel, because his readers prefer him this way (in order to imagine themselves as rebels too); but those presumably annoying things that he says will always be weightless, referred to accidental questions (for example, to criticise such or whichever perishable government, or to banter about some recently-minted societal norm, or to attack certain caricaturesque excesses of ideologies in vogue), but, on the other hand, he will never attack the philosophical foundations upon which such ideologies rest (whose errors he fundamentally shares), nor will he discuss the immoral means that has protected such societal norms (in which he gleefully participates), nor will he ridicule the legitimacy of power that those perishable rulers invoke, because he knows that if he does it, he will be expelled on the spot into the open.

And it is very cold out in the open. In this democratic phase of History (as in previous totalitarian phases, even though by distinct reasons), there exists no “right to tell the people what they do not want to hear,” dear Orwell. Or, if it exists, it is a “right to suicide.”