The July 2012 Harper's has a lot going for it, but a most enjoyable surprise for this reader was a previously unpublished, because censored, essay that Albert Camus wrote in 1939 -- November 25, 1939 to be exact. France and Britain are technically at war with Germany, but so far there has been no direct engagement on the field. Germany has invaded and overwhelmed Poland and has neutralized the Soviet Union by concluding the infamous non-aggression pact in August 1939. The west waits anxiously. In this context a "free journalist" defends freedom of the press and protests the work of the censors. The piece was not signed, though it has been attributed to Camus. Le Monde published it in March 2012. It was written for the Algerian newspaper Le Soir republicain but it never appeared there. It is not entirely clear why the French authorities suppressed it, but they appear to have been instinctive ironists. Here is a central passage. As translated by John Cullen.
. . .as a rule, a mind with a taste for applying constraints and possessed of the means to impose them is a mind impervious to irony. We don't see Hitler -- to take only one example out of several -- employing Socratic irony. Conversely, when it comes to weapons that can be used against the too powerful, irony remains unparalleled. It completes refusal in the sense that it often allows its user not only to reject the false but also to say what is true. A free journalist in 1939 hasn't got many illusions about the intelligence of those who are oppressing him. In regard to humanity, he's a pessimist. Nine times out of ten, a truth proclaimed in dogmatic tones gets censored. When presented in an amusing way, the same truth gets censored five out of ten times.
Therefore (Camus reasons), a "free journalist in 1939" must employ ironic means. "Truth and freedom, having few lovers, are demanding mistresses."
The fact that the piece (published in Harper's under the title "Rules of Engagement" and characterized as a "manifesto") was censored does not invalidate its thesis, nor does it convict the author of being "dogmatic." -- DL