Albert Einstein did argue the rich control the means of communication and this damages democracy

27 February 2020
What was claimed

Albert Einstein warned in 1949 the time would come when the rich would control the means of communication, making it impossible for ordinary people to make informed decisions.

Our verdict

Einstein wrote that this had already happened in 1949.

A post on Facebook claims that, in 1949, Albert Einstein warned that the time would come “when the very rich so controlled the means of communication that it would be almost impossible for ordinary people to make informed decisions and so democracy would then be broken”.

This is a largely accurate summary of an article written by Einstein in 1949.

In the inaugural May 1949 edition of socialist magazine Monthly Review, Einstein argued that private capital “tends to become concentrated in few hands”, resulting in “an oligarchy of private capital the enormous power of which cannot be effectively checked even by a democratically organized political society”.

“Moreover, under existing conditions, private capitalists inevitably control, directly or indirectly, the main sources of information (press, radio, education).

“It is thus extremely difficult, and indeed in most cases quite impossible, for the individual citizen to come to objective conclusions and to make intelligent use of his political rights.”

The Facebook post suggests that Einstein was warning that this is what would happen in the future, rather than commenting on the present as he was actually doing, but it is still largely correct in its summary of his point.

(The post also argues: “We live in the time Einstein warned about”, which is an opinion and not something that we can fact check.)

This article is part of our work fact checking potentially false pictures, videos and stories on Facebook. You can read more about this—and find out how to report Facebook content—here. For the purposes of that scheme, we’ve rated this claim as true as it is a broadly accurate summary of an argument made by Einstein in 1949.

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