What is the origin of the phrase

You have nothing to fear if you have nothing to hide.

I see it occasionally bounced around, sometimes as an authoritarian slogan. Brief research indicates some think it was coined by Goebbels, some by Orwell.

Is the true origin known?

  • 2
    What makes you thing this has a particular "origin"? It is a fairly generic statement that has doubtless been independently uttered countless times throughout history, and not only in English. – tchrist Dec 27 '14 at 21:07
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    It is an appallingly false platitude. – Hot Licks Dec 28 '14 at 0:07
  • @HotLicks Could be Mark Twain. He reveled in such plain-spoken idiocies. – Wayfaring Stranger Dec 28 '14 at 0:19
up vote 7 down vote accepted

You have nothing to fear if you have nothing to hide.

The phrase - widely used in discussions of Internet security and uttered by Pius Thicknesse in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows - is most commonly attributed to Joseph Goebbels in 1933.

However, there is an earlier precedent. Upton Sinclair used an inverted version in 1918 in The Profits of Religion: An Essay in Economic Interpretation:

Not merely was my own mail opened, but the mail of all my relatives and friends—people residing in places as far apart as California and Florida. I recall the bland smile of a government official to whom I complained about this matter: ‘If you have nothing to hide you have nothing to fear.’

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    Good find. I suppose 'an earlier precedent' can make sense, though I wouldnlt use it here. – Edwin Ashworth Dec 27 '14 at 23:44
  • The inverted version has a different meaning. – gerrit Nov 4 '15 at 19:17

protected by tchrist Feb 12 '16 at 12:58

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