Some recent headlines in the news:
Faculty Calls on Chapman U. to Fire Prof Who Spoke at Trump Rally.
National Association of Realtors Board Moves to Control Professional and Private Speech of Members.
Facebook Blacklists All Content Mentioning ‘Stop the Steal’.
Let’s give some thought to the new era in which so many people are getting their “news” and their societal ideas from what they read on social media, Breitbart and Newsmax, and from those bloviated personalities Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, and Tucker Carlson.
But let’s also give some thought to free speech and legal or crowd-sourced limits thereon.
And whether we are holding back on what we know should be said, but we muffle it because it’s currently out of public favor.
Prof. Jonathan Zimmerman of the University of Pennsylvania wrote a thoughtful but alarming op-ed piece recently in our local newspaper. It was about the trend in America to self-censor what we say for fear of being called a fascist, a socialist/communist, an anti-Semite, homophobic or even an animal rights Nazi.
That endangers discussion, intellectual argument, and tossing out not-so-popular ideas for others to consider. Zimmerman sees it most pronounced in universities. He cites examples of professors teaching one-sided-view of things and students afraid to argue against that or challenge it. I’m seeing it more and more in all social settings. it’s the Age of Political Correctness. How could I possibly be against giving welfare assistance, free public schooling and free health care to immigrants here illegally? Why would I suggest that a religiously devout person could understandably be against recognizing a same-sex marriage? How can I not be enraged by oil drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge?
I think you get my point. We’re approaching Correct Think, something the science fiction writers Ray Bradbury and Arthur C. Clarke entertained in an earlier literary period of American life.
It’s not really new in colleges. In my sophomore year I took a world history class. The professor said something that did not square with what my own research concluded. I raised my hand and asked for his sourcing and evidence. The dean of men called me in and explained that students should not publicly question what professors teach.
And the Virginia Department of Education has instructed teachers in that state to ignore a passage in the high school history book which says that thousands of Southern blacks fought on the side of the Confederacy in our Civil War.
Correct Think is not new in the military. My first Air Force year a chaplain gave my whole squadron a lecture claiming that any pre-marital sex activity tended to damage later married life. I stood up to object to that without-source evidence. My commanding officer called me in to explain that one does not contradict the chaplain in public.
Political science professor Flagg Taylor of Skidmore college says we’ve always had some version of “watch your tongue”, but the current one is different. “The old version seemed rooted in multiculturalism—it proclaimed cultural relativism and attacked the idea of natural standards for the good or justice. The new version shares this, yet it seems to go further in its demand for the recognition or affirmation of equality (a kind of homogenizing equality) in all spheres of life. All are deserving of equal shares of recognition and respect. ”
So we carefully examine anything critical we might want to say about Blacks, Hispanics or immigrants; also about anything political or suggestive of needed change. We might offend a friend or a boss. Best to keep your thoughts to yourself.
I, obviously, reject that. If we feel we have good reasoning and some solid evidence behind what we’re about to say, then go ahead and say it and see what the other side says.
To do otherwise is to condone intellectual life in North Korea or Cuba. You’re morally subsidizing China, where government controls social media posts and arrests dissidents collecting a following.
It creeps up on us. Suddenly one day, we realize that for a long time now you have not criticized or offended a single person or anyone’s ideas.