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.

—30—

Published by Bob Jones

Journalist since age 19. St. Petersburg Times, Noticias y Viajes in Madrid, Overseas Weekly in Frankfurt and Paris, the Louisville Courier- Journal, the Honolulu Advertiser, KGMB-TV, NBC News foreign correspondent in Africa and Southeast Asia, and MidWeek columnist. LL.B LaSalle University Law. 3 years in the U.S. Air Force. Covered: Biafran War in Nigeria (1968) Vietnam War (1969-73), Iraq in 1991. George Foster Peabody Award for distinguished journalism for reporting in China. 2 Emmys for documentaries. Married to journalist Denby Fawcett; one daughter. Brett Jones, foreign service officer, State Department.

One reply on “Beware The Urge To Censor All Speech You Don’t Like”

  1. Good Column. But Correct Think is nothing new. It’s like an incurable fungal infection which we beat back and then allow to grow again. We lived through numerous episodes in
    the 20th Century. 1920–the Palmer Raids.. arresting, jailing, and deporting “Anarchists” and “Communists” and castigating anyone who didn’t follow the “Government” line. The 1930’s through Dec. 7, 1941, when those who opposed Isolationism were “anti-American”. The McCarthy Era, which turned free speech on its head. If you weren’t a rabid, anti-Communist who opposed the Civil Rights movement, you could easily lose your job and more. The Viet Nam era, where free speech was challenged by many elements including FBI investigations. And since the 1990’s, the extremely dangerous “political correctness” movement, which is poisoning our College (and lower level) education system in an unprecedented way. On the other side, AM Talk Radio has become the Ministry of Propaganda for the right wing with hundreds of radio stations broadcasting one political line 24/7. Radio worked before and during WWII as a huge propaganda tool and it is
    still a major opinion-maker today.
    That said, we are also confronted by a new set of conditions with Anti-Social media becoming the electronic lynch mob, spreading lies and hatred among all political groups without challenge or consequences.
    We can get back our right to Free Speech and limit censorship as we have in the past. But, we must accept the fact that Free Speech comes with responsibilities and the events of the last week show we must accept and follow those responsibilities or we will end up losing a key right for all.

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