I’m sorry – I don’t remember signing a ‘Global Compact’ at birth to be obliging, mild-mannered, conforming and polite toward all of my fellow citizens in every situation until the end of time. That might have been the expectation on the average woman in the 18th century but as far as mandating a culture of manners we’ve taken a colossal stumble backwards as a civilisation.
Worse, this stringently enforced philosophy of ‘avoidance’ toward offending or (heaven forbid) ‘triggering’ other carbon-based lifeforms is not born out of a desire to create a utopian metropolis… Far from it.
Let us not waste time tip-toeing around our social media censors with elaborate euphemisms. We all know what’s going on and so we shall call this movement out for what it is – censorship. Boring, run of the mill, dictatorial coercion of speech.
It is entirely fanciful to expect humans to be courteous to each other on an unwavering basis. That’s not to say that there shouldn’t be societal encouragement toward good manners in the hope of a functional peace but this is an absolute world away from the criminalising of everyday rhetoric.
Put it this way, humans are badly behaved. We squabble and scratch – are petty, moody – we lie and invent ever more creative ways of insulting each other. Speech is our first evolutionary response to conflict and our last resort before despair. Expressing frustration, fear, concern, humour, criticism and outrage is an excellent tool to avoid physical conflict. Do feelings get sacrificed in the crossfire of debate? Absolutely but it is better than actual people being rounded up and thrown onto the nearest pyre.
Words are powerful. There’s a very good reason that aspiring dictators stock up on duct tape. The lone voice of a free person can capture a nation and topple tyranny. Some Western countries had the foresight to enshrine this gift of our birth into law – others, like our great country of Australia, carelessly assumed that freedom was of such great value that no entity would ever attempt to erode it. How naive. How foolish…
You see speech is the enemy of bad ideas.
Bad ideas fear debate because their armour is comprised of fallacy which can be unpicked under scrutiny. Discussion claws at weak fabric – nails dragging until something catches and the whole carefully built fantasy unravels like a $2 sweater picked out of a discount store. Without clothes, emperors stumble about until they’re knocked from their perches usually to a good deal of cheering.
Good ideas, in contrast, are robust. They get stronger from their forging in the fire. The weight of history tells us that they shuffle up to the top, surviving even the most brutal of opposition. Consensus is just a statistic that can be overturned with time if a good idea has merit. Indeed, Western Civilisation’s crowning jewel – the Enlightenment – would not have happened if not for our adherence to the Darwinian culture of offence.
Let us not forget that it was offensive to suggest that women should vote. Triggering to the establishment that slavery was morally abhorrent. Upsetting to admit that we were apes all along. Had these conversations not taken place what possible progress could we have expected? Advances in society do not magically appear – they are thrashed out at full volume to wails and cheers alike.
Like it or not, freedom is offensive. It’s contentious, insulting, abrasive, confronting, difficult and terrifying. If you wish to be told what to think and feel, try living under a totalitarian regime. You may not agree with the party line but at least everyone’s running a unity ticket. Indeed, uniformity of thought is a hallmark of oppression and runs in complete contrast to our natural behaviour.
To the best of our ability as caretakers of the next generation, children are coddled from harm. That includes protecting them from truths, speech and ideas that they may not be intellectually ready for. Somehow the West has managed to raise a new generation of adults who believe this intellectual infancy should extend into adulthood – that consideration of their personal feelings ought to be imposed upon every other member of society. Sorry Millennials, that’s not how the real world works.
I find it surprising that a generation in love with Netflix’s violent content could paradoxically fear the Reaper of Contrary. It is as though they crave the depraved world of human truth but, in the sudden stark sunlight of their university campuses, thrust poorly spelled signs in the face of conversation – or lock their fellow students inside a debate and threaten to burn the building down whilst carrying a garrote… Don’t offend us or we’ll kill you. Make of this hot and heavy irony what you will.
To understand what has gone wrong with freedom of speech in the West it is important to recognise that there are two distinct groups at play.
The first group is the rabble – the children of the helicopter parents who were raised by surviving Marxists and indoctrinated at the teat of soft Socialism masquerading as world peace. I am young enough to have caught its beginnings on my way through school, being forced to repeat the endless mantra that we are all one people with one philosophy and countries are fictitious entities created to oppress us. A rosy sell to a preschooler who never hears the counter argument.
These children are told that they are the most important entity in the entire world – that their personal needs and well-being outweigh everything else on the planet. These demi-gods stumble into the once rousing halls of University and face the uncomfortable reality that they’re part of the pack. A standard issue homosapien who has to prove their value in the world, like everyone else who has ever lived. This is a shock but instead of growing up, they gravitate toward our second group – a group that has worked out how to prey on the underdeveloped emotional responses of our snowflakes.
Group number two are the leaders. Their involvement in the censorship ring is not incidental but imperative to their goal. If words are powerful then controlling them is a cheat way of manufacturing control of a political narrative. There is a very good reason that every good dictator – be they theocratic, communist, monarchistic or freelance – employ it. Intimidating a population into silence or acquiescence can then be used as a mandate for usurping real political positions. Without a counter argument and with criticism silenced, the new ruling class can pretend to govern – even through abject tyranny – for a period of time. Certainly this disgraceful system lasts long enough for the group to make a lot of money.
Group two exploit group one. Very smart, politically aspirational leaders bribe and coach the young into enforcing censorship. Believing themselves to be Social Justice Warriors instead of Stormtroopers, they enthusiastically sacrifice the freedoms purchased for them by the blood of their grandparents.
It is not entirely their fault that their philosophical history has been kept from them – or even that empathy toward opposing viewpoints is a blasphemy. Remember, they were raised by a carefully planned machine of indoctrination – a cult, if you will, of political ideology. This is the revenge porn of the scorned Communists. A subversive way to avenge their decimation at the end of the last century.
We should have been keeping a closer eye on our children.
Now we are faced with a generation who place no value on freedom. Who are perfectly happy to shackle the chains of tyranny not only around your neck but also their own. Hurt feelings and opposing viewpoints are capital offences despite the obvious reality that there is not a single thing that can be uttered without causing offence to someone in the world.
Not only are their demands impossible to adhere to, they are disastrous to embrace and must be rejected wholesale. No half measures – no polite concessions. Remember, nothing good ever came from ceding ground to a Socialist.
So here is my message to the fragile generation of would-be censors trawling the backwaters of twitter for martyrs and thatch:
Freedom is your birthright. You are one of the few to be born into a democracy with more scope for success and safety than any one at any point in history. You have the absolute right to express your thoughts be they ludicrous, dishonest or fabulous. As an individual, you can speak without fear of retaliation by your government. Yes, you can disagree, argue and, if you possess a strong constitution, take your ideas to the baying crowd and defend them.
You do not have the right to a life free from offence. There is no expectation of pleasantries. Your feelings are not sacrosanct and your fellow humans owe you nothing. The rule of law is there to protect your life, liberty and property – not the entrails of your mind.
If you want your ideas to have worth you must earn it for them.
Coercion is not politeness. Censorship is a temper tantrum from a child without an argument. I can assure you, snowflakes, if you bring out the duct tape it’ll be your arse that ends up strapped to the chair. You are group two’s useful idiots and as soon as you’ve handed over the reins of power, you’ll have none of your own left to save yourself.
For further reading see – the entirety of human history.