Mark Steyn’s brief essay yesterday on NRO concerns the “withering of free speech”.
That’s an accurate way to describe the slow motion death of freedom of expression. What is happening to our public talk and writing and art has a further consequence: the withering and eventual cessation of free thought. The zeitgeist has made it increasingly difficult to “go there” – choose your own forbidden zone – even in the privacy of one’s own heart.
The purportedly well-intentioned establishment of such tribunals as Canada’s speech “commission” is an alarming signpost on the road to hell. Ordinary people begin to self-censor simply to avoid the enormously destructive consequences of simply speaking. Yet the persecutors prove to be even more corrupt than those they would silence.
Certainly on our blog we self-censor in order to avoid being shut down by Google. But by many, particularly the fearful Left, we are still considered racist and beyond the pale. They use shunning and the pressure of disapproval in an attempt to rein us in even further, but our line in the sand is drawn.
Having read parts of the Lisbon Treaty, I fear for Europeans when it is finally in full force. Free speech will not “wither” then, it will be beaten into bloody silence by a soviet mentality. Samizdat will flourish once again.
Here is a portion of the appearance of Steyn and Levant addressing the issue:
Steyn says in his essay:
– – – – – – – – –
As Canadians have discovered, liberty is lost very quietly and quickly. And trying to get it back is slow and painful – particularly at a time when artists, universities, publishers, and others who congratulate themselves incessantly on their truth-telling courage find increasingly pre-emptive self-censorship the better part of valor.
The Europe of 2020 will have considerably less freedom of expression than today. American exceptionalism is going to have to be exceptionally exceptional to hold out against that trend.
There are seven or eight parts of the testimony of Levant and Steyn on October 5th in front of the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights in Ottawa. They can be found here. All of them are worth watching. Begin with Ezra Levant’s prepared remarks on Part One, then listen to Steyn’s speech in Part Two.
If you watch the other sections, you may be surprised to hear grown men in Ottawa question whether “unfettered” free speech is a good idea. A disturbing but ineluctable progression once you begin to think in elitist terms, i.e., that some of us “know better” what should be permitted or allowed.
This is aggressive secularist philosophy in its most degraded form. There are now legal witch hunts untethered from any higher belief than who shall be in control.
It makes you wonder if the French Revolution didn’t open a Pandora’s box that cannot ever be closed.
On a related note, in “What’s with all the @#%! language?” Politico discusses the casual profanity of the current executive branch administration:
President Barack Obama called rap star Kanye West “a jackass.” Vice President Joe Biden told a senator to “Gimme a f–ing break!” Economic adviser Christina Romer declared that Americans had yet to have their “holy s–” moment over the economy.
Those who pay attention to political rhetoric say an unusual amount of profanity has emanated from this White House – even without counting famously colorful White House chief of staff Rahm Emanuel. But before this statement becomes fodder for yet another partisan debate (with conservatives saying Obama is disgracing the presidency, and liberals that the media are once again being unfair), they quickly add that Team Obama is no crasser than administrations past. It’s just that they are being quoted more accurately.
What’s different, according to linguists, media analysts and reporters who’ve covered past administrations is the media…
Go to the post to pick up the links and read the discussion of the recent history of the casual use of profanity among public figures.
We were taught that the use of profanity coarsens and degrades public discourse. I still believe that. Not that profanity in and of itself is bad; it certainly has its uses. However, “salty” language is like salt itself: used lightly, in private, it adds some flavor. When it’s sprinkled freely on everything, the listener increasingly finds the speaker’s ideas unpalatable.
If you forswear swearing and name-calling then you have to begin to actually think about the facts behind your arguments. That can be quite difficult, especially in the beginning.