The liberty principle for this Freedom Friday is the simple fact that American’s right to free expression is under assault. It seems that progressives want to censure everything Americans write and say. Victor Davis Hanson, a classicist and historian at the Hoover Institution at Stanford University, said that they are Victorian in their approach.
The left is Victorian – increasingly puritanical, regressive, and hypersensitive. Even totalitarian censorship and book-burning have weirdly become part of their by-any-means-necessary methods.
As an example, Hanson used University of California at Berkeley professor Grace Lavery. It seems that author Abigail Shrier’s had the audacity to write a book titled Irreversible Damage: The Transgender Craze Seducing Our Daughters.” The professor was so incensed at Shrier’s ideas that she is calling for the book to be burned “on a pyre.”
The American Civil Liberties Union, “the self-appointed liberal watchdog,” did not defend Shrier’s right to free expression. Chase Strangio, the ACLU’s deputy director for transgender justice tweeted, “Stopping the circulation of this book and these ideas is 100% a hill I will die on.”
Shrier is not the only author to be confronted because she dared to express her thoughts and feelings. It seems that libertarian Jordan Peterson’s new book Beyond Order is also under attack – at least its publisher is. Management at the Canadian branch of Penguin Random House was recently confronted by staffers for publishing the book – which is a sequel to Peterson’s bestseller 12 Rules for Life: An Antidote to Chaos.
The staffers accused Peterson of “white supremacy,” “hate speech,” and “transphobia” because he dared to criticize “the notion of white privilege” and said that “masculinity is under attack.” Hanson connected the accusations to those of earlier generations: “heretic,” “witch,” and “communist.”
Other companies, such as Amazon, Facebook, Google, and Twitter, are also suppressing free expression. Hanson gave two examples of products that Amazon refused to sell. He stated that the movement “appears to be a systematic and ideologically driven effort to stop the dissemination of books and films that don’t advance the progressive/regressive cause.”
Note the pattern here. Publishers and platforms are not arguing that these books and films are mediocre. After all, they had initially agreed to publish or disseminate all of them.
Their subsequent flips and flops arise from fundamentalist progressive pressure of the sort used by social media to “deplatform” and cancel unwelcome politics and ideology.
So, the First Amendment of the once-freest nation in the world is comatose. This time its enemies are not hooded Klansmen seeking to intimidate African Americans or right-wing conspiracy theorists rooting out supposed communists.
No, the culprits are progressives and leftist elites in publishing, the media, Silicon Valley, academia, entertainment, and government. They so lack confidence in the logic and persuasiveness of their own arguments that, in fear, they increasingly try to ban whatever bothers them.
Hanson continued by reminding us that classics, such as To Kill a Mockingbird, have been banned by school districts because they are about racial issues. He also discussed how now-Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh was attacked by those who “sought to destroy his career and reputation through smears.” It seems that Dr. Scott Atlas was hounded for the “crime” of “advising President Donald Trump that lockdowns and quarantines might ultimately cause more damage than COVID-19 itself.” This may explain why Atlas resigned as “Trump’s coronavirus adviser earlier this week.”
Efforts to censor, cancel, discredit, or destroy the work of anyone with contrasting viewpoints are canonized by the wealthy, powerful left-wing elites and their institutions.
In Orwellian fashion, they have redefined being illiberal and vindictive as being woke, enlightened, and progressive – and for the public good, rather than their own interests.
How ironic that the kindred spirits of today’s progressives are not Socrates, Galileo, and Harper Lee, but the Athenian mob, Joseph McCarthy, and the Taliban.
Past and present, all of these zealots and character assassins cloaked their intolerance in the pretense that they were advancing truth – by destroying it.
I have faced my own share of people who sought to stop my right to freely express my thoughts. I was told that my posts on social media were hurtful and divisive, and that I was a hypocrite. They may not have used those exact words, but their meaning was clear. I find it ironic that conservatives and Trump supporters can be called all kinds of names, but we are castigated if we dare to express our thoughts and feelings. We are supposed to be mindful of the tender feelings of those on the left, but we cannot expect the same treatment in return.
I agree with Hanson that the First Amendment is in danger. Free expression of ideas, thoughts, and feelings are basic to a free society. When books are banned – or burned, when social media posts are censured by companies or individuals, when ideas are shunned because they may be uncomfortable to some people, then our nation is in grave danger.