Twitter suspended Canadian feminist Meghan Murphy last week. Her offense? She wrote on the site that “men aren’t women.”
A is A. 1 + 1 = 2. Water is wet.
In North Korea, students learn that the United States started the Korean War. In Stalin’s Russia, the commissar vanishes from the photograph. In China, the Chinese Communists, not the Americans, deserve most of the credit for defeating Japan in World War II. And in San Francisco, techies with the social skills of Napoleon Dynamite regulate social behavior for the rest of us by insisting not only that men are indeed women but that any contention to the contrary amounts to beyond-the-pale hate speech. Falsehood, not truth, requires censorship to thrive.
The immediate effect of Twitter’s suspension involves Murphy enjoying more attention for her ideas. Breitbart, The Christian Post, and National Review all wrote about her ordeal. The longterm effect chills the speech of others and, perhaps even, Murphy as well — if she decides that keeping her Twitter account amounts to a greater good than speaking her mind as freely on that platform. Subconsciously many already tweet not what’s on their mind but with a mind to their digital minders.
Anyone attending college during the 1980s or 1990s recognizes the tactics of using attitudinal pressure and outright censorship to nudge — and in some cases Chuck Bednarik decleat — people into political correctness. It took a generation or two, but the corruption of education into indoctrination — with the cooperation of mass media and much else — finally appears in writ large form in society.
My own campus experiences prove instructive (at least to me). Columbia threatened to cancel a conference I had organized in 1998 unless I could come up with $3,000 in security costs at the eleventh hour. After I somehow did, they used the security to bar the entry of the audience, rationalizing that since they did not ban the speakers it did not amount to censorship. We held the conference in a park (in November!) across the street, where Columbia students chanted “Ha, Ha, You’re Outside/We Don’t Want Your Racist Lies” as Dinesh D’Souza spoke. At Berkeley in 2000, students screamed, mooned me, and tried to rip the microphone cord from its socket as I spoke. Security warned a man who expressed displeasure with the hecklers. After the event, book burners torched my writings at the home of the free speech movement of the 1960s.
Other campuses pulled plugs on invitations. Hecklers, occasionally professors, often interrupted speeches. A strangely-timed fire alarm curtailed the question-and-answer period of a speech already disrupted by audience members delivering impromptu speeches during the talk.
I do not speak on campuses much any longer. My books no longer translate as directly to a student audience, which explains this in part. The larger part involves the frustration of traveling thousands of miles to speak without the guarantee that the audience hears my words. I get why The Beatles stopped touring, although in my case the enthusiasm that greeted me was not of the positive, screaming-girls sort.
Long ago, I reasoned that the people who attempted to muzzle me really gave me a megaphone. And, in the short term, media coverage supported this. The long view offers a decidedly different conclusion. Twitter and campus commissars censor because it works.
What jokes we can laugh at, what policies we can support, and what old books we can read and retain social acceptability has all changed dramatically in the last quarter century — at an accelerated speed during the past decade. This occurred because the parameters of acceptable speech moved after a strong and steady push by totalitarian forces.
Little House on the Prairie, Dr. Seuss, and A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving have all come under attack recently. When do radio stations stop playing “Dude Looks Like a Lady”? How soon does Gone With the Wind become as admired as those missing statues of Robert E. Lee? When does Norman Rockwell’s Freedom From Want come down from the wall for its taunt to vegans?
It is later than you think.