Goodbye to Freedom of Speech!

Goodbye to Freedom of Speech!

© David Burton 2023

freedom of Speech

     “Freedom of speech, as stated in the 1st and 14th Amendments to the Constitution of the United States, is the right to express information, ideas, and opinions free of government restrictions based on content. A modern legal test of the legitimacy of proposed restrictions on freedom of speech was stated in the opinion by Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr. in Schenk v. U.S. (1919): a restriction is legitimate only if the speech in question poses a “clear and present danger” - i.e., a risk or threat to safety or to other public interests that is serious and imminent.” (Ref. 1)

     In our brave new world, free of religious predjudice and intolerance, we don’t have inquisitors to root out heresy. No, we have Inclusion Ambassadors.
     According to The Daily Telegraph, new editions of children’s books by the late British author Roald Dahl, who authored classics such as “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” and “James and the Giant Peach,” are being edited by the publisher to remove “offensive” words and concepts.
     You see, in today’s progressive modern society we don’t burn books. That would be too crass and too simplistic. Instead, our Inclusion Ambassadors comb through old, cherished texts to alter and remove wrong think. In this way, the past won’t be erased. Instead, it will be rewritten!
     The changes to Dahl’s works - made with the aid of an organization called Inclusive Minds - reportedly have been approved by the Roald Dahl Story Co. and the publisher, Puffin Books. So get your original versions now, while you can.
     Inclusive Minds describes itself as “a collective for people who are passionate about inclusion, diversity, equality and accessibility in children’s literature, and are committed to changing the face of children’s books.” The “About” page for Inclusive Minds’ website says it doesn’t rewrite text but simply provides publishers “with valuable insight from people with the relevant lived experience that they can take into consideration in the wider process of writing and editing.” [2]

     The actions of Inclusive Minds and the publisher of Dahl’s books are straight out of the playbook of the Nazi chief of propaganda, Joseph Goebbels.

     Joseph Goebbels was the minister of propaganda for the German Third Reich under Adolf Hitler. A master orator and propagandist, he is generally accounted responsible for presenting a favorable image of the Nazi regime to the German people.
     After the Nazis seized power in Germany in the 1930s, Goebbels took control of the national propaganda machinery. A National Ministry for Public Enlightenment and Propaganda was created for him, and he became president of the newly formed “Chamber of Culture.” In this capacity he controlled, besides propaganda as such, the press, radio, theatre, films, literature, music, and the fine arts. In May 1933 he was instrumental in the burning of “unGerman” books at the Opera House in Berlin.[3]

     Getting back to author Roald Dahl, his publisher and Inclusive Minds, there’s apparently a whole lot in Dahl’s classics to update and conform to the diktats of diversity, equity, and inclusion. Gendered words have been stripped from Dahl’s original text. Words such as “father and “mother” might lead one to think that there is a gender binary. How awful! Oompa Loompas no longer are called “small men,” they are called “small people.” “Augustus Gloop, Charlie’s gluttonous antagonist in ‘Charlie and the Chocolate Factory,’ which originally was published in 1964, is no longer ‘enormously fat,’ just ‘enormous,’”
     The Associated Press reported that, “In the new edition of ‘Witches,’ a supernatural female posing as an ordinary woman may be working as a ‘top scientist or running a business’ instead of as a ‘cashier in a supermarket or typing letters for a businessman.’”
     Gloop’s story, which involves his greed and gluttony leading to self-destruction, now makes no sense. The idea that one’s individual actions can lead to poor outcomes is a hateful concept nowadays. That’s fat-shaming! - Heaven forbid!
     The answer to Gloop’s morbid obesity and lack of self-control, to our modern moralists, lies in individual expression and liberation rather than eliminating one’s bad behavior.
     It’s worth noting that the censorious move by Dahl’s publisher, Puffin, has, fortunately, encountered a great deal of resistance from artists and critics across the political spectrum. Thank heavens that there are still some who believe in the concept of freedom of speech!
     Though many - even on the Left - are unhappy with what’s happened to Dahl’s books and other woke absurdities, there has been absolutely no slowdown of institutional efforts to transform Western societies. This is the challenge to those who say we’ve hit “peak wokeness.”
     Yes, there has been a significant public backlash to the more ridiculous efforts at censorship, but the Jacobins of the cultural revolution don’t need public approval. They’ve been institutionalized. They are transforming the language and moral framework of our society from places of power, both private and governmental.
     We haven’t quite arrived at the dystopia of George Orwell’s classic novel “1984.” Newspeak isn’t being enforced by the government. At least, not yet.
     However, this censorship and control of information and thought by a vast array or private corporate entities (with occasional aid from government agencies) is in some way more insidious for the long-term future of free thought. It inures us to tyranny over the mind and allows woke fanatics to get their way without the dramatic step of government prohibition.
     Micah Meadowcroft, writing in The American Conservative, was correct in saying that what was happening to Dahl’s books was worse than a simple book burning. Puffin’s editors weren’t just eliminating books, they were intentionally corrupting the original meaning of the author’s work.
     “The editors at Puffin know what they are doing,” Meadowcroft wrote. “They are professionals. These word workers, symbol manipulators, live in worlds of text, and by altering texts they can alter perceived reality.”
     Roald Dahl, Dr. Seuss, and others won’t necessarily be banned - they just increasingly won’t be available in their original form. Knowledge of a world that was any different from the stilted, empty one carefully cultivated by the Inclusion Ambassadors of our woke managerial class will be stamped out. When future generations look to the past or outside themselves for answers, they will find nothing that isn’t force-fed to them.[2]

     Goodbye to free speech in America – largely as a result of political correctness (PC).

     We can legitimately ask ourselves, Has political correctness gone too far?
     It absolutely has! To prove the case, it is helpful to recall the origin of the term “political correctness,” and how the phenomenon it describes has come to be a dominant feature of contemporary political and academic life in America.
     The term first appeared in the Marxist-Leninist vocabulary following the Russian Revolution (really, a coup) of 1917 to describe strict adherence to policies and principles of the Soviet Union’s Communist Party. “Political correctness” was invented by the communists to camouflage the truth about events and policies in the Soviet Union that had resulted in mass murders, the starvation of millions, and slave labor camps. It was “politically incorrect” to reveal such facts; the “party line” was for all loyal communist party members to promote the same “politically correct truths” about the “good life” under the totalitarian Communist regime in the Soviet Union.
     How could a practice so contrary to American principles of freedom of speech and the press come to be widely tolerated in American society, especially in the academic community, several decades later? The early 1990’s witnessed the rise on college campuses of politicized curricula and teaching methods, typically on behalf of causes advocated by the political Left – especially in issues relating to race, class, and gender. Students were increasingly taught that the United States was an inherently racist society; that, contrary to the claims made in the Declaration of Independence, our political regime was designed to serve the interests of a rich minority at the expense of other citizens.
     More importantly, an increasing number of college faculty made clear to their students that any expression of dissent from these views would cause the students’ grades to suffer - even when professors’ claims went directly contrary to known facts.
     Nowadays, the reign of political correctness (PC) extends well beyond academia into the domain of ordinary language – in the name of not giving “offense” to selected groups. Hence, a blind person should be called visually impaired (or, better, “differently abled”); homeless people are “temporarily displaced;” illegal aliens should be called “undocumented immigrants;” one shouldn’t ask a stranger where he’s from because that’s a “microaggression” implying that he doesn’t “belong” here. Meanwhile, back in the ivory tower, professors were directed to add “trigger warnings” to their course descriptions, warning students that course readings might include potentially offensive materials like Huckleberry Finn that might distress them. Also, law schools suggested the avoidance of teaching courses dealing with rape, for the same reason. The number of such offenses continues to grow, feeding on the successes of PC censors. The “woke” community keeps up with the list of these offenses and adds to them, hoping that by altering language, one can change beliefs and overcome all inconvenient facts. Meanwhile, Goodbye to Freedom of Speech!
     But “political correctness” now entails much more than transforming the meaning of words. It means prohibiting the “appropriation” of another’s culture. A white man dressing as a Native American to celebrate Thanksgiving as planned at the Goddard School was banned for this reason. Should “La Japonaise,” a famous painting by 19th-century French Impressionist Claude Monet of his blonde-haired wife wearing a magnificent red Japanese kimono be removed from Boston’s Museum of Fine Arts? At this rate, how will people from varying “cultures” ever be able to communicate and learn from each other?
     “Political correctness” has also become synonymous with an unwillingness to engage in discussion with those who are judged to hold un-PC views. This past December Holy Cross “minority” students occupied half the seats in an auditorium in which best-selling journalist Heather MacDonald was giving a lecture based on her recent book The Diversity Delusion. They then staged a walkout ten minutes into the talk, just after she had remarked how fortunate all students at such a well-endowed institution were to spend four years with access to vast library facilities and courses taught by professors who earnestly wanted to help them succeed.
     Such intolerance for the expression of dissenting views directly belies the claim of the PC crowd to be standing up for “tolerance” and “diversity.” By their account, the only speakers who should be tolerated are those who agree with him. “Diversity” may apply to the color of people’s skin, but certainly not to the expression of alternative points of view – which colleges were once expected to encourage.
     By any consistent standard of political correctness, Shakespeare is certainly un-PC. To cursory readers and audiences, Taming of the Shrew promotes misogyny; Othello contains racist remarks; The Merchant of Venice contains an anti-Semitic strain. Even Kate Smith’s classic rendition of “God Bless America” was dropped from the Yankee Stadium soundtrack because she sang what is now regarded as a racist tune at the age of 24 at the behest of her record company. The words to the standard “Baby, It’s Cold Outside!” have been altered because the original lyrics could imply an ensuing “pressured” sexual encounter. Meanwhile, rap singers who celebrate sexual subjugation of women and use words like “ho” and the otherwise dreaded N-word get a free pass.
     If the PC purity test continues to rule, then it’s time to close the libraries, the museums, the concert halls (Richard Wagner composed great operas but is also deservedly notorious for his anti-Semitic tract “Jewishness in Music”), and especially the universities. The only way out of this erosion of the time-honored right to free speech here in the United States is to push back against the rising tide of Political Correctness. Yes, political correctness has gone too far. “Woke” me when moderation, toleration, and common sense return.[4]

     Maybe the final straw came early in 2023 when a Massachusetts school superintendent candidate said his job offer was rescinded after he addressed two women on the school’s committee as “ladies” - a greeting they deemed a “microaggression.”
     Vito Perrone was offered the position as the head of Easthampton schools on March 24 but he said the opportunity vanished when he used the perceived slight in an email to the chairperson and executive assistant, according to the Daily Hampshire Gazette.
     Perrone addressed requests via email for a more generous compensation package to the chairperson and to the executive assistant to the committee, but the negotiation got off to a bad start when the two women took issue with his salutation.
     The chairwoman reportedly told him that using “ladies” in the request was “hostile and derogatory”. Perrone said, “I was shocked . . . I grew up in a time when ‘ladies’ and ‘gentlemen’ was a sign of respect.”[5]

     America is experiencing two disturbing simultaneous trends: the rise of mob censorship to shut down speaking events on college campuses, and an attempt to justify it as merely the exercise of “more speech.” At the State University of New York (SUNY) Albany in April 2023, protesters stormed an event, formed an improvised conga line and prevented a lecture - ironically, titled “Free Speech on Campus” - from beginning. Also, a month earlier on the West Coast, in a now notorious incident at Stanford Law School, protesters shouted down a federal appellate judge’s speech.
     Here in 2023, some argue that drowning out and shutting down speakers is an exercise of “more speech,” not an attempt to carry out a “heckler’s veto” on the speaker. Depressingly, 62% of college students say that shouting down a speaker is acceptable to some degree.
     Some of America’s future lawyers and future judges at Stanford Law School fundamentally misunderstand free speech rights. What they apparently don’t understand is that shouting down speakers is just like any other form of censorship: It’s the few deciding for the many what they can hear. While protesters have the right to engage in peaceful, nondisruptive protest, they do not have the right to take over someone else’s event and make it their own. There must be places in a free and pluralistic society where groups can freely associate and share ideas without first seeking approval from a crowd of hecklers. Colleges are such spaces.
     While students may succeed today in shouting down speakers they oppose, they should realize that those same tactics can be used tomorrow against speakers they support.[6]

     In today’s America, be careful when you speak! Beware - the Verboten Speech Gestapo are watching us all! It no longer matters what one has to say – someone will find something offensive about whatever it is! Say goodbye to freedom of speech in America. Free of speech is out – political correctness is in!

  1. freedom of speech, Encyclopaedia Britannica, 15 March 2023.
  2. Welcome to Modern Book Burning, Jarrett Stepman, The Daily Signal, 22 February 2023.
  3. Joseph Goebbels, Helmut Heiber, Encyclopaedia Britannica, Accessed 27 February 2023.
  4. The history of political correctness and why it's gone way too far, Roberta Schaefer, Telegram & Gazette ,
    14 January 2020.
  5. School executive says he was denied top job for addressing women as ‘ladies’, Jesse O’Neill, New York Post,
    2 April 2023.
  6. Campus disruptions don’t count as free speech, Nico Perriro, Boston Herald , 18 April 2023.

  29 June 2023 {Article 581; Politics_83}    
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