There’s never been a defensible rationale for censorship – of anything. Attempts to construct one have always run up against insuperable problems. Even many of those who ardently wish for some sort of restriction on what people may say, and when, where, and to whom, will tell you that it can’t be done without creating still worse problems that will rebound against its creators.
Nevertheless, they’ll keep trying.
A censor always claims that he seeks to “protect” something or someone. Consider the suppression of sexually-charged books or movies. In the usual case, the censor claims that he seeks to protect the “innocence of children.” It’s a worthy aim; there are certainly better things for preteens to be thinking about than sex and its many facets. But it’s a demonstrably false claim, for the sex-focused censor seeks above all to keep sexually oriented materials out of the hands of adults, who are presumably already acquainted with sex.
Today, the aim of the would-be censors is the suppression of dissent from the Official Line®. I know, that’s not a hold-the-presses news flash. Yet it deserves some thought, for it diverges dramatically from previous rationales for censorship. Who or what are these censors trying to “protect?”
If the answer doesn’t leap at you and bite you on the nose, you haven’t been paying enough attention.
Is their effort understandable? Certainly; everyone seeks to protect that which he believes is his by right. But it’s not defensible by American standards. It requires something like a Divine Right of Political Establishments. We don’t do that here. At least, we haven’t done it before this.
Nevertheless, the censors will keep trying.
There are bolder and subtler degrees of censorship and suppression. Generally we only call it censorship when force or the threat of force is involved. However, in recent years other techniques have come to the fore. The rise of “cancel culture” speaks to one of them. Another recently poked its head above the high-slime line: the “move on” gambit:
Some Republican lawmakers are bristling at the idea of spending another two years talking about Jan. 6 — viewing the renewed focus as part of a self-destructive streak undermining their agenda for the new majority.
What’s happening: Each time Democrats or the press appear ready to move on, the insurrection is dragged back to center stage by the GOP’s most influential voices.
Why it matters: House Democrats used their majority to ensure the roots, violence and consequences of Jan. 6 received maximum attention through carefully choreographed prime-time hearings.
- When Republicans won power in the midterms, they earned the right to set the agenda and divert attention away from what polls have shown is a serious political vulnerability.
- Instead — due in large part to the empowerment of the far-right — Republicans have helped ensure wall-to-wall coverage of the 2021 Capitol attack is again blanketing cable news.
Andrew Solender has cleverly and subtly emphasized Republican divisions over Tucker Carlson’s January 6 revelations. The portion of the GOP he styles “far-right” has distressed the rest of the party by harping on something from which “it’s time to move on.”
If this sally sounds familiar, hearken to Athena Thorne:
One thing Axios clearly doesn’t feel like doing is commenting on the actual, genuine footage aired on Carlson’s show — footage that proved the Brian Sicknick “insurrectionists killed cops” narrative was a lie, and that “QAnon Shaman” Jacob Chansley peacefully wandered the halls with Capitol Police at his side when he was supposedly waging a violent insurrection….
In fact, the second Axios article is called “Frustrated Republicans want to ‘move on’ as far-right revives Jan. 6.” Hm, move on, move on — where have we heard that expression before? Oh, I remember! It was the narrative back when then-President Bill Clinton got caught with the intern and compounded his dilemma by perjuring himself and tampering with witnesses and evidence. Clinton earned himself an impeachment with those crimes, though he wasn’t convicted by the Senate. Back then, Democrats didn’t like impeachment, lol.
Apropos of nothing, how does the “move on” gambit differ in substance from calling someone with whom you disagree “an obsessive?” Is it appropriate to call someone who insists on airing and correcting a blatant injustice “obsessive?” Isn’t the “obsessive” the one who insists that the injustice not be discussed?
Nevertheless, they’ll keep trying.
At least this isn’t the U.K. Things are much worse there:
The House of Commons has approved the UK’s first “thought crime” law after MPs rejected a move to protect silent prayer in public places.
In a free vote, MPs rejected an amendment to the Public Order Bill by 299 votes to 116, a large majority of 183, to protect private prayer and consensual conversations within any “censorship” zone.
Among those to support the amendment were Home Secretary Suella Braverman and Attorney General Victoria Prentis.
Jeremiah Igunnubole, legal counsel for ADF UK, which has represented people who have been arrested for praying near abortion clinics, said the vote marked a “watershed moment for fundamental rights and freedoms in our country”.
He said: “Parliament had an opportunity to reject the criminalisation of free thought, which is an absolute right, and embrace individual liberty for all.
“Instead, Parliament chose to endorse censorship and criminalise peaceful activities such as silent prayer and consensual conversation.
“Today it’s abortion. Tomorrow it could be another contested matter of political debate,” he continued.
That’s right, Gentle Reader: the nation that gave us George Orwell has criminalized thoughts. Moreover, in practice it won’t matter what you’re thinking about if you’re standing or sitting “too close” to an abortion center. What will matter will be who you are and what associations and causes you’re known for.
Britain’s Catholics have faced the ire of the State before. I doubt this will cow them any more successfully than the pogroms of the Tudors. But abortion is sacrosanct, don’t y’know. To speak – or think – otherwise is therefore blasphemy. And we can’t have that. It’s simply not done.
Oddly, the British were among the first to discover by experiment that persecution causes a conviction to take hold and grow. Britain’s Death Cultists won’t have any more luck suppressing the pro-life movement today than the Tudors had with Catholicism.
Nevertheless, they’ll keep trying.
I could go on. I could spend a few hundred words on the motivation behind Washington state’s attempt to define conservative opinion as “domestic terrorism.” But I think the point has been made.
Censorship is the last tactic of the loser: he who cannot prevail in an argument founded on evidence and reason. Considering what a giveaway it is, an intelligent man who finds himself losing an argument would be smart to concede, or at least to walk away, rather than to try to silence his interlocutor. But then, intelligence is a tool, not a state of grace. One must choose to use it…and not everyone accepts defeat in an argument over a contentious topic. Many would rather try to suppress the prevailing argument, even though it’s always been an unsuccessful ploy.
Nevertheless…oh, never mind. You know how the story ends. Or doesn’t.
Censorship is used for a simple reason. It works. It’s not 100% but it does keep a lot of people from seeing things those in power don’t want them to see. If it didn’t work it wouldn’t exist.
Francis, What’s your opinion on attempts to remove books promoting CRT, homosexuality and transgenderism from school libraries. Personally, I’m in favor of those attempts but, couldn’t they be considered censorship?
I don’t think so, Chic. The publication and distribution of those books remain unhindered, and kids who want access to them can find them with very little effort. The point of those removing the books from school libraries is twofold:
1. They’re material unsuitable for children;
2. A school library is supposed to promote learning, and these books don’t do that.
There’s room for disagreement about this, of course.