• Once governments normalize censorship and the punishment of points of view, free expression is firmly stamped with an expiration date.
  • Whenever censorship slithers back into polite society, it is always draped in the mantle of “good intentions.” Fifteenth-century Dominican friar Girolamo Savonarola’s “bonfire of the vanities” destroyed anything that could be seen to invite or reflect sin. The notorious 1933 Nazi book burning… in Berlin torched some 20,000 books deemed subversive or “un-German”. During Communist China’s decade-long Cultural Revolution in the 1960s and ’70s, the vast majority of China’s traditional scrolls, literature and religious antiquities went up in smoke.
  • All three atrocities were celebrated as achievements for the “greater good” of society… Much like today’s new censors who claim to “fight hate” because “that’s not who we are,” the arsonists of the past saw themselves as moral paragons, too. They purged anything “obscene” or “traditional” or “old,” so that theocracy, Nazism, or communism could take root and grow.
  • There will one day be much disagreement as to how the same Western Civilization that produced the Enlightenment and its hallowed regard for free expression could once again surrender itself to the petty tyranny of censorship…. The answer is that the West has fallen into the same trap that always catches unsuspecting citizens by surprise: the steady encroachment on free speech has been sold as a “virtue” that all good people should applaud.
  • First, certain thoughts became “aggravating factors” that turned traditional crimes into new “hate crimes” deserving of additional punishment. Then the definition of what is “hateful” grew until politicians could comfortably decree anything at odds with their agendas to be examples of “hate.” Who would be for “hate,” after all? Surely no-one of good sense or good manners.
  • Now “hate” has transformed into an elusive description for any speech that can be alleged to cause the slightest of harms. From there, it was easy for the state to decree that “disinformation,” or rather anything that can be seen to contradict the state’s own official narratives, causes “harm,” too. Those who despise free speech told society, “If you do not punish hate, then you’re a bigot.” And today, if you oppose the government’s COVID-19, climate change, immigration or other contentious policies, your harmful “disinformation” must be punished, too.
  • On a plaque in the square [where the Nazis burned books] is a commemorative engraving… “That was only a prelude; where they burn books, they will in the end also burn people.” That warning comes with no expiration date.

Attacks on free speech are on the rise. A British college recently expelled a student for expressing support for the government’s official policy of deporting illegal immigrants. A Wisconsin school district charged three middle-schoolers with sexual harassment last month for refusing to use the plural pronoun “they” when referring to a single classmate. U.S. President Joe Biden’s National Climate Advisor Gina McCarthy recently encouraged social media companies to censor from their online platforms any opinions that contradict Biden’s climate change narrative.

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