I say “suddenly” because I always thought of censorship and mind-control as Big Brother, “1984” stuff, the tools of fascism and totalitarian dictators. Yet for several years, the primary calls for impeding open debate and limiting the tools that facilitate it have been coming from the left. No labels. No “eliminationist rhetoric.” Ban “retarded.” Ban “nigger.” Now a best-selling feminist, Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg, has launched a fatuous campaign to ban the word “bossy,’ on the theory that it is wielded against incipient female leaders and crushes their spirits and aspirations. (I would counter that any girl who can’t stand up to a word isn’t a very promising leader to begin with.) Unable to mold human nature to its liking with reason, facts and persuasion, the increasingly popular tactic seems to be removing the ability to engage in the kinds of thinking and conduct that liberals, with varying justification, find repugnant. Linguists have shown that ideas that can’t be expressed are difficult to form, much less argue for. Eliminate bigotry, bias, inequality, and social injustice by making them impossible to articulate, and then even conceive! Brilliant!
Now Lawrence Torcello, an American philosophy professor with a Ph.D. from the University at Buffalo, has published an essay in the academic website The Conversation arguing that dissent about climate change and the human role in it is so sinister that it “ought to be considered criminally negligent.”
“Climate denial remains a serious deterrent against meaningful political action in the very countries most responsible for the crisis,” he says, and thus is worthy of criminal penalties. Of course, this will require taking a big chunk out of the First Amendment, which he feels is reasonable, writing, “We must make the critical distinction between the protected voicing of one’s unpopular beliefs, and the funding of a strategically organized campaign to undermine the public’s ability to develop and voice informed opinions.”
Prof. Torcello’s degrees do not include law, clearly, or government. What is that “clear distinction,” exactly? It is, of course, whatever those in power choose to say it is. Meanwhile “funding” the expression of an unpopular opinion, as in making sure as many people hear at as the popular opinion, is to “undermine the public’s ability to develop and voice informed opinions.”Translation: anything thing that undermines the ability of Torcello and his ideological allies to make the public believe what they want them to believe should be a crime. Got it.
This is the epitome of a “conservative story,” in that the right-tilting media is up in arms about it, and the much, much larger leftward-biased media is ignoring it completely. No, they think it’s newsworthy when an entertainment reporter is falsely accused by Samuel L. Jackson of thinking all black people look alike, so they can report the distorted version of the incident as more proof of white racism in America. This? Oh, this is just the conservatives making a big deal over a wacko, an outlier, as if he’s typical of progressives.
No, Torcello isn’t typical of progressives, but he is not an outlier either, especially in the area of global warming and climate change. CNN’s Reliable Sources, as I noted, took the position that it was unethical to include dissenters to climate change cant in televised discussions of the issue. The LA Times decided that open debate couldn’t be tolerated on the topic, so it announced that it would no longer print letters from climat change “deniers.” So has Popular Science and the online discussion forum Reddit.
If you can’t beat ’em, rip their tongues out.
In an earlier post, I wrote about the manifesto of Sandra Korn, a Harvard student, who advocated muzzling non-progressive voices on campus. Ah, the young!, quoth commenters. Torcello isn’t that young, and I think the progressive establishment should start to take such sentiments from its ranks as a warning sign, worthy of concern to more than just the wrong-headed readers of the Examiner, The Blaze, and Instapundit. What is happening on the Left? When did it move from liberalism to censorship, oppression of dissenters and engineered mind control? Once any ideology has been possessed by an ends justifies the means mentality, it is already corrupt and untrustworthy. Progressives need to pay less attention to stopping others from thinking thoughts they don’t like, and start analyzing why their own thoughts have become so illiberal, so fearful, so un-American, and so ugly.