“It’s a compromise that is fatal to liberalism. It reintroduces a concept of blasphemy into the liberal social order. It gives the prospectively insulted a de facto veto over what other people might say. It accustoms the public to an ever-narrower range of permissible speech and acceptable thought. And… it slowly but surely turns writers, editors and publishers into cowards.”
—Bret Stephens, intermittently conservative New York Times columnist, in an op-ed condemning the acceptance of censorship and self-censorship as norms by the modern Left.
Stephens is certainly on a roll lately. His previous column (effectively and accurately) condemning the pet Times race propaganda “1619 Project” for what it is (that is to say, cultural and historical toxic waste) was not his last, as many predicted, and apparently emboldened by his survival, Stephens is determined to “let it all hang out,” as they used to say in the Sixties. Once again, he is attacking his own paper, which has doubled-down in its determination to publish only the news it feels safe to let its readers know about.
It is telling that Stephens’ column was published in tandem this week with another attempt by the Times to hide the utter corruption of the Biden family from the public, at least until the election is over. Above the Stephens piece—also telling—is the poisonous Michelle Goldberg’s screed suggesting that the discovery of Hunter Biden’s incriminating (to both him and his father) laptop is more GOP “collusion.” The Times’ truly despicable headline: “Is the Trump Campaign Colluding With Russia Again?” Note “Again”: the Mueller investigation found no evidence of “collusion” by any American citizen, much less the Trump campaign (to be fair, it didn’t investigate the Clinton campaign’s Russian dealings), and yet the Times allows that lie to lead its Editorial page. Polls show (I know, I know: polls) that over 70% of Democrats still think the President won the election by colluding with Russia, and mainstream media descriptions like this is a main reason. And it’s intentional.
While the Times is suppressing the Hunter Biden laptop story to ensure Joe Biden’s victory, it also recently engaged in exactly the kind of self-censorship Stephens is addressing. Last week, a French history teacher who had shown caricatures of Islam’s Prophet Muhammed in class was decapitated and his assailant shot dead by French police as they tried to arrest him, police and prosecutors said. The attacker shouted ‘Allahu Akbar’ a police source said. The Muslim phrase, meaning ‘God is Great,’ has been routine in jihadist attacks. The Times reported the incident like this:
Nice. That’s fake news, of the deceit variety. This was religious terrorism, not just an attack by “a man.” Nor is a public decapitation accurately described as a “knife attack.”
It will be interesting to see who Stephens votes for, if he really believes what he wrote. One thing President Trump has stood against from the beginning, and indeed “walked the talk,” is mincing words, avoiding unpleasant truths and stifling unpopular opinions. Meanwhile, since his election, the AUC (that’s the Axis of Unethical Conduct—Democrats, the “Resistance” and the mainstream media) have increasingly taken chunks out of our freedom of speech, with intimidation being a primary tool. The survival of free speech in America is itself sufficient justification to vote against Democrats this year, not that there are not many, many others.
We are killing democracy one weak verb, blurred analogy and deleted sentence at a time.
I should be more precise. When I say “we,” I don’t mean normal people who haven’t been trained in the art of never saying what they really think. I mean those of us who are supposed to be the gatekeepers of what was once a robust and confident liberal culture that believed in the value of clear expression and bold argument. This is a culture that has been losing its nerve for 30 years. As we go, so does the rest of democracy.