I belong to a distinguished legal association—I bet you can guess the field– that one would expect to understand the importance, indeed the necessity, of encouraging open discourse that is welcoming to divergent points of view. Yet yesterday, when I and another lawyer dared to make observations that varied from official progressive cant, the president of the organization, no less, reprimanded us for making comments others on the list found “offensive.” She then posted the listserv’s rules and standards which, as with all such things, were completely subjective, and translated to, in the words of my similarly reprimanded colleague, opinions that conform to the consensus here are acceptable; those that do not are uncivil and subject to censure. Finally, in a remarkable display of self-indictment, she told my colleague that continued publication of non-complying positions and arguments would result in his losing professional referrals.
That’s called “a threat.” It’s also called “chilling speech.”
To the target of this reprimand’s credit, he responded (no weenie he): “I guess I’ll just have to down-size then.” I would have opted for the less elegant “Bite me,” and will, if I have the opportunity in the future.
This is no right-wing conspiracy theory. This is what is going on in all the professions now. I know that there are many lawyers on the list who have been cowed into silence, and shame on them. The only way to fight nascent totalitarians is to fight them.
And that’s the way it is.