Elizabeth Nolan Brown writes for Reason on the return of Victorian-age sensibilities in modern life, “(I)t’s taken the form of fighting to shield delicate sensibilities from “offensive” ideas, limit the parameters of free expression, and return women to the realm of dainty dolls needing special protection.” The assault on freedom is particularly acute to those of us who came of age in the 1970’s and 1980’s when the attacks came primarily from the conservatives and right-wing, although one shouldn’t forget that Tipper Gore, wife to then senator Al Gore and co-f0under of the PMRC, lead the charge against rock music lyrics making censorship a bi-partisan effort. Today’s attacks however come primarily from the Left and appear under the guise of “rational for banning/criminalizing hate speech is that it’s so emotionally traumatizing it serves, even in the absence of any incitement or physical consequence, as a form of violence, and this trumps free speech concerns.”
As a professional writer (not here) self-censorship comes with the job. Self-censorship for a writer is not necessarily a bad thing. It’s an editing tool that can help a writer get his or her point across. But I find myself censoring myself more these days outside of the professional realm to avoid trouble. In fact I just did it in the previous sentences, replacing a short and visceral reaction to living in a neo-Victorian prison with more palatable fare. Worse, I did it without thinking and a careful review of my writing here confirms that even though I argue against such censorship, I capitulate to it more than I should have to as a free-born human being living in a free society under legal protection.
Fuck that. It’s one thing to have to self-censor on the job, it’s another thing completely to do so on an online journal. Nevertheless fighting against self-censorship has consequences, and a writer must decide whether the exercising of expression is worth it. Unfortunately today those penalties become increasingly harsh as Culture continues its crawl towards authoritarianism making the choices more difficult and painful.
Here’s a reminder of simpler times from Burke Breathed’s classic comic Bloom County.