Over the years I’ve written on many topics in this journal, but some things never appear here. I don’t write about my private life because it’s no one’s business, nor do I write about my job. I have strict boundaries over what appears in print here and what doesn’t. By refusing to write about certain topics I avoid trouble. I’ve seen people’s personal lives unravel online as they crossed these boundaries. I’ve also heard of people being fired for what they’ve written about their employer. These are what I feel to be sensible restrictions in the modern age.
Then there are certain topics topics and statements that I avoid because they have repercussions. At first I worried about being targeted for my attitude towards Islam and in particularly the jihadis. But as the years past I became less fearful of such topics because there was already a cacophony of voices out there saying the same thing.
As I’ve learned more about the NSA spying, and the abuse of personal information by the IRS, including the release of former senate candidate Christine O’Donnell’s tax information to the press by the Delaware tax authorities, information that was factually baseless yet did irreparable damage to her candidacy, I take pause. Over the past five years I have found myself censoring my writing in ways that I had not done the 7 years before that. I have spoken to other writers who have done the same. We are clearly moving towards a more restrictive, less free society, and self-censorship is the start.
I am too unimportant and unnoticed to attract much attention by powerful entities, but because I cannot predict the future I must act with caution even when my audience is small. Once something is written and makes it onto the Internet it is all but impossible to erase. So I act conservatively. I write carefully and I think about what I write both before and after I write it.
I find it ironic that I live in what bills itself to be the most free society on earth yet I am increasingly careful of what I write. I am also careful of what I say. For the past generation we have reverted to a more restrictive culture where everyone is supposed to avoid offending everyone else. Given the diversity in thought, opinion, talent and race, such a task is impossible. Nearly anything said or written has the potential to offend someone. The only truly inoffensive action is silence, and that’s what many want – to silence opposing opinions, as the attempt to silence Charles Krauthammer for his comments questioning the science behind anthropogenic global warming gathers steam. Krauthammer has achieved a position where he’s pretty much immune to such threats of censorship, but the mere fact that there is an active attempt to silence him says much about our society and far we’ve strayed from our core values including freedom of expression.
A few years back I watched a movie from the early 1970s. I was stunned by the dialog, which sounds racist and sexist today yet back then was considered open and free, said with the assumption that the listener was free to give as good as get, and that being offensive was less offensive than being unable to speak one’s mind. I used to despise the 1970s for the ugly design, the crappy pop music and the insipid TV shows. Now I can’t help but look back fondly at an era where we were free to express ourselves in ways that we cannot anymore.
As under any restrictive regime there are still considered “safe” ways of self-expression. Today one can express one’s sexuality in ways that once were limited to pornographic magazines back in the day, yet everyone is expected to not be offended by such actions or displays. But stray too far away from that subject, and the confines return.
Dissent was once considered to be the highest form of patriotism. At least that’s what the leftist bumper stickers said during the Bush administration. Today dissent gets you a visit by the IRS, an indictment by the feds, or protests outside the offices of the Washington Post as in the case of Krauthammer. A writer ignores this at her peril, and so keeps the thoughts and ideas locked away in her head. Multiply that self-censorship by hundreds, thousands, tens of thousands of writers, thinkers and intellectuals and the landscape of political and social thought of our society is completely changed. That is the intent of the powerful and in that they have succeeded.
America land of the less-free, home of the not-so brave.