I Was Censored
A few months ago I was invited to apply to speak at a prestigious speaking engagement at USC. I had an idea of what I wanted to talk about- the history and politics of an inclusive, unified, colorblind American national identity.
I also knew that this perspective- which refutes the core convictions of the multiculturalists- was an unpopular one. And I knew that there were people on the selection board who did not particularly like this opinion, and would probably try to shut it down.
So I told the person who had approached me about giving a talk. “You know that whatever I say, _____________ is going to flip out about it, right?”
“Oh it’s ok, you’ll be fine and whatever you say isn’t going to be offensive.”
So I went ahead and wrote up a lecture on how the melting pot was the mechanism of benign assimilation, how there could be no true equality of opportunity and equality of dignity in a society unless there were some common threads binding all its members together, how a common identity mitigated ethnic and racial divisions when faction is already the inherent condition of humanity, how colorblind ethics and colorblind policy are the only true assurances of equal treatment of the members of any race on the merits of their individuality, and how the 100% Americanism of Theodore Roosevelt and the American Legion is a far better approach to approaching national unity than the divisive identity politics and mosaic model we know now.
I presented the pitch to a panel of individuals planning the event, and they said they liked it a lot! Everyone said there weren’t many people around sharing my particular point of view these days, and so they’d be happy to have me speak. They said they’d email me with the final confirmation in a few days.
A few days later I got an email saying I had not been accepted to speak. I had been expecting this, so I wasn’t offended or anything. But, just to confirm that my suspicions were true, I contacted the person who had originally convinced me to apply.
“Yes, you’re exactly right- ____________ heard the pitch and flipped. She said we would have to be oppressors if we agreed with a single word you said. It was so annoying. But she blocked it because she has that power.”
I didn’t try to get the decision reversed. I knew the outcome and I wasn’t about to stoop to fighting it out.
The individual in question, who blocked my speaking, is a leader in the USC activist community and a very competent one at that. They’re very passionate about social justice, about the rectifying of past wrongs committed upon the oppressed, and about providing a voice to the oppressed. In truth, they’re a beautiful person whom I admire, though I disagree with them on fundamental questions.
The activist leader, like so many other activist leaders, is yet flawed- for they are so deeply engrossed by their own self-righteousness, so totally convinced of the pure rectitude of their intentions, that they are willing to abandon core principles of liberalism- tolerance, dissent, freedom of conscience- in the name of the cause they so fervently aspire to fight for on Earth. So radical is their conviction that they would violate those sacred principles of our political tradition, handed down to us by the wisdom of our forebears and secured for us by the sweat of statesmen and the blood of patriots, to preclude what they interpret as oppression. Yet in fighting what they call oppression, in censoring those who hold opinions they believe to be heretical, the saviors of the oppressed have themselves become the oppressors.
This arrangement is pernicious both for the intellectual minorities, such as myself, and for the power-grasping activist minorities who make a business out of censorship, seeking out every last possible oppressive social construct to boycott or shut down. It is bad for intellectual minorities (such as temperamental conservatives, in my case) because their right to express themselves is curtailed by their fellow citizens. It is bad for activist minorities because they wind up preaching to the choir in an echo chamber, smugly self-satisfied in their rightness, slowly growing lazy and soft as their former intellectual adversaries no longer provide a challenge. The decadence of any absolutist ideology that has won sets in, and lacking a true rival, it ceases to innovate. It ceases to be relevant to the most fervent of its supporters. When it eventually does whither away, useless, it is replaced either by the temperance it fought or by a dark extremism far worse than it ever was, one which devours its own ancestors.
In a word, the tendency of left-wing intellectual activists to seek to shut down those points of view they deem oppressive is not only illiberal, it is self-destructive. Somewhere in the deep, dark recesses of the human soul is written a general truth: power consolidated oppresses, then decays. This holds true in the world of ideas just as truly as in the world of politics, and it has been the work of Western civilization to forge a system where ideas could exist in tension with each other, without their great champions dashing each others’ brains on the rocks. Perhaps ideological purity can secure stability in a civilization, for whatever period of time, but it must, in time, break down. Thence chaos shall reign til another unjust peace is secured by the imposition of another ideology. No, it has been the great blessing upon the English-speaking peoples for the past five centuries, that contending points of view have been protected and the diverse array of ideologies have interacted with each other and grown better, rather than seeking hegemony and the destruction of their peers. The engine of our innovation has been the great debate’s continuity. The allowance of doubt and the tolerance of dissent are part of what has made us civilized, and these blessings do not come naturally to the human heart- they have been the result of centuries worth of trial and error, sanctified by ink and blood.
Thus it always dismays me to see acts of intolerance committed and liberal principles renounced, in the name of some ideology or other. My own fellow “conservatives” in the Republican Party, on the Tea Party Right, are as guilty of this intolerance as are the blubbering activists of the Left. Extremism in the defense of liberty is a terrible vice, and moderation in pursuit of justice is a tremendous virtue. Censorship motivated by extremism- an assault upon liberty itself- is a revocation of our fair Western heritage. It is the duty of civilized persons to stand against it whenever they see it in any form.
I’m not angry that I was censored, at least not in a personal outrage sort of way.
I am concerned, however, for the fate of our civilization.