I know a lot of people who live in fear of saying what they really think. In red North America and in blue North America — and, perhaps more so, on the red internet and the blue internet — we are in the grip of an epidemic of self-silencing. What you censor, of course, depends on where you sit.
But there are two illiberal cultures swallowing up the country. I know because I live in blue America, in a world awash in NPR tote bags and front lawn signs proclaiming the social justice bonafides of the family inside.
In my America, the people who keep quiet don’t fear the wrath of Trump supporters. They fear the illiberal left.
I am not speaking here of people holding their tongue in order to be polite. I’m speaking about people who are closeting their common-sensical beliefs for fear of a censorious, merciless ideology that tags any skeptics as bigots.
These aren’t simply anecdotes. A recent national study from Cato Institute found that 62% of Americans say they self-censor. The more conservative a group is, the more likely they are to hide their views: 52% of Democrats confess to self-censoring compared with 77% of Republicans. But still: 52% of Democrats.
A recent Heterodox Academy annual Campus Expression Survey Report, which found that in 2020, 62% of college students the group surveyed “agreed the climate on their campus prevents students from saying things they believe.”
By now you have surely heard that the Seuss estate is ceasing publication six books, including And to Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street and If I Ran the Zoo because they show images that, according to the estate, are “hurtful and wrong.”
Yes, of course: the Seuss estate is welcome to discontinue any books it wants. But does it not strike you as dystopian when eBay decides that people who own those books cannot even resell them?
There’s more. Amazon this week unveiled a new policy that it could erase the listings of “inappropriate and offensive” works, or books that promote “hate speech.”
It’s hard to fully capture the downstream effects of this corporate totalitarianism.
Don’t take my word for it. Listen to Natan Sharansky, who along with co-author Gil Troy, warns us about the “bottom-up cultural totalitarianism” that’s sweeping across the West.