We have spoken previously about what the attacks on statues and churches that have been taking place as part of the so-called “anti-racism” protests reveal about the true nature of this movement. They show that these protests are not actuated by a desire to bring about racial justice, but by an aversion toward Western culture. It is not the elimination of non-existent racism that is the objective of this crusade. Its real goal is the destruction of liberal democracy.
Beneath the crass attacks on the physical artifacts of Western tradition, however, a less obvious but far more destructive assault is being launched: It is an assault on the core values and principles of Western civilization. It is an onslaught on the very values that have made its accomplishments possible. The Western miracle came about because certain ideas and principles gained hold in the occidental psyche, and it was these ideas and principles that enabled the Western mind to create a civilization that has advanced, flourished and excelled in ways unmatched by any other.
One of the quintessential, and arguably the most important, among these values is freedom of expression. The Western achievement could not have taken place without it. Conversely, it is the lack of this freedom that is the main reason for why other civilizations lag behind in almost every metric. It is not difficult to see why, since it is through an open exchange of ideas and sympathetic consideration of differing points of view that true learning and progress take place. Similarly, by giving room to creative individuals to express the innermost stirrings of their souls, great works of art are created.
It is freedom of expression that lies behind the West’s spectacular attainments in the arts, architecture, literature, science, music, technology and nearly every other area of human endeavor. Freedom of expression – particularly in its manifestation as free speech – is the essential prerequisite for one of the West’s crowning achievements: the liberal democracy. Western democracy, as some may know, is the only form of societal organization that grants and guarantees equal rights to all people living within it. It is also the only form of government capable of generating freedom and prosperity for the common man. Needless to say, like the marbles of Michelangelo, the symphonies of Beethoven or the paintings of Rembrandt, liberal democracy is a singularly Western achievement.
Freedom of expression has had a long tradition in Western culture. It can be traced more than 2,500 years back to ancient Greece. It is clearly seen at work, for example, in the great dialogues of Plato where participants openly and freely exchange their views and ideas. And even though its scope of permissiveness has fluctuated through the centuries, it has always run like a continuous thread through western history. We can get a sense of the value of this freedom and the kind of wide-ranging beneficial dialogue it engenders from an observation made by the late Sir Roger Scruton:
“All of the great scientists of our time, when you look back at Einstein and Freud and Piaget, and all those people, they were highly cultivated… And for them the intellectual development could have never been confined to something like a laboratory. It was a form of dialogue with civilization as a whole.”
Given that the current protests are being actuated by an anti-Western animus, it would only be natural to expect that those who take part in them would turn against this foundational western value. This they, in fact, do, and they do it with great enthusiasm and fervor. We have seen a startling manifestation of it recently in the rapid rise of the cancel culture which has taken over many of our important public institutions with astonishing speed. And we also see it in the extreme forms of political correctness which is being practiced and advocated by the social warriors of today.
Political correctness is the instrument of choice for those on the political Left in their drive to do away with freedom of expression. What political correctness does is to prevent the articulation of facts that are plainly obvious but inconvenient to those who seek power by illicit and undemocratic means. As most people have noticed by now, in an environment ruled by political correctness truth must not be spoken. Instead one must either stay silent or say the opposite of the truth. Those who cross the bounds of acceptable discourse are condemned and penalized.
Every oppressive society in history without exception has had its own form of political correctness. In every such society you were not allowed to state the obvious about the nature of that society and the relations within it. If you did, you would be promptly punished. In dictatorial societies political correctness is enforced directly by the State, and it is called censorship.
In the socialist society I grew up in, we had our own strain of strict political correctness. Although its language may have superficially differed on some points from the language of today’s western progressives, the principle was exactly the same: We were not allowed to say the truth; we were only allowed to say the opposite of the truth. In our case the truth was that we were an economically backward country and a vasal of the Soviet Union. The Soviet Union itself was a deeply impoverished nation held together by a brutal police state operating under the banner of a convoluted kind of collectivist ideology which officially called Marxism-Leninism.
We were, however, not allowed to say what a bad situation this was. Instead we had to say that we lived in a very prosperous and free country and that the Soviet Union was our great benefactor. As for the Soviet Union itself, we had to agree that it was the freest and most affluent country in the world. All people in the Soviet Union were supremely happy individuals because of the abundant prosperity and the freedoms they enjoyed. There was no place on earth or in heaven more excellent than the Soviet Union. Thanks to the great work of Marx, Lenin and Stalin, mankind’s long dream of Paradise had at last come true in the great country of the USSR. And guess what was the worst place on earth? It was the United States of America, which was, so were we told, a land of tyranny where people had no real freedoms and where everyone was poor, miserable, oppressed and depressed. As an aside, it is remarkable to observe on how many points the views and rhetoric of the former communists and today’s progressives are virtually identical.
The communist politically correct rhetoric ran in complete contravention of reality, but we all had to pretend that it was true. Most people did not believe it, but there were some who did or wanted to. That something like this could take place in real life may seem unbelievable to reasonable people now, but lies of similar depth and magnitude are quite commonplace in many Western circles today.
Consider this politically correct lie: Western societies are oppressive toward women. This is about as obviously absurd a statement as the claim that the Soviet Union was a free country. To everyone with the eyes to see it is quite plain that women are not oppressed in Western democracies. On the other hand, women are almost invariably oppressed in non-Western societies. This truth, however, is not allowed to be articulated and most attempts to do so are met with severe consequences, especially for those involved in public institutions such as media, universities, government and even many corporations.
Here is another politically correct lie: In Western democracies minorities are oppressed. To every reasonable person the falsity of this is immediately evident. Rather than being oppressed, racial minorities in the United States and most western countries enjoy more protections and privileges than the majority. This is exactly the reason why minorities from non-western societies are so eager to come and live in western societies. So much so that we have to expand considerable efforts and resources to keep them out for fear of being overrun. Conversely, we do not see minorities living in Western democracies running away from their oppression to live in those wonderful non-Western cultures and societies of which multiculturalists are so fond. Why do you think this is? The reality of the situation and the behavior of people themselves completely disprove the official PC narrative. Any intimations of the obvious, however, immediately draws the ire of the politically correct organs and can result in prompt cancellation.
The cancel culture is the executory arm of political correctness. Things have become so extreme in recent months that people are now being cancelled for making even the most innocuous comments. The forms that cancellation can take at this time range from being publicly shamed through removal from platforms of public discourse and having one’s reputation destroyed to being dismissed from employment. Because of its nature, today’s social justice movement must inevitably position itself as an irreconcilable enemy of free speech. The social warriors’ position has its roots in a deep illiberal impulse that goes directly against the best principles of Western culture.
Suppression of free expression has been invariably practiced by totalitarians and tyrants of all ranks and species, whether they emerged from the West or from other civilizational streams. Joseph Stalin, Adolph Hitler, Mao Tse-tung, Pol Pot, Fidel Castro, Kim Jong Un were all sworn enemies of free speech exactly as are today’s anti-racism activists. All these tyrants instituted their own kind of political correctness and cancel culture. Today’s social justice warriors are thus firmly rooted in the tradition of those Leaders. The politically-correct, cancel-happy progressives who march through the streets of Western cities and lord it over the social medial platforms are the true heirs of these Leaders’ intolerant, illiberal impulse, which is deeply anti-Western in nature. Needless to say, all the Great Leaders mentioned above have thoroughly ruined their societies and left a deep trail of misery and corpses in their wake.
Free expression and free speech are, of course, not the only core Western values that have come under attack from the progressives. Others include the concept of private property, the idea of equal rights and equality before the law among others. Like their tyrannical predecessors, social justice warriors of today are not interested in constructively addressing the real problems in the society in which they live. Carried along by a destructive instinct, they want to bring down their society. Most of them have no clear conception of what should replace it. What they know, however, is that they want nothing to do with the principles of free speech, tolerance of dissent, respect for private property, etc., on which free and affluent societies are built. The main problem with this approach is that societies not based on these values are not good places to live. Just ask the people of Stalin’s Soviet Union, Hitler’s Nazi Germany, Kim’s North Korea, Castro’s Cuba or Pol Pot’s Cambodia.