Self-censorship is Greatest Threat to Free Speech

Editor’s Note: The following is an excerpt from The Parasitic Mind: How Infectious Ideas Are Killing Common Sense.

Many people in the West have a poor understanding of the concept of free speech. Whenever I mute or block someone on social media, a cacophony of fools will accuse me of being a free speech hypocrite for

“silencing their voice.” They do not understand that I have the right to walk away from their online taunts, insults, and idiocy. To do so is not “restricting” their speech but expressing my right to avoid listening to them. This is an obvious point, and yet many people are confused by it. A second mistake is the mindlessly aped line: “Social media companies are not the government. They have the right to choose which content will be carried on their platforms.” In a sane world, this would a laughable position to hold, and yet it is endlessly repeated without any reflection on its nefarious implications. Google, YouTube, Facebook, and Twitter have more global control over us than all other companies combined. It is not hyperbole to say that they have more collective power, in terms of the information they control, than all the rulers, priests, and politicians of history. If knowledge is power, then these social media giants are nearly all-powerful when they decide which information we can have and whether we can be allowed a social media platform. Big tech companies routinely ban right-leaning commentators, but of course this is all an unfortunate “algorithmic coincidence.” What could be more sinister?

Another tool that online companies use to repress free speech is going after your wallet. Of the 1,000+ clips on my YouTube channel, roughly one-third have been demonetized (albeit some are monetized again once I file a request for a manual review). Many of my clips are demonetized prior to my even posting them publicly. In other words, an algorithm automatically demonetizes my clips as a default setting. In other instances, money exchange portals such as Patreon and PayPal, which are used by online content creators to solicit financial support, have banned individuals whom they feel have violated one of their tenets of acceptable speech. Carl Benjamin (a.k.a. Sargon of Akkad), an influential

YouTuber on whose show I have appeared on two occasions, was booted from Patreon. The company had uncovered a clip where he used the “N-word” as a means of mocking racists. Despite this context and the fact that the clip had not been produced on the Patreon platform, a key feature of their terms of use (and hence not supported by his patrons), they deleted his account. This caused a gigantic backlash against Patreon. My good friends Jordan Peterson and Dave Rubin left the platform in protest, and many people pledged to boycott the company. But the boycott indirectly punished many other content creators who lost a huge amount of revenue (it cost me more than two-thirds of my financial support). As a libertarian, I am a fervent proponent of small government. I despise the never-ending and ever-increasing governmental encroachments into our daily lives. But it seems obvious that these online companies must be regulated as utilities. Just as your electricity or phone line is not shut off if the electric company or phone company doesn’t like what you say, social media platforms should not be in the business of monitoring and punishing speech.

As a result of my public engagement, I have become a global confessor for students and academics suffering under the political correctness that dominates our universities. A common theme in these first-person testimonies is the necessity of self-censorship lest one be punished for violating progressive orthodoxy. The fear is so great that professors thanking me for my defense of classical liberal values often request that I not share their identities (which I never do without their permission). Imagine for a moment how chilling this is. Below I share excerpts of a few representative emails sent to me:

“I’m a 47-year-old white male who because of an injury made a choice to return to school. . . . In the first year, to maintain full-time status, I was forced to take another social justice-Black Lives Matter course. Students are not allowed to challenge or question the course content because that’s considered disrespectful and may disrupt someone’s safe space. I believe I’m a respectful student with good attendance and whose marks are in the mid-eighties. That said, after a few weeks of the one-sided syllabus, I’m considering dropping out of the program and leaving school entirely. This leftist academic world is a little too much for me.

“The reason I am contacting you is because, as an honors cognitive student, part of my requirement is to complete 12 credits of research. However, because of purely political reasons (I am apparently a violent, misogynist, racist Trump supporter), I have not only lost my job at a very prestigious behavioural neuroscience laboratory at [redacted], but my name has been removed from a publication on research I personally conducted, and the lead researcher has told me he would never work with me ever again.

“I very much appreciate your courage to fight the cancer that is taking over American academia. People like me feel cheated at their attempt to pursue a tenure track career. It only takes a glimpse at the job offerings that the Modern Languages Association publishes each year, to understand that what is expected from recent graduates like me is political activism, and I refuse to mix that with my academic interests.

“I will save you my long stories of dealing and suffering career-wise from politically correct nonsense from the directions of feminism, gender ideology, trans-extremism, and Islamophilia. I am trying to keep a lid on things for now, as my wife is a very promising academic but hasn’t secured a position yet.  I know if I started voicing my thoughts and arguments on social media, she’d be completely shut out of the academy.

“As a fellow professor who has been frustrated by the discourse within academia on issues such as political correctness, moral relativism, and social justice, I’d like to thank you for speaking up the way you have been from within academia. . . . I have nevertheless been frustrated by the conformism and group think I see and hear around me. I see otherwise very reasonable and capable people abandoning reason and cowing to the narrative of the regressive left on many social issues.”

When I told this professor to engage and debate these issues openly, the professor replied:

“These are all things which I would like to get involved in once the tenure decision is behind me (about one year to go). As upsetting as it is, one fears expressing unpopular social ideas prior to tenure. In the meantime, please keep fighting the good fight for freedom of speech and against thought policing and orthodoxy.”

These are not emails sent to me from dissidents in North Korea, Yemen, or the former Soviet Union. Ideological Stalinism is the daily reality on North American college campuses. Any freedom-loving person should be appalled by this, and yet most academics yawn in complicit apathy and cowardly inaction. They are too worried about their selfish, careerist considerations to weigh in on these matters. They are happy to tell me privately that they support my efforts but “please, Dr. Saad, don’t share my name. I don’t want people to know that I share your views.” Why should people in a free country be afraid of saying what they believe? Think about that, and you will know the direction that the “progressives” want to take us.

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