Censorship is any suppression of speech that is motivated by an ideology or by the perception of risk avoidance. It is intended to prevent challenges to the interests of an existing establishment or system or to safeguard secrets and national security interests.
Censorship in authoritarian regimes, most of which are indeed in the east or global south, is overt and institutionalized. The red lines are promulgated publicly and punishments for transgressions are enshrined in criminal law.
In the West, censorship is far more pernicious: it is stealthy, self-imposed, and adheres to standards of political correctness that reflect the interests and concerns of the identity politics of vocal victimhood groups.
Worst of all: the very existence of censorship is denied in the West as public intellectuals, the mainstream media, and societal and legal institutions uphold the counterfactual myth of “free speech”.
Censorship reflects the breakdown of trust in society and the need to use violence, both verbal and physical, to prevent the utter disintegration of the social fabric and the institutions that preserve the privileges of the elites.
The sociologists Bradley Keith Campbell and Jason Manning posited that have transitioned from the age of dignity and reputation to the age of victimhood. This is not just about identity politics: as multiple studies have demonstrated in the past 3 years, victimhood is a profitable proposition and a way to reallocate scarce economic resources coercively.
Additionally, we are in the throes of more than one century of unprecedented existential risks (from nuclear weapons and world wars to climate change and invasive surveillance).
The confluence of these two toxic trends has rendered speech a dangerous luxury. Speech acts are deemed subversive, offensive, or malicious, even life-threatening, both on the collective and on the individual level.
By far, political correctness is the greatest threat to our intellectual life and thriving. It has stifled legitimate scientific inquiry, stymied public discourse, and penalized free thinkers of all stripes. It is comparable only to the Inquisition or to McCarthyism.
There are various tactics used against public personalities:
Naming and shaming. Cancelling. Mobbing. Violence (Salman Rushdie, Jamal Kahshoggi, to mention but two). Verbal abuse. Smear campaigns. All tried and true methods originally perfected by narcissists and psychopaths.
But, mostly, censorship targets the masses, the media, your average student or teacher, small to medium size businesses. In short: censorship targets constituencies whose vested interests in the current power structure are not great and who, therefore, are more open to evolutionary and even revolutionary ideas.
By far the most serious problem is the inexorable rise of the idiocracy.
Our contemporary world is ruled by the feebleminded, dimwits are empowered by technology, and everything is dumbed down to foster mass consumption.
In such a world, lower intelligence is a positive adaptation which confers evolutionary advantages on its bearers – and on their spouses and offspring.
The Stupid, the Trivial, and the Frivolous are everywhere: among the working classes, of course, but increasingly you can find them displacing the erstwhile elites, spawning hordes of mindless politicians, idiot business tycoons, narcissistic media personalities, gullible clergy, vacuous celebrities, illiterate bestselling authors, athletes with far more brawn than brain, repetitious pop singers, less than mediocre bureaucrats, bovine gatekeepers, and even ignorant and semi-literate academics.
Their cacophony drowns the few voices of wisdom, expertise, and experience and their sheer number overwhelms all systems of governance and all mechanisms of decision-making. Rather than futilely fight back this tsunami, the well-educated, the erudite, and the intelligent choose to withdraw and seclude themselves in self-constructed, schizoid ivory towers, all bridges drawn.
With technology at their disposal, The Stupid repeatedly interfere with and disrupt the proper functioning of virtually every system.
The Stupid, dimly aware of their innate inferiority, are anti-elitist, anti-intellectual, and anti-excellence. But, while in the past these remained mere sentiments, today they have become an ethos, a code of conduct, a set of values and ideals.
It is politically incorrect and impolite to claim any advantage and superiority. Egalitarianism is running amok. Everyone is equal: doctors and their patients; professors and their students; experts and laymen alike.
In an act of self-preservation, past civilizations had confined The Stupid to certain settlements, replete with their drinking establishments, entertainments, and sports arenas.
There, the “intellectually-challenged” could safely torment each other with their vulgarities and rampant, uninformed idiocy. The advent of radio, television, and, most egregiously, the Internet has changed all that: now stupid people have unmitigated access to the kind of technology that allows them to pollute the airwaves and the broadband with their inferior analytic capacity, low-brow output, trivial observations, monosyllabic exclamations, and harebrained queries.
Thus, the New Media have transformed stupidity from a mental endemic to a viral pandemic. The wise and knowledgeable may broadcast while the Stupid merely narrowcast – but the Stupid have the upper hand, what with Google, Facebook, Twitter, Blogger, Amazon, and YouTube decimating the traditional print and electronic media.
This technological empowerment is the crux of the problem: there are no barriers to entry, no institutional filters, and no erudite and experienced intermediaries to hold back the avalanche of doltish balderdash, the tsunami of nonsense, and the flood of misinformation, factoids, and conspiracies that corrupt our intellectual space.
“Discovery”: separating the wheat from the chaff has become mission impossible. Commercial interests inevitably and invariably side with the brainless masses because of their superior aggregate purchasing power. The privatization of education is one manifestation of this creeping decadence.
The mindless nature of television programming is another. The empty one-liners that comprise most “conversations” on social networks are its culmination. We are surrounded with clods, harassed by the lame-brained, criticized, censored, and ordered by simpletons.
Welcome to the New Dark Ages.
Opinions expressed in the op-ed section are solely those of the individual author and do not represent the official stance of our newspaper. We believe in providing a platform for a wide range of voices and perspectives, even those that may challenge or differ from our own. As always, we remain committed to providing our readers with high-quality, fair, and balanced journalism. Thank you for your continued support.Sincerely, The Brussels Morning Team