Source: Canada Free Press – By Daniel Greenfield
Freedom of speech is governed by legal restrictions and public mores. And what most of us have discovered is that a multicultural society means more ‘mores’ and more people to offend. That has taken us from one general set of social speech codes that governed such things as obscenity and public abuse, to a thousand fiefdoms of speech in which every group strives to impose its own speech codes in public forums. The Constitution still protects some forms of political speech for now, but it is a weak and fitful defense in a society where it is not the content of speech that matters, but who is offended by it.
In Postmodern America, censorship has become one form of political clout. The ability to suppress a word, is bona fide power. Municipalities, corporations and public figures are constantly pressured to neuter their vocabulary. The groups that do the pressuring count coup for each successful act of linguistic castration. This battlefield of the dictionary leads to a colonization of grammar. The group that can force a word substitution claims credit for controlling how people think. And there is a certain amount of truth to that, but not a great deal of it. Neutering language only spreads euphemisms. The more we try to stamp out a meaning, the more it slithers into new words, subverting the meanings of even words specifically constructed to be inoffensive.
The Bill of Rights tried to protect freedom of speech from the government, and accordingly today it is the government that directly threatens freedom of speech the least. Indirectly is another matter. The government cannot clap you in irons for saying the wrong thing, unless you’re standing in an airport, but it can mandate that companies fire you for saying the wrong thing, or be held accountable for failing to do so. Such indirectly direct censorship is repressive, but not actionable. When government controls the business environment, it also controls the speech of the workers.
In such an environment, the less you say, the safer you are. When you need to speak, it’s best to use meaningless words. Corporate language has already achieved a high water mark of emptiness with pages and pages that mean nothing. And that language is spreading to the general public, as students learn from a young age to use the appropriate words to express the hollow phrases that are mandatory in a politically correct society. The formal pieties of political correctness lead to hollow sloganeering, an elite that knows the right answer for every question, but doesn’t understand the question itself.
We have not become more tolerant, but we have become more cautious. The more the taboos are broken in private, the more they are hypocritically upheld in public. Popular culture upholds liberal taboos and then violently lashes out at those same protected groups anyway. Repression breeds hypocrisy…