Passing thought … censorship in the US is omnipresent and ‘surprisingly effective’

“At any given moment there is an orthodoxy, a body of ideas which it is assumed that all right-thinking people will accept without question. It is not exactly forbidden to say this, that or the other, but it is ‘not done’ to say it, just as in mid-Victorian times it was ‘not done’ to mention trousers in the presence of a lady. Anyone who challenges the prevailing orthodoxy finds himself silenced with surprising effectiveness. A genuinely unfashionable opinion is almost never given a fair hearing, either in the popular press or in the highbrow periodicals.” (Orwell, Introduction to Animal Farm)

I could write about partisan politics, as such writing is encouraged and has no impact on power. It also generates readership. Partisan blogs run up all kinds of numbers. People love to squabble back and forth about our false issues, fake division, wedge issues, false ideologies. The whole notion of “left” and “right” fades to black time and again when some issue, important to power, comes to the fore. Whether it is the Trans-Pacific Partnerships, the Keystone Pipeline, wars or selling off of the commons or refusal to regulate or punish wrongdoers, criminals and corrupt officials, the parties are one.

But on trivia, they are at each others’ throats. Thus do we enjoy the illusion of freedom from censorship.

I was just reading Orwell’s introduction to Animal Farm, which was not published with the original book. In it he’s upset that he is not allowed to criticize Russia, and that the implication that the book is about Russia has prevented its being published. His biggest complaint is what is that he found censorship in England to be largely voluntary, but still able to silence people with “surprising effectiveness.”

So too in the U.S. in 2015 – all of that prattling about partisan politics goes on because it is allowed to go on. Electing a Democrat or a Republican is a harmless activity, as each is beholden to the same powers once elected.

On the other hand, discussions of unpopular issues is not allowed in mainstream publications and media outlets. We are as effectively censored as the U.S.S.R. was ever, and it is done without overt government pressure. The only noise that is allowed to escape the cage is the pointless chatter.

Orwell closes his Introduction with a chilling thought:

“If liberty means anything at all it means the right to tell people what they do not want to hear.”

How much of our civic dialogue is about who should or should not be allowed access onto public forums, as if people cannot use their brains and judge ideas on their own merit? If a group of dedicated citizens question official truth about public assassinations or 9/11 or any other important event, so what? Why make them shut up? Why turn them away at the door? What scares power so that it cannot allow some honest dissent? Why do people go along with it, as if censorship makes them smarter?

Censorship in this country is pervasive and oppressive. I feel it. If you don’t, it can only be because you are thinking thoughts that do not trouble anyone in power.

Anyway, tomorrow I carry on as I have been. I am aware of two things: People are curious, and afraid to be known to be curious. For that, you should be ashamed.

3 thoughts on “Passing thought … censorship in the US is omnipresent and ‘surprisingly effective’

  1. All roads lead back to groupthink.

    “The member’s firm belief in the inherent morality of their group and their use of undifferentiated negative stereotypes of opponents enable them to minimize decision conflicts between ethical values and expediency, especially when they are inclined to resort to violence. The shared belief that “we are a wise and good group” inclines them to use group concurrence as a major criterion to judge the morality as well as the efficacy of any policy under discussion. “Since our group’s objectives are good,” the members feel, “any means we decide to use must be good.” This shared assumption helps the members avoid feelings of shame or guilt about decisions that may violate their personal code of ethical behavior. Negative stereotypes of the enemy enhance their sense of moral righteousness as well as their pride in the lofty mission of the in-group.”
    (Irving L. Janis, 1972, Victims of Groupthink)


      1. Janis, Irving L. (1972). Victims of groupthink; a psychological study of foreign-policy decisions and fiascoes. Boston: Houghton, Mifflin. ISBN 0-395-14002-1.


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