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John Whitehead's Commentary

Get Ready to Be Muzzled: The Coming War on So-Called Hate Speech [SHORT]

John Whitehead

“Whoever would overthrow the liberty of a nation must begin by subduing the freedom of speech.”—Benjamin Franklin

Beware of those who want to monitor, muzzle, catalogue and censor speech.

Especially be on your guard when the reasons given for limiting your freedoms end up expanding the government’s powers.

In the wake of a mass shooting in Buffalo, NY, carried out by an 18-year-old gunman in military gear allegedly motivated by fears that the white race is in danger of being replaced, there have been renewed calls for social media monitoring, censorship of flagged content that could be construed as dangerous or hateful, and limitations on free speech activities, particularly online.

As expected, those who want safety at all costs will clamor for more gun control measures (if not at an outright ban on weapons for non-military, non-police personnel), widespread mental health screening of the general population and greater scrutiny of military veterans, more threat assessments and behavioral sensing warnings, more surveillance cameras with facial recognition capabilities, more “See Something, Say Something” programs aimed at turning Americans into snitches and spies, more metal detectors and whole-body imaging devices at soft targets, more roaming squads of militarized police empowered to do random bag searches, more fusion centers to centralize and disseminate information to law enforcement agencies, and more surveillance of what Americans say and do, where they go, what they buy and how they spend their time.

All of these measures play into the government’s hands.

As we have learned the hard way, the phantom promise of safety in exchange for restricted or regulated liberty is a false, misguided doctrine that serves only to give the government greater authority to crack down, lock down, and institute even more totalitarian policies for the so-called sake of national security without many objections from the citizenry.

Add the Department of Homeland Security’s “Disinformation Governance Board” to that mix, empower it to monitor online activity and police so-called “disinformation,” and you have the makings of a restructuring of reality straight out of Orwell’s 1984, where the Ministry of Truth polices speech and ensures that facts conform to whatever version of reality the government propagandists embrace.

After all, it’s a slippery slope from censoring so-called illegitimate ideas to silencing truth.

Eventually, as George Orwell predicted, telling the truth will become a revolutionary act.

If the government can control speech, it can control thought and, in turn, it can control the minds of the citizenry.

It’s been a long time since free speech was actually free.

On paper—at least according to the U.S. Constitution—we are technically free to speak.

In reality, however, we are only as free to speak as a government official—or corporate entities such as Facebook, Google or YouTube—may allow.

That’s not a whole lot of freedom, especially if you’re inclined to voice opinions that may be construed as conspiratorial or dangerous.

This steady, pervasive censorship creep clothed in tyrannical self-righteousness and inflicted on us by technological behemoths (both corporate and governmental) is technofascism, and it does not tolerate dissent.

These internet censors are not acting in our best interests to protect us from dangerous, disinformation campaigns. They’re laying the groundwork now to preempt any “dangerous” ideas that might challenge the power elite’s stranglehold over our lives.

The internet, hailed as a super-information highway, is increasingly becoming the police state’s secret weapon. This “policing of the mind” is exactly the danger author Jim Keith warned about when he predicted that “information and communication sources are gradually being linked together into a single computerized network, providing an opportunity for unheralded control of what will be broadcast, what will be said, and ultimately what will be thought.”

Yet what a lot of people fail to understand, however, is that it’s not just what you say or do that is being monitored, but how you think that is being tracked and targeted.

We’ve already seen this play out on the state and federal level with hate crime legislation that cracks down on so-called “hateful” thoughts and expression, encourages self-censoring and reduces free debate on various subject matter. 

With every passing day, we’re being moved further down the road towards a totalitarian society characterized by government censorship, violence, corruption, hypocrisy and intolerance, all packaged for our supposed benefit in the Orwellian doublespeak of national security, tolerance and so-called “government speech.”

Little by little, Americans have been conditioned to accept routine incursions on their freedoms.

This is how oppression becomes systemic, what is referred to as creeping normality, or a death by a thousand cuts.

It’s a concept invoked by Pulitzer Prize-winning scientist Jared Diamond to describe how major changes, if implemented slowly in small stages over time, can be accepted as normal without the shock and resistance that might greet a sudden upheaval.

Diamond’s concerns related to Easter Island’s now-vanished civilization and the societal decline and environmental degradation that contributed to it, but it’s a powerful analogy for the steady erosion of our freedoms and decline of our country right under our noses.

We’ve already torn down the rich forest of liberties established by our founders. The erosion of our freedoms happened so incrementally, no one seemed to notice. Gradually, the freedoms enjoyed by the citizenry became fewer, smaller and less important. By the time the last freedom falls, no one will know the difference.

This is how tyranny rises and freedom falls: with a thousand cuts, each one justified or ignored or shrugged over as inconsequential enough by itself to bother, but they add up.

Each cut, each attempt to undermine our freedoms, each loss of some critical right adds up to an immeasurable failure on the part of each and every one of us to stop the descent down that slippery slope.

We are on that downward slope now.

America is approaching another reckoning right now, one that will pit our commitment to freedom principles against a level of fear-mongering that is being used to wreak havoc on everything in its path.

Yet as I make clear in my book Battlefield America: The War on the American People and in its fictional counterpart The Erik Blair Diaries, while we squabble over which side is winning this losing battle, a tsunami approaches.

WC: 1038

ABOUT JOHN W. WHITEHEAD

Constitutional attorney and author John W. Whitehead is founder and president of The Rutherford Institute. His most recent books are the best-selling Battlefield America: The War on the American People, the award-winning A Government of Wolves: The Emerging American Police State, and a debut dystopian fiction novel, The Erik Blair Diaries. Whitehead can be contacted at staff@rutherford.org. Nisha Whitehead is the Executive Director of The Rutherford Institute. Information about The Rutherford Institute is available at www.rutherford.org.

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