Watch Your Tongue: Media and Advocacy In The Age of Wrongthink

Welcome to 2020, where words are violence, and silence is violence, but actual violence is not violence.


‘Do you remember,’ he [O’Brien] went on, ‘writing in your diary, “Freedom is the freedom to say that two plus two make four”?’
‘Yes,’ said Winston.
O’Brien held up his left hand, its back towards Winston, with the thumb hidden and the four fingers extended.
‘How many fingers am I holding up, Winston?’
‘And if the party says that it is not four but five — then how many?’
The word ended in a gasp of pain. The needle of the dial had shot up to fifty-five. The sweat had sprung out all over Winston’s body. The air tore into his lungs and issued again in deep groans which even by clenching his teeth he could not stop. O’Brien watched him, the four fingers still extended. He drew back the lever. This time the pain was only slightly eased.
‘How many fingers, Winston?’
The needle went up to sixty.
~ George Orwell, 1984 (part 3, chapter 2)


Welcome to the age of loyalty oaths and the banning of unpopular opinions — as well as “problematic” facts.

An age of witch hunts in search of seditious wrongthink.

Robby Soave writes, in another excellent piece at Reason:

James Bennet resigned as editorial page editor of The New York Times on Sunday, following a successful campaign by irate staffers to oust the person who published an inflammatory op-ed by Sen. Tom Cotton (R–Ark.) that suggested the government deploy federal troops to “restore order in our streets.”

. . .

Bennet’s resignation was an instructive show of force from those Times staffers who want the paper to be more transparently progressive. Their successful strategy—describe their opposition to someone else’s speech as a matter of personal safety—is straight out of the woke left’s playbook. Dismayingly, we should expect to see this tactic deployed more frequently in the future.

“The key aspect of this affair,” Soave notes, is that,

The progressive group didn’t just say that the op-ed was wrong and shouldn’t have been published. They stated directly that publishing it undermined their personal safety. Their choice of phrasing was deliberate—part of an effort to gird their opposition to the op-ed in the language of workplace safety, according to a piece by Times media columnist Ben Smith:

That pattern continued last week, as Times staff members began an extraordinary campaign to publicly denounce the Op-Ed article written by Senator Cotton. Members of an internal group called Black@NYT organized the effort in a new Slack channel and agreed on a carefully drafted response. They would say that Mr. Cotton’s column “endangered” black staff members, a choice of words intended to “focus on the work” and “avoid being construed as hyperpartisan,” one said. On Wednesday evening around 7:30, hours after the column was posted, Times employees began tweeting a screenshot of Mr. Cotton’s essay, most with some version of the sentence: “Running this puts Black @nytimes staff in danger.” The NewsGuild of New York, later advised staff members that that formulation was legally protected speech because it focused on workplace safety. “It wasn’t just an opinion, it felt violent—it was a call to action that could hurt people,” one union activist said of Mr. Cotton’s column.

This is quite obviously nonsense: Cotton’s words placed no one in imminent danger. Sadly, it’s becoming distressingly common for progressive employees who wish to silence a dissident view to cite workplace safety as a pretext. To take just one example, this was how conservative writer Kevin Williamson got fired from The Atlantic.

This is a disturbing trend that ought to concern everyone—liberals included. It’s an insult to actual workplace safety issues, for one thing. For another, it makes the office a dangerous place to express a potentially unpopular opinion. Journalistic institutions shouldn’t live in fear of difficult conversations, or of provoking offense. But the necessary consequence of this new regime of safetyism will be everybody walking on eggshells.

In 2020, the use of certain “unapproved” words by the “wrong” people must be punished by the cultural nomenklatura.


I opened with a quotation from 1984. In 2020, freedom is the freedom to say that many many people of all races enjoy interracial porn, or that people must be presumed innocent until proven guilty, or that there are only two biological genders — while society is full of enraged woke O’Briens happy to crank the pain dial up to 11 so as to punish such wrongthink.

The concept of freedom of speech is designed to specifically protect unpopular speech. Popular speech doesn’t need protection — it’s popular.

And freedom of speech recognizes that unpopular speech has great value.

It’s not just the right of the person who speaks to be heard. It is the right of everyone in the audience to listen, and to hear, and every time you silence somebody, you make yourself a prisoner of your own action, because you deny yourself the right to hear something.

Indeed, as John Stuart Mill said, if all in society were agreed on the truth and beauty and value of one proposition, all except for one person, it would be most important that that one heretic be heard, because we would still benefit from his, perhaps outrageous, view.

In more modern times this has been put, I think, best by a personal heroine of mine, Rosa Luxemburg, who said that the freedom of speech is meaningless unless it means the freedom of the person who thinks differently. That person doesn’t just have a right to speak, that person’s right to speak must be given extra protection, because what he has to say might, in any case, give people to think about why do they know what they already think they know? How do I know that I know this, except that I’ve always been taught this and never heard anything else? It’s always worth establishing first principles. It’s always worth saying, what would you do if you met a flat earth society member? Don’t take refuge in the false security of consensus, and the feeling that whatever you think, you’re bound to be okay, because you’re in the safely moral majority.

Christopher Hitchens


Kay is correct. The woke intersectionalist march through our institutions has left us with a generation of journalists who see censorship as a welcome tool, and objectivity — the duty to examine and treat all sides of a situation or argument fairly — as the enemy.

Activism now trumps journalism, and they are unashamed to say so.

Ben Smith’s piece, “Inside The Revolts Erupting in America’s Big Newsrooms,” should terrify you. He points to writer Welsey Lowery as a chilling example of this phenomena:

“American view-from-nowhere, ‘objectivity’-obsessed, both-sides journalism is a failed experiment,” he tweeted of the Times debacle. “We need to rebuild our industry as one that operates from a place of moral clarity.”

Whom would you elect as the guardian of moral clarity?

An editor or journalist at The New York Times?

Tony Rios at AVN?

Riley Reyes, or bestiality promoter Andi Rye/Zoe Sparx, or promoter of false rape accusations Nikki Hearts of APAC?

Some faceless Social Justice apparatchik at Twitter who will unverify and “unperson” you for not toeing the party line?

I’ll close with a final quote from Mr. Hitchens:

Every time you violate or propose to violate the free speech of someone else you, in potentia, you’re making a rod for your own back because the … question raised by justice Oliver Wendell Holmes is simply this: Who’s going to decide? To whom do you reward the right to decide which speech is harmful? Or who is the harmful speaker? Or to determine in advance what are the harmful consequences going to be that we know enough about in advance to prevent? To whom would you give this job? To whom are you going to award the task of being the censor?

To whom you would give the job to decide for you, relieve you from the responsibility of hearing what you might have to hear?

. . .

You’re giving away what’s most precious in your own society and you’re giving it away without a fight and you’re even praising the people who want to deny you the right to resist it. Shame on you while you do this. Make the best use of the time you’ve got left. This is really serious.

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Watch Your Tongue: Media and Advocacy In The Age of Wrongthink

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9 Responses

  1. You seem to have no understanding of what Tom Cotton wrote. He called for the military to be sent to police U.S. cities and “to show no quarter” to protesters. That’s an invitation for them to violate international human rights standards by shooting to kill suspected protesters on sight. Did it threaten the safety of Black New Yorkers, including writers at The New York Times? Hell, yes. It threatened the lives of anybody who has ever been profiled by police. It’s a shame that some people don’t understand that words have meanings, and they often cost other people their lives.

  2. You are completely wrong. He did not threaten anyone. YOU have interpreted a message of which you disapprove as “an invitation . . . to violate international human rights standards” that “threaten[ed] the safety of Black New Yorkers,” but the remainder of your comment makes it clear that you are a censorious idiot.

    When Hitler published Mein Kampf, the institution that worked hardest to get an English translation published was The New School for Social Research — a liberal institution. They understood that this was a book by a dangerous man that everyone should read in order to understand just how terrifyingly dangerous he and his ideas were..

    CUT TO: 2020

    People like you, who wish to make the world into a censorious, hegemonic hug box, would deny us the opportunity to even evaluate and critique the arguments of people with unpopular views.

    I pray that you are never able to fully do so, and I pledge every ounce of strength in my body and every resource at my disposal to stop you.

  3. People now are being vilified for things they said 20-30 years ago when the times were different. In 20-30 years from now how far down the liberal SJW road will we be where we look back to whats being said and done in these times?

    Also the City Council in Minneapolis wants to disband the police department? A few bad apples need to be punished for the cruelty and stupidity they have been doing but do away with your police force? I can see criminals all over North America getting ready to travel to Minneapolis and getting busy making money illegally or raping.

  4. Correct. Anyone who wonders what happens when the law enforcement authority (good or bad) disappears only need to study the last two thousand years of history.

    A vacuum is created and tribes — with warlords — arise. Think Iraq, or “Escape From New York”.

  5. And once they are in power (like Mexico’s cartels) it is almost impossible to get rid of them.

  6. You seem to have a reading comprehension problem. Where did I call for censorship? I explained why your claim that “Cotton’s words placed no one in imminent danger” was wrong. I think speech should be as free as possible, but I also think people need to take responsibility for what they say and write. (I also think that nobody has a “right” to a place on the Op-Ed page of the New York Times, but that’s a different subject.)

  7. Your argument is not for people taking responsibility, it’s for other people to freely censor those voices with ridiculous claims of “danger” if those opinions be heard. That’s not how it works in a democratic republic.

    Your argument is the one AHF dictator Michael Weinstein made: that porn without condoms “send the wrong message.” In a free country, if Weinstein didn’t like the message of condoles porn, he was free to make the best goddamn condom porn the world had ever seen and compete with condoles porn in the marketplace of ideas.

    Instead, his method, which you are endorsing here, is authoritarianism.

  8. Thanks for clarifying for me what I’m saying. You should try pulling your head out of your ass every once in a while so you can hear voices besides the ones in your head.

  9. Thank you for your use of a universally-recognized acknowledgment that I have defeated your argument.



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