Speech Control is Thought Control

Roger Koopman Guest Columnist
Thursday, July 29, 2021
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I used to dismiss as a peculiar form of psychosis, the desire of some troubled souls to silence and censor the right of others to speak and think freely. After all, The impulse to gag the mouth and shut the mind of another individual is hardly what we would call “normal.” Compelling others to conform to our views isn’t very normal either. Doing such things never enters the minds of healthy, rational people. It’s creepy. Rational people understand that living in a free society presupposes putting the rights of others ahead of our own, and that begins with the right to think and speak for oneself.

As speech codes took hold of America’s colleges and universities, and speakers with the “wrong” beliefs were being banned from campuses or shouted down by students, I began to realize that there was something afoot that was not just psychologically abnormal. It was something much more ominous. Something we could have predicted had we been paying attention.

It’s time to pay attention. To look very closely to what is going on around us. Because, while folks like you and me were dismissing these people as oddballs and lunatics, our nation’s moral and political foundations were tumbling to the turf next to all those statues and monuments we are no longer allowed to see. Obsessed with making everything in American life political (thus subject to some form of coercion) these gatekeepers of approved thinking were in the process of monopolizing public discourse by blocking public debate. Covering our eyes, plugging our ears and ducktaping our mouths. American society flaccidly capitulated, from school classrooms and media newsrooms to corporate board rooms and the locker rooms of professional sports.

Is any of this normal? Actually, it is -- in a totalitarian world. It’s standard thinking for a fascist, a Marxist, a Nazi or any other state socialist. All these philosophies are coercive by nature, and all of them come to power through absolute control over the communication of ideas. Surrounded by cancel culture wokeness, we have missed the obvious.

The wellspring of intellectual tyranny in America is the fundamental philosophy of the political left, dressed up in respectable clothing by one of our mainstream political parties. It is a philosophy that worships authority and the arrogance of power. A philosophy that rejects history and makes up its own “truths” as it goes along. It thrives on lies. It can exist no other way.

Good people never saw this coming. Yet the cancel culture censorship we face today -- and its forced conformity to critical race theory and the “see-everything-by-skin-pigment” narrative – is just Democratic socialism coming to full fruition. It’s always been there, like skunk cabbage in the garden. It’s always represented coercion over persuasion and the concentration of power to impose one’s will. But now the stench is overpowering, and people are finally beginning to shout, “enough!”

Historically, we have recognized and rejected authoritarian ideology, pulling it from our national life wherever it has sprouted. But the roots have remained behind in America’s public schools and institutions of higher learning, where a soil once fertile to freedom is now cultivating the exact opposite. It flips history on its head, removes the God who authored our liberty, and removes the miraculous story of America itself.

Freedom-minded people never seek to restrict the expression of other viewpoints. To the contrary, we revel in the marketplace of ideas, and encourage open debate of competing claims and perspectives. But the human history of collectivism and state socialism is so dismal and indefensible, that a leftist’s only fallback is censorship. The intellectual vacuum thus created is filled with their false narratives, while the Woke Police stand ready to ridicule, intimidate and terminate anyone who challenges the fairytales.

That ain’t America folks, and we simply cannot tolerate the intolerance any longer. Liberty is a far too fragile a thing, to timidly sit in the bleachers, and let the cancel culture cancel our country.

(Roger Koopman served two terms in the Montana State Legislature and two terms on the Montana Public Service Commission.)