Category Archives: Censorship

‘Woke’ Is a Bad Word for a Real Threat to American Democracy – WSJ

WSJ, by Garry Kasparov

The search is on for new words for old ideas. “Cancel culture” and “woke” have become overused and abused, part of a struggle to define one’s political opponents in the harshest possible way, to dismiss ideas as not only wrong or harmful, but intolerable.

As a nonnative English speaker, I am content to avoid rhetorical fashion and use older phrases. Call it the mob mentality, groupthink, or punitive neo-Puritan orthodoxy. It is the abuse of power—mostly social, not yet governmental—to silence debate and paralyze the spread of any ideas that challenge the prevailing ideological dogma. It is the coordinated, coercive attempt to win a debate by ending debate—to punish, not to educate.

The leading practitioners of these tactics have two contradictory responses to criticism. First, they say it isn’t happening, that it doesn’t exist, that drawing attention to it is a rhetorical whine to silence critics of the establishment and shield the privileged from accountability. Second, they blame the victims, calling them bad people with bad ideas who should be banished to make room for more diverse voices. Claiming you are fighting fire with fire can be used to justify any excess; the only way to fight back is to take freedom away from someone else.

The politics of personal destruction have run amok online and off. Full disclosure: I’ve been friends with Peter Thiel for years. I disagree with him on many things, especially lately, but the attacks on him have been disturbing. In his recent book “The Contrarian,” journalist Max Chafkin assigns an ideology to Mr. Thiel, then defines it as “fascist” and even tries to blame this concocted “Thielism” for the Jan. 6 Capitol riot. There is little doubt that the book would never have come to be had Mr. Thiel not supported Donald Trump in 2016. Suddenly, a secretive libertarian tech investor with a complex history and identity—immigrant, gay, Stanford Law grad, coastal elite—became simply evil, and Mr. Chafkin was quickly paid to fill hundreds of pages to support that preordained conclusion.

Criticism of politically active billionaires and tech giants is essential. But as the left did with the Koch brothers and the right has done with George Soros, demonizing people for wealth and political activity can spin out of control. Muckraking books, screaming mobs—in person, not only online—and rumors about your personal life shouldn’t be the price of political involvement in a democracy.

Tearing down the powerful may be satisfying, if briefly, but remember who inevitably suffers most when justice is abandoned in favor of vengeance and destruction. Black Lives Matter, a necessary idea and important human-rights movement, has been hijacked by leaders who seek only power—and who are willing to sacrifice their supposed beneficiaries to achieve it. Who will be harmed most when the police are defunded, the public education system wrecked? Not the elites. The Russian Revolution dispatched some wealthy landowners, but its natural outcome was a new form of slavery under totalitarian Communism—all in the name of equality and freedom, of course.

Putting ideology and politics ahead of reason is as dangerous as putting them ahead of justice. Mr. Trump and his administration used the possibility that Covid-19 originated in a Wuhan laboratory to bash China and deflect attention from his administration’s catastrophic pandemic response. A corresponding rise in hate crimes against Asians helped turn a crucial line of inquiry into a politicized bludgeon.

The left’s reaction to Mr. Trump’s rhetoric was instructive. Anyone who mentioned the lab-leak theory was assailed as pro-Trump. Social-media companies removed posts mentioning it. By January 2021, it was obvious that shutting down debate was the true antiscience position. Invaluable months were lost, time the Chinese Communist Party used to destroy data and spread disinformation about the virus’s origins. We may never know the truth, but we do know there was a coverup.

Increasing numbers of Americans believe their freedom is under attack, and I agree. Antidemocratic forces are on the rise. Election results are treated as suspect. Threats of violence are becoming routine.

Schools are being pressured to remove books and cancel professors for spreading the “wrong” ideas. These sentiments are all too familiar to me, and to anyone who has survived life in a dictatorship. The only answer is more freedom, more speech, not less.

This is why the Renew Democracy Initiative launched the Frontlines of Freedom project, which gives voice to dissidents from authoritarian regimes around the world. Americans have the rights and self-determination that people in Russia, Hong Kong and Zimbabwe are literally dying for. We see the pillars of American democracy under attack from within, by rioters at the Capitol and online mobs. Rights are violated in the U.S. when the system fails. They are violated in dictatorships when the system works as intended. Heed this warning.

Destroying the mechanisms of democracy to preserve democracy won’t work. We can’t promote marginalized voices by telling them what is acceptable to say. We must fight to preserve the free flow of ideas, of debate and an open society, however uncomfortable it makes us. Democracy has never been a safe space.

Mr. Kasparov is chairman of the Renew Democracy Initiative.

Appeared in the November 18, 2021, print edition.


The Views That Made Me Persona Non Grata at MIT

I am a professor at the University of Chicago. I was recently invited to give an honorary lecture at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. The lecture was canceled because I have openly advocated moral and philosophical views that are unpopular on university campuses.

Here are those views:

I believe that every human being should be treated as an individual worthy of dignity and respect. In an academic context, that means evaluating people for positions based on their individual qualities, not on membership in favored or disfavored groups. It also means allowing them to present their ideas and perspectives freely, even when we disagree with them.

I care for all of my students equally. None of them are overrepresented or underrepresented to me: They represent themselves. Their grades are based on a process that I define at the beginning of the quarter. That process treats each student fairly and equally. I hold office hours for students who would like extra help so that everyone has the opportunity to improve his or her grade through hard work and discipline.

Similarly, I believe that admissions and faculty hiring at universities are best focused on academic merit, with the goal of producing intellectual excellence. We should not penalize hard-working students and faculty applicants simply because they have been classified as belonging to the wrong group. It is true that not everyone has had the same educational opportunities. The solution is improving K-12 education, not introducing discrimination at late stages.

I believe we are obliged to reduce bias where it exists, where we can. That includes honest reflection on whether we are treating everyone equally. But you cannot infer bias based only on the ratios of different groups after a selection. A multitude of factors, including interest and culture, influence these ratios. I disagree with the idea that there is a right ratio of groups to aim for. Instead, the goal should be fair selection processes that give every candidate an equal opportunity.

I run a large course on the politically charged topic of climate change. But I refuse to indoctrinate students. The course presents the basic scientific evidence and encourages students to think for themselves about the best solutions to the problem. I correct my students when they make scientifically unsound arguments, but I encourage the full range of political perspectives as students work out their preferred societal response. These practices reflect an understanding that the pursuit of truth is the highest purpose of a university and an acknowledgment that I myself could be wrong.

More broadly, the university has a duty to encourage students and faculty to offer their opinions and insight on the widest possible range of topics. That is best done in a respectful atmosphere, but disagreement with an argument is no excuse to prevent a person from speaking or writing. It is normal to feel discomfort when someone contends against your strongly held beliefs. But in a truth-seeking atmosphere, you must master this discomfort and either confront opposing arguments rationally or accept their validity.

It is true that someone will occasionally say something that hurts your feelings. But hurt feelings are no reason to ban certain topics. We are all responsible for our own feelings. We cannot control things that are external to us, such as the comments of others, but we can control how we respond to them. The ancient Stoics developed practices to discipline emotions and pursue rational thought. These techniques have been refined in modern times in logotherapy and cognitive behavioral therapy.

Instead of cultivating grievances and encouraging resentment, schools and universities can teach these practices and promote the principle that no one can truly harm us but ourselves. That principle allows for the expression of hurt feelings that does not involve restrictions on speech. This will have the added benefit of preparing students for a world in which anything can hurt their feelings—if they let it.

Mr. Abbot is an associate professor of geophysical sciences at the University of Chicago.


YouTube Bans All ‘Harmful Vaccine Content’ From Its Platform

I will delete my gmail account soon. I have stopped using youtube. mrossol

The Epoch Times  9/28/2021

Google-owned YouTube announced Wednesday it will ban all “harmful vaccine content” from its platform, including claims that vaccines are ineffective at reducing transmission of disease, prompting concerns that the firm will escalate censorship of dissenting viewpoints.

“We’ve steadily seen false claims about the coronavirus vaccines spill over into misinformation about vaccines in general, and we’re now at a point where it’s more important than ever to expand the work we started with COVID-19 to other vaccines,” YouTube wrote in a blog post on Wednesday.

So far, the Bay Area-based company said it has removed 130,000 videos for violating its policies that it claims were created in tandem with various “experts” to deal with alleged “COVID-19 and medical misinformation.”

Now, videos that allege “approved vaccines are dangerous and cause chronic health effects, claims that vaccines do not reduce transmission or contraction of disease, or contains misinformation on the substances contained in vaccines,” YouTube’s blog said, saying that its policy will now apply to content that questions the efficacy of all vaccines, not just COVID-19 ones.

“These policy changes will go into effect today, and as with any significant update, it will take time for our systems to fully ramp up enforcement,” the company also wrote, adding: “Personal testimonials relating to vaccines will also be allowed, so long as the video doesn’t violate other Community Guidelines, or the channel doesn’t show a pattern of promoting vaccine hesitancy.”


A spokesperson for the company confirmed to news outlets accounts operated by Joseph Mercola and Robert F. Kennedy Jr., who have frequently raised questions about vaccines over the years, were banned from the platform.

Russian state-backed broadcaster RT’s German-language channels were also deleted from YouTube, the broadcaster announced. YouTube told Reuters that the channels violated its COVID-19 policies, while Russian officials threatened to block YouTube.

Russian President Vladimir Putin’s press secretary, Dmitry Peskov, said the YouTube ban on RT’s channel may have broken Russian law.

“In fact, it has been broken very brazenly,” he told reporters on Wednesday. “Because of this, it is a case of censorship, and of obstructing the dissemination of information by the media, and so on.”

Facebook, YouTube, and Twitter were criticized months ago for blocking articles about whether COVID-19, the disease caused by the CCP (Chinese Communist Party), originated from a laboratory in Wuhan, China.

Facebook in May confirmed it ended its ban on content that suggests COVID-19 emerged from the laboratory, coming as President Joe Biden announced he ordered an inquiry into theories about the origins of the CCP virus.

The Epoch Times has contacted YouTube for comment.