The Age of Expression Suppression

Many Americans are concerned about the direction our nation is headed. And many are weary of the excoriating national conversations broadcast on the nightly news and printed in newspapers and magazines. This increasingly nasty divide is extremely serious—and it is going to affect you!

The liberal left has gained full control of the powerful national mainstream media and is using it to intimidate and professionally ruin thinkers, businessmen and leaders who are conservative and support the United States Constitution. Why? Liberal leftists do not want to debate what is good for the nation—they believe that their way is the only way. If you are not in lockstep agreement with liberal-left talking points on what it considers hot issues, you will be labeled a racist, misogynist, white supremacist, homophobic, or a Nazi.

Turning off your television set and canceling your newspaper and magazine subscriptions will not make it all go away. Many deep-thinking, concerned people in this country are beginning to recognize the left’s intimidation machine is digging its way into their personal lives.

The Federalist’s Mary Katharine Ham and Fox News contributor Guy Benson state in their book “End of Discussion”: “A growing number of Americans are beginning to sense an insidious strain of self-censorship in themselves, either explicitly or subconsciously. You find yourself keeping your mouth shut about controversial issues like gay marriage or so-called women’s issues because you would rather not suffer the social costs of being cast as the enemy by the increasingly aggressive thought police.”

Have you sensed this in your life? Because I don’t agree with the liberal-left mass media’s interpretation of current social issues, I have lost friends and family members. Maybe you have as well.

“They have enforcers everywhere—at the office, at dinner parties, and all over the media,” they continue, referring to the thought police. “This silencing impulse isn’t born out of normal or healthy self-reflection and restraint; it arises out of fear.” America’s free society has flourished through the process of open discussion. Harmful ideas and government policies have often been discarded thanks to open debate. Those days are gone. “Instead, outrage mongers turn this process on its head, disqualifying ideas without debate instead of after debate,” Benson and Ham summarize.

The roots of this sweeping left-generated social revolution are found in the majority of America’s elite colleges and universities, such as Harvard, Princeton, Williams and Yale. William Deresiewicz, former professor at Yale, discussed this shift in Americans and other people in the Western world in an article titled “On Political Correctness” in the Spring 2017 issue of the American Scholar. In his article, he described how the driving force behind political correctness has negatively affected bright and creative minds of college and university students.

“I recently spent a semester at Scripps, a selective women’s college in Southern California,” wrote Mr. Deresiewicz. “I had one student, from a Chinese-American family, who informed me that the first thing she learned when she got to college was to keep quiet about her Christian faith and her non-feminist views about marriage.” He chronicles similar complaints from a list of students. “I had another student, a self-described ‘strong feminist,’ who told me that she tends to keep quiet about everything, because she never knows when she might say something you’re not supposed to.” Deresiewicz also discussed the frustrations of an adjunct professor who was careful “to avoid saying anything, or teaching anything, that might conceivably lead to trouble.”

Deresiewicz also discussed what he learned about the guardians of correctness—also commonly known as the PC police. “I also heard that the director of the writing center, a specialist in disability studies, was informing people that they couldn’t use expressions like ‘that’s a crazy idea’ because they stigmatize the mentally ill,” he wrote. Deresiewicz discussed a situation he had with another writing director over a student who, because of religious reasons, felt obligated to not participate in class discussion over sexually explicit literature. He was sympathetic to the student—the writing director was not. “I was naive enough to think that the director would be sympathetic to the student’s situation,” he wrote. “Instead, she snorted with contempt.”

He shows that guardians of correctness are not only school officials. Some students gladly carry PC police badges. “I heard a young woman tell me that she had been criticized by a fellow student for wearing moccasins—an act, she was informed, of cultural appropriation.” Wow! Political correctness has invaded the world of fashion on college campuses. Unless you are Native American, you cannot wear moccasins.

Deresiewicz has frequently toured and spoken on college campuses throughout the United States. Here is his conclusion: “Above all, I heard my students tell me that while they generally identified with the sentiments and norms that travel under the name of political correctness, they thought it had simply gone too far—way too far. Everybody felt oppressed, as they put it, by the ‘PC police’—everybody, that is except for those whom everybody else regarded as members of the PC police.”

Similar situations exist, to some degree or another, across the board in U.S. colleges and universities—even in top college-prep U.S. high schools. In discussing this issue with some of my own college students, they told me they felt the same kind of oppression in high schools they attended: “not being able to freely express beliefs, ideas or opinions.”

This is vastly different from what was taking place when I attended the University of Pittsburgh in the ’70s. We were encouraged to freely express our ideas, opinions and beliefs. If people didn’t agree, we were encouraged to debate and defend our ideas. And if proved wrong, we accepted the fact and moved on to the next discussion. At that time, this was considered the hallmark of a liberal arts education. By the way, many students wore moccasins then—without fear of reprisal. How our 21st-century colleges have radically changed!

How do you understand political correctness? Here is how Deresiewicz defines its new and virulent form: “By political correctness, I do not mean the term as it has come to be employed on the right—that is, the expectation of adherence to the norms of basic decency, like refraining from derogatory epithets. I mean its older intramural denotation: the persistent attempt to suppress the expression of unwelcome beliefs and ideas.” Good social breeding naturally tells us to not make derogatory comments or racial slurs. Yet today’s political correctness has morphed into a wicked process of thought control. In his famous dystopian novel 1984, George Orwell accurately predicted what is taking place today. Big Brother is definitely watching us and trying to regulate even our thoughts.

Studying this problem carefully, William Deresiewicz has come to a unique understanding. He believes America’s select private colleges and universities have developed into “religious” schools. Yet the religion is not Catholicism, Lutheranism or Methodism “but an extreme version of the belief system of the liberal elite: the liberal professional, managerial and creative classes, which provide a large majority of students enrolled at such places and an even larger majority of faculty and administrators who work at them.”

He means that a vast majority of college students entering some of the best schools are slowly and stealthily being “indoctrinated” into a system of beliefs—a faith—“not about a god, but rather how to be successful in a liberal-left-dominated world.”

According to Deresiewicz, the majority of our secular, higher-education institutions “possess a dogma, unwritten but understood by all: a set of ‘correct’ opinions and beliefs, or at best, a narrow range within which disagreement is permitted. There is a right way to think and a right way to talk, and also a right set of things to talk about.”

America’s free society has flourished through the process of open discussion. Harmful ideas and government policies have often been discarded thanks to open debate. Those days are gone.

What are those “right” things college students are to think about? Here’s the list according to Deresiewicz: “Secularism is taken for granted. Environmentalism is a sacred cause. Issues of identity—principally the holy trinity of race, gender and sexuality—occupy the center of concern. The presiding presence is Michel Foucault [a French philosopher who died in 1984], with his theories of power, discourse and the social construction of the self, who plays the same role on the left as Marx once did.” Remember, this dogma is unwritten. Parents cannot find any course description about such dogma in a college handbook—yet the powerful, mind-altering movement exists.

Where does this leave a student who is highly inquisitive about many different subjects? “The fundamental questions that a college education ought to raise—questions of individual and collective virtue, of what it means to be a good person and a good community—are understood to have been settled,” wrote Deresiewicz. This is a chilling statement. “The assumption, on elite college campuses, is that we are already in full possession of the moral truth,” he continued. “This is a religious attitude. It is certainly not a scholarly or intellectual attitude.”

Amazingly, few if any college students see the need to “go against the flow” of liberal-left indoctrination. Deresiewicz explained why he thinks this is happening and why it is a problem. “Dogma, and the enforcement of dogma, makes for ideological consensus,” he wrote. “Students seldom disagree with one another anymore in class, I’ve been told about school after school. The reason, at least at Whitman College, said one of the students I talked to there, is mainly that they really don’t have any disagreements. Another added that when they take up an issue in class, it isn’t let’s talk about issue X, but rather, let’s talk about why such and such position is the correct one to have on issue X.”

The majority of the elite schools today would consider themselves diverse in their education. Deresiewicz disagrees. “But of course, Scripps and its ilk are only diverse in terms of identity. In terms of ideology, they are all but homogeneous. You don’t have ‘different voices’ on campus, as these institutions like to boast; you have different bodies, speaking with the same voice.”

The freedom to express and challenge different points of view, to have an honest exchange of disagreement, or to debate has all but vanished from a majority of classrooms in high schools, colleges and universities. “That, by the way, is why liberal students (and liberals in general) are so bad at defending their own positions. They never have to, so they never learn to,” stated Deresiewicz.

Living suppressed for four years in undergraduate studies—or six to eight years if doing graduate work—can indoctrinate a student to go along with the norm and say nothing about anything. When you consider the numbers of college students who have attended these colleges and universities in recent years, it is not hard to see why Americans are becoming more silent about beliefs, ideas and opinions.

Can you see the dangerous shift toward ideological, mental and even political censorship? Since there is an unwritten liberal-left dogma promoted on elite college campuses, what happens to the nonbelievers? There have to be some students who don’t follow the doctrine. How are they looked upon? “Unlike the campus protesters of the 1960s, today’s student activists are not expressing counter-cultural views,” wrote Deresiewicz. “They are expressing the exact views of the culture in which they find themselves (a reason that administrators prove so ready to accede to their demands). If you want to find the counterculture on today’s elite college campuses, you need to look for the conservative students.” The nonbelievers of the liberal-left dogma are considered to be members of the counterculture.

Even more, they’re branded heretics! “Which brings us to another thing that comes with dogma: heresy,” wrote Deresiewicz. “Heresy means those beliefs that undermine the orthodox consensus, so it must be eradicated: by education, by reeducation—if necessary, by censorship. It makes a perfect dreary sense that there are speech codes, or the desire for speech codes, at selective private colleges.” This means that any student who does not accept the commonly believed positions on secularism, environmentalism, issues of identity, such as race, gender and sexuality, or the radical ideas of Michel Foucault are socially doomed!

According to the guardians of the doctrine, these students must be educated, reeducated or censored. How? “The most effective form of censorship, of course, is self-censorship—which, in the intimate environment of a residential college, young adults are very quick to learn,” wrote Deresiewicz. Students who attend an elite college in New York told Deresiewicz “that any challenge to the hegemony of identity politics will get you branded as a racist (as in, ‘Don’t talk to that guy, he is a racist’).” Students on some of today’s best college campuses are being silenced. Faculty, administrators and students of the dogma do not want to hear opposing beliefs or ideas. So these students are keeping their mouths shut. Instead of having honest discussion and debate, we see evisceration and personal character assassination rage on major media.

Deresiewicz and concerned faculty spread across the colleges see a real danger on college campuses. However, it is not the conservative students they worry most about. It is the indoctrinated students.

“The reason to listen to people who disagree with you is not so you can learn to refute them. The reason is that you may be wrong,” wrote Deresiewicz. “In fact, you are wrong: about some things and probably about a lot of things. There is zero percent chance that any of us is 100 percent correct. That, in turn, is why freedom of expression includes the right to hear as well as speak, and why dis-inviting campus speakers abridges the speech rights of students as well as the speakers themselves.” This is a statement we should think about deeply. Deresiewicz exposed the greatest weakness in elite leftist thinking: “They refuse to hear opinions, ideas or beliefs that could expose them as wrong!”

“Americans must face the reality that a majority of our journalists and news reporters have been trained at elite colleges and universities, which are sophisticated at indoctrinating young minds to the left’s mind-numbing dogma. The students who have been fully converted to the cause have been hired for the most-coveted mass media, government and business jobs in town. This means that our top newspapers, nightly news and special reports are and will continue to be dispensation outlets for the left’s extremely powerful dogma indoctrination campaign.”

“Washington is where the oddities of campus over-sensitivity and leftist outrage come to get weaponized—something to freak out about, something to obsess over, and most important, something to bash political enemies and fellow countrymen,” continue Benson and Ham in their book. We are all targets. It is only the tough-minded, thinking readers and watchers, those willing to investigate the evidence, who will not be taken captive.

In September 2016, Gallup reported that Americans’ trust in mass media had sunk to a new low. Only 32 percent of Americans said they had “a great deal” or “a fair amount of trust” in the media. This is actually a good thing. But the mass media and the left elites point their finger at conservatives, the Republicans and, should we forget, the current president as the cause of the mistrust.

If we are as honest as Deresiewicz, we should recognize both sides have error in thinking—both sides are wrong about “some things.” Instead of having honest discussion and debate, we see evisceration and personal character assassination rage on major media. We must consider this point: “Not just one side has liars.”

Many Americans suspect they are being lied to. The Americans who follow the evidence to the truth know they are being lied to. Truths on “climate change, gender identity, the nuclear family and racial tension,” for example, are being overwhelmed by lies that are tearing down families, economies and nations.

For the time will come when people will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear.  They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths” wrote Apostle Paul to his assistant Timothy (2 Timothy 4:3-4).

The time of which he was prophesying is here. While Paul is talking for the most part spiritually, the application for secular society is a perfect fit. This is a precise description of what the liberal left and its version of political correctness is bringing about in America and across our Western society.

William Deresiewicz, PhD.Excellent Sheep: The Miseducation of the American Elite and the Way to a Meaningful Life.

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