by Roger Kimball
…In fact, free speech is like other freedoms: its victory is never permanent. Every generation must work anew to win or at least maintain it. As André Gide once put it, “Toutes choses sont dites déjà, mais comme personne n’écoute, il faut toujours recommencer.” The hard truth is that, with the exception of certain modalities of sexually explicit material, speech is much less free today than it was fifty or a hundred years ago.
What are the major threats to free speech today? Perhaps the overarching condition that threatens free speech is the spread of political correctness. This has sharply curtailed candor about all manner of contentious subjects. It is no longer possible, in polite society, to speak frankly about race, about differences between the sexes, or a hundred other topics — so-called “climate change,” for example, or the relationship between Islam and free speech.
It is extraordinary, is it not, that various Islamic groups, often with the collusion of Western politicians, including Hillary Clinton, are proposing to resurrect blasphemy laws , making it illegal — illegal — to “insult” Mohammed or criticize Islam? The end of their efforts is a “global censorship regime.” We’re not there yet, not quite, but we’re well on the road. One sign of the success of this campaign is the systematic reluctance of Western leaders to describe Islamic terrorism as, well, Islamic terrorism. The activities of the Islamic State, for example, are roundly, and fearfully, condemned, but in the next breath their homicidal savagery is delicately distinguished from Islam. They’re “not Muslims but monsters,” said Prime Minister David Cameron after “jihad John” beheaded a Brit, but a more candid man would have noted that the members of ISIS are monsters as well as Muslims.
It’s the same or worse in America, alas. After 9/11, President Bush assured the world that Islam was a religion of “peace,” ignoring the inconvenient fact that Islamic peace can be vouchsafed only when the entire world has been converted to that barbaric faith. At the end of the day, the options for non-Muslims are three: conversion, slavery (“dhimmitude”), or death. Which makes perfect sense in a religion whose very name means “submission.”
George Orwell was right when he observed that the first indispensable step towards freedom is the willingness to call things by their real names. The cause of freedom is not aided when a Director of National Intelligence says (and says with a straight face) that the Muslim Brotherhood is “a largely secular organization.” Nor is it aided when the U.S. President, his Secretary of State and other underlings lie about what caused the Benghazi massacre.
The triumph of political correctness has encouraged an epidemic allergy to candor. The hope is that the embrace of euphemism will alter not only our language but the reality our language names. And to a large extent, it is working. Unfreedom does not become freedom by calling it free, but the misprision can help spread and reinforce the fog of self-deceit. Terrorism committed by Muslims is not Islamic terrorism but “anti-Islamic activity,” A Muslim army officer who goes on a shooting rampage at Ft. Hood while shouting “Allahu Akbar” is guilty of “workplace violence” not slaughter undertaken to advance the cause of Islam, etc., etc…..