I lived under a communist regime. I remember the fear of speaking out. What enchanted me about America was the freedom to speak. The freedom to live and let live. I feel this freedom is under threat.
This freedom is not suppressed by the authority of the state, but by something that may be more powerful: social pressure for political correctness.
There is social pressure to be politically correct. If you are not “politically correct”, which is what we call the socially dominant consensus, you are called derogatory names and ostracized. You may not even be considered employable.
A friend of mine who has a chaired position at a leading law school would like to relocate, but he cannot find another university of stature that will employ him. It is not because of his academic credentials, which are impressive — he has a chaired professorship, — but because he is right-wing, and the law schools to which he would like to transfer are left-wing in their political orientation.
It is not only political correctness that rules the day. It is also the market’s profit orientation that governs the choices people make. Watch the media clearly taking political sides and making choices about what to publish or broadcast, not purely based on journalistic ethics, but on how it will impact advertising revenues.
Social pressure and market economic considerations are as suffocating as the military power of a police state — maybe even more so. I, for one, would prefer to sit in jail for what I believe in or be poor rather than be ostracized, rejected, and criticized.
I have zero problem with what Trump thinks. I object to how he is being ridiculed for what he thinks. I want him to say whatever he wants to say. Words do not break my bones. Actions do. I will not vote for him because I am scared of what he will do, not because of what he thinks. Let the guy talk and talk. Then, let me express why I do not like what he says.
I established my own institute and started publishing my own books and blogs to be free to think, and say what I think. To speak up without having ironclad scientific proof to support what I think. Yes, to speculate. And be proven wrong. But this is not working as well as I would like either.
I feel intimidated to write what I think in spite of my bold promise “with no fear and no pretention.” I’ve stopped writing on matters relating to women, although sometimes a topic on the subject burns a hole in my soul as I suppress expressing what I think. Readers were dropping from my list of recipients. The same is true with political subjects, whether it is Ukraine or Russia or the Palestinians. Or religion. All are dangerous areas. Quicksand. Some readers criticize not what I think but who I am.
Social pressure is incredibly potent. Social pressure is much stronger, I think, than physical force.
I believe it all started with the civil rights movement. Then came the women’s liberation movement. I remember the case of the Stanford professor, a Nobel Prize winner, who expressed a politically incorrect opinion about African Americans. He was doomed in academic circles and in the media. He was probably shunned by his neighbors, if not by his friends.
There is a growing tendency that politically incorrect speeches are not allowed to be delivered in universities. They are not barred by decree, but by the fact that the audience is allowed to scream and shout the speaker down. The audience has the right to speak, and in doing so they prohibit someone else from having the same right.
For instance, speakers supporting the Israeli point of view have failed to speak at universities for the last few years because the audience would not let them speak…
What happened to the American motto “Live and let live”?
Social pressure to be politically correct, market pressure to be economically worthy, and an education system that promotes “scientific proof” as the only legitimate way to express oneself, gag freewheeling thinking. They are all impediments to the freedom to speak.
Ichak Kalderon Adizes