We have withered into a nation of whiney word wimps. The American people, especially the young, have been taught to fear hate speech and “harmful” content.
We now are so fearful of words, mere words, that it’s depriving us of free speech and making it harder to have a robust debate about the important issues we face.
This has infected the workplace, the media, social media, and academia and government.
It’s getting worse.
This occurred to me when Twitter suspended my account for one week, because of a few words. On Twitter, it is okay to “retweet” violent, graphic, real-life videos of people fist-fighting in fast food stores and airports, robbers getting shot, and victims getting murdered.
But if you dare attach a few “wrong” words to those videos, you are banned.
When I spotted a disturbing video of a thug’s brutally beating a woman in a New York City subway station, forwarding it was fine — until I added these words, “I hope he gets a similar beating in prison.”
Boom! Twitter suspended my account for inciting violence.
Same goes for recent news reports positing that one reason Tucker Carlson was fired by Fox News is because he referred to a Fox executive by using the “c word.”
This is doubtful, and it shows us how much inordinate power we now give to hateful, forbidden words.
These days we hear an awful lot about hate speech and supposedly “harmful” content, but the First Amendment protects even hate speech — and especially hate speech.
People have the right to say racially offensive, hateful things: this exposes them for the unrepentant jerks they are.
The government is forbidden from silencing them, though Twitter has that power, as a private platform— unless it is doing so at the government’s behest. See the Twitter Files.
Twitter is a premiere platform for promoting your brand and business, and my week in the penalty box, incommunicado, came just as I was on a hot streak.
My op ed on Elon Musk had just run in The Wall Street Journal, which led to my first appearance on CNBC since 2010, and the Tucker ouster lit up my podcast, Newsmax column, and my hit on Newsmax TV.
Yet I was silenced and unable to circulate any of it on the most powerful media platform in the world, because of a few words. And it was just words.
We used to be a nation raised on an old nursery rhyme, “Sticks and stones will break my bones, but names will never hurt me,” which dates to circa-1860, when times were tougher, and people’s skin was thicker.
Now, people reel in disgust, pain, and anguish when someone uses bad words — because it gives them an advantage.
Americans need to toughen up.
My view is there is almost no such thing as “harmful” content. Harmful: as if the words themselves can leap off a smartphone screen and smack us in the face, or jump off the front page of the New York Post and beat us to a pulp.
Words lack the power to do this; only people can do so, and when they do, it is their fault rather than the fault of any words they came across. You can hear more on this on the latest episode of my podcast “What’s Bugging Me.”
We can choose to receive these words in whatever way we want; it is our choice to let them “hurt” us. But in the social media era, the perceived need to censor “harmful” content and stomp out hate speech has spawned a new industry.
Content moderation, they call it, which means content censorship, helping rationalize government’s dubious case for unconstitutional encroachment on free expression on Twitter, Facebook, etc.
This overwrought idea of harmful content — as if we are all so fragile, so frail — is a concoction of liberal censors as a way to shut down opinions from the other side.
Once we decide that content can actually do harm to you, now there is a reason to protect you from it — by censoring that content.
And restraining it. And silencing it.
If the faint-hearted ranks of the ultra-liberal mob can convince us that words can hurt them, they can claim victimhood and win special treatment for themselves.
Then we are guilty of assault if we dare continue to speak words they dislike.
And so we go silent, and, for the silencers, mission accomplished.
(A related article may be found here.)
Dennis Kneale is a writer and media strategist in New York and host of the podcast, “What’s Bugging Me.” Previously, he was an anchor at CNBC and at Fox Business Network, after serving as a senior editor at The Wall Street Journal and managing editor of Forbes. Read Dennis Kneale’s reports — More Here.
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