We must exercise a degree of self-censorship

20 Jun 2019

 

Jordan Peterson, the clinical psychologist who has garnered controversy through his somewhat muddled readings and misunderstandings of the work of the late Joseph Campbell, recently announced the launch of a new website designed to go against the grain of mainstream social media. The website ‘THiNKSPOT’, currently in beta, would only have content removed from it if such was directly ordered by a US court.

 

Peterson announced that he already had a medley of prodders, pokers, buggers, and kickers lined up to be the star of his new show. These include Dave Rubin, James Altucher, Jocko Willink, Michael Shermer, and Carl Benjamin, best known as the UKIP MEP candidate who made a name for himself through being a hallion disguised as a thinker.

 

The most obvious question in response to this notion is: has he not heard of 4chan? The usual naughty corner of the internet where dwell those who have been suspended from mainstream sites for services to the vulgar and the stupid.

 

It is little recognised as there is a fine line between the reasoned argument and the fascistic one, but some form of censorship is necessary, for sheer practicality if nothing else. Anyone who has watched The Nolan Show will know that if there is not some, even meagre, form of moderator present it is so easy for a discussion to turn into a cacophony of rage which merely resembles language. A particularly funny case of this was during one of the Republican Party debates in 2016 where the subtitles translated the dialogue on stage as simply ‘incoherent shouting’.

 

When we think of censorship our minds tend to automatically leap to the few pages of Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four which we glossed over at the age of 15, but there is no necessity it be carried out by state governments. The type of censorship I am referring to is the kind carried out in one’s own mind.

 

All conscientious beings who operate free of disorder care how they are perceived by others. There is a little voice in their head which dots ‘I’s, crosses the ‘T’s, and makes sure all the commas are in the right places before they verbalise whatever joke they were about to make about their bowels. Sometimes this, like all things, breaks down and it entirely forgivable that it would, so long as the intention is good and recompense for ill-feeling is duly offered.

 

The need for this sort of introspection has progressed into the category of dire in the UK in recent years. Three years ago Michael Gove stated that people were ‘sick of experts’, which served to vindicate the hordes of the unwashed. The unwashed being those who have very strong views about all matters vegetable, animal, and mineral, which have no basis in reality.

 

Thus the notion that all opinions were of equal value was advanced. But as said by Dara O’Briain, someone who has studied dentistry does not share a platform with ‘some eejit who removes teeth with string and a door.’

 

 

There is also a confusion about what exactly an expert is, which ties in with our appreciation of notoriety and worship of celebrities. We tend to assume that if someone is in the public eye they can be asked about any issue on the public mind, and if someone is proven intelligent then they are all knowing.

 

Again, during the 2016 US presidential election it was trending across the media that Stephen Hawking, when asked in an interview if he could explain Trump’s success, replied in the negative. This should not have been surprising for not only an astro-physicist, but the foremost in human history. There is only so much information which one head can contain. Similarly, I have a Master’s in Politics and so do not ask me to explain what a black hole is for or we will both be left sorely disappointed.

 

As Al Johnson, nominally Boris, has become the front runner for the Conservative leadership, the matter of his tendency to say very stupid things has once again been raised. Jumping to the defence of his prospective leader, Jacob Rees-Mogg suggested that people should simply not be ‘snowflakes’.

 

Perhaps Rees-Mogg has a point, and there should be more benefit of doubt extended in order to yield more civilised, constructive public discourse. So, let’s take it as read that people shouldn’t be snowflakes. Conversely, they also should not be as unscrupulously stupid as to refer to Muslim women who wear the niqab as ‘letterboxes,’ or the London St. Patrick’s day celebration as a Sinn Féin fundraiser.

 

In a democratic society, a person has a dialogical bill of both rights and responsibilities. Of course people have the right to their opinion, but they also have the responsibility to make sure that opinion makes sense, and is not merely a bizarre assortment of nouns they thought up while rummaging through their own naval one morning.

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