Sunday, January 17, 2016

P.C. Is Killing Both De Jure Free Speech (In the U.S.) and De Facto Free Speech (In the U.K.)

Michael Kinsley writes (in this month's Vanity Fair) that free speech is falling by the wayside in both the U.S., where a mechanism to protect it is written into the Constitution, and in the U.K., where there's a long tradition of free speech that has never been officially codified. Kinsley used to think that the British tradition of free speech was hardier than the U.S. one because it wasn't written down. In recent days, however, he has reconsidered that once firmly-held belief (my bolds):
Self-censorship is the most effective form of censorship. When it can be arranged, it leads to a situation in which people don’t want to say what other people likewise don’t want them to say. Self-censorship also has the advantage of leaving no footprints. But I would no longer try to argue, as I once believed, that it is a minor problem in America and virtually nonexistent in Britain. The Public Health department there does not use the word “obese” in its National Child Measurement Programme for fear of “stigmatizing the child.” The BBC recently made available for downloading a number of classic programs from decades ago that don’t meet modern standards of inoffensiveness. As The Wall Street Journal noted, each program comes with a warning label noting that it is “an un-PC product of its time.” 
Henry Porter, Vanity Fair’s London editor and a prominent British journalist in the anti-P.C. camp, reported talking to a group of students recently. “I realized,” he explained, “that these kids have very few thoughts on the subject of liberty and far too many on the subject of personal rights and various classes of victimhood.” Porter noted that “this is one reason why the liberties that were accepted as being part of the British tradition, but are not written down anywhere, are so easily being attacked and readily abandoned.”
Maybe so, but, despite the protection supposedly afforded by the First Amendment, liberties are being abandoned in the U.S., too. That's because whether or not the protections are "written down anywhere," when it comes to free speech, it really is a matter of "use it or lose it."

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