**Full Disclosure: I’m currently working on a project for Cernovich Media.
Silenced. Our War on Free Speech (2016)
Directed by Loren Feldmen
Silenced captures the zeitgeist of the world we live in. As I watched it I couldn’t help but think of current events—and no I don’t mean the election of Donald Trump. I’m talking about stuff in the background since then. As Vox Day said, “SJWs always double down.”
And it seems they’re doubling down since November 8.
Just a cursory tour of recent events: The post-election Twitter purge; Emily Youcis fired from her job of selling pistachios; Million Dollar Extreme Presents: World Peace (M.D.E.) cancelled on Adult Swim; A speech given by Richard Spencer almost provokes a riot in my peaceful hometown and as a reaction my alma mater creates the world’s biggest safe space; the fake news about #DumpStarWars; Facebook on the hunt for “fake news”; the change of venue for Mike Cernovich’s Deploraball.
All of this has just happened in the past month. Let’s not even get started with the past year. Roosh V couldn’t even talk to a roomful of dudes without being disturbed.
The case of Youcis and M.D.E. upset me most because it was in the art realm. As someone having grown up obsessed by media, I’m troubled by the lack of diversity of opinion in the creative world. I don’t 100% agree with the political views of Youcis or Sam Hyde. But, so what? Artists used to have a right to be a little eccentric. You know the phrase “Art through adversity”, right? How can you have great art if there is no conflict, no diversity of opinion, nothing to fight for?
Most of this is coming from the left these days. But even on the left there are lamentations. On Bret Easton Ellis’ latest podcast, film critic Owen Gleiberman bemoaned how today there is increasing pressure to go along with consensus on a movie for the “right” reasons.
It’s a world gone mad.
But really, it’s America gone mad.
And as Silenced. Our War on Free Speech reminds us, it wasn’t always this way. Art used to be challenging (think Lenny Bruce, Richard Pryor, Stanley Kubrick, and the aforementioned Ellis as examples); university used to be challenging; it was the mandate of journalism (both print and broadcast) to challenge.
But, as the documentary lays out, all of these institutions are now gigantic safe spaces, where a vanguard—usually minorities of some sort (black, gay, feminist etc.)—lie in wait to be offended so they can attack. As Alan Dershowitz points out early in the film, this environment, “gives people an incentive to say they’re offended,” and “increases the level of offensiveness that people feel.”
“I don’t understand what is unacceptable anymore, because everything seems to be, to somebody.”—Paul Provenza, Comedian.
Everyone is walking on eggshells these days—especially in the corporate media world where I worked.
The film lays out different avenues of American life where speech is regulated: Religion, Science, Artists, Journalism, Broadcasting, Comedy, College and Speech (in general). Story after story is presented from these diverse fields of people who encountered respective bouts of censorship.
Radio host Anthony Cumia notes how he was fired for tweeting out a story about a tense encounter he had on the street with a black woman. Comedians note how they have to have different sets for a different set of audiences (the insanity of this is the OLDER crowds tolerate more vulgar/challenging material than a younger crowd). David Horowitz discusses how he needs bodyguards to accompany him to college campuses when he speaks—to protect him from violent protester’s.
Think about that. The one place where free speech should be encouraged the most, is now where free speech is most muzzled. As Dershowitz notes, “The greatest threat to free speech today is from universities because universities are the training ground for our future leaders…the prohibitions, both self and administration afflicted, on students, are creating a generation of spoiled brats; a generation of people who want to be protected from free speech.”
Basically, we’re preparing (or have prepared) a generation of people to shout down any ideas that make them uncomfortable.
The problem with this in my view, is that it creates groups that scream louder, and makes even more extremist ideas seem attractive. For example, as a straight white male, if anything I say or do will be considered offensive anyway, why not go all the way? If moderate disagreement is shouted down, then your only fueling a more extreme reaction the next round. Hence, the rise of the Alt-Right. You reap what you sow.
What’s concerning is, I think Silenced will only be viewed in an echo chamber. Those of us who value free speech will watch, nod their heads in agreement and accept we live in distressing times. Maybe it will provoke some discussion and self-reflection in some but I’ve yet to see it. Call me cynical.
That being said, what are the solutions? As the documentary points out, the rise of the internet and various technologies was thought to help speech but that really hasn’t been the case. The minority rule has really come in to play.
Cartoonist Scott Adams advises to just “keep your head down,” if your just the average joe trying to support their family. Don’t become a free speech warrior.
Others hope that tech companies will be neutral. But I’m not hopeful given the uniformity of political views of in Silicon Valley.
I am hopeful that Alt-Tech and Alt-Media will rise to fill this free speech vacuum. For tech, there’s Gab and Bitcoin. In media, guys like Silenced Executive Producer Mike Cernovich, Stefan Molyneux, Infowars and others are already filling the void. Call me optimistic but I think a free speech snowball is starting to form.
Hopefully, creative types will be caught up in this ball as it gains steam. Alt-Art, anyone?