The only idea that causes permanent and insurmountable harm, is the idea that some thoughts are too dangerous to think. The systematic cancellation of dissenters will not end with the icky folk.

Share Post:

Share on facebook
Share on linkedin
Share on twitter
Share on email

A brain that is fed the same perspective, day after day, is a brain in a state of atrophy. It is a brain controlled by whoever controls its food.

Dissent is healthy. It’s what makes our brains grow. So, when dissent is removed from public discourse – either by shaming or frightening dissenters into silence, or canceling them from social media, or erasing them from online search results – our brains are deprived of sustenance.

Throughout my life, including when I was winning awards for investigative journalism, when I hear a perspective that differs from my own, I challenge myself to ask, “What if they’re right?”

They believe they’re right, just as passionately as I believe I’m right. Who made me God and gave me the only answers?

Most of the time, we agree to disagree, but every once in a while I learn they are right and that I am misinformed. Whatever the result, my brain grows from the discourse alone.

Who is controlling the information?

What the heck am I even talking about? Who is limiting information today?

Those who harbor certain opinions and ideas know very well, the information available to the public today goes through strenuous filters controlled by a handful of people. The more these power brokers get away with their gradual censorship, it seems the more they censor.

You may see it as protecting the public from misinformation when tech giants and their algorithms screen out certain news providers, voices and perspectives, or when social media truth monitors find “no evidence” to support dissenting theories so they erase them from the public lexicon.

You may be comfortable with searching for more information after reading about a subject of ridicule and scorn, only to watch favorable articles disappear before your very eyes — replaced with perspectives that match the new narrative. You may be comfortable with believing the “no evidence exists” cop-out, without considering the fact that search engines have stripped all dissenting evidence from search results and replaced it with studies that suit the acceptable narrative.

Cats and dogs sleeping together

Say, for example, you learn that dogs are now giving birth to cats. Well that doesn’t sound right, so you commence to googling. Every search result provides pages and pages of the very same proof of dogs giving birth to cats, and you find no evidence to prove only dogs can give birth to dogs. Why? Because algorithms have wiped those studies from existence. “All the cool kids” are celebrating the new fact that dogs are birthing cats all over the world, and you watch people being techxecuted for pointing to the increasingly obscure science of cats and dogs, guess what you’re most likely to believe? And guess what every new child born into the world and reliant on the internet will believe from now on?

Gag reflex to fascism

Image of baby rejecting food in spoon

When you’re like me, and you refuse to accept what’s in the spoon because it stinks like broccoli and rotten boiled eggs; when you refuse to accept rote opinions-stated-as-fact, and your nature is to go to the source and to answer all dangling questions, you notice when online searches lead to the same accepted perspective, repeated over and over again. And it bugs the feces right out of you – not because you have some strong belief that you wish would dominate the discussion, but because you don’t know, and you want to form your own opinion.

Like a petulant child, the more someone tries to shove something down my throat, the more I gag on what they’re trying to feed me. Call me a petulant child, but I need to like what I’m fed.

Maybe you can rationalize this as a temporary, necessary evil. Perhaps you believe dissenters are so vile and ignorant, society can’t afford to risk a single soul being duped into joining them. Or maybe you believe that by controlling the available possibilities, you’re averting total fascism – imposing a tiny bit of fascism on icky people who deserve it because nobody likes them anyway. Censorship is justified in order to protect the ignorant masses, and once we get back on what you deem the correct course, we can go back to the whole Free Speech thing.

You won’t be the first.

Images of dictators throughout history

History has a way of repeating itself

When we think back through history at people who have controlled information – the Nazis, Stalin, Mao Zédōng, Mussolini and other dictators – we remember men who were first perceived as visionaries, who believed so fervently that their ideology was correct and that dissenting ideology was a threat to society, they could justify burning books… then burning down towns… then incinerating people.

In hindsight, of course we see how despotic and dangerous they were; but at the time, they had overwhelming support – rationalized by fear, anger, or uncertainty of the time. The world welcomed the worst kind of tyranny because circumstances of the time warranted a teeny-tiny little temporary pause on liberty (but only for the most deplorable and irredeemable deviants).

Tyrants don’t rise to total domination because they’re unpopular. They capitalize on the fear or sorrow of the day, and manipulate the masses to rely upon and worship them. Hitler inspired with his oratory skills at a time when Germans – devastated after World War I – sorely needed inspiration. Mussolini exploited disenfranchised young people, whipping them into a frenzy with his angry rhetoric and urging them toward a revolution they believed would save them – not enslave them. Stalin made grand promises of prosperity for all, then forced industrialization that led to the worst famine in history, all while flooding the public with propaganda that painted him as a god-like savior. Chairman Mao’s propaganda was so powerful, many Chinese citizens still worship him today, even after his policies led to the starvation and killing of millions of their countrymen.

Tyrants rise because they immerse the public in their message, and only in their message, creating an enamored (or terrified) public under their complete control. They remained in power because they quashed dissent of any kind

As tyrants rose, those who raised early questions were scoffed at and called alarmists. Then, when society grew comfortable with dissenters being labeled alarmists, the darn troublemakers were cancelled. Once the public was accustomed to not having the dissenter around, they were executed.

Smorgasbord for the brain

Go ahead and call me an alarmist. I’ve been called much worse (probably before breakfast today). But I have pretty thick skin; and I, for one, believe the First Amendment is a hill worth dying on.

I’m not asking you to ascribe to my ideology. In fact, I’m not even telling you what I believe, so don’t assume you know. (If you assume you know my ideology, maybe question why you would make such an assumption. Because you see the truth?)

What I’m saying is that different opinions and beliefs are like a smorgasbord for the brain. The more we know, the more we can know. We may learn that dissenting opinion makes us stronger in our own beliefs, or we may adjust our beliefs because of something we learn from the discussion. Who comes away from a good debate knowing less? (Not a bad debate that devolves into emotional name calling and historical laundry lists of blame. Those suck the brain cells out of everyone involved.)

I’m also not saying Big Tech is the modern equivalent to Hitler or Mussolini. But I am saying that conditions are ripe for tyrants to rise, and tyranny is a fickle ally that you can’t just unfriend.

Once you get comfortable with surrendering my liberties, it’s not a matter of if – but when – they come for yours. The algorithms are already embedded. All they need to do is tweak the code, and suddenly your beliefs and values are the ones being techxecuted while the world yawns.

I leave you with this final thought: The only idea that causes permanent and insurmountable harm, is the idea that some thoughts are too dangerous to think.

How the Hell Did I Get Here?

I have an uncanny knack for knowing when someone is uncomfortable with me; so I go out of my way to put them at ease