One thing the right and left can still agree on: those on the other side are guilty of censorship. Well, they’re both right. Attempting to control what people can think and say has unfortunately become an accepted strategy across the political spectrum. The right says it’s protecting children; the left says it’s protecting minorities. However noble the motive, the impulse is authoritarian at its core. If you control language, you limit what ideas can be thought and discussed, and if you control that you can make people do whatever you want. One cannot both love freedom and countenance attacks on free speech no matter how threatening that speech might seem. I’ll save the language policing of the left for another day. For now, I want to address censorship on the right.
Recently, conservatives have begun using the power of the state to simply abolish ideas they find objectionable, usually uncomfortable realities about sex and race. Examples include restrictions on school curriculums, library books, sexuality education and drag shows. This campaign is doomed to fail: banning something only makes it desirable, and in the internet age people will always find ways to circumvent the authorities. However, the harms of these attacks on intellectual freedom are real.
For one thing, depriving children of information doesn’t protect them, it makes them vulnerable. A child lacking knowledge of sexuality and anatomy is a prime target for a predator because they can’t understand what’s being done to them. Similarly, a child deprived of historical truth won’t fully comprehend the world they’re living in or be able to change it. All they can do is believe as they’re told, and it’s hard not to suspect that may be the true goal of these attacks on knowledge.