I learned a new word today, from this 1993 book on free speech: bluenose. A bluenose is a ‘person who advocates a rigorous moral code’ (Merriam Webster). They are the puritans of the past and the social justice warriors of 2018. Coincidentally I also came across an article about how lying freezes your nose: Researchers at the University of Granada found that when a person lies, “the temperature of the tip of the nose drops between 0.6 and 1.2 ºC, while that of the forehead rises between 0.6 and 1.5 ºC.”
They go on: “to lie you have to think, and that’s why the temperature of the forehead increases, but we also get nervous, something that causes a drop in the temperature of the nose.” So Pinocchio wasn’t a liar after all — not a bluenose liar anyway.
Bluenoses are considered boring, puritanical prudes, and I imagine they would indeed have to be in some category of liars, using all their brainpower to justify and rationalise the “haunting fear that someone, somewhere, may be happy,” as a source in the book puts it. In the name of godliness, decency and family values the bluenoses went after books, pornography and art in the past — James Joyce’s Ulysses was banned in Great Britain and America for a while, where shipment of the book were seized by the authorities and burned. It all boiled down to one carefully hidden conviction: Feelings are dangerous in and of themselves! This played out horribly for society as a whole. That the line between obscenity and the beautiful is impossible to draw, even in principle, has been demonstrated time and time again. Rubbing their bluenoses into the facts about how censorship leads to inquisition has time and time again not changed the urge to dictate what is considered harmful speech and what not — up to the level of government and the arts.
While reading ’Kindly Inquisitors’ by Jonathan Rauch — who argues that ‘Thou shall not hurt others with words’ is an ‘inherently deadly idea’ — I relived the time (or the time I thought existed) that the liberal sciences performed a crucial task of developing knowledge by choosing between conflicting views. Not by getting rid of inconvenient ones.
Rauch writes: ‘[Liberal science] does not give a damn about your feelings and happily tramples them in the name of finding truth. It allows and – here we should be honest – sometimes encourages offense. Self-esteem, sensitivity, respect for others’s beliefs, renunciation of prejudice are all good as far as they go. But as primary social goals they are incompatible with the peaceful and productive advancement of human knowledge. To advance knowledge we must all sometimes suffer.’
This is not a popular opinion among the liberal left at all, anymore. ‘Facts don’t care about your feelings’ is now a phrase (even on t-shirts) used by conversatives like journalist Ben Shapiro, heretic Milo Yiannopolous and writer Ann Coulter. Both have been banned from speaking at public venues numerous times, as have many ‘old fashioned’ liberals who have been ambushed into overnight ‘conservatism’ or even ‘right-wing extremism’.
You can argue about labels but the bluenoses from te past, the religious fanatics, the anti-abortion, anti-women rights, anti-gay marriage public conservatives no longer throw bible quotes at evolutionists or sue Hustler magazine for obscenity anymore, their offspring have taken the place of those who celebrated science, reason and progression once, and they did it around the time Liberals abandoned free thought and speech. The defining moment being the fatwah on Salman Rushdie in 1989, according to Rauch (and many others). By that time the Western intellectual system became a kind of anything-goes pluralism — in which all systems of belief are created equal and the only rule is “Be nice”. Not only to individuals, but to groups.
Other examples that marked a turning point from free speech to “Being Nice” was the suspension of television commentator Andy Rooney from CBS News after offering ‘his deepest apologies to and in our society who were given offence’. His crime? He had said ‘blacks dropped out of school, do drugs and get pregnant,’ and therefor ‘watered down their intelligence’. Nice? No. Food for Inquisition? Apparently, yes. Being nice had taken over the number one position in liberal democracy: freedom of speech. The New York Times was quick to reframe their own bluenosing: “call it censorship if you like, (…) whatever the justice of his punishment, Rooney can take comfort in having served as a sacrifice to the cause of public tranquillity.” If that’s not religious fundamentalism, I don’t know what is.
Soon liberals felt obliged to not only pick sides in who was hurt by words the most, but to speak on behalf of all ‘hurt’ minorities: Hispanics, muslims, gays, blacks, and the victim majority: women. The list still goes on to this day, adding new (made up) groups while simultaneously excluding minorities and individuals that simply aren’t playing along or being nice enough to ever truly be hurt, like ex-Muslims, conservatives, white women and black Republicans.
In 2018 the bluenosing — the ‘compassionate lying’ to protect ‘public tranquilitiy’ above all else — has risen to an epidemic. It has become impossible to hold what are considered ‘hurtful words and behaviour’ to any objective measure. Simply asking for evidence, a counter-argument or even a logical formulated sentence is considered hurtful: a ‘microagression’! ‘Believe all women’ is an example of this viral blue nosing, where the (legal) truth has been sacrificed to the cause of public tranquility, which of course can only be achieved after they scapegoat an offender of their rigid moral values.
Christine Blasey Ford could not remember anything about the night of her attack by Supreme Court judge Brett Kavanaugh. The liberal media did not consider this as an issue at all, they simply ignored questions of reliability. Dr. Ford could have been a ghost in a dress for all they cared, a fictional, card board figure.
What Rauch describes in his book, that censorship started in the West by leaving behind the Liberal principle and replacing it with the humanitarian and radical egalitarian principle of ‘being nice to each other’, has turned into a full fledged fundamentalist principle: ‘Those who know the truth should decide who is right’. It was because of this principle that Salman Rushdie was not defended by many liberals. Het had ‘hurt’ the muslim community by writing his book, and ‘who where we to argue with their pain?!’ We quickly learned: “The freedom of speech is not the right to insult a community”.
It all became clear what had happened. The liberal mind had been hijacked into believing that searching for (scientific) truth from one’s own perspective was somehow wrong. But I don’t really believe that was the true motive, or the only motive. Searching for truth is exhausting and risky — so carefully adjusting to the idea that protecting others from ‘verbal violence’ was more important than the truth (or: truth in the making) became attractive to those intellectuals, writers and journalist who struggled with autonomy and independence. Signalling moral virtues just made life easier and safer in the short run.
Apart from practical reasons (and Rauch doesn’t get in to this), on a deeper and broader level liberals became more religious than they where before they left the church to become believers of progression above all else. Liberals in 2018 have in large numbers embraced the idea of redemption, collective guilt and of original sin, but this time there is no salvation for them, because they don’t believe (in anything, really). It appears they are not worthy of anything, of knowledge, reason, beauty and love — for their nation, their families, their communities. They are faking, trembling and blue nosing through life, lying to themselves about the origins of their need to please and submit to fundamentalists who they secretly admire and want to submit to. It’s no secret: protecting the vulnerable now means operating on young children to have their ‘sex changed’, aborting 600,000 babies in a few years, to “help safe lives”, empowering women by destroying masculinity and men in general, and marching with muslim fundamentalist for ‘gay rights’. And the idea they could ever be wrong about any of this is not accessible to them at all. The once free-minded liberals have moved into a closed fortress.
Rauch has been right for decades when he says that hate crime doesn’t exist, that those who decide are not to be trusted with their judgement: “to ban books or words which cretins find exciting is to let the very lowest among us determine what we may read or hear.” It’s often forgotten who is likely to feel an incentive to be ‘hurt’ or protect those who are hurt by words. The weakest minds determine and control the most difficult issues, like we have seen happen through the censorship laws that prohibit ‘hate speech’ online. Elderly women are being targeted and fined in Germany for posting ‘anti-immigrant sentiments’ on Facebook, while Turkish rappers call for ‘death to all jews’ on their YouTube channels — without consequences. This is not targeting ‘hate’, this is targeting the enemies of bluenoses, of fundamentalists and governments who benefit from political correctness. It’s a matter of logic, not believe, that this will continue on along these lines.
In the name of equality, diversity and humanity bluenoses are again banning and excluding anything that may hurt people and communities, but what they are actually doing is lying about the nature of their pursuit. Their resentment, hypocrisy and dishonesty will not relieve hate, but drive out the opposite: beauty, truth and progression for as many people as possible.
The moral fear and panic has reemerged stronger than before, and authorities are once again complicit in the ‘burning of books’ and of free speech itself. This book was a kind reminder that we have to treat the fictional existence of hate-speech as a universal problem, not of politics but of psychology, but of the mind and soul.
Author. Academic. Mother of boys. Thought junkie, creating free speech, connecting. To keep the fire going please donate to this platform! (see: page ‘contact/donate’ above or: https://www.patreon.com/sietskebergsma)