Thoughtcrimes Now Prosecuted in the Land of the Free

Amid COVID-19 pandemic hysteria, racial tensions, and demands to defund the police, putting in real danger lives and businesses across America, the most disturbing part of the leftist "activism" in the overheated political climate is, perhaps, a vicious attack on First Amendment rights.  In business and academia, media, and sports, we see people holding opinions that deviate from the leftist discourse being attacked.  Practically anything, any piece of fact, statistics, sentiments like "all lives matter," any picture, any opinion expressed as civilly as possible, may cost you your job, reputation, and even life.

"Social justice warriors" are torching traditional liberal beliefs about free speech and tolerance with ideas so toxic and destructive that they shut the debate down, moving straight to shaming, threats, and intimidation — all while calling for a "discussion" about race.  Evidently, only unarguable support is allowed.  Deal with your "white fragility," you racist, and then fully submit.  There's no middle ground.

Just like in a Rorschach inkblot test meant to measure thought disorder for the purpose of identifying a mental illness, racism is spotted virtually everywhere.  Is it a bunny or a monster that you see in that picture?  Is it a rational argument, or is it an insult?  Your opinion or a hate crime?  And if you don't see a monster here, then you are a monster yourself — and will be treated as such.

We're witnessing organization after organization being bullied into searching out thoughtcrime.  We're talking about not some KKK proclamations, but cases where people were punished for common sense that was found offensive.  Even a UCLA professor may be placed under investigation for reading Martin Luther King's "Letter from a Birmingham Jail" to his students, or his colleague could be suspended from his job after refusing a student's request to effectively cancel final exams for black students amid protests over the death of George Floyd.

There's a data scientist who once worked for President Obama's re-election campaign who was fired from a research firm for retweeting an academic study suggesting that nonviolent protests may be more politically effective than violent ones.  We're seeing conservative media — Zero Hedge and the Federalist — being pressed by Google to censor their content by barring them from Google's ad platform.  We're seeing corporations changing logos of their products dubbed racist on Twitter.

We're seeing leftist journalists who managed to preserve the most valuable professional skill — critical thinking — becoming victims of this insanity, too, when groups of fellow staffers demand the firing or reprimand of colleagues who made politically "problematic" editorial or social media decisions.  The New York Times, the Intercept, Vox, the Philadelphia Inquirer, Variety, and others saw racially based challenges to management, which was brilliantly depicted by Matt Taibbi in his refreshing piece "The American Press Is Destroying Itself."

In the most discussed and infamous case of Senator Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) op-ed entitled "Send in the troops," The New York Times editorial page editor, James Bennet, who allowed for its publication, was ousted out of his position.  Even though senator did not call for "military force against protesters in American cities," but spoke of a "show of force" needed, in his opinion, to manage a situation, which a considerable part of the country saw as spiraling out of control, some of the Times' staffers felt threatened: "Running this puts Black @NYTimes staff in danger," tweeted many of them.

Out of fear of getting in trouble by bringing up anything even remotely controversial, journalists are twisting themselves into knots by presenting us with mind-blowing titles such as "27 police officers injured during largely peaceful anti-racism protests in London."  This is the BBC, the world's largest broadcast news organization, that generates about 120 hours of radio and television output each day, as well as online news coverage, and has an annual budget of £350 million (roughly $432 million).  How about MSNBC's Ali Velshi reporting in front of the burning police precinct headquarters that the "protests" are "not generally speaking unruly"?

What most sane Americans see is the death of an unarmed man killed by a police officer being used as an excuse to shake the fundament of the country that apparently is a living racist hell (are there issues to be solved? — no doubt, but not by destroying the country!).  And perhaps the first and foremost victim of the social justice warriors' crusade is its cornerstone freedom: freedom of thought.  You may remember that the Constitution protects freedom of thought in the First Amendment, saying laws may not be made that interfere with religion "or [prohibit] the free exercise thereof."  You may even be aware of the Supreme Court justice Benjamin Cardozo reasoning in Palko vs. Connecticut (1937): "Freedom of thought ... is the matrix, the indispensable condition, of nearly every other form of freedom."  That's why it's chosen as a primal target.  No, the people behind the curtain are anything but stupid.

Today, the way you think may be interpreted as a punishable offense.  This is purely Orwellian.  In the iconic 1984 novel, the main character, Winston Smith, writes in his diary: "Thoughtcrime does not entail death: thoughtcrime is death."  Orwell's Thought Police used psychological surveillance to find and eliminate members of society who are capable of even an idea that could challenge the ruling authority.  Sounds familiar?  It should.  That's what was practiced in the Third Reich and Stalin's USSR.  This is what evolves before our eyes in the land of the free.  You're dead to society — at least to its "conscious" part — once you express your revolt against political dogmatism.  Or anyone close to you does it — like the L.A. Galaxy's soccer player who was fired over his wife's tweet that she tweeted in Serbian (!) mocking Black Lives Matter.

There is already plenty of evidence that you may and will be attacked if you don't concede and if you dare to publicly disagree.  But what can you do if you happen to be non-black, and you believe that you are not a racist?  There is a simple recipe: shut up, acknowledge that you are racist and always will be, apologize for your privilege, apologize again, educate yourself, and donate your money.  Repeat every time you see Trump in the news.

Or you may stand up for yourself and refuse to be a victim — not only in November, but every day.  Freedom is the freedom to say that two plus two makes four.  It is still a land of the free because of the brave.

Follow Veronika Kyrylenko, PhD on Twitter or LinkedIn

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