Policing Thought Crime
by Jonah Goldberg
In 1920, a bond salesman walked into Joseph Yenowsky's
This was hardly an isolated incident during the so-called "Red Scare" of the World War I era. In
A number of conditions were necessary for this totalitarian fever that gripped America. The law -- state, federal and local -- was arrayed against any free speech deemed "un-American." But so were the people. There was a broad consensus that there was a real threat posed to the U.S. from abroad -- and from within -- in the form of Bolsheviks, anarchists and disloyal immigrants or "hyphenated Americans" (e.g. German-Americans or Irish-Americans).
It's valuable to remember all of this for several reasons. First, it's good to know such things can happen here ("even" under the leadership of liberals and progressives). Also, it's good to understand that things have been worse than they are today. There's a tendency to think our government has only become more intrusive and censorial than ever. That's simply untrue. Last, we should be wary of thought-crime panics.
Again, things aren't nearly so bad as when Wilson's Attorney General,
I visit about a dozen campuses a year, and at nearly every one, it's common to hear tales about how the social or administrative policing of thought crimes is all the rage. The latest buzz phrase is "microaggression." These are allegedly racist, homophobic or sexist statements made by people with no bigoted intent. Essentially, if someone can rationalize a reason to take offense that's all the proof required. Microagressions are the new vectors for the "disease of evil thinking."
Off campus, things haven't been much better. Watch MSNBC for 10 minutes and you will learn that Republicans are simply champions of "white supremacy" deserving no respect or quarter. I have no sympathy for disgraced
Defenders of the thought-crime crackdown will fairly insist today is different from things in Yenowsky's day. Fighting bigotry is an obvious good, unlike the crackdown on domestic radicals. Yes and no. Sure, fighting bigotry is right and good, but so is defending
Available at Amazon.com: The Divide: American Injustice in the Age of the Wealth Gap
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Article: Copyright © 2014, Tribune Content Agency
"Policing Thought Crime "