The “sweet censorship”: the precarious condition of free speech in our beloved West

The following is the transcription of Daniele Capezzone's greeting of thanks, on 6 April 2018, in Rimini, at the Grand Lodge of the Grand Orient of Italy, receiving the decoration of the Order of Galileo Galilei, the greatest honor that Italian Freemasonry grants to non-Masons, in the name of freedom and free thought


I am very happy – as a layman, but as a sincere friend – to think here on some issues that are close to my heart, on a concern that I feel very keen (…).

I refer to the precarious condition, in our West, of free thought, freedom of speech and expression, of free speech . Even in the countries that many of us love and admire as authentic models.

According to recent research by the Adam Smith Institute , large and small incidents of censorship have occurred in 90 per cent of British universities in recent years. Economic textbooks have a strong anti-liberal orientation: very ready to enumerate alleged "market failures", absolutely reluctant to indicate real "state failures".

In Oxford, a year ago, there was an attempt to remove the statue of Cecil Rhodes, as "imperialist and colonialist".

The practice of "safe spaces" is increasingly constant, ie spaces granted to university associations which are thus authorized to exclude and preclude opinions different from their own: physically keeping out books, newspapers, "unwelcome" interlocutors.

More and more regularly, teachers and "lecturers" are obliged to give the so-called "trigger warning" at the beginning of a lesson, in case they are about to address potentially sensitive issues (religion, sex, gender, etc.), so to allow students who want to (for example those of Islamic religion) to leave the classroom.

The figure (Orwell could not have imagined better, that is worse …) of the "diversity officer" , that is an official who, following the lessons and perhaps also the conversations, has the task of catching unwelcome expressions , unpleasant, offensive, and to report them in private to the "guilty", presenting the risk of being sanctioned if the episode were to repeat itself.

Non-conformist (or simply not politically correct) opinions are classified as "hate speech" .

Those who are rebelling against this trend are right (from Niall Ferguson to Roger Scruton): an approach (theoretically for a good purpose) born to not discriminate is inexorably turning into a monster, into a religion without doctrine but even more dogmatic and intolerant , in a mechanism of intimidation against the bearers of non-approved ideas.

Add these trends (destined to appear soon also in Italy, and here – alas – without the liberal antibodies of the Anglo-Saxon world) to the inevitable transformation in progress of the "human gmo", of how we think and how we live, of how we are . Neuropsychiatrists inform us that the average threshold of attention of women and men is falling towards 9 seconds: more or less like that of a goldfish. The average time that Internet users spend reading any online content is 15 seconds: title, subtitle, like it or fuck you, and I'm off …

Understand that, in the face of this anthropological change, more than ever places are needed that do two things. On the one hand, inside, to preserve an ancient wisdom, a different method, adequate times for research and study. On the other hand, on the outside, to deal with the new reality, to develop codes and languages ​​that allow us to enter into communication with many people today no longer reachable with the tools of the past, of tradition, of the written word.

It is an arduous, enormous undertaking, very difficult also emotionally, not only intellectually.

I say this without pessimism. Indeed, with the optimism of those who continue to believe, despite everything, that rationality can prevail over superstition, doubt over dogma, respect over intolerance, freedom over tyranny. Thanks.

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This is a machine translation from Italian language of a post published on Atlantico Quotidiano at the URL on Wed, 13 Jan 2021 04:59:00 +0000.