Don't speak your mind, or else
Having read several times through The New Thought Police: Inside the Left's Assault on Free Speech and Free Minds, I continue to be impressed by just how much Tammy Bruce has packed in here. Her book is a personal defense of free thinking and free speech, basically in the form of a sharp counter-attack on those media and institutional spokesmen who want to deny our right to think and speak as we wish. There are heaps of details: she provides names, dates, and outrageous specifics — and anyone who is not appalled and outraged at what she documents here, cannot be a friend of the American Constitutional protections of individualism, nor a person who values independent thought and civil debate.
Tammy Bruce brings an interesting and surprising background to this struggle. Among other things, she was president of the Los Angeles chapter of the National Organization for Women (NOW) from 1990-1996. Her Introduction to the book is movingly personal:
My conclusions on this issue do not come from work in a library or think tank. They have arisen over a decade of being in the trenches with those who formulated the strategy of silencing people whose opinions or attitudes they considered wrong. I now believe that strategy is backward and self-defeating. And yet I have not always felt this way. ...
I watched as it was applied to others, and I experienced it firsthand as my own colleagues at NOW applied it to me.
It all made me think of George Orwell's book 1984. a nightmarish view of a totalitarian future written shortly after World War II. The world of 1984 is grim: individualism is suppressed under the reign of terror of the Thought Police. Orwell's novel details the efforts of one man to maintain a personal sense of uniqueness and that man's ultimate failure. From my vantage point on the Left, the political wing in which I was firmly entrenched, I have seen the new version of Orwell's Thought Police emerge under the guise of improving the quality of life.
I'll start with an amusing instance from The New Thought Police:
In 1999, Bugs Bunny, the Wascally Wabbit, came under investigation for violating Canada's Sex Role Portrayal Code. Really. In the past, Mr. Bunny's cleverness had always made up for his occasional arrogance, but not in the era of the new Thought Police.
In a 1954 episode entitled Bewitched Bunny, Bugs uses magic powder to transform a witch into a sexy lady bunny. As they walk away together, Bugs turns to the viewer, winks, and says, "Aw, sure, I know! But aren't they all witches inside?"
[A "horrified" viewer complained to her government; but fortunately —] The six-member Canadian Broadcast Standards Council, after a yearlong inquiry, finally acquitted the Wabbit.
For contrast, a deeper instance:
In order to attract as wide a base as possible, the sixties Leftists hid their socialist sympathies and, in some cases, actual Communist Party membership. Betty Friedan is a classic case. In the book that launched the modern feminist movement — The Feminist Mystique, published in 1963 — she portrayed herself as a politically inactive housewife who simply had had enough of sexism.
Forty years later, Friedan told the real story. In Life So Far, published in 2000, she recounts, "I would come into New York on my days off from the hospital [and] would go to Communist Front meetings and rallies ... I looked up the address of the Communist Party headquarters in New York and ... went into their dark and dingy building on 13th Street and announced I wanted to become a member." This was in 1942, a quarter-century before she and a few others founded NOW. Friedan's revelation that, while she may have been a bored and frustrated housewife, she had also been a member of the Communist Party, shed some much-needed light on how left-wing politics has been masquerading as authentic feminism.
Tammy Bruce's range is wide, but the determination of the Left to control the thinking and speaking of ordinary people is a target-rich environment. Here are some chapter titles. These two have a personal poignancy for her: "Pot. Kettle. Black. The Hypocrisy of the Gay Establishment" and "Not NOW: The Selling Out of the Feminist Establishment". My own favorite titles are (for sharp focus), "Groupthink: The Politics of 'Hate'"; and (for biting humor), "Multiculturalism: Thought Police in Costume". She also turns her spotlight on the black civil-rights establishment, news and entertainment, and academia.
The Bugs Bunny episode may provide a chuckle, but horrifically often, these are stories of accusations and lawsuits, ostracism, the ruination of reputations, careers, or lives. I could mention example after example from The New Thought Police, but better that you read the book yourself. In addition to documented incidents illustrative of the heavy pressure on our independence of mind and ability to communicate, the author provides thoughtful analysis, and where appropriate, her personal background or involvement. It's been clear for some years that the Left's campaign of Political Correctness is destructive, from small-seeming personal liberties to issues of national security. It is deliberately destructive, and it has been amazingly successful: in recent years it has become clear that the coercive Left is winning this campaign, decisively. And without the habit of free thinking and the ability to speak our minds without fear of social persecution and government prosecution, how can one defend anything else?
Rather than further sampling her bushel of incidents, I'll give a little more of Tammy Bruce's overview of the fundamentally Marxist nature of what she is fighting:
There is enormous irony in the fact that it is those on the Left — the supposed protectors of all things culturally important — who are imposing severe sanctions on anyone who espouses an idea or expresses an opinion that might be deemed "offensive" to some favored group. There is, however, a method to the madness of those who have chosen to protect us from ourselves.
You see, there is nothing in the theory of feminism or civil rights that requires people to stop thinking their own thoughts. On the contrary, civil rights are reliant on freedom of expression. The spiral down and away from individual liberty can be traced directly to the rejection of the rights of each person in favor of the rights of the many. This group-rights mentality is nothing new; it derives from the "progressive" concept that the individual must submit to what is best for everyone else. This concept, however, stems not from the ideal of civil rights but from the well of socialism, the foundation model of the Far Left. Once we accept group theory, it becomes not only easier to reject individual rights such as freedom of expression; but also actually essential that we do so.;
Tammy Bruce's The New Thought Police is a brave book, and a hard-hitting one. I highly appreciate both these qualities.