Self-Censorship is Insidious

A Different Kind of Safe Space by Ted Gup – hat tip to tweet from Kenan Malik.

In all the safe-space and free-speech debates I keep pushing the original idea that education was / is a “safe space” within which to push the boundaries, say & do, hear & experience, anything you can where the longer term risks and consequences are minimal. The idea of it ever being a place safe from things you might not find pleasant was a total perversion from the off.

This quote captures it:

“[Non-fiction writing course] is a lesson not only in the power of words, but in democracy, free speech, and responsibility. Words are dangerous, but not as dangerous as efforts to suppress them, be it by government or dean ” and certainly not as insidious as self-censorship.”

I’ve said plenty about the non-absolute boundaries to free-speech – they exist in reality despite what many believe – but the word “insidious” captures the self-censorship aspect like a precise mot juste.

Self-censorship is good and necessary, under your own free control, naturally, but you must always consciously understand when you’re doing it for reasons of appropriate tact and strategic timing. Context is everything – and the safe space of education is the place where the gloves can (must) be off most. The danger is when, like political correctness itself, it becomes embedded unconsciously in patterns of dialogue. Insidious is the word.

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