The current Western trend of speaking with a “double tongue” – hailing freedom of expression yet using it to repress those you disagree with – was seen already in the work of the 1700s French philosopher François-Marie Arouet – Voltaire. He became famous for stating the importance of tolerance in Enlightenment political philosophy, saying: “I may disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.” The sentence has been immensely admired in the West, quoted millions of times as a reflection of a leading secular Western ideal at the dawn of atheism.
Apparently, Voltaire spoke highly of tolerance, yet became famous for his immense hatred toward the Christian Church and the religious traditions in his time. His writings are, ironically, often filled with the very opposite of the respect for others right to differ in opinion.
The demand for tolerance has been portrayed as a secular ideal, yet it initially copied the Christian view of humanity, based on the belief that all peoples, regardless of class, gender or race, have a fundamental human value. Voltaire did not develop this altruistic ideal in a vacuum, but rather, it derived from Christian philosophy.
It was Christian theology in the Middle Ages and Spanish scholasticism that formed the basis of what we today call human rights, as we have seen. Even before that, Athenian democracy spoke of the need for public debates and arenas in which intellectuals could discuss morality, politics and social issues in a civil manner.
Yet, Voltaire’s writings are permeated with a reeking dislike of Christianity, Judaism and Islam. He does not seem to have a shred of respect for religious freedom. It went on to the degree that Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, upon Voltaire’s death, allegedly burst out, saying that “the arch-scoundrel Voltaire has finally kicked the bucket.” It may be argued that Voltaire was one of the founding fathers of the mannerless and intolerant slander of those who have other worldviews than the politically correct, that still today constitute the backbone of extreme secular thought, making him one of the grand hypocrites of his time.
In “Liberal Fascism,” commentator Jonah Goldberg illustrates in a compelling way how those in the U.S. establishment have been willing to go to immoral lengths to remove people whose politics they dislike. The French Revolution was actually a totalitarian revolution that played the populist card to the hilt, he says.
Investigative journalist Sharyl Attkisson, who has been working in the media for over 30 years, tells her sad story in “Stonewalled: My Fight for Truth Against the Forces of Obstruction, Intimidation, and Harassment in Obama’s Washington” of the decline in investigative journalism and unbiased truth-telling in America. She points to the multi-billion-dollar corporations that aligned with the government in seeking almost complete control and pushing for a massive surveillance of citizens, journalists and dissidents alike.
She examines the unseen influences of political figures, special interests and corporations that manipulate the images you see every day, whether on social media, the news or many other outlets. She strongly advises the public to start viewing the news outlets as TV commercials, saying she has never seen a tougher clampdown on the freedom of the press. People need to start thinking: “Why is that story airing? Who pushed it? What special interest might be behind it?” and “Am I getting the full story?”
Mary Catharine Ham speaks of this in “End Discussion: How the Left’s Outrage Industry Shuts Down Debate,” stating that a growing number of Americans are sensing an insidious strain of self-censorship on topics that break with the politically correct news. They find themselves shutting up and not risking the social harassment of “being the enemy of the system.” The radical enforcers who instantly attack anyone who voices opinions or views that are not in line with the establishment are everywhere. At parties, family gatherings, in universities and all over the media. Wherever they are, people feel the fear.
Ham states that it is not a trait of free societies that debates in which a variety of views presented are forcefully quashed. This fear of speaking up is actively pushed by leftist radicals who seek to raise the cost of speaking publicly, hoping that slandering others will cause those who have other opinions in society to be silenced. It is a highly undemocratic, authoritarian behavior that seeks to quash free speech, under the pretext of hailing it. And Voltaire started out by helping this trend to prosper.
Watch Hanne speak about free speech: