Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Who needs the Gestapo?

In 1945, shortly after VE Day (but before the fall of Japan) there was an Election in Britain. Winston Churchill, amazingly enough, lost.

Many consider a speech he made, excerpted below, to be a contributing factor in his defeat.

“No Socialist Government conducting the entire life and industry of the country could afford to allow free, sharp, or violently-worded expressions of public discontent. They would have to fall back on some form of Gestapo, no doubt very humanely directed in the first instance. And this would nip opinion in the bud; it would stop criticism as it reared its head, and it would gather all the power to the supreme party and the party leaders, rising like stately pinnacles above their vast bureaucracies of Civil servants, no longer servants and no longer civil. And where would the ordinary simple folk – the common people, as they like to call them in America – where would they be, once this mighty organism had got them in its grip?”

Pretty strong stuff, but then Sir Winston wasn't exactly known for his delicacy and finesse. The reference to the Gestapo aside, how far off the mark was he? I'm thinking of the freedom-of-speech issues raised by the censorship policies of social media companies like Facebook and Twitter and laws and regulations about so-called hate speech, hate crimes and other thought crimes.

Was Amendment Numero Uno meant to protect 'free, sharp, or violently-worded expressions of public discontent'? I have every reason to believe it was indeed meant to protect exactly that. Yet this is the very thing we're trying to stamp out by things like 'anti-bullying' policies that try to criminalize 'verbal assault'.

I actually need to be careful about what I say.

Let that sink in for a moment. This is the United States, not Cuba, or Iran or Soviet Russia but the United States of America. And I have to be careful about what I say. Not out of fear of offending anyone. I don't really want to offend anyone but if I speak what I think is the truth and it offends, oh well.

But I need to be careful because I may cross some invisible line and have my Twitter or Facebook accounts closed or be prosecuted by the government or some aggrieved party.

I remember the days, long ago, shortly after the Mayflower landed and before people had to leave the comfort of their caves to get coffee...and the internet was the Promised Land of free speech. People all over the world would be able to speak their minds without fear of retribution by oppressive governments or societies.

Yeah...another lie we fell for. I'm actually vaguely uncomfortable calling a spade a spade or even using the expression because someone might take offense. 

Who needs the Gestapo? 

Churchill should never have run for election and instead walked away in 1945 while he was at the top. Instead he ran and lost and ran again in 1951 and won. His family suffered terribly.

But at least he had a chance to warn us what would happen if the feel-good nanny-state and their inevitable thought police took control.


  1. I'm probably wrong about this, but I always thought the 1st Amendment was connected to political speech (in opposition to the Crown's desire for open dialogue . . .) It is a shame when the fault of offense is determined by those with the thinnest of skin.