The empty echo of censorship

« The instituted authority has always needed, in order to consolidate its tutelage, to treat men as blind, incapable of guiding themselves, to such an extent that, accustomed to go with closed eyes where they are enjoined to go, they fear the light and demand at their expense more night and fog, where they can wander insisting against the harshness of the times. Obscurantism has always been the mode of illumination of power. »(1)

Raoul Vaneigem, 2003

« Freedom of speech is not just about defending Charlie, it’s also about really investigating the cases in case of a pandemic. »(2)

Jean Furtos, 2021

Let’s remember. A few years before the covid event, freedom of expression was already under attack, the new censorship and cancel culture were on the way. The progressive and cultural left had taken the lead, spearheading intersectionality and wokism. University professors, philosophers, journalists, filmmakers, playwrights, writers and humorists were and are deprived of public speaking or, to use the fashionable terminology, « cancelled ». Gone are the days when the left fought censorship. Today, she unabashedly accuses those who call for freedom of expression of belonging to thealt-right - the American alternative right, which supports Donald Trump — or at least of being inspired by it. Strange turn of events and sign of a certain ideological confusion! 

With the appearance of the coronavirus, the things worsened, the « sanitary » situation, with all the fears that it carries (of which that of the death that this society refuses henceforth), allowing that the techniques of enslavement of the masses are expressed without complex. To dare to criticize government policy — use of freedom of expression — would make you fall, from the first confinement, into the infamous categories of conspiracy theorists, stalwarts, irresponsible, uncivilized, criminals or eugenicists — use of freedom of expression in return, but in the form of insults -, because such a serious situation demanded to close ranks around the ruling class. The deepest and most political insult is the supposed membership of the extreme right as soon as one defends public and individual liberties, nothing less than a « nauseating » speech, one could read on the Web. Or how to use fascist methods — the reduction of the other to a few devaluing traits — to forbid thinking. It seemed to us that, until now, the words freedom and extreme right were antinomic. Did people feel free under Nazism or Fascism? Let’s bet that it is the very content of this extreme right-wing label that has evolved over time. To hold to the maintenance of freedoms and the rule of law, is it necessarily also to present the traditional traits of the extreme right: social Darwinism, anti-Semitism, sexism, xenophobia, Islamophobia, homophobia, transphobia, etc. ? Frankly, what functioning brain would support such nonsense? Unless we see it as a strategy to confuse the minds and move forward in disguise (so to speak): pretending to be a democrat in order to better undermine the foundations of democracy, an old tactic that goes back to Hitler? When Gaspard Koenig raises safeguards against the totalitarian temptation, he is reproached — to say the least — for doing so from a liberal point of view (which can certainly be criticized in itself)(3). So, when will the left defend freedoms, following the example of the lucid, courageous but isolated positions of Franck Lepage, Barbara Stiegler and Laurent Mucchielli? Our comrades on the left may (re)assure us between the eyes that they « don’t always agree with all the health measures », but let’s notice that they refrain from taking a public position on the issue. By cowardice? hypocrisy? complacency? or respect for public authority, against all odds? 

De nos jours, différents facteurs rendent le débat démocratique, serein et rationnel presque impossible : la polarisation et la moralisation des positions, soit le camp du Bien contre celui du Mal ; l’intolérance érigée en nouvelle vertu ; l’idée que toute transgression, humoristique ou non, est une agression ; la non-prise en compte du contexte d’énonciation ; la prévalence des réactions émotionnelles négatives (colère, indignation, tristesse) sur la vie intellectuelle ; le refuge dans les « Finally, the attempts of certain identity groups to impose restrictions and twists on language to make it conform to their particular claims, as well as toprevent public speaking, especially at the University. Pierre Bourdieu’s methodological question « who is speaking? » is taken literally, to the point of putting meaning in the background, when it is not simply a matter of ignoring or destroying it. However,  » one of the first virtues of freedom of expression is to allow one day to meet one’s opponent(4) « , reminds Monique Canto-Sperber. But we usually only meet him through a screen, which has the advantage of not taking any physical risk. So some people take advantage of it outrageously. How to put some common sense back in the case? Raoul Vaneigem emphasizes that « it is not the words that must be condemned, but the assaults(5) « , whereas today, precisely, certain words are unofficially « punished » by assaults. 

The contributors to this dossier will talk about culture, art (Alain Gailliard), historical and ideological perspective (Michel Weber), self-censorship in youth publishing and digital censorship (Philippe Godard), and their own experience as censors (Louis Fouché, Jérémie Mercier). So that any censorship becomes an expression! 

File coordinated by Bernard Legros and Alexandre Penasse 

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