Freedom of speech was greatly suppress in the authoritarian regimes that dominated the 20th century scene. But that Nazi and Soviet regimes fell, and China has transformed into a somewhat-less authoritarian society. Though the hard-tyrannies of the past century have been quieted or changed, the threat to free speech is arguably stronger than it ever was in the 20th century.
Political correctness and repression of dissenting thought is spreading quickly across Western societies. Several times we have shared stories of how free speech is being systematically attacked by crazed protesters and Marxist shock-troopers, most notably on college campuses. And the universities are doing little, if anything, to stop this affront to freedom of thought and speech.
In response, there is an unorthodox alliance that has formed to counter the rise of totalitarianism in our own society. Its ranks are not the same as those of yesteryear, but one of independent researchers, young minds, and even cultural giants.
As Matthew Continetti, editor-in-chief of the Washington Free Beacon, writes, this coalition for cultural freedom comprised of Jordan Peterson, Charles Murray, Christina Hoff Sommers, and Kanye West is the front-line defense against the march of totalitarian philosophies that seek to shut down dissenting opinions.
The new advocates for cultural freedom are different from their forebears. They are more ethnically and sexually diverse. Practically all of them operate outside the academy. They are not self-consciously organized as a movement. To some extent, of course, this lack of institutionalization is related to present historical conditions. The mid-twentieth century was an era of bigness, of vast bureaus, of hierarchical corporations where political life, especially on the left, was divided and subdivided into party, committee, and cell. The early twenty-first century is too fractured, disaggregated, and anarchic for such precise construction and coordination. This is a time of weak relationships, of loose affiliations. People drop in and out of movements at the press of a "like," "Tweet," or "send" button. And because our media is unbundled, and the multiple means of personal expression so accessible, no one authority has monopoly power to distinguish reasonable dissenters from cranks. This creates an opportunity for the enforcers of political correctness, who are quick to associate the enemies they unfairly deride as racists with genuine ones.