In the Middle Ages, pious men sought to silence heretics because they believed the Faith led to Paradise, while its loss led to Hell for all eternity. The Christian censorship we mock today was born of men's deepest convictions about the most important thing in life: salvation.
Devout Muslims believe heretics and apostates should be put to death. Islam is the most important thing in their lives, and its truths are valued more than any freedom to mock them.
And, indeed, most men accept some form of censorship.
Most of us believe that published or spoken lies that ruin good names should be punished by libel and slander laws. Most of us believe there are military secrets that must be protected. Not a few Americans believe that the moral codes imposed on Hollywood by the Legion of Decency helped protect society from the toxic pollution that poisons our children. Most of us support FCC sanctions against filthy language or racist slurs on the airwaves.
Nor is government censorship unknown to America.
President John Adams signed the Sedition Acts, which called for the incarceration of journalists who wrote insultingly of him. Abraham Lincoln suppressed newspapers that denounced his war. Woodrow Wilson imprisoned the Socialist Eugene Debs for denouncing his war.
A new censorship is now arising. We read of speech codes on campuses, sensitivity training for freshman, and tribunals before which students are made to grovel and recant for joking references that offended some minority or other.
"The best test of truth," said Justice Holmes, "is the power of thought to get itself accepted in the marketplace."
Nonsense. Editor Elijah Lovely was lynched in Alton, Ill., in 1837 for advocating abolition -- against the view of the marketplace. Truth is truth, whether the majority agrees or not.
Yet, one's money ought to be on the new censors, for men who believe deeply in something, even when wrong, usually triumph over men who believe in nothing.
Today, the true believers in Islam and the true believers in diversity uber alles are making common cause against those who believe in freedom of speech and the press. As the former have the convictions and increasingly the power, they may prevail, and not only in Canada and Europe.
A new orthodoxy is arising. Freedom's finest hour may be behind us.
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