In 2020, We Need to Fight the New Thoughtpolice

Frank Furedi, Spiked

Speech, thought and culture are being policed on a terrifying scale.

During the past decade, and especially this year, those in positions of influence have tried to change the narrative through which society understands itself.

There is an insidious crusade afoot aiming at controlling what the public sees, hears, thinks and believes. This project, which seeks hegemony in various Western cultures, is no less pervasive and thoroughgoing than previous attempts at thought control by totalitarian and theocratic regimes.

But since this campaign to control the narrative has no name, and does not promote an explicit ideology, its significance tends to be underestimated, even by those who oppose the many attempts to police language and thought.

A new identity-obsessed, anti-humanist and anti-civilisational narrative has taken hold. We are increasingly encouraged to change our language, adopt hitherto unknown words, and accept deeply questionable claims.

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This campaign has been so successful because its opponents have failed to grasp its significance. Typically, the demands of extreme identitarians are dismissed as either of no significance or as a joke. Take one example that emerged last week.

A group of 16 scientists – from such prestigious universities as Cambridge and Oxford – wrote a letter to the journal Nature denouncing its use of the term ‘quantum supremacy’. This was on the grounds that it conveys racist and colonialist ideas.

They said that, in their view, ‘supremacy’ has ‘overtones of violence, neocolonialism and racism through its association with “white supremacy”’, and demanded that the term be replaced by ‘quantum advantage’.

It is of course tempting to dismiss this as a silly gesture by self-important scientists with too much time on their hands. And that is precisely how many people responded to this ludicrous letter. But its authors are not alone in thinking as they do.

In August, a team at the Human Interface Technology lab in New Zealand asserted that it was problematic that most robots were manufactured out of white plastic, since it smacked of imperialism and white supremacy.

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