Martin van Creveld: we are in the Age of Muzzled Americans

Summary: The West is changing. Martin van Creveld points to one of its darker trends, as the West reverses its long journey to greater personal freedom.

“It was intended that when Newspeak had been adopted once and for all and Oldspeak forgotten, a heretical thought — that is, a thought diverging from the principles of Ingsoc — should be literally unthinkable, at least so far as thought is dependent on words.
— From 1984 by George Orwell.

German Shepherd with Muzzle
Photo by Joshua Sherurcij. From Wikimedia Commons.

Welcome to the age of the muzzle.

By Martin van Creveld.
From his website, 22 February 2018. Re-posted with his generous permission.

Welcome to the age of the muzzle. In Russia you cannot say that Putin is a dangerous scoundrel. The same, of course, applies to the rulers of many other non-countries. In Canada, I am told, you cannot say that homosexuality is unnatural {e.g., here and here}. In Austria you cannot say that there was no Holocaust; ditto in Germany {Wikipedia}. In the Netherlands any reference to Zwarte Piet (Black Peter, a legendary comic character who has accompanied Santa Claus for ages) is bound to get you in trouble.

In America, you cannot say that certain countries are s——-s {Details here.} In many American schools and universities, you cannot wear a cross pendant for fear someone will be offended {Germany, Pew Research}.

In almost all Western countries, you cannot say that many refugees and migrants are uncouth louts. Ditto, that Islam is a religion that puts great emphasis on violence and the sword (which, incidentally, is its symbol). Ditto, that trans-gender people are poor confused creatures who do not know what sex they belong, or want to belong, to. Ditto, that there are some things men can do and women cannot. Or that people of different races have different qualities.

So why get excited when, in Poland, you are no longer allowed to say that quite some Polish people cooperated with the Germans in hunting and killing Jews {details here}?

And here is what Supreme Court member Louis Brandeis, back in 1927, in Whitney v. California, concerning a decision to convict a woman who had been sued for setting up a communist cell, had to say about the matter…

“Those who won our independence believed that the final end of the State was to make men free to develop their faculties, and that, in its government, the deliberative forces should prevail over the arbitrary. They valued liberty both as an end, and as a means.

“They believed liberty to be the secret of happiness, and courage to be the secret of liberty. They believed that freedom to think as you will and to speak as you think are means indispensable to the discovery and spread of political truth; that, without free speech and assembly, discussion would be futile; that, with them, discussion affords ordinarily adequate protection against the dissemination of noxious doctrine; that the greatest menace to freedom is an inert people; that public discussion is a political duty, and that this should be a fundamental principle of the American government.

“They recognized the risks to which all human institutions are subject. But they knew that order cannot be secured merely through fear of punishment for its infraction; that it is hazardous to discourage thought, hope and imagination; that fear breeds repression; that repression breeds hate; that hate menaces stable government; that the path of safety lies in the opportunity to discuss freely supposed grievances and proposed remedies, and that the fitting remedy for evil counsels is good ones. Believing in the power of reason as applied through public discussion, they eschewed silence coerced by law — the argument of force in its worst form. Recognizing the occasional tyrannies of governing majorities, they amended the Constitution so that free speech and assembly should be guaranteed.”

Did he make himself clear enough?

———————– End of essay. ———————–

Now for the bad news

Control of speech is just one aspect of the new regime of control in the West. Actions are increasingly controlled. For example, staring was impolite, but ladies were to dress modestly. These were reciprocal guidelines. Now women can dress to more directly push men’s hard-wired buttons (see Survival of the Prettiest: The Science of Beauty) — but men still cannot “stare” (as subjectively determined by women).

Another example of the ever more intrusive rules about behavior: the difference between flirting and harassment, according to the Ohio State sexual harassment guide. It does not say how men should know in advance how a woman will feel.

  • “Flirting makes the receiver feel good…Flirting results in positive self-esteem.”
  • “Sexual harassment makes the receiver feel bad …Sexual harassment results in negative self-esteem.”

Martin van Creveld

About the Author

Martin van Creveld is Professor Emeritus of History at Hebrew University of Jerusalem, and one of the world’s most renowned experts on military history and strategy.

The central role of Professor van Creveld in the development of theory about modern war is difficult to exaggerate. He has written 24 books about almost every significant aspect of war. See links to his articles at The Essential 4GW reading list: Martin van Creveld.

OF more general interest are his books about western culture: Men, Women & War: Do Women Belong in the Front Line?, The Privileged Sex, and Pussycats: Why the Rest Keeps Beating the West.

To better understand our future, see his magnum opus — the dense but mind-opening The Rise and Decline of the State— describes the political order unfolding before our eyes.

His latest book is Hitler in Hell, a mind-blowing memoir “by” one of the most remarkable men of 20th century.

For More Information

If you found this post of use, like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter. Also see these posts about forecasts, about computer models, and especially these…

  1. See free speech crushed at Tufts today. Remember 1964, when we were wild & untamed…
  2. Edgewood College attacks free speech. We laugh, ignoring its lessons for us all.
  3. Feminist revolutionaries seized control of colleges. Now come the tribunals…
  4. The Left attacks free speech. See the ACLU defend it.
  5. A new generation of Americans doesn’t value free speech.
  6. An anthropologist looks at our universities & sees weirdness.
The Age of Responsibility: Luck, Choice, and the Welfare State
Available at Amazon.

A powerful book about America

The Age of Responsibility by Yascha Mounk.

It shows how our cult of individualism has made us weak, forgetting that only together are we strong. See this post about the book. From the publisher…

“A novel focus on ‘personal responsibility’ has transformed political thought and public policy in America and Europe. Since the 1970s, responsibility ― which once meant the moral duty to help and support others―has come to suggest an obligation to be self-sufficient. This narrow conception of responsibility has guided recent reforms of the welfare state, making key entitlements conditional on good behavior.

“Drawing on intellectual history, political theory, and moral philosophy, Yascha Mounk shows why the The Age of Responsibility is pernicious ― and how it might be overcome.

“Personal responsibility began as a conservative catchphrase. But over time, leaders across the political spectrum came to subscribe to its underlying framework. Today, even egalitarian philosophers rarely question the normative importance of responsibility. Emphasizing the pervasive influence of luck over our lives, they cast the poor as victims who cannot be held responsible for their actions.

“Mounk shows that today’s focus on individual culpability is both wrong and counterproductive: it distracts us from the larger economic forces determining aggregate outcomes, ignores what we owe our fellow citizens regardless of their choices, and blinds us to other key values, such as the desire to live in a society of equals. Recognizing that even society’s neediest members seek to exercise genuine agency, Mounk builds a positive conception of responsibility. Instead of punishing individuals for their past choices, he argues, public policy should aim to empower them to take responsibility for themselves―and those around them.”

8 thoughts on “Martin van Creveld: we are in the Age of Muzzled Americans

  1. As usual a great clarity of though is brought by Martin, thank you.

    It seems that a religious fervor has taken hold in the left characterized by a blind puritanism that depends on shame rather than logical, rational argument to stifle and muzzle any opposition. Coincidentally I read an article where Google fired a guy for daring to speak out.

    It was also interesting to read the cover up on the Russian attack on US forces in Syria.

    I have noted before that the media have taken up partisan positions that means that they are forced to silence on anything that does not fit with their narrative. They have painted themselves into a corner that leaves the public better served by not reading main stream media.

    One of your previous articles on the erosion of trust in America explained it perfectly. Trust is evaporating and that is the glue that holds society together. It is a commodity similar to a crock of pottery, easily to break but nearly impossible to reassemble once broken.

    1. 7zander,

      I have wondered how to characterize the Left’s increasing advocacy for control of speech and behavior. Odd for a movement some of whose oldest members marched at Berkeley for the right to do and say transgressive things (e.g. to say “F**K” in public). I too have thought of this as “puritanism”. If so, it is quite a mutant kind of puritanism. There must be a better label.

      Re: the attack at Deir Ezzor in Syria.

      I disagree with your description of the situation. First, the media is not being “partisan”. They are somewhat uncritically reporting the US govt’s story, as usual. There is not Dem-GOP division, or Left-Right division here.

      Second, there have been many articles challenging the official story. The NYT article does so slightly. Eli Lake’s op-ed at Bloomberg does so directly.

      Personally, I doubt the confident inspired guessing that says the Russian govt ordered it should be regarded as fact. Stuff goes wrong in combat. Did the US govt order the massacre at Mai Lai? The official story blaming Lt Calley is obviously bogus, but saying it was official govt policy is an exaggeration. There are few black and white lines in war. Many things happen in the grey zone, out of sight. Cautious reporting is imo commendable — and too-seldom seen in the US news media.

  2. I think you meant to write “flirting results in positive self-esteem” rather than “sexual harassment” . Or maybe I misunderstood.

    1. StickDude,

      I have often seen that said, but never shown with such clarity! Thanks for posting.

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