Thursday, April 17

The thought police: 1984 in 2014

They seem to be at it again: the thought police. Those of the extreme left or right telling us how to think and what to think, though not why to think it.

An example is some of the noise swirling around Condoleezza Rice, Stanford professor and former Secretary of State. Not only have faculty at University of Minnesota petitioned against her appearance to deliver the Distinguished Carlson Lecture, but they have tied their resistance to her role as National Security Adviser: "As National Security Adviser in the critical period of 2001-05, Dr. Rice played a central role in the design and implementation of the Administration's policies, which legitimized the use of torture by redefining it to include only practices so severe as to induce organ failure." And, oh by the way, they're paying her a whopping $150K for her speech. That's another reason the faculty are a bit perturbed.

Condi is generating some additional online buzz because she was named to the Dropbox board. Those folks were more cowardly because they are anonymous, but it's the threat that intrigued me: "Change your mind on this decision or we will take our toys and go play with someone else." Okay, maybe it was worded a little differently, but that's what I read.

My goodness, people. I certainly hope no one judges you for things you said or did over a decade ago. And I certainly hope if those people do decide to judge you, they gather up something akin to facts before expressing in such broad generalizations how deeply and personally your actions or words of a decade or so ago have caused them irreparable harm.

Charles Krauthammer published an opinion piece on the thought police. I remember thinking that we've become an incredibly intolerant society as we shout down others for being intolerant. We are scandalized and offended by behavior or words that do not align with our own.

The media plays an impressive role in pandering to the thought police and giving them credence where little is due, but this very 1984 notion of the thought police and thought crimes is intriguing, somewhat terrifying, and could be stultifying.

Another recent piece on the thought police is that of Brandeis University and Ayaan Hirsi Ali. The good news is that I might not have been as aware of the story of Ayaan Hirsi Ali had I not seen this story. Brandeis University getting its shorts in a wad: meh. Huffing and puffing of allegedly outraged groups and individuals for reasons that remain unclear to me: meh.

In my opinion, the thought police are bullies and should rethink their approaches. They might read or re-read 1984. But that's my opinion. You are free to think what you like.

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