Blazing saddles dim memory in new dark age of censorship, witch-hunts

Blazing saddles dim memory in new dark age of censorship, witch-hunts, by Matt Ridley.

Mel Brooks said last week that comedy was becoming impossible in this censorious age and he never could have made his 1974 film Blazing Saddles today. A recent poll found 38 per cent of Britons and 70 per cent of Germans think the government should be able to prevent speech that is offensive to minorities. If you give a commencement speech at a US university these days and don’t attract a shouty mob, you’re clearly a nobody. …

The no-platforming, safe-space, trigger-warning culture is no longer confined to academia, or to America, but lies behind the judgmentalism of many social media campaigns. Every writer I know feels he or she is one remark away from disgrace. A de facto blasphemy prohibition has re-emerged in Western society and is being enforced not just by the Islamists who murder cartoonists, but, as Ayaan Hirsi Ali, the black, feminist victim of female genital mutilation has experienced, by the Southern Poverty Law Centre, which called her an anti-Muslim extremist. …

Countries where in my youth women wore miniskirts in public now enforce hijabs or burkas. Sharia law, homophobia and explicit antisemitism are spreading in Britain, where in some state-funded schools four-year-olds are made to wear hijabs. …

This is not just about Islam, though it is curious how silent feminists are on Islamic sexism. The enforcement of dogma is happening everywhere. Members of a transgender campaign group have refused to condemn an activist for punching a feminist. Anybody questioning the idea that climate change is an imminent catastrophe, however gently, is quickly labelled a “denier” (ie a blasphemer). …

Maybe the entire world is heading into a great endarkenment, in which an atmosphere of illiberal orthodoxy threatens the achievement of recent centuries. …

I am fairly certain that the Enlightenment is not over, that discovery and reason will overwhelm dogma and superstition. Seven years ago my book The Rational Optimist set out a positive vision of the world. But the spread of fundamentalist Islam, the growth of Hindu nationalism and Russian autocracy, the intolerance of dissent in Western universities and the puritanical hectoring of social media give grounds for concern that the flowering of freedom in the past several centuries may come under threat. We have a fight on our hands.

hat-tip Stephen Neil