The New Blasphemy—Why is it Such a Big Deal?

My lovely wife was born and raised in Sweden. Her family lives there still. I met her in her twenties when her English was just okay. She is outraged at a muppet mocking her culture and language. The Swedish Chef is culturally insensitive and offensive. Little Swedish children will feel belittled and stupid seeing this depiction of the dumb and incompetent Swede. It’s a stereotype. Thank goodness they have warning labels that confess to culturally insensitive characters.

Actually, my wife is not offended at all. She was raised in a time and a culture where children were taught to be resilient, not fragile. She thinks the Swedish Chef is funny—even though she doesn’t understand a word the muppet is saying. Her upbringing did not prepare to be offended by everything. She was raised to be resilient.

When publishers decided they weren’t going to publish cartoons of Muhammad so as not to offend Muslims, especially since Muslims were protesting, rioting, and even murdering cartoonists and editors over it, we were already far down the path that would find it ordinary to censor cartoons of Chinese people or remove from libraries classic books using period language.

We got a big heads up when they started labeling records and CDs. The PMRC. Content warnings. “Words,” Zappa’s voice echoes through my head. Maybe books would be better without them? Remember how goofy it still looked when conservatives freaked out over Ice T’s “Cop Killer”? (Why isn’t that song an anthem on the woke left?)

Imagine Cheech and Chong trying to make it in today’s fragile climate. “Up His Nose.” “Basketball Jones.” Or Don Rickles. How many years ago did they ruin Michael Richards? And Andrew “Dice” Clay? Remember the outrage on SNL? That was no Kaufmanesque bit. Those weren’t conservatives who did that. That wasn’t the rightwing.

Warning labels are a form of censorship that pretends to respect liberal values. “It’s not like you can’t see or hear it.” Right, but you have told me that I will probably regret it, or that is (partly) false, or it will damage my children, so maybe I should pass. Why would somebody put out something that could offend me or mislead me? Thank you for warning me about this. Come to think of it, why do we allow this sort of stuff at all? Don’t publish it. Disinvite him. We need a Ministry of Truth. Where is the commissar? Doubleplusgood!

I’m a child, too. Decide for me. I don’t know how to obtain a ID card. (Thank goodness I need one of those for the bank or the library.) Can’t you just mail my vote for me?

Political correctness is to liberal secularism what blasphemy is to religion. Call-out culture and cancel culture come with rules indicating words only the chosen people can say, as well as a selective aniconism. Equity is not about equality but about power. Otherwise, why would anybody care about speech rules somebody else thinks ought to be imposed?

We might call this the First Church of Woke. It is designed to make the congregation so frail that even words become crushing. The gatekeepers use this as a method of thought control—that is, political control. That the flock wants it, thinks it’s normal and necessary, is the point of indoctrination. Those who control you always need you to believe that their interests are your interests.

Gramsci called this ideological hegemony. Despite being thrown into prison by Mussolini, he understood that power doesn’t usual work by coercion alone. There are more effective forms of cancelling than incarceration. Hegemony happens also by engineering consent, by normalizing power over you. Controlling the means of communication is the prerequisite. That’s what Ed Bernays understood. It’s what corporate power, the administrative state, and the culture industry understand.

We know it today as as “inclusion” and other bellyfeel. Perhaps you have attended a struggle session or two where you were conditioned to accept it. If you didn’t leave feeling welcomed to the cognitive and behavioral training apparatus perhaps, then you should revisit your experience. It’s why tolerance has become such a bad word. Tolerance has become, in the eyes of Marcuse’s children, repressive.

Looking for racism

All that enlightenment work opening up society, emancipating thought and expression from the censorship by corporate bodies and powerful elites from the constraints of speech codes that shackle opinion—that work is now just an overreaction in the eyes of the new class of moral entrepreneurs, so many of whom are young and zealous. They don’t realize that all the other freedoms flow from the freedom of speech and expression.

Beware those who downplay the significance of ideological hegemony. The culture of inclusivity is stealthily stealing our liberties. Subscribe. Share. We’re going to have to fight if we want to remain free.

Published by

Andrew Austin

Andrew Austin is on the faculty of Democracy and Justice Studies and Sociology at the University of Wisconsin—Green Bay. He has published numerous articles, essays, and reviews in books, encyclopedia, journals, and newspapers.

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