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Posts Tagged ‘self-censorship’

gleb-konovalov-uncensoredAnyone who has known me for more than five minutes knows that I hate censorship. I go on about the importance of free speech and free expression the way vegans rattle on about tofu or nut cutlets. Whatever it is that suppresses speech, whether it be governmental interference and sanction, political gatekeeping by de facto tech monopolies or the public/private partnership that is financial censorship.

There is one form of censorship that is more insidious, however, and one with which I have trouble dealing. That’s self-censorship.

“The exercising of control over what one says and does, especially to avoid criticism.”

Believe it or not, I am very tired of fighting with people about things, especially when people seem to have developed somewhat entrenched and peculiar ideas about me. Ideas that I do not recognise as having any basis in reality. When I also defend ‘icky speech’, as Neil Gaiman calls it, not from content but on the foundation of free expression, people seem incapable of separating the principle from the material.

The Voltairian concept of free speech (actually articulated by Evelyn Beatrice-Hall) seems just about dead, and in combination with ‘Death of the Author’ your intent or purpose in creating material matters, not one jot. People will tell you what you meant (invariably giving it the worst possible interpretation to meet their own biases) and your opinion on what you made and why is entirely irrelevant.

But I am tired, so very weary, of this constant fighting and unlike some others I genuinely care what people think of me, and why. I want people to acknowledge the truth, I don’t like to see innocent people slandered and if I can take some heat away from someone else, I will! Profoundly suppressed masochistic tendencies perhaps.

Everything I do, everything I have done, for going on five years, has been subjected to the most intensive scrutiny by some devoted haters. If they can find a way to disrupt what I do, my living, my work, my life, they’ll do it. Any time I produce a game, a T-shirt design, a piece of written work, a Youtube video, a blog post – anything – they’re picking over it for something to damn me with or some spurious manner they can justify a takedown, censorship or other interference.

It’s wearing, it’s exhausting, and so I find myself doing something I hate; censoring myself.

I find myself questioning whether it’s worth another internet slap fight. Whether it’s worth being called a liar, misogynist, incel (that’s a new one), racist (!) and other nonsense, just because I don’t march in absolute lockstep with one group’s ideology in every particular.

Of course, on the other side, I have people screaming that I’m a Communist, Cultural Marxist, immoral, degenerate traitor and speculating about my racial grouping for some reason; again, because I don’t march in lockstep with their peculiar beliefs.

By doing that, even not going forward, I am betraying my principles for the sake of self-care, but it doesn’t sit well. It’s a paradox of esteem and self-actualisation (to put it in Maslow’s terms). You can’t self-actualise without esteem, but you can’t maintain esteem if you self-actualise.

The temptation to surround yourself with people who agree with you is strong, but I see the danger in that of the way other people have gone off the rails. It’s a trap, a maze with no exit and so, every time I make a creative decision it’s gut-wrenching torture of self-doubt, balanced – perhaps in an intimately colonic way – on the horns of a dilemma.

I think I have to uncensor myself in the long run, but it’s a hard thing to do. It’s harder not to be my authentic self though.

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