Part II of II by Claudio Grass, Switzerland
Over the last couple of years, we saw countless examples of free speech suppression and of the steep price paid by those who chose to exercise that right. Divergent ideas and thoughts contradicting the government narrative were silenced and often punished in ways that would have been entirely unimaginable before the covid outbreak.
No matter what one thinks about the pandemic, about the policies and the measures that were imposed and whether they were justified or not, it is still near impossible to refute that, at least in recent memory, we have never seen such an aggressive enforcement of a state dictum and such brutal retaliation against those who dared question its wisdom or even those who merely asked for any factual, rational justification, for any kind of objective scientific evidence that could conceivably support the mandated version of reality.
No matter if they were actually, factually, rationally right or wrong, divergent views were never punished so harshly before. After all, we had “flat earthers” live amongst us for years and the heaviest “penalty” they ever had to pay was an incredulous giggle or a joke at their expense. Ardent supporters of the “lizard people” theories were also tolerated in the public square. No official authority took a stance or targeted them, no government treated them as “enemies of the people”, even though the ideas they propagated were beyond absurd. During the covid crisis though, anyone with divergent views was marginalised over this issue, painted as evil and dangerous because of their opinions. Many lost their jobs because of their beliefs, they had their livelihoods taken away, or, in extreme cases, were even legally prosecuted, because they disagreed with or even simply questioned the established doctrine.
Of course, these experiences were alarming and unsettling for many citizens, however, these were all still examples of a “direct”, overt threat against free speech. If anything, they are quite primitive, eerily close to the kind of measures that any collective regime of the past would adopt. Punishing dissent so crudely, so conspicuously and so flagrantly, as though to make “an example” out of the dissenters is the sort of response that the “enemies of freedom” would (and did, and still) opt for.
The actual effectiveness of this “direct” strategy is highly questionable, as brute force can never extinguish an idea that has already taken root. The indirect approach, however, is arguably infinitely more potent. The more discreet, more manipulative, more shrewd and more Machiavellian tactics, that incidentally Western governments have perfected over the last few decades are clearly superior. The illusion of choice, the concept of “nudging” policies and the devious and twisted use (or more accurately, abuse) of logic, of science, even of language itself have all proven themselves to be extremely reliable tools and dependable “go-to” solutions to sway the masses.
For example, as most readers will recall, it wasn’t so long ago that we were presented with the idea of “alternative facts”. Not too long after that we were saw an aggressive and determined effort to redefine words and strategically manipulate basic vocabulary. We also recently experienced a massive shift and remarkable restrictions imposed on the “Overton Window”. We used to be able to freely discuss and debate all kinds of ideas, even the outrageous ones, those on the fringe of reason and propriety, those deemed extreme, preposterous or just plainly unhinged. The spectrum of “acceptable” beliefs has shrunk so dramatically today that it essentially forbids any opposition, disagreement or mere doubt to the mainstream narrative.
Let us also consider the attempts to exert control and assert a monopoly over reason, reality and objective facts. Claiming to be on the side of “THE truth” or even more poignantly, or “THE science”, has proven to be an impressively effective ploy, even though the very notion is an affront to both these things.
Tactics like these exploit the educational deficit, the historical, technical and scientific ignorance that is prevalent in the wider public, and especially the catastrophic levels of innumeracy and financial illiteracy. This is what allows governments to weaponise statistics in their favour, to present “official data and cold hard numbers” that clearly support their policies and prove how successful they were.
Inflation is a great example: Before its official reemergence two years ago, it was declared and widely accepted as “dead”, as the official readings conveniently excluded asset price inflation. Even now, it is still vastly and recklessly underreported and underrepresented, as the CPI calculations have been too manipulated and skewed to be of any analytical or comparative use.
Finally, we have the “hostile takeover” of facts. The concept of “fact checking” or “verifying” has been one of the most successful political stratagems in recent memory. Combined with the reach, gravitas and prestige of legacy media, hijacking and arbitrarily claiming the position of the “arbiter of truth” has proved to be one of the most efficient and powerful ways to completely shut down and automatically discredit any and all opposing views and critical argumentation.
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