Thursday, December 14, 2017

Movie Review: Silenced

As regular readers might remember from my several posts on the culture war and censorship, I consider free speech one of the most important issues of our time. Aside from it being a basic human right enshrined  most prominently in our Bill of Rights, it is also a pragmatic necessity for our civilization's survival, for one simple reason.

You can't solve a problem you can't name.

And boy oh boy do we have a boatload of Problems-That-Cannot-Be-Named.

Oh, we're all aware they exist. We whisper of them amongst the like-minded, looking over our collective shoulders. We discuss them in closed Facebook groups and on Discord chats, forever fretting about spies and suspensions. But for the most part, we have all agreed that some things are just off-limits out in the open, at least if you want to keep whatever it is that's precious to you. For some, it's a job; for others, family harmony; for still others, long-term friendships. The reasons are valid, and sometimes even admirable, but the consequences of such decisions slowly accumulated over the last decade or more to bring us to one undeniable fact.

We are all Silenced.

And now, thanks to the efforts of Mike Cernovich, Loren Feldman and many dedicated supporters who'd provided the funds, we have a chance to explore the magnitude of the problem and possible solutions.

The documentary introduces a collection of speakers from different walks of life and of wildly varying respectability/fame/notoriety. They are clips rather than complete interviews, giving an overall effect of unfiltered, unedited expression, even though the choice and placement of different clips is anything but accidental. At first, the format is jarring as we jump from one person to the next with little time to digest the content. However, but at some point the pattern emerges, and we begin to see that each participant is telling an important part of the story, much as all the pieces of a kaleidoscope create a picture.

Allan Dershowitz gets a much-deserved top billing, in part because he is perhaps the most mainstream name in the group, but mostly because he's got all the best lines (sorry, Milo!). I wish some of those thoughts could be put on T-shirts and worn on college campuses, although part of me worries about the violence or at least expulsions and firings that might result.

Other contributors range from famous to unknown, sympathetic to "cross-the-street-to-avoid," highly intellectual to plain spoken. Some tell stories of having been censored or disemployed, while others simply explain their personal views on the importance free expression. More importantly, we see the cost of both soft and hard censorship, not just in political discussions and entertainment, but in areas that affect us on a daily basis (medical research is a particularly stark, yet unsurprising, example).

Different races, religions, sexual orientations and political ideologies are represented, not because someone in the back room was checking off diversity boxes but because freedom of speech is just that important. Some of the participants would likely not wish to be in the same building with each other, and yet here they all are, getting (virtually) together to speak up for the one thing on which they happen to agree.

Free speech is precious.

It is rare.

And we, who have been blessed with it, dare not lose it.

Let us be Silenced no more.

Silenced is available on Amazon (free with Prime).