The Freedom to Create

A “critic” is a man who creates nothing and thereby feels qualified to judge the work of creative men. There is logic in this; he is unbiased – he hates all creative people equally.
Excerpt from the Notebooks of Lazarus Long in “Time Enough For Love” by Robert A. Heinlein

It’s not easy being creative in an outrage culture. In a culture in which always offended groups try to find fault with everything. And with social media, they usually bully their way. Even worse, in many cases, they control the narrative (as with gamergate).

However, there are signs that these social justice warriors, who are neither social nor for justice, increasingly run against walls.

Some companies have rediscovered that even bad publicity is good publicity. Thus, when it comes to Twitterstorms, you can stroke the fire and reap the rewards (like Protein World did).

When it comes to ideologically controlled awards, it’s possible to expose them for what they are. The Hugo awards were once a very prestigious award for science fiction writers. However, there has been increasing criticism that today it’s less the quality of the writing that counts, but the politics of the writer (i.e., liberal/left wing). Two groups set out to expose the awards for what they are and “succeeded” in getting “No Award” decisions in multiple categories (a pro-Sad Puppies view here, the biased-as-usual Wikipedia view here, yep, Wikipedia has a liberal/leftist bias). Update: There’s also this podcast in which three Sad Puppies are interviewed. Well worth listening to.

And then, there are commentators who publicly criticize the attempts to censor and expose the social justice warriors for what they are.

A beautifully written article by Cathy Young is titled “To the new culture cops, everything is appropriation“. It dismantles the attempts to vilify creative work as “cultural appropriation”. She is right — artists have always used multiple influences. This cross-pollination (or “cross-fertilization” in her words) is an important part of art. And she makes a brilliant point that there are strange undertones of “ultra-reactionary ideas about racial and cultural purity” at work here. Underneath the “progressive” attitude, there is a really ugly face of separation, of things having to stay different, and often of seeing another culture as weak and unable to defend itself. And strangely enough, I don’t hear voices asking non-Europeans to please stop playing with Mozart, Bach, and Beethoven because they are appropriating another culture.

There are many other people like Young who are sick of this policing of thought and behavior by the self-proclaimed holier-than-thou morality police of cultural authoritarians.

And BTW, it’s really strange that many people look in disbelief at religious morality police walking through cities (incl. in secular countries), while ignoring the non-religious “police” that demands changes to posters, movies, magazines, newspapers and the like. All in the name of protecting the weak and to protect “the greater good”, of course. Recently, in Germany, a talk show episode had gender as topic. It was pulled from the public digital archive, ostensibly because it was unprofessional. In reality, the proponents of a gender ideology embarrassed themselves (one by constantly interrupting people who have a different opinion). And this in a democratic country with — on paper — a neutral press. Luckily, there’s the Streisand effect and YouTube.

Probably the best article so far about people who resist this morality police is by Breitbart’s Allum Bokhari: “Rise of the Cultural Libertarians“. Sure, Breitbart is a conservative blog, but given that it’s mostly liberals who are in charge (esp. in Academia), it’s no surprise that resistance to authoritarianism finds one outlet here. It’s always easier for those in power to demand and censor than to convince.

However, the conflict between authoritarianism and liberalism is not a left vs. right issue. Bokhari makes this point brilliantly with:

Cultural libertarians are united only by their opposition to authoritarianism and their robust views on free speech and free expression and cannot reliably be placed on the left-right spectrum.
Allum Bokhari: “Rise of the Cultural Libertarians

It’s more a top vs. bottom issue, similar to the political compass model here:

Image from Political Compass

And that makes for rather strange bedfellows — on both sides. I mean, I am for freedom of speech, for the freedom to offend, for the marketplace of ideas, and also agnostic and very critical of organized religion. But I find myself agreeing with parts of the religious right when it comes to freedom of religion and freedom of conscience (well, as long as it’s about individual freedom, and not about wanting laws to make things mandatory). Why? Because if they have individual freedom and freedom of conscience, so do I. A bit like:

“If the First Amendment will protect a scumbag like me, it will protect all of you.”
Larry Flynt in “The People vs. Larry Flynt”

And yup, Bokhari’s list what cultural libertarians believe in — extremely well done:

  • Free expression.
  • Resisting identity politics and public shaming.
  • A sense of humour.
  • An end to nannying and “safe space” culture.
  • Defending personal freedom.
  • Defending spaces for uncomfortable opinions.
  • Fact over feelings.
  • Standing up for consumers and producers over hand-wringing middle-class panic merchants.
  • Celebrating culture in all its forms.
    Allum Bokhari: “Rise of the Cultural Libertarians

It’s refreshing to see that the spoilsports and perpetually offended might be loud, but they are getting much needed backlash. Because they are not about protecting the weak, or providing voices to the unheard and neglected. They are about making their own voices heard, mostly voices which lack the quality to provide anything useful to the reader or listener. So they have to demand, instead of being in demand. They are people who are dissatisfied and who want to distract themselves from that feeling by pointing their finger to others. People who cannot create, so they want to destroy. People who poison the minds of artists and try to instill a sense of self-censorship that stifles art and mutes voices.

But they no longer go unchallenged.

In that sense — create away, and ignore the self-appointed morality police.


Links to the two articles (really worth reading):

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