a commonplace book
In America, the majority raises formidable barriers around the liberty of opinion: within these barriers, an author may write what he pleases; but woe to him if he goes beyond them.
Alexis de Tocqueville, Democracy in America (1863)
So–this is true. I’d compare also with Loury’s observations about political correctness: “that the implicit social convention of restraint on public expression, operating within a given community” is nothing new, but rather endemic to all social groups insofar as they “have norms concerning the values and beliefs that are appropriate for members to hold on the most sensitive issues.” I think these “sensitive issues” become emergent after awhile in any grouping.
This really boils down to some fascinating philosophical questions about freedom and power, on which I think I tend to lean Foucaultian somewhat. This chafes against my feelings as an American, obviously. Free speech for realz. Or not.
Also, this raises some interesting problems of rhetoric and expression, but kind of old and maybe obvious problems, so I’ll leave it at that.